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Motherboard (Mainboard) and Power Supply (PSU) Problems


This page of this website provides solutions to motherboard (mainboard) and power supply unit (PSU) problems, which are not very extensive in range, so all of them are on this page. The motherboard and power supply problems range from shutdown and startup problems - the computer won't shut down, repeatedly shuts down and restarts, suddenly reboots, freezes, etc. - BIOS battery problems, upgrading and replacing the motherboard, power supply connector compatibility problems, etc. The linked problems and solutions appear under the following blue-coloured table containing information about two useful utilities. To make finding what you are looking for as simple and easy as possible, I have made the links describe as many of a particular problem's symptoms as possible.

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

FREE DIAGNOSTIC TESTING UTILITIES/TOOLS

The Open Hardware Monitor - "is a free open source software that monitors temperature sensors, fan speeds, voltages, load and clock speeds of a computer." - http://openhardwaremonitor.org/

Hot CPU Tester can test your PC's processor and motherboard. It is inexpensive and a trial copy can be downloaded. If you suspect your PC has a processor or motherboard fault, try using the trial copy to diagnose the problem. Try it or buy it from 7byte.com for £13.30.

"HWMonitor is a hardware monitoring program that reads PC systems main health sensors : voltages, temperatures, fans speed. The program handles the most common sensor chips, like ITE® IT87 series, most Winbond® ICs, and others. In addition, it can read modern CPUs on-die core thermal sensors, as well has hard drives temperature via S.M.A.R.T, and video card GPU temperature." - http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/hwmonitor.html

SpeedFan is a free utility that can be downloaded from many sites. It can monitor the temperatures of the desktop or laptop computer's processor, motherboard and even the hard drive and be set to provide warnings if the temperatures exceed set levels. The advanced features should only be used by experts, but the standard features are safe for anyone to use. You can use the free CPU-Z utility to identify a processor and motherboard so that you can find out from their manufacturers' websites the maximum safe operating temperatures. Most recent laptops, for instance, designed to be heat-tolerant, can operate at up to 100 degrees centigrade, which would knock out most desktop processors.

Click the relevant link below to go to that Q&A article. Use your browser's Back button to backtrack

1. - Will I be able to upgrade a desktop PC running Windows XP Pro dating back to 2006 to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 using the same motherboard?

2. - I want to upgrade a desktop PC with an Asus A8V motherboard running 32-bit Windows XP SP3 to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium

3. - Motherboard upgrade or replacement: How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7?

4. - Power supply problem: Computer won't switch off, screen goes black, fans still spin, pressing the power button starts Windows again

5. - Power supply problem: At startup my computer hangs at the Staring Windows screen in Windows 7

6. - Old Windows XP SP3 PC/computer unexpectedly and repeatedly shuts down - Overheating problem/software or hardware problem/probaby a faulty motherboard

7. - Windows 7 Home Premium doesn't provide a device driver for the ATI Radeon X1650 series graphics card in my Packard Bell iMedia B2216 desktop PC. If I upgrade the card to a more powerful one, will I also have to upgrade the power supply?

8. - Have I destroyed my motherboard, keyboard and wireless network adapter by using two USB ports at the same time that are linked together on the motherboard?

9. - Faulty RAM/motherboard/power supply/overheating processor: My PC constantly reboots 10 to 20 minutes after being switched on

10. - Which motherboard should I buy to replace/upgrade my computer's faulty motherboard?

11. - Which Intel Core 2 Duo motherboard [mainboard] do I need to upgrade my PC?

12. - My PC's power supply fried the motherboard and now a new motherboard won't work with components known to be good

13. - Choosing a motherboard/processor combination can be difficult

14. - Motherboard BIOS battery problems and questions: Why is my computer running slow after I replaced a flat BIOS battery on the motherboard? - Can anyone recommend a program that will save the settings so I can restore them after I replace the battery -My desktop PC takes almost a minute to get to the initial BIOS display during the boot-up procedure - does the BIOS battery need to be replaced?

15. - Is an extra 4-pin power supply connector required for AMD Athlon XP and Intel Pentium 4 motherboards (mainboards)?

16. - How carefully is it necessary to consider the power demand made on the motherboard (mainboard) by the fan used to cool the processor?

17. - I upgraded from Windows 98 to Windows XP and now my computer has a USB and sound conflict

18. - I built a computer by following all of the instructions properly but it won't boot

19. - An AMD Athlon XP processor with an Intel Pentium 4 power supply unit

20. - Why does my computer keep resetting itself?

21. - My OEM copy of Windows XP can't be reactivated after I replaced the motherboard (mainboard) in my computer

22. - How to troubleshoot and fix shutdown or restart (reboot) problems that may or may not be caused by a faulty motherboard (mainboard) or power supply unit

23. - My computer has failed to start up, its power LED, case and processor fans, and the reset button don't work. Is this caused by a motherboard failure?

24. - Is this a retailer rip-off? - The SLI motherboard and the two SLI graphics cards I bought for it turned out not to be SLI compliant

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website


Will I be able to upgrade a desktop PC running Windows XP Pro dating back to 2006 to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 using the same motherboard?

PROBLEM: My computer running Windows XP Professional SP3 is using an elderly AMD Athlon X2 3800+ dual-core processor and Socket 939 motherboard, so I am looking to change the motherboard, processor and RAM and upgrade to Windows 7 SP1. Is this necessary in the first place in order to be able to upgrade to Win7? If possible I would like to keep my existing hardware and only add more RAM and upgrade to Win7.

ANSWER: I have myself successfully upgraded a desktop PC running an AMD Athlon X2 3800+ Socket 939 dual-core processor on an MSI MS-7093 motherboard first to Windows 7 and then to Windows 8 and then to Windows 8.1. It runs beautifully on only 2GB of RAM memory on the same MSI motherboard I purchased in 2005, so you will probably be able to upgrade to Windows 7 without replacing the motherboard and processor. You could, of course, add more RAM memory if you have free memory slots on the motherboard. Note that you have to have a graphics card that supports the “DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0 or higher device driver”. If the motherboard graphics chip or graphics card only supports a lower version, Win7 will only be able to start up in Safe Mode. Here is the page on Microsoft’s website that provides the system requirements for upgrading to Win7:

Windows 7 system requirements –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/system-requirements

I would use the Memory Adviser on crucial.com to find out which memory configurations you can add. Of course, if you want to increase the performance with a new motherboard, memory and processor, that’s what you’ll have to do, but your existing hardware is good enough to be used for office applications and to go online.

If you buy and install the Upgrade version of Windows 7, there has to be a qualifying existing installation of Windows installed on the PC, which you have (XP Pro). I bought another hard disk drive and installed Windows 7 Upgrade version on it, the doing of which keeps the installation of Windows XP Pro on the existing hard drive, which creates a dual-boot system with Win7, adding Win7 to the startup boot menu that presents itself, allowing the choice of the version to start up. That way you can access WinXP’s files via Windows Explorer and transfer any files to folders in the installation of Win7.

Note that if you want to remove WinXP from the dual-boot system, it’s a fairly involved process, so it’s advisable to choose to install Win7 on the same partition as XP, which will overwrite XP. Alternatively, install it on a new hard drive after the installation setup has seen that you have a qualifying version of Windows to upgrade to Win7 and then disconnect the hard drive containing XP so that boot menu is not changed to include both versions. If you want to keep XP in case you want to install it later in order to be able to use it to qualify to reinstall Win7 Upgrade version, keep XP on its own hard drive, removed from the system, and, as an extra source, create a restorable system image and save it to an external hard disk drive. I use the free version Macrium Reflect to create system images, which is more reliable than the Backup and Restore used by Win7 and Win8. The full retail version of Win7 can be installed on an empty hard drive (without any qualifying version of Windows) and can be installed on as many PCs as you like as long as only one PC is in use at any one time. One Windows licence can only be activated once. If you try to activate it on another PC, the activation process will fail.

Here is a video explaining and illustrating how to install Win7 on a WinXP system:

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 –

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/help/…

If you buy a new motherboard and processor (AMD or Intel), Windows XP Pro almost certainly won’t make the transition to the new drivers that it will need to run the new motherboard’s chipsets. That means you won’t be able to use Windows XP Pro after Win7 is installed.

Note that RAM never uses a device driver and the processor doesn’t often have a device driver, so you don’t have to do anything to Windows XP if you upgrade those components. Windows will automatically recognise and install those devices. That said, if you install an AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor or an AMD Phenom quad core processor in the (AMD-based Socket 939, AM2+, AM3) motherboard you have chosen, you will need to download and install the AMD Processor Driver Version 1.3.2.0053 for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 (x86 and x64), which “Allows the system to automatically adjust the CPU speed, voltage and power combination to match the instantaneous user performance need. This package is a user friendly localized software installation of the driver designed for end-users. This driver supports AMD processors on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86 and x64 Editions.” I installed that driver and later updated to WinXP SP3 successfully without having to upgrade it. So, if in doubt, check the processor’s manufacturer’s website to find out if a driver is required. If the processor appears as it should in the Device Manager (a dual-core processor will show two processors, a quad-core, four processors, etc.), then there should be no problem.

I had a single-core Athlon 64 3000+ processor installed in a Socket 939 MSI MS-7093 motherboard, which can run Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors for that socket if the latest BIOS update is installed. However, when I installed a Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 3800+ dual-core processor, Windows XP asked for the source of the above-mentioned processor driver to be inserted, and the two cores were installed as unidentified devices under Processors in the Device Manager. Installing the processor driver fixed the problem in the Device Manager.

Note that if you keep using Windows XP Pro SP3, which is no longer supported by Microsoft but which can still be used – I am still using it in December 2014 and some users are still using Windows 95 and 98 – and you install an SATA hard disk drive to replace an IDE PATA hard drive, there are issues with the SATA device driver, which XP does not support natively, requiring the driver to be installed at startup. You only install the driver once and then XP uses it to run the SATA hard drive thereafter. The usual method was to use a floppy disk and press the F6 key at startup, but new computers don’t come with one, so you’ll have to use an alternative method. Here is a webpage that provides one:

Install Windows XP on SATA without a Floppy (F6) –

http://archive.news.softpedia.com/news/Install-Windows-XP-On-SATA-Without-a-Floppy-F6-47807.shtml


I want to upgrade a desktop PC with an Asus A8V motherboard running 32-bit Windows XP SP3 to the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium

Problem

My 8-year¬old desktop PC uses an Asus A8V Deluxe motherboard, a 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000 processor and Windows XP Home SP3. I want to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. Microsoft's Upgrade Advisor advises to do a custom installation of the 32-bit version. However, I believe my motherboard and processor support 64-bit Windows. If I do a clean install of Windows 7 can it be the 64-bit version or is that not advisable?

Answer

When you upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7, it has to be a clean installation; an in-place upgrade is only possible with Windows Vista (Windows 7 builds itself on the existing installation of Vista). You can't use the Upgrade versions of Win7 to install to an empty hard disk or SSD drive. An existing qualifying (genuine not pirated) version of Windows XP or Windows Vista must be installed. Therefore, if you have an empty hard drive or SSD, you have to install your qualifying version of Windows before you run the Upgrade version of Win7. Only a full version of Win7 can be installed on to an empty drive.

The Asus A8V Deluxe motherboard supports 64-bit AMD Socket 939 Athlon 64FX/Athlon 64 X2/Athlon 64 processors, dual-channel DDR400/333 and has an AGP 8X graphics slot (not a PCI Express slot because that standard came out long after the motherboard). Here is the information on it on the Asus website:

http://www.asus.com/supportonly/A8V_Deluxe/

The PC's graphics card must be one that supports DirectX 9.0c (the last update of DirectX 9.0) or it Win7 won't install past Safe Mode. I upgraded a Dell Inspiron 3000 to Win7 having used the Upgrade Advisor, which didn't say that the graphics card that only supported DirectX 8.0 need to be changed to a card that supports DirectX 9.0c. When I upgraded it to a PCI DirectX 9.0 card (the PC only has a free PCI slot) the upgrade was unproblematic. Enter dxdiag in the Start => Run box in Windows XP to find out which version of DirectX is being used. If it is version 8.0 try updating it to version 9.0c. If that can't be done, you need a DirectX 9.0 graphics card. It has to be an AGP or a PCI graphics card, both of which are still available, not a PCI Express card, because the board only has PCI slots and a single AGP slot.

Your processor is currently a single-core Socket 939 AMD Athlon 64 processor, but the board supports dual-core Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 processors, which you can buy inexpensively on eBay. It must be a Socket 939 model. I upgraded the processor of my 2005 Socket 939 board from the same processor as yours to a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 3800+, bought on eBay for £25. The 4600+ model is the highest model for Socket 939, but owners reported that the performance is not increased much above the 3800+ model. The BIOS had to be reflashed with an update to run it, but it is running 32-bit Win7 beautifully on only 1GB of RAM memory. The dual-core processor runs much faster than the single-core model did.

Obtaining Windows 7 device drivers for the motherboard's chipsets, drive controllers, the AGP graphics card and the motherboard's integrated sound card, etc., could be problematic given the age of the board. The Asus support site for the board provides drivers for Windows Vista only, not Win7. Some Vista drivers are compatible with Windows 7, but there is no guarantee that all of them will be. Both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista drivers are available. Windows 7 supports most legacy hardware by default and will probably install correctly, but there's no guarantee that everything will work. There are reports on the web web of this board having problems getting the onboard Promise RAID controllers to work, but you probably don't want to use a RAID array of hard disk drives.

The main advantage of the 64-bit Win7 is that it supports more than 4GB of RAM (32-bit Windows only supports up to 3.5GB). The board supports a maximum of 4GB of memory, therefore the full advantage of the 64-bit version won't be achievable and you should stick to the 32-bit version. Note that you should use the Memory Advisor provided by crucial.com to tell you what additional memory is available, because the board only supports dual-channel DDR400/333, the original release of DDR memory, which is now up to DDR3.


Old Windows XP SP3 PC/computer unexpectedly and repeatedly shuts down - Overheating problem/software or hardware problem - probably a faulty motherboard

Problem

I have a very old desktop PC (circa 2002) running Windows XP SP3. The PC shuts itself off unexpectedly. It then tries to turn itself back on but shuts down immediately. I can't even keep it running long enough to try running in Safe Mode or to view the Event Viewer. This is what computer users that I know have told me - it could be a malware (virus, spyware, worm, etc) - it could be a faulty motherboard - it could be an issue with the power supply (PSU) - or it could be a RAM memory issue. I replaced the power supply without success. A computer-savvy friend came over and successfully started it in Safe Mode, but the computer was only functional for about 3-to-4 hours before it shut down again. -

Answer

The following computer-forum thread deals with all of the numerous possibilities of this problem:

http://lounge.windowssecrets.com/index.php?showtopic=775959

The most likely causes are a build up of dust inside the machine that is causing overheating; inadequate cooling from case fans; the processor's heatsink and fan unit has broken down causing overheating of the processor, adapter card (graphics/sound/network card) or memory modules that have come unseated (corrected by removing and reseating them), a faulty motherboard or one or more bad memory modules.

In this case, you can't use Safe Mode, which you enter by pressing the F8 key repeatedly just before Windows starts to load (in all versions of Windows from Windows XP to Windows 7) to find out if it is a hardware or software problem. If the computer won't work in Safe Mode, in which only the most basic system files and device drivers are used, then the problem is almost certainly hardware related. If the computer works in Safe Mode to run programs such as a malware scanner (Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, etc.), then the problem is almost certainly software related, which could included a corrupt BIOS setup program.

This is my reply in the computer-forum thread. (I didn't repeat any suggestions that had been provided by other posters.):

I would try using another computer (a friend's, relative's, etc) to create an Ubuntu boot disc. You download the ISO file from ubuntu.com and then use CD/DVD-writing software to burn an image (the option is usually called Burn an image). Search the web for free iso burners for free ISO image burners if you need software. You can then use the disc to boot the system with a fully-functioning copy of Ubuntu Linux that isn't installed on your system - disappears when the remove the disc and restart.

Note that the CD/DVD drive/writer has to be set as the first boot device in the system's BIOS in order to be able to boot from a CD/DVD disc.

If it works then your installation of Windows XP SP3 is hosed and you will have to take the appropriate action to restore it. This webpage on this website provides all of the available recovery methods - http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk/RecoveringXP.htm. If it is a hardware problem (the boot disc doesn't work), I would say that you need a new motherboard.

You might be able to buy the same make/model on eBay so that you can reuse the processor and RAM memory - or buy one that supports your PC's processor and memory - very inexpensively. If you buy the same make/model of motherboard, you are also unlikely to be required to reactivate Windows. (See Product Activation on this website for information on activation and reactivation of Windows.) Windows Product Activation views a computer with a new motherboard as being a different computer and requires reactivation, which usually has to be done by telephoning Microsoft. Microsoft's support personnel will have to decide from the facts of your case if you will be given a reactivation code or not.


Power supply problem: Computer won't switch off, screen goes black, fans still spin, pressing the power button starts Windows again

Problem

All of a sudden, when I shut my desktop PC down, the screen goes black, I can hear the fans working, but when I press the power button on the front of the case, it resets itself and Windows reboots. Nothing happens when I keep the button pressed to force it to shut down.

Answer

This is no doubt a power-supply problem. The motherboard instructs the power supply to shut down. The power button on the front of the case is connected to two pins on the motherboard. When those pins are shorted by pressing the button the motherboard sends a signal to the power supply, via the 24-pin ATX connector of the motherboard, which turns it on or off.

In this case, the power supply doesn't seem to be getting the message to shut down even though the computer itself has shut down properly. When you press the power button to make the computer switch on, you are really only switching it on instead of resetting it.

Try unplugging the computer from the mains and remove the side of the case that gives you access to the motherboard. Find out where the 24-pin power connector that connects the power supply to the motherboard is on the motherboard and unclip it by pressing the plastic retention clip that holds it in place. Don't try pulling the power connector out directly. It has to be unclipped by pressing the retention clip, which will allow the connector to be removed.

Now, with the power supply disconnected from the motherboard, plug the computer back into the mains supply, making sure that the power supply's own on/off switch is turned on. If the power supply powers up and the fans start spinning, you have a faulty power supply, because it should not do so without receiving a signal from the motherboard, and you'll have to replace it.

To replace the power supply, make a note of which cable goes where to the motherboard and the drives and perhaps to a PCI Express graphics card, etc., disconnect the old power supply, unscrew it from the back of the case (usually four screws secure it to the inside of the case), screw the new power supply into the case and attach the required cables to the motherboard, drives and perhaps the graphics card. Some PCI Express graphics cards, but not all, require a PCI Express power connector connected to them from the power supply. Most motherboards also require a secondary 4-pin ATX power connector, which you should have noted where it goes when you disconnected the old power supply, but it if often forgotten. The computer won't boot unless both power connectors are connected.

The first image of an annotated motherboard on this page of this website shows the 4-pin and 24-pin ATX power connectors grouped together under the "Back Panel Connectors" (the ports panel that appears at the back of the case for USB, graphics, etc.) that is shown under the image of the motherboard. Note that the 4-pin connector can be located anywhere on the motherboard, not always beside the 24-pin connector.


Power supply problem: At startup my computer hangs at the Staring Windows screen in Windows 7

Problem

I have a startup problem in Windows 7 64-bit version. The PC runs an Intel Q9550 Socket LGA775 dual-core processor on an EVGA 790i motherboard, overclocked to to 3.6GHz, 8GB RAM memory, not overclocked, an EVGA 570 Classified graphics card, water cooling, a 1000W power supply. The startup hangs at the Starting Windows screen. If I wait for about two minutes and restart, Windows loads normally and if I have to restart during the day, the reboot goes through successfully. The problem only occurs during the initial startup in the morning. Here is all the unsuccessful troubleshooting I've done so far: reflashed the BIOS - a repair installation - disconnected all of my USB devices - ran chkdsk /r from the Command Prompt [enter command prompt in the Search box and click on the link provided] - ran the memory diagnostic memtest - started up with "clean boot" checked in msconfig [enter System Configuration in the Search box and click the link] - The computer also can't be started up in Safe Mode [by pressing the F8 key repeatedly before the Starting Windows screen appears] after being shut down overnight. I set the processor back to its standard clock speed.

Answer

Suspecting a power-supply problem, I asked this fellow to download and run HWMonitor, which returns system temperatures, voltages, etc. He sent me the following image:

HWMonitor results showing system voltages and temperatures

Under voltages, the +5V is reported as being under 5V at 4.62V and under Temperatures the System has a temperature of 86 degrees C, which is almost certainly a reporting error, because There is no way of the system getting that hot. Anyhow, it turned out that the power supply was malfunctioning at startup, but was fine after the system was up and running.

A power supply can be tested manually or with a multimeter as instructed in the following article:

http://pcsupport.about.com/od/toolsofthetrade/f/powersupplytest.htm

If you don't want to mess around with this potentially very dangerous component, if you don't have a spare or another computer from which you can remove one, you can borrow a working power supply from a friend or relative that has enough power to power your system (it must not be underpowered) and install it having removed the suspect unit. If it works properly, then you either have to replace your power supply or get it repaired. The most cost-effective solution with a power supply is usually to buy a new one.


Motherboard upgrade or replacement: How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7?

Problem

My computer running Windows XP Home Edition is using an elderly AMD Athlon (1GHz Thunderbird) processor, so I am looking to change the motherboard, processor, and RAM. How will Windows XP react to the new hardware? Will I have to re-register Windows XP? Should I remove all of the old motherboard drivers in the Device Manager just before I make the switch, or in Safe Mode just afterwards?

Answer

If you install a new motherboard in a PC and you have a retail copy of Windows XP or Windows Vista, performing a clean installation of Windows is the best method to get Windows back up and running. However, it is still possible to use the existing installation, thereby saving yourself from having to reinstall updates and your applications, etc.

Because of Product Activation, replacing the hardware components you mention is more problematic in Windows XP than in Windows 95/98/Me, which don't use it. For that reason, no method is 100% successful, but if you understand and can implement the following information you stand a good chance of upgrading your computer successfully without having to reinstall Windows XP.

Your new motherboard will almost certainly have different chipset(s) than the one it is replacing, especially if it has an onboard video chip that provides the video instead of a dedicated graphics card, and which has its own chipset. A Windows XP installation that uses the chipset drivers for the old motherboard is likely to lock up when you run it on the new motherboard.

Note that RAM and the processor do not usually have device drivers, so you don't have to do anything to Windows XP if you upgrade those components. Windows will automatically detect and install those devices. That said, if you install an AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor or an AMD Phenom quad core processor in the (AMD-based Socket 939, AM2+, AM3) motherboard you have chosen, you will need to download and install the AMD Processor Driver Version 1.3.2.0053 for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 (x86 and x64), which "Allows the system to automatically adjust the CPU speed, voltage and power combination to match the instantaneous user performance need. This package is a user friendly localized software installation of the driver designed for end-users. This driver supports AMD processors on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86 and x64 Editions." So, if in doubt, check the processor's manufacturer's website to find out if a driver is required. If the processor appears as it should in the Device Manager (a dual-core processor will show two processors, a quad-core, four processors, etc.), then there should be no problem.

There is no such AMD processor-driver for Windows Vista on AMD's website, and there probably won't be one for Windows 7 (release date, October 2009) so using one is therefore probably not necessary.

I had a single-core Athlon 64 3000+ processor installed in a Socket 939 MSI MS-7093 motherboard, which can run Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors for that socket if the latest BIOS update is installed. However, when I installed a Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 3800+ dual-core processor, Windows XP asked for the source of the above-mentioned processor driver to be inserted, and the two cores were installed as unidentified devices under Processors in the Device Manager. Installing the processor driver fixed the problem in the Device Manager.

The most successful process of replacing the motherboard without having to reinstall Windows XP involves having to perform a repair installation of Windows XP, which requires a full Windows XP CD, or at least a recovery partition that includes a repair option. If your computer only came with a Recovery CD that restores the computer's software to the condition it was in when it left the factory, it would restore the device drivers for the old motherboard. If you only have a Recovery CD, unless you are willing to try creating a bootable Windows XP CD from it, you'll have to buy a full copy of Windows XP, not the Upgrade version, because the Recovery CD doesn't qualify as an upgradable version of Windows.

Windows XP is no longer being sold new, but you should be able to buy an inexpensive second-hand retail copy from an auction site such as eBay. Alternatively, you can buy a new retail or OEM copy of Windows Vista or Windows 7. Note that an OEM licence only allows the copy to be installed on one computer, it cannot be used on another computer even if the first installation is removed, but the retail copy can be installed on any other computer if the old installation is no longer active. An OEM licence is a use-once licence. But a retail licence allows Windows to be installed on any computer as long as it is the only active installation. When you go online Product Activation checks the profile of the computer that is stored on Microsoft's site. If two computers are using the same retail copy, both will have to be reactivated.

It is possible to create a boot Windows XP CD from a Recovery CD. How to use BartPE to create a bootable Windows XP CD if your PC doesn't have one on this site provides the necessary information.

Note, however, that there could be problems with this method because of Product Activation. If your computer came with a Recovery CD (restore disc), it has an OEM version of Windows XP. An OEM version is provided at reduced cost to the manufacturer because it has a restriction placed on its use. It can only be used on the computer that it was provided for. Microsoft takes the view that it is the motherboard that determines if the same computer is being used. Everything else can be changed as long as the motherboard stays the same model. If you change the model of motherboard, Microsoft says that it isn't the same computer and the user has to buy a new copy of Windows. You would have to telephone Microsoft to obtain the key to reactivate Windows XP and say that you had to replace the motherboard because the previous one died. If you say that you upgraded a functioning motherboard, you won't be allowed to reactivate Windows XP, because an upgrade doesn't qualify as being the same computer under the terms of an OEM licence. That is not the case with a retail copy of Windows. You can change the motherboard. The user will probably just have to phone Microsoft to explain that the motherboard has been upgraded, give a promise that the copy is only being used on one computer, and obtain the activation code.

Alternatively, if you are careful and know what you're doing, it is possible to go into the Device Manager and remove all of the drivers for the old motherboard chipset and the drivers for the video card if the motherboard has an onboard graphics chip. The key devices, such as the IDE Controllers and video have to be replaced with the generic (standard) Windows drives. You can do that by right-clicking on the device making use of the of the Update Driver... option.

You would then shut Windows down, turn the PC off at the mains, but leave it plugged in, and perform the motherboard upgrade. When you restart the upgraded system, Windows XP should detect new hardware and install the correct drivers, or ask for them on a CD. However, note that this can be a messy business. A repair installation is the best option if you have a Windows XP installation CD.

If you value the software and data files on the computer, you should make a restorable backup of the system before changing the hardware. Click here! to go to the information on creating backups on this site.

You won't have an SATA hard drive, because your elderly system must have an IDE hard disk drive. But if anyone is replacing a motherboard and is installing an SATA hard drive, visit the motherboard manufacturer's site and download the current SATA drivers for the new motherboard because you will need to install them when Windows XP asks for them. Follow the manufacturer instructions and place the drivers on a floppy disk so that they will be available after the new hardware has been installed. Doing that with an installation of Windows Vista or Windows 7 (release date, October 2009) is not required because the SATA drivers are part of the operating system.

Start the process by inserting the Windows XP CD in the CD/DVD drive, close the window that opens if the auto-start function is enabled and shut down the computer in the normal way. This leaves the Windows XP installation CD in the drive so it will be ready for use after the upgrade.

Note that you should not make changes to the system, such as rearranging the hard drives (if the system has more than one hard drive), or changing the IDE channel that the CD drive is using. You should leave as much of the rest of the system as it is until you complete the upgrade procedure successfully.

You should know how to remove the old components and install the new ones. Visit the Build Your Own PC pages on this site for the relevant information and make sure that you read and understand the information in the user manual that is provided with a motherboard. New motherboards are very easy to install. They auto-configure everything. In previous times, it was necessary to set the BIOS and the jumpers/dip switches on the motherboard in order to get the hardware to work. If you are upgrading an old system with components that are not new, you should read the motherboard's manual to find out what is required. It is possible to install most new motherboard without configuring anything. The BIOS and Windows do everything automatically. The only action you might have to take is insert a driver CD.

You should enter the BIOS to make sure the system date and time are set correctly because Windows takes its date and time from the BIOS. In order to boot from a CD, the BIOS has to be set to boot first from the CD/DVD drive. The motherboard manual will have a section on the BIOS that explains the settings. The boot order will be in a section of the BIOS called something like BIOS Features Setup. There will be settings that you choose to enable the hard drive, CD/DVD drive, floppy drive, etc. as the first boot device.

After you have replaced the motherboard, you should start up the system and press the key(s) that open the BIOS to make the change in the boot order. Do not allow Windows to boot the system if you can't open the BIOS, press the reset button on the case or the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination to restart the system. Saving the new BIOS setting, exits the BIOS and reboots the system. You left the Windows XP CD in the CD drive when you shut down to perform the upgrade, so the system will boot from it. As the boot sequence continues, watch the screen for a message to appear that the system is looking for a bootable CD ROM. Watch the screen for the message that the CD has been auto-detected, followed by the Press any key to boot CD message. Press the space bar or any other key within the five seconds in which the message is displayed.

Windows begins to inspect the hardware configuration. After the inspection is complete, Windows starts to load files from the CD as it begins the installation. A screen appears that shows these three options.

1. - To set up Windows XP now, press ENTER.

2. - To repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console, press R.

3. - To quit Setup without installing Windows XP, press F3.

The second option asks if you want to repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console. This may be the required course of action in other circumstances, but in this case you only want to repair Windows XP without using Recovery Console. To do that, select the first option to set up Windows by pressing the Enter key.

More files will load from the CD. A list of all the current installations of Windows XP will be displayed in the lower portion of the window. Use the arrow keys to select among them if you have more than one installation. After the selection has been made, press the R key to begin the repair process.

NOTE: Do not choose the option to press the ESC key! Note well that pressing the ESC key will result in you losing all of your data files and settings and is akin to doing a reformat and clean install.

Note that when you perform a repair of a current installation you are asked to enter the Product Key that came with the Windows XP CD. Windows XP is installing a fresh copy of itself over the existing copy. While the data and settings are not destroyed, any Service Packs will have to be reinstalled after the repair process has completed. The Setup continues and eventually the computer reboots. Watch the onscreen prompts, but do not press a key when the Press any key to boot CD message appears. The installation continues, prompting you from time to time to supply additional setup information. After you have provided the appropriate responses, another reboot occurs, this time bringing you into Windows XP.

After the repair installation is completed, you should be able to start up Windows XP as usual.

Note that you might have to reactivate Windows XP after such a repair installation. Microsoft has made the process fast and virtually painless, so, if you do have to reactivate, just make the free call to Microsoft to explain your circumstances and obtain the new code, and everything should be in order.

Read the following article in the MS Knowledge Base if you require more information.

How to replace the motherboard on a computer that is running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000 -

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;824125

You can also enter a search query such as replace + motherboard + xp (as is) in a search engine, which most web browsers provide on their taskbar.

Replacing a motherboard in Windows Vista and Windows 7

There is now plenty of information from computer forums on the web on how to replace the motherboard of a Windows Vista system, but, at the time of writing, there was no official information from Microsoft on this subject. To find the available information, enter the search query replacing a motherboard in a windows vista system in a search engine. Here are some links that I have found. You should read as many sources as possible in order to come to a conclusion, because not all of the information is reliable.

How To Replace The Motherboard On Your [Windows Vista] Computer [Video] -

http://www.videojug.com/webvideo/how-to-replace-the-motherboard-on-your-computer

The technician on the video linked to above suggests a clean installation of Windows Vista after a motherboard upgrade, followed by the reinstallation of all of the software and data files. You would obviously have to make restorable copies of any files you want to keep from the old installation.

However, you might be able to use the repair method that can be used with Windows XP in order to avoid having to perform a clean installation of Vista. It is advisable to have a restorable backup of the system before you try it in case the attempt goes wrong. If you succeed, it will have saved you the time it takes to reload all of your software and files. You will probably need to run a Startup Repair from the Vista DVD. You may even need to run it a couple of times. Hopefully that will be successful, thereby bypassing the need for a clean installation. The new motherboard might trigger Product Activation, in which case you will probably have to use telephone activation by contacting Microsoft by phone.

The situation with regard to replacing a motherboard in a Windows 7 system will probably be the same as with a Windows Vista system. I will update this Q&A as information becomes available.

Startup Repair: frequently asked questions - http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/...-74f3922f3f351033.mspx

Windows Vista Repair Options - http://vistasupport.mvps.org/windows_vista_repair_options.htm


Have I destroyed my motherboard, keyboard and wireless network adapter by using two USB ports at the same time that are linked together on the motherboard?

Problem

I repaired my desktop PC by replacing the motherboard with an ASRock P4VM890 Socket 478 motherboard for Intel Pentium 4 / Celeron D (Prescott, Northwood, Willamette) processors. It was working properly until I plugged a flash drive into one of the USB ports on the motherboard at the rear of the case. According to the motherboard manual, the port is shared with a USB port on the front panel of the case, which had a USB D-Link wireless network adapter plugged into it. The flash drive packed in along with the keyboard. I replaced the keyboard, which worked for a while but has now also packed in. The keyboard has a PS/2 five-pin DIN plug that is used with a USB adapter cable. The motherboard manual says that the two sockets will not function together, but it does not say that using both of them at the same time will cause damage.

Answer

The ASRock P4VM890 motherboard provides six USB ports from its ports panel that appears at the back of the case when the motherboard is installed in it. The motherboard also has two sets of headers on the motherboard itself for connecting USB ports in the front panel of the case with cables that are provided by the case.

This page on ASRock's site provides the manual as a download - http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P4VM890. If it doesn't work, you can try entering asrock p4vm890 in a search engine to find the current link.

The USB header at the bottom, near the SATA hard-disk-drive connectors and the third PCI slot, provides an additional two USB ports. The other header, located behind the USB ports on the motherboard's ports panel, shares a connection with two of them. You can't use both the front and back USB connections, which are connected to the same port, simultaneously. However, it doesn't seem likely that plugging in two devices would produce a short circuit, such as you describe, if the cable between the header and the front ports had been wired correctly.

Perhaps the front-panel connector cable from your case does not match the pin-out of these USB headers. There are several variations in the pin-out of USB headers. Most motherboard manufacturers, including ASRock, place the two 5V power pins next to each other, usually at the far end from the 'missing' pin of the nine-pin connector. However, some motherboard manufacturers reverse the order of pins on the second USB port, so one is arranged Power, Data-, Data+, Ground, and the other is Ground, Data+, Data-, Power.

Therefore, when you want to connect USB cables to a new motherboard, you should check the motherboard manual carefully. A multimeter set to DC volts can be used to check which pins are running at 5V. The wires in the cable are usually red when they are used to deliver power.

Read this illustrated article - How to Install Front USB by Connecting Front USB Ports to a Motherboard? -

http://www.directron.com/installusb.html

Note that PS/2-to-USB adapters of the kind that you used to connect your PS/2 keyboard to a PS/2 keyboard USB port on the motherboard will only work if the PS/2 keyboard (or mouse) has been designed to work with both a USB and a PS/2 connection. You had that setup working, so they must be compatible.

It is more probably that the adapter has burnt out or been shorted by too much current. You could also find shorted leads in the front-panel USB cables. If you can, before using it again, use a multimeter set to resistance to check each possible combination of pins for a short circuit. It should be safe to use the keyboard in the motherboard's PS/2 keyboard port to find out if it is still working.

Unfortunately, the fourth and fifth USB ports could be permanently damaged. They are on the shared header and the right-most connectors, furthest away from the PS/2 keyboard port, on the back of the motherboard. A damaged USB port can damage other equipment permanently, so you should avoid using them.


Faulty RAM memory/motherboard/power supply/overheating processor: My PC constantly reboots 10 to 20 minutes after being switched on

Problem

I have a problem with my desktop PC (Windows XP SP3, AMD Athlon XP 3200+ processor, 512MB of RAM, 80GB hard disk drive, CD/DVD writer) and I hope that you can tell me why it reboots 10 to 20 minutes after it has been switched on. I've changed the RAM memory and reformatted the hard disk drive, but without success. Could this be a hardware issue? Please list all of the possible causes of this problem and all of the possible solutions.

Answer

The following two links provide comprehensive cover of PC rebooting problems of that kind:

Windows XP Shut Down and Automatic Reboot Problems - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/helpandsupport/learnmore/...

System Continually Reboots - http://www.5starsupport.com/xp-faq/1-92.htm

You have changed the RAM memory, but it is important that any new RAM module(s) are fully compatible with both the motherboard and/or any other RAM module(s) already installed in the system (new RAM could also be bad). Your PC is elderly so note that there can be jumpers on older motherboards that need to be set for specific RAM configurations. Consult your motherboard's manual (downloadable in the PDF format from its manufacture's site for your PC's make/model of motherboard), or the manufacturer's website for specific instructions and compatibility requirements.

If you don't know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility - Belarc Advisor - that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD on belarc.com. Another utility that also provides detailed information on the memory itself is CPU-Z from cpuid.com.

It is advisable to use a good memory-test program to check your new and old RAM. Here are two:

http://hcidesign.com/memtest/ and http://www.memtest86.com/

You can use the UK and US Crucial Memory Advisors provided at the top of this page to determine the correct RAM and capacity for your specific make and model computer and/or motherboard.

The PC's motherboard could have developed faults. For instance, malfunctioning capacitors on a motherboard can be responsible for a wide range of issues. It is possible for capacitors to fail due to a bad power source. If you see one or more capacitors (the cylindrical components that are soldered to and stick up from the motherboard) that are leaking substances, you have to replace the motherboard.

Some motherboard manufactures provide fault-testing software, so conduct a search of your PC's motherboard manufacturer's site for free software.

The computer may be overheating. Circuitry in the motherboard could be making the PC reboot if that is the case. You may have moved the computer somewhere where it isn't getting sufficient air to keep cool, or its internal extractor fan(s) might have stopped working, or there could be a build up of dust inside the case or within the power supply unit. You can remove dust in the case and the power supply by making use of a can of compressed air that can be purchased from good computer stores. Note well that you must never open the power supply unit to clean it because it can retain a lethal charge long after the PC has been switched off. The heatsink and fan unit over the processor could be failing and not keeping the processor cool. If the processor's cooling unit fails, then relatively recent PCs will just freeze (the processor will stop working) to protect it, not reboot. A processor's cooling unit has a limited life and should be replaced every so often depending on how long you keep the PC running. If it is left on 24/7 or for many hours a day, you should relace the cooling unit every 18 months, but if you only have the PC on while you work with it for a few hours a day, the cooling unit will probably last as long as the PC itself. You can open the case, which usually involves removing the screws that keep a side panel in place and then turn the PC on. You can then watch the extractor fan(s) and the processor's cooling unit to make sure that it is working consistently. Make sure that it is fitted tightly over the processor.

The PC's power supply unit (PSU) may be failing. If that is the case, it has to be replaced. With an elderly PC such as yours, make sure that you buy the correct type of PSU for the PC's motherboard. Your PC's motherboard probably uses a power suppy that has a 20-pin connector. The latest motherboards use a 24-pin connector. If your PC's motherboard uses the older 20-pin connector, make sure that you buy a power supply that provides both types of connector, because you can no longer buy new power supplies that only have the 20-pin connector.

Find out if your PC is overheating with this free utility (which doesn't work with all motherboards, because the author stopped updating it in 2004, but it will probably work with your PC's motherboard):

Motherboard Monitor - http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_description/0,fid,7309,00.asp

If you installed a new application or updated one or more a device drivers just before the reboots started occurring, that may be the cause of the problem. If that is the case, try uninstalling the program or use the Roll Back Driver feature, or use System Restore to roll back your system to a known good configuration. You should also make sure that Windows XP is full updated. The free Belarc Advisor utility tells you if there are missing updates.

System Continually Reboots - http://www.5starsupport.com/xp-faq/1-92.htm - provides information on overheating (cleaning the PC internally) and what to do to find out if the PC's power supply is going bad.


Which motherboard should I buy to replace/upgrade my computer's faulty motherboard?

Question

My PC has a Socket 478 Asus P4P800 motherboard. I have a TV tuner card installed in one of its PCI slots, which are all in use by devices that I do not want to remove, such as a sound card, FireWire adapter, etc, because they are all in use. For some reason, the PCI slot that the TV tuner card uses has stopped working. The computer has a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, and 2GB of RAM, so I need to find a new motherboard that will be able to run all of the PC's existing components. It also needs to be able to run two IDE hard disk drives and two SATA hard disk drives. How would I go about finding a suitable replacement?

Answer

You already know the make and model of your PC's existing motherboard, so you could make use of a search engine to find vendors of the same make and model.

Ebay is usually a good site to search for elderly PC components that may not still be available new.

If you didn't know the make and model of the motherboard, you don't need to open the PC's case to find out the information, you can use the Belarc Advisor that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD on belarc.com. Another free utility that provides motherboard identification is CPU-Z from cpuid.com.

If you cannot find a vendor of the same make and model of motherboard, you can try looking for a suitable alternative. I found one by using the following search query: socket 478 + pentium 4 + 3.2GHz + sata + ide. It is the Asrock P4165G Socket 478 motherboard, which has three PCI slots, supports 2GB of memory, and has two IDE ports and two SATA ports. Asus owns Asrock, so it is an Asus motherboard by another name.

Alternatively, you could just buy a good external USB 2.0 TV tuner and use it with your existing motherboard. The Freecom DVB-T USB TV tuner can pick up all of the digital Freeview channels when connected to a rooftop aerial.


Which Intel Core 2 Duo motherboard [mainboard] do I need to upgrade my PC?

Question

I want to buy a Powercolor X1950 Pro ATI-Radeon-X1950-based graphics card, but my elderly PC's Socket A motherboard with an Athlon XP processor is too old to run it. I therefore have to upgrade the motherboard, the processor, and the memory. I have decided on an buying an Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 dual-core processor because of its excellent gaming performance. I would be grateful if you could advise me on which motherboard I should buy? I would like to keep my LCD monitor that has a D-sub VGA input. I intend to buy 1GB of Crucial memory in two modules of 512MB in order for them to work in dual-channel mode.

Answer

You could buy any Socket LGA775 motherboard that supports Intel Core 2 Duo processors, that doesn't have onboard graphics, made by Asus, MSI, ECS, or Gigabyte, that supports an Intel Core 2 Duo dual-core processor.

Note that not all Socket LGA775 motherboards support Intel's Core 2 Duo dual-core processors, so make sure that the specification includes that kind of support.

It is best not to buy a motherboard that has a built-in graphics chip because they are generally not high-performance boards. They are designed for use in office workstations. You don't say anything about having a sound card, but if the new motherboard has onboard sound, if you aren't satisfied with the quality of sound it delivers, you can disable it and install your own sound card.

I would buy an MSI P965 Platinum motherboard. Search for it on the support page of msi.com. You could then make use of a search engine to search for local vendors. Just enter "MSI P965 Platinum", as is. Ebay is a good source of motherboards no longer being sold new.

The Powercolor X1950 Pro graphics card has these main specifications: 256MB or 512MB versions - GDDR3 RAM - Two DVI ports - TV-out. I would buy the card with 512MB of GDDR3 memory. It has two digital DVI output ports. Your monitor only has an analog D-sub VGA input port, but the graphics card comes with a DVI-to-VGA adapter, so you can reuse it. However, for the best gaming performance, you should have a monitor connected to the graphics card via an unadapted DVI connection, which is why the card has two DVI ports and no VGA port. You can use them to connect to two DVI monitors that could display the game across two screens.

I would try using the adapter with your existing monitor. If your games play acceptably fast, well and good. If not, you could sell that monitor on eBay and buy a monitor that has a DVI input port.


My PC's power supply fried the motherboard and now a new motherboard won't work with components known to be good

Problem

First one of my two PCs, both of which are protected by surge protectors, started shutting down unexpectedly. I noticed that the cheap 300W power supply was very hot to the touch. The next day when I switched it on, about fifteen minutes after Windows XP had loaded, the PC made a fizz and pop sound and then it died. Swapping the power supply from the working PC to the dead PC didn't work. Then I tried installing the processor, graphics card, and RAM memory in the other PC, and, thankfully, they all worked. Now I knew that the motherboard had been taken out when the power supply failed, so I bought a new one that supports all of the working components. However, the repaired PC still doesn't work. That leaves only the case untested. Could the failing of the power supply have damaged the case so that it doesn't work?

Answers

Never use a cheap power supply in a computer as it is likely to turn out to be a false economy, because when one fails it can take out the other components. You were lucky that only the motherboard was affected. Moreover, using cheap surge protector is probably next to not having any surge protection, because the quality of the protection that is provided depends on the quality of the components used in them. Moreover, power constant small surges or spikes wear out the Metal Oxide Varistor (MOV) components in a surge suppressor/protector of quality so that it should be replaced after it has been used over a long period of time. In any case, you should replace a surge protector after a major power surge, because its components will have been weakened. Some expensive protectors have an indicator light that lights up if its components are worn out. But if a protector doesn't provide a warning, you should replace it after a major power surge or lightning strike damages other electrical equipment. Some brands, such as Belkin SurgeMaster series, provide free insurance against damage to equipment protected by one, and also provide you with a free replacement strip when the warning light comes on.

How Surge Protectors Work - http://www.howstuffworks.com/surge-protector.htm

Of course, if the power supply itself creates a power surge when it fails, which cheap units often do, a surge suppressor/protector won't provide any protection because you plug the PC into a protector, and the power supply is inside the protection. When a power supply fails, the capacitors on the motherboard, which are the large cylindrical components about 10mm long, often have an X or a K on their tops, and stand vertically on the board, will almost certainly be damaged. Signs of damage are if one or more of them is bulging or is leaking its electrolyte. Occasionally, the bulge can be hidden in the base of the capacitor, making it tilt to one side. In some cases the damage isn't visible.

A motherboard's capacitors maintain the quality of the power supply by smoothing it out, so capacitors of quality stand a better chance of absorbing a power surge created by the mains supply or by a failed power supply unit. Therefore a PC that has a cheap power supply and a cheap motherboard stands an excellent chance of failing in the same way as yours did. Even the major PC manufacturers (Dell, HP, and Apple) and motherboard manufacturers (Intel, Soyo, and Abit) have admitted to having problems with bad capacitors. For example, Dell admitted in 2005 that it would have to spend about £160/$300 million replacing motherboards that have faulty capacitors that were used in its Optiplex GX270 and GX280 computers, manufactured between April 2003 and March 2004.

Note that a fried motherboard can sometimes only display inconsistent behaviour and work properly the rest of the time.

Of course, your new motherboard could be a "dead on arrival" case.

If you have the new motherboard lying outside the case on insulating material, such as an anti-static bag or on cardboard, with the processor, its heatsink and fan, graphics card, and the RAM installed, and connect it to the power supply and it boots and allows you to enter the BIOS by pressing the correct entry key, you know that something is shorting the board if it doesn't work after you've installed it in the case. A loose screw or an unused standoff screw under the motherboard can short it and make it not work.

If that is not the cause, try disconnecting the power for a while and then reconnect it to make sure that the PC isn't stuck in sleep mode. You should also make sure that the power switch is connected to the correct two pins on the motherboard, because nothing happens if the power switch is connected to the wrong two pins.

All ATX motherboards are always on in standby mode when connected to the mains. Pressing the power switch shorts the two pins that triggers a software response, which is usually to turn the machine off if it is on, or on if it is off, but it can also be programmed to enter hibernation.

Switches rarely fail, but you can bypass the power switch by pressing the head of a screwdriver, which is an insulated tool, against the two power switch pins. Doing so shorts the two pins and should make the motherboard power up.

Then you can install the other components, such as the hard disk drive(s), CD/DVD drive(s), sound card, etc.

If you can't get the system to work, obtain a replacement for the new motherboard.


Choosing a motherboard/processor combination can be difficult

The following anonymous post that I came across on a forum illustrates just how difficult choosing a motherboard/processor combination can be.

ECS P6S5AT Motherboard & 1.3 GHz Celeron SL6C7 CPU

"When I went to my local PC parts dealer, I asked him if he had a motherboard to support a 1.3 GHz Celeron CPU. He recommended that I purchase the ECS P6S5AT motherboard.

"When I started to assemble the computer I noticed in the motherboard's user manual that this board states that it supports FC-PGA Celeron and FC-PGA Pentium 3 CPUs, including the newest Tualatin CPUs. It also states that the motherboard supports 66MHz, 100MHz, and 133MHz Front-Side Bus [FSB] speeds. It says it does not support P-PGA Celeron CPUs, whatever they are.

"Further in the manual some conflicting information is provided. It states that this motherboard currently supports FC-PGA Celeron: 533-800 MHz, FSB: 66 MHz (nothing about a 1.3 MHz Celeron with 100 MHz FSB), and FC-PGA Pentium 3: 500-1130 MHz, FSB: 100 MHz, and 133 MHz.

"The manual and the ECS website say nothing about the CPU [processor] voltage range supported by this motherboard. Will it support the 1.5 volt core voltage of my CPU? Also, the manual says nothing about supporting FC-PGA2, which is what my CPU is. My CPU is a 1.3 GHz Celeron, 100 MHz FSB, Spec Number: SL6C7, package type: FC-PGA2, L2 Cache Size: 256K, L2 Cache Speed: 1.30 GHz, Bus/Core Ratio: 13.0, Die Size: 0.13 micron, and has a core voltage of 1.5V. Can anyone tell me if this CPU is going to work in the ECS P6S5AT motherboard the vendor sold me? I am afraid to power up the system for fear of burning out the CPU. I'm a little confused and could use some advice. Help!"

If you install the processor and power the system up, you won't destroy the motherboard or anything else. The system just won't boot if the processor is not supported by the BIOS.

Note well that motherboard's can be revised by the manufacturer to run processors or other hardware that previous versions of the same model could not run, or BIOS updates can be issued for a particular model that makes it able to run hardware that a previous BIOS did not support.

Click the following link and you'll see that the PCB1.X version of the ECS P6S5AT motherboard with the p6s5at010914.exe BIOS update can run the Tualatin Celeron processor in question. - http://www.pcpartscollection.com/ecsp6s5atsoc.html. I found that page that provides the required information by searching for SiS 635T chipset, the chipset used by that motherboard, because the ECS page [webpage] (now in that motherboard manufacturer's archives) on that motherboard says that "Intel Celeron FC-PGA series CPU" are supported; it doesn't say that FC-PGA2 Celerons are supported. So, if you want to find out which processors a particular motherboard supports and its manufacturer doesn't provide the required information, conduct a search using the chipset make/model.

There is more information on how to choose a motherboard on Page 2 of the Motherboard set of pages on this website.

ALT newsgroups

The major motherboard manufacturer's have their own ALT newsgroups, all of which have the word "mainboard" in the address instead of "motherboard". And most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide these newsgroups via their news servers. All you have to do is subscribe to them via your newsreader, which for most people is Microsoft's free Outlook Express. For example, the ALT newsgroup for Asus is alt.comp.periphs.mainboard.asus. These newsgroups are often excellent sources of information about troubleshooting, compatibility, and problems related to a particular make and model of motherboard.

Visit the Newsgoups page on this site for more information about them.


Motherboard BIOS battery problems and questions:

1. - Why is my computer running slow after I replaced a flat BIOS battery on the motherboard?

2. - Can anyone recommend a program that will save the settings so I can restore them after I replace the battery?

3. - My desktop PC takes almost a minute to get to the initial BIOS display during the boot-up procedure - does the BIOS battery need to be replaced?

Problem 1

After I replaced a flat BIOS battery on the ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard in my computer, the system is running much slower than it was. FYI, in order to boot the PC when the BIOS battery was flat (and the BIOS setup program was no longer retaining its boot settings), I used the option to set the BIOS settings to their default values. I suspect that the BIOS settings are responsible for the slowness of the system. Is there a program that can optimise the BIOS settings for a PC's hardware components? Or should I be looking for other causes and solutions?

Answer

Most fairly recent motherboard BIOS setup programs provide several default settings, which are usually labelled using words such as "Auto Configuration with Fail Safe Settings", "... with Default Settings", and "... with Optimal Settings", etc.

The Fail Safe option usually works to get a system running, because it uses the most basic settings in much the same way as Windows operates in Safe Mode, so it disables most or all of the advanced and speed-enhancing settings. The Default option, which you used to get your PC running, uses the most commonly used settings for the motherboard's hardware, but it does not use most of the advanced and speed-enhancing settings. The Optimal option enables most or all of the motherboard's advanced features and speed enhancements.

It looks to me as if your Asus motherboard's BIOS doesn't provide an Optimal settings option, or you probably would have tried using it. Asus probably designed that motherboard for use in budget computers that won't be used by people who know about BIOS settings, so it only provided the Default option, just in case ignorant users found out how to enter the BIOS and tried the Optimal options and it screwed the system up. They would then have flooded support lines with calls. It's cheaper to restrict the options that can change the system.

If your motherboard's BIOS doesn't provide an Optimal settings option, you'll have to try making individual adjustments to the default settings.

The two BIOS settings that affect a PC's speed are the settings for the CPU clock multiplier (processor clock multiplier), and the speed of the front side bus (FSB). Using the wrong settings for those options can slow down a computer drastically, or even prevent it from booting.

To check if the correct settings are used for those options, or to set them manually if they are incorrectly set, you can consult the motherboard's user manual, which, for Asus motherboards, always provides a table with the processor settings for the supported processors that were available when the manual was printed, and always includes a section on the BIOS.

If you don't have a copy of the user manual for that motherboard, you will be able to download one in the PDF format from the Asus website for that model. It requires a PDF-reader, such as the free Foxit reader.

You should identify the make and model of the processor by examining its upper surface as it lies in its processor socket on the motherboard, or you can make use of a utility such as the free CPU-Z from cpuid.com. That utility will tell you the correct make and model of the processor even if the clock multiplier and/or the FSB settings are incorrectly set.

The ASUS A7N8X-X motherboard is an ATX Socket A board with a built-in sound card and a built-in network adapter. It is compatible with AMD Athlon, Duron, and Athlon XP processors, which are no longer in production.

If the processor is a model that wasn't available when the motherboard manual was written, you should be able to contact Asus technical support and ask them to tell you what the correct settings for that model of processor are. You can then enable them in the BIOS, which is information that the motherboard's manual should provide in its BIOS section.

You could also make use of a search engine to locate pages that discuss problems with that motherboard. For example, you could enter a search query such as ASUS A7N8X-X speed problem.

If you still need help, the Overclock.net forum has many discussion items on motherboards. - http://overclock.net/

Problem 2

I need to replace my motherboard's BIOS battery, but I don't want to have to reset my customised settings, so can anyone recommend a program that will save the settings so I can restore them after I replace the battery?

Answer

The flash utility that you use to reflash a BIOS can usually save the old BIOS file so that it can be restored if reflashing the BIOS causes a problem. You can obtain it with the latest BIOS update for a make and model of motherboard from the motherboard manufacturer's site.

You could also take digital photos of each of the BIOS pages to save the optimal settings.

Alternatively, try using cmosram2.zip. I've used it and it works fine. It's a freebie and easy to use. The zip file contains the program and instruction document.

cmosram2.zip - http://www.drivermuseum.com/files/utils/system_u.html

Problem 3

My desktop PC takes almost a minute to get to the initial BIOS screen during the startup procedure. Does this mean that the motherboard's BIOS battery needs replacing. The hard-disk-drive LED light flickers on and off indicating heavy hard-drive activity most of the time as the system prepares to boot. Perhaps the BIOS is scanning the hardware during every boot because the values have been lost and have to be re-detected. Also, I would like to know what the proper procedure is for replacing the battery. I have had a look at it and it looks as if I will have to lift the battery out of its socket with a suitable screwdriver, but I don't want to break anything.

Answer

If your desktop or laptop PC is more than about three years old, it is probably still on its first motherboard battery, so it might be a good idea to replace it. I have a desktop PC built in 2005 and its battery is still working, so the battery can last over 5 years. You can buy very cheap replacement batteries from all good retail and online computer shops. You must buy the correct type. The battery shown in the image below is a CR2032 non-rechargeable coin battery. You must never use a non-rechargeable battery if a rechargeable one is required (as is the case with a wireless phone that recharges its battery), because it can explode. Entering CR2032 in a search engine provides links to online sellers, such as this one: http://www.batteries4youdirect.co.uk/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=74

Sony motherboard BIOS battery

The PC should obviously be switched off during the replacement.

Replacing the Motherboard Battery -

For the battery installation the desktop of laptop PC's motherboard, there are three types of battery socket types. This webpage show you how to replace all three types. - http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Replacing-the-Motherboard-Battery/81

However, one of the main symptoms you reported is that the hard-disk LED activity light is constantly flickering, so you should also test the hard disk drive itself. That can be done by using the Windows XP/Vista/7 Chkdsk utility. In Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, Chkdsk works in much the same way. Click here! to go to the information on it on this website.

Most hard-drive manufacturer's supply a disgnostic program for their drives, so you can download and run that if one is available. There are also some good free third-party utilities, such as MHDD, which is the most popular freeware program for low-level hard-disk-drive diagnostics. - http://hddguru.com/content/en/software/2005.10.02-MHDD/


Is an extra 4-pin power supply connector required for AMD Athlon XP and Intel Pentium 4 motherboards (mainboards)?

Questions

I know that Pentium 4 motherboards need a special ATX power supply that has two extra power connectors. But do the latest Athlon XP boards need a special power supply? And is it possible to run both types of processor from a standard ATX power supply?

Answers

A special connector is not needed on the power supply for AMD Athlon and Athlon XP motherboards.

It is possible to run both types of Intel and AMD processors with a standard ATX power supply with no Pentium 4 power connectors, either by fitting an adapter to the standard ATX power connector, or by using a Pentium 4 motherboard that will allow the use of a standard ATX connector instead of the Pentium 4 connector.

Note that the new motherboards with the Intel Granite Bay chipset require a different Pentium 4 connector. Instead of the typical 4-pin Pentium 4 connector, it uses an 8-pin connector.

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August 21, 2006. - Note that this Q&A applies to processors that are no longer being manufactured by Intel (Socket 478) and AMD (Socket A). For the power supply requirements of Intel's and AMD's current dual-core, quad-core, hexa-core and octo-core processors (there may be more cores available when you read this), read the information on this Motherboards, Cases and Power Supplies page (on power supplies) and the Processors section of this site.


How carefully is it necessary to consider the power demand made on the motherboard (mainboard) by the fan used to cool the processor?

Problem

A user's system running Windows 98 SE has an MSI 6570 motherboard and an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ processor fitted with an Akasa (heatsink and fan) cooling unit, which is very noisy. The user wants to replace the cooling unit with a quieter model and is thinking of using an Akasa Carnival or a Thermaltake Volcano Xaser XP cooling unit. The hardware installed in the computer is already power hungry, so the user is worried about what effect installing a higher powered fan will have on the motherboard. There is no information in the motherboard's manual about the maximum amount of power that can be delivered to the cooling unit.

Answer

It is the limitations of the system's power supply unit (PSU) that have to be taken into account here, not any power limitations of the motherboard.

The PSU has separate power supply lines that deliver power to the various parts of the system. Most of the power demands are placed on the +3.3V, +5V, and the +12V supply lines.

It is assumed here that the user has a power supply installed that is recommended for use with the Athlon XP 2600+ processor.

Under normal circumstances, there should be no problem with installing a higher powered processor fan because it runs from the 12V supply line that powers the hard disk drive(s). At start-up, each hard disk drive would require 2 amps of the usual 15 amps delivered by this supply line, but much less after each drive is spinning, so, provided that it isn't a cheap underpowered one, the power supply should be able to deliver plenty of power to even the largest processor fan.

However, large, powerful processor fans tend to be noisy. An 80mm fan should be relatively quiet provided that it fits in the system and it isn't a high-speed model. The Thermaltake Xaser is comparatively noisy at full speed, but it has a manual speed control, so it can be run quieter, but at the expense of severely reducing its cooling capacity. The Akasa AK-25 Carnival is also relatively noisy at full speed. Akasa's AK-824CU is much quieter while also being able to deliver adequate cooling.

The Intel Pentium 4 and the AMD Athlon 64 processors have both switched to powering the processor from the power supply's 12V supply line by using an additional four-pin connector to the motherboard. A Pentium 4 processor can draw up to 8 amps of power from this supply line, so the additional four-pin connector was added to Pentium 4-compatible power supplies. A setup that should deliver plenty of power to any make and model of suitable processor fan.

AMD Athlon XP processors use 1.75V, which most Athlon XP (Socket A) motherboards deliver from the 3.3V or 5V supply lines. However, some more recent Athlon XP motherboards use the 12V supply line instead due to instabilities caused by the strain placed on certain power supplies.

In short, there shouldn't be any power problems when installing any cooling unit recommended for use with a particular make and model of processor as long as the correct kind of power supply for the motherboard and make and model of processor is also being used.


I upgraded from Windows 98 to Windows XP and now my computer has a USB and sound conflict

Question

I upgraded a computer using Windows 98 to Windows XP. Now the onboard USB, and the sound conflict. I know that if IRQ assignments are the same for any two devices, they will conflict with each other. I used to be able to change the IRQ assignments in Windows 98, but for some reason can no longer do so in Windows XP. I therefore want to know how to change the IRQs for devices on the motherboard in Windows XP.

Answer

If the system's BIOS allows this to be done, one way to resolve this problem is to change the IRQs manually for the USB device(s) and sound card in the BIOS setup program. Refer to the motherboard's manual, or the start-up screen for the key or key combination to press to enter the BIOS. You have to take care to make sure that no two devices are using the same IRQ.

IRQ Steering, if enabled in the Device Manager under System devices => PCI bus, allows the devices installed in the PCI and AGP slots to share a single IRQ, but USB doesn't share the PCI bus.

Alternatively, check the brand-name computer's or the motherboard manufacturer's site for a BIOS upgrade, and follow the instructions that are provided for reflashing the BIOS. It should be made compulsory to upgrade the BIOS before upgrading a computer from one operating system to another that has a completely different architecture - as the is case with Windows 98 and Windows XP.

A majority of upgrade problems would be avoided just by doing that.

Once you've reflashed the BIOS, you should boot up, enter it by pressing the appropriate entry key(s), and check to make sure that the setting called PNP OS Installed is enabled. This setting makes Windows control the IRQ assignments for devices instead of the BIOS.

If none of the above is possible (the IRQs can't be changed in the BIOS manually, and the motherboard manufacture has no BIOS updates), try disabling the PNP OS Installed setting in the BIOS, and enable the setting called Reset Configuration Data, which only works once and then turns itself off. This will make the BIOS handle the IRQ assignments instead of Windows, and makes BIOS reassign the IRQ assignments, hopefully, so that they no longer conflict.


I built a computer by following all of the instructions properly but it won't boot

Problem

Having calculated the benefits and savings to be made by building my own computer, I bought the following components that meet my computing requirements:

Motherboard: Gigabyte 7VT600

Processor: AMD Athlon XP 1800+

RAM: a 256MB module of single-channel, 184-pin, DDR RAM

Video card: nVidia GeForce4 MX440

Hard disk drive: 40GB, 7,200 RPM, IDE ATA, Western Digital Caviar

Case: Midi ATX with a 350W power supply unit.

Monitor: the working 17" CRT monitor from another system.

I installed the components in the case (and connected the video card to the monitor) by following the instructions in the motherboard's manual, but when I switched the power on, nothing came to the screen. However, sounds were issued by the processor's cooling unit and the case fan, and the RAM LED on the motherboard lit up. I checked the settings and reseated all of the components, but the computer remained in the same state.

Answer

Remove everything that is not needed to make the system function. In other words, just have the motherboard, video card, RAM, and hard disk drive installed. You should be able to boot to the BIOS setup program with only the motherboard, RAM, and video card installed, so do that if the system won't boot with the hard disk drive installed.

In case they are plugged in the wrong way round, make sure that any USB devices are unplugged. If you have a PS/2 mouse, use it instead of a USB mouse, which you should leave unconnected to begin with, just to make sure that it's not the source of the problem.

Make sure that the disk drive cables are connected the correct way round. I've seen several cases where a disk-drive cable that was plugged in the wrong way round prevented the computer from booting. This is easy to do with many floppy disk drives because they often don't come with keyed cables that can only be installed one way round.

Make sure that the motherboard is mounted in the case properly. I have come across people who have mounted the motherboard directly into the case without using stand-off screws (mounting posts) that separate it from the case. Of course, the case shorted out the circuits on the underside of the motherboard where it came into contact with the metal case, rendering the computer unbootable. In any case, check to make sure that there is nothing apart from valid stand-off screws between the case and the motherboard that is shorting it. I have come across cases where an unused stand-off screw has been left screwed into the case and was touching and therefore shorting the circuitry on the underside of the motherboard.

Remove the processor's heatsink and fan cooling unit (never power up the system without a cooling unit fitted properly to the processor or you will fry it), and remove the processor. Check to make sure that the processor was installed the correct way round and that none of the pins on its underside are bent. Two corners of the Athlon processor have a missing pin, and one of the corners will be clearly marked with a triangle (an AMD Duron processor has a square dot on one corner). The marked corner on the processor must fit into the marked corner on the motherboard's processor socket. There is only one way the processor can fit properly into its socket. I have come across several cases in which this was not done, and pins on the corners of processor were bent, and this made the system fail to boot.

You've checked the motherboard's settings, but that doesn't mean that you've got them right. This motherboard uses DIP Switches to set the Front Side Bus (FSB) settings, but other motherboards can have all of the settings set via the BIOS setup program, or by using a mixture of BIOS settings and jumper settings and DIP Switch settings on the motherboard. Users often misinterpret the X used to indicate an "On" setting in the manual as meaning "Off". Another common mistake is to misread the diagram in the manual that illustrates how to connect the LED and Power-On plugs to the motherboard. I have come across several cases where the On-Off switch was connected to the wrong pins on the motherboard.

If none of the above options cures the problem, the next step would be to swap the components with ones that are known to work - if you have them available. This would include the power supply unit. The motherboard will run with any AMD Athlon or Duron processor. A PCI video card can be used if you don't have an AGP card. A repair shop would probably install a POST diagnostic card that displays codes that the computer produces as it goes through the obligatory Power-On-Self-Test (POST) tests. If any of these tests fails, then it would be considered as at least one cause, and hopefully the only cause of the problem.

You probably won't have such a diagnostic card, but you could remove the video card and RAM module to find out if the BIOS gives off the correct beep codes when it discovers that they're not installed. Enter a search phrase such as bios + beep + codes in Google search box at the top of this page to find out what the beep codes are for the type of BIOS - usually an Award or AMI BIOS - that is built into the motherboard.

If nothing works, you'll have take the computer to a reputable local repair shop. You'll probably have to return one or more components, so hopeful you'll have had the good sense to purchase all of them from one supplier.


Why does my computer keep resetting itself?

Problem

My self-built computer running Windows X Home Edition has a Gigabyte GA-7VXP motherboard, an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ processor, an Asus FX200 video card, two IDE hard disk drives (80GB and 40GB), 512MB of DDR400 RAM (aka PC 3200), and a DVD-RW drive.

The problem is that it keeps resetting in a sporadic manner. It can go all day and then suddenly reboot, or it can reset itself immediately after having been switched on.

A reply to my e-mail to Gigabyte suggested that it was most likely to be a power supply problem. But the computer has an ample 350W PSU, which even the top computer manufacturers still have in their systems. I don't want to buy a new power supply unit only to find that the problem lies elsewhere.

Answer

The most likely cause of the problem is an inadequate power supply unit, the manufacturer of which, unfortunately, you did not supply. And I'll tell you why this is so likely to be the case with your computer.

The manufacturer can make a great deal of difference, because the price and quality of PSUs vary greatly. For some of the cheaper makes and models, the stated maximum outputs for the various power lines over which power is delivered bears no relation to the real outputs.

Some cheap PSUs labelled as 400W can be inferior to the 250W PSUs made by a manufacturer of quality units.

Often, the PSU does not deliver a stable supply of power anywhere near the rated maximums. It is also not uncommon to find that although the maximum current on each of the different voltage lines does agree with the stated maximum output for that line, there is a limitation in which the combined outputs on, say, two power lines cannot exceed a much lower maximum, thereby rendering the maximum output misleadingly meaningless.

But, most often, the problem with cheap units is with the maximum power output on each of the voltages supplied: the 12V, 5V, and 3.3V outputs.

It could be that the PSU can produce enough power on the 12V line, which is usually used for hard disk drives and case fans, but not nearly enough power on the 3.3V supply, which is used for RAM and AMD Athlon processors. It can also happen that a cheap PSU that has the additional 12V output used by Intel Pentium 4 processors does not produce enough power on the 3.3V supply, which most AMD motherboards use to power the processor. Therefore, using such a PSU with an AMD Athlon processor could be the cause of resetting and freezing problems.

Note that some of the newer AMD motherboards now power the processor from the additional 12V connector on PSUs used by Pentium 4 processors.

You should buy a PSU that is approved by the processor's manufacturer. The manufacturer of quality PSUs such as Enermax, Antec, and Sparkle will provide that information on their sites.

Read this Q&A on this page: Power Supply Units and the latest AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 motherboards.

Click here! to visit the page on this site that deals with PSUs.


My computer has failed to start up, its power LED, case and processor fans, and the reset button don't work. Is this caused by a motherboard failure?

Problem

My PC, running Windows XP Home Edition, has failed to start up for some reason, having previously had no problems whatsoever. I have made no hardware or software changes. It locked up while I was using it. I pressed the reset button, but the PC failed to restart. The BIOS makes no beeps because the power-on self tests don't run. Nothing at all appears on the screen. The case fan, connected to the motherboard, and the processor's fan don't revolve at all, and the power LED on the front to the case doesn't light up. If I press the reset switch, the IDE LED that shows hard disk CD/DVD drive activity lights up briefly and goes out. However, I can hear the hard drive power up, and the DVD drive's LED comes on. I don't have any spare components to swap out. It seems to me as if the cause is a failed motherboard, because of the failure of the fans and the power LED to function. Am I right?

Answer

Unfortunately, the cause could be a failed power supply unit, processor, motherboard, network interface card, modem, graphics card, or a sound card.

Bad RAM memory is unlikely to be the cause, because the fans and case LEDs would work even though the PC wouldn't start up.

To begin your troubleshooting, open the PC's case and remove the video card, the sound card, any network interface card or modem, and disconnect the hard drive and the DVD drive - the cables that connect them to the motherboard and the cables that connect them to the power supply. Make a note of where the cables connect to the motherboard so that you can replace them. If you can't remember where the cables connect, you'll have to consult the motherboard's illustrated manual. If any one of those components fail, it shorts out the motherboard and prevents it from receiving power. If the PC is connected to the web via a modem or modem and network interface card, they can be hit by a lightening strike.

If the PC starts up properly, press the key that enters the BIOS (usually the Del key). Now you know that one of the components you removed is the cause of the problem, and it's a matter of installing alternatives until you find out which one is responsible.

If the PC still displays the same symptoms, you can even remove the DIMM memory modules.

If doing that doesn't allow the PC to start up, you can try resetting the CMOS memory that contains the BIOS setup information. The motherboard's manual will show the position of the reset jumper pins on the motherboard. If you don't have a copy, download one from the manufacturer's website. Usually there are three pins sticking up near the coin-shaped BIOS battery, with a jumper over two of them. Remove the jumper and place it over the pin that wasn't covered and the one next to it. Click here! to find out how to do that on this site. You don't have to restart the PC, merely changing the jumper setting resets the BIOS, because the pins maintain power to the CMOS chip and when you remove the jumper and place it over the alternative setting, the information in the BIOS is removed. The CMOS chip is hard-coded with the default BIOS settings, which are then transferred automatically into the chip's battery-powered memory. You must then replace the jumper over the pins it covered originally. If there is no jumper there, remove the BIOS battery for five minutes and replace it. Click here! to find out how to do that on this site.

If the problem still remains unresolved after all of that troubleshooting, just in case the power-on switch has failed, remove the cable that connects it to the motherboard and connect the reset switch's connector to the power-on pins on the motherboard, and press the reset switch on the case. On all ATX PC cases, the power-on switch just has to be shorted momentarily to start the PC. If the PC has no reset switch, you can briefly short the two power-on switch pins with the end of a screwdriver to make the PC start up. You won't get a shock because a screwdriver's handle is insulated. If you need illustrated information, the motherboard's manual will have a diagram that shows where the power-on, reset, and LED pins are located.

If the problem still remains unresolved, it must have something to do with the motherboard, power supply, or the processor. The only way to find out which of them is responsible is to replace each of them in turn. But, since you have no alternative components, you should take the PC to a reputable computer shop for testing, or consider upgrading your PC by buying a new motherboard, power supply, processor, and RAM. If you buy one of the latest AMD Athlon 64 or Intel Pentium 4 processors, make sure that you buy the correct type of motherboard for it, a quality 400W to 450W power supply that has the correct 20-pin or 24-pin power connector, and quality brand-name RAM. Download the motherboard's manual to find out which kind of power connector is used to connect it to the power supply. Most new motherboards are connected to the power supply by a 24-pin power connector.


A retailer rip-off: The SLI motherboard and the two SLI graphics cards I bought for it turned out not to be SLI compliant

Problem

I purchased a Asus A8N-SLI Premium Socket 939 motherboard, two PCI Express graphics cards with nVidia 6800GT chips, and an AMD Athlon 64 4000+ processor from a well-known UK online retailer. The motherboard and the graphics cards were advertised with the SLI logo.

I installed the components in an existing case, added RAM a hard drive and a CD/DVD drive from another system. I formatted the hard drive and installed Windows XP SP2. I installed the graphics device drivers that came on a CD with the graphics cards. However, as soon as I tried to play a PC game, the system crashed. I then downloaded and installed the latest device drivers for the graphics cards. Having installed them, the system produced a message that said that I did not have SLI-compliant graphics cards installed.

I asked the online retail store's after-sales support staff by e-mail what I should do about the problem. I was asked to return the motherboard because they had experienced problems with them.

In hindsight, I'm pretty sure that they had not experienced difficulties with this make and model of motherboard. They were just faced with the prospect of having all of my purchases returned so that they could find out where the problem lay. They didn't want to do that, so they asked for the motherboard back because they knew that it would be working. I doubt if they even bothered to have it tested. They knew full well that they just had to say that the motherboard was working to make me the target for a restocking fee.

Anyhow, I was given an RMA reference number. A few days after I returned the motherboard, I received an e-mail saying that the motherboard had been tested with another brand of SLI-complaint graphics cards and was found to be working properly. I was asked if I wanted it back, because if I didn't I would have to pay a 20% restocking charge. I pointed out that I had told them in my original message that I thought that the problem was with the graphics cards and that they had requested the return of the motherboard. I also made it clear that they should have tested the motherboard with the same make and model of graphics cards that I have. I received a reply saying that I could either pay for retesting the board or accept the restocking charge. I replied that I had another option - legal action. The reply from them said that I had chosen to return the motherboard and, as far as the company was concerned, there was nothing wrong with it. When I provide a copy of the e-mail in which they had suggested that I return the motherboard not the graphics cards, they ignored the evidence. The best offer I could get out of them was to accept a 10% restocking fee. Do I have a case for legal action against this company?

Answer

That's the major disadvantage of buying the components for a PC from an online dealer that isn't a short drive away. If just one of them doesn't work, unless you have components that you can swap with the purchases, it can be very difficult to find out where the fault lies. Moreover, I expect that had you returned all of the components so that they could find the fault and then return a set of working components that were fully SLI-compliant, the company is unlikely to have wasted any time testing anything because the profit it makes on components is very slim and it is too costly to do so. They would just have told you that none of the components were found to be faulty; that you must not have installed them properly, or that there must have been something wrong with the other components in the computer, such as the RAM memory you added not having been fully compatible with the motherboard, or the power supply you used having been inadequate to run two PCI Express graphics cards. Then they would have charged you a restocking fee for all of those components unless you agreed to take them back. Obtaining proof from the company that it had actually tested the components together would be almost impossible, or could just be fabricated.

Had you told the company that you were sending all of the components back for a full refund under the terms of the Sale of Goods Act, because they were unsuitable for the purpose for which they were bought, it might have given you a refund, but it might also have refused to give you a refund, saying that it had tested all of the components and found them to be fully functional together. They know that suing the company via the Small Claims Court is your only realistic recourse, because suing in a civil court isn't a realistic option. They also know that most people only bluff about suing them via the Small Claims Court, because it is still an involved and costly process. As things stand, in order to win your case, you would have to prove that the components didn't work together. That would mean having to get the motherboard back and then having the assembled system tested by a qualified technician, because the court would require definite proof that the components you purchased did not work together and that none of the other components you added were faulty.

These companies have had plenty of experience dealing with difficult situations. Many are they who make purchases of computer components, who don't know what their power requirements are or how to install them properly. Their staff know what legal action to take so that the company doesn't lose out too heavily. Therefore, as soon as you couldn't get the system to work, to cut your losses, you should have had it tested by a qualified computer technician to find out what was causing the problem. If it turned out that any of the components you bought from the company was faulty, you could have return it under the returns policies of the company for a full refund or a replacement. The conditions of sale and the returns policies should be available on the company's website.

As things stand, you now have two graphics cards and a processor, but no motherboard in which to install them. I have no idea if you installed the two graphics cards as they should have been installed, or if the power supply you used was up to the job of running two cards in SLI mode. Do the two graphics cards each require to be connected to a PCI Express power cable from the power supply unit? High-end PCI Express cards usually require additional power from the power supply unit. If an installation manual wasn't provided with the cards, you should be able to find installation instructions on the card-manufacturer's site.

You say that you installed the latest device driver file. nVidia's Version 80 driver has made it no longer necessary to have exactly the same graphics cards and the same firmware versions installed on both cards. SLI mode can also now be used without having to make use of an SLI bridge connector that is connected between the two cards. If you didn't install the Version 80 driver, you would have had to install the bridge between the two cards that should have been supplied with them.

If I were you, I would ask the company if you can return the other components for a refund. If the support staff say that a refund will be issued minus a restocking charge, I would accept it as long as the charge isn't excessive. If you return goods to the company, it has the legal right under the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 to treat the returns as a cancellation. Under Regulation 14, it can make a charge not exceeding the direct costs of recovering any goods supplied under the contract of sale. In other words, the company can only recover its packaging and delivery costs.

You can then buy the components for an SLI system locally, which you can return in person if they don't work together.

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this websiteTo the top of the page