Desktop PC suffers Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) events

RAM memory problem: Desktop PC suffers  suffers several Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) events

The following Blue Screen of Death problem could have several causes but is most likely to have been caused by RAM memory that is itself faulty or which has not been installed properly.

Problem

After not being in use for about a month, my Dell desktop PC underwent a series of blue screen of death crashes and then failed to turn on. Its power LED lights up on the motherboard when I press the Start button, makes no beeping sounds and nothing appears on the monitor.

After a while, it tries to restart itself without success. I can’t get it to open the BIOS. I took all of the adapter cards and two 1GB RAM modules out, cleaned their connectors and blew the dust out with a can of compressed air, but it still refused to turn on. A friend tested the hard drive by installing it in his PC and it worked properly. I can’t take his PC apart to swap out his PC’s components with mine, so how else can I find out if the motherboard, the RAM, the processor or the power supply are the cause of the problem?

Answer

Resetting or reflashing the BIOS

You say that an LED lights up on the motherboard when you switch the PC on but that there are no beeps (beep code that can be translated to reveal which component is at fault). You also say that you can open the BIOS. Are you sure that you are pressing the correct BIOS entry key(s) at startup?

The motherboard user manual provides information on the BIOS, including how to reset and reflash it. If you have the make/model of motherboard and you don’t have a manual, you can download a copy from the manufacturer’s website. It is usually in the PDF format. You can open the case to identify the motherboard or use a tool, such as the free Belarc Advisor.

Resetting usually involves removing a jumper on the motherboard. The BIOS can become corrupt by just becoming corrupt for some reason or by setting incompatible settings, etc.

In this case, merely resetting or reflashing the BIOS might fix the problem. Here is information that Dell provides on resetting:

How to Perform a BIOS or CMOS Reset and/or Clear the NVRAM on your Dell System –

http://www.dell.com/support/Article/us/en/19/SLN284985/EN

BIOS beep codes

A desktop PC has to have a case speaker for BIOS beep codes to be heard, which most PCs no longer have, but you may get warning codes provided by an LED display on the motherboard itself or on an LED display at the back of the case. The codes are provided in the motherboard’s user manual or may be provided online. Most motherboard manufacturers provide user manuals for their boards in the PDF format from their websites.

The following link provides a web search for bios beep codes that should provide you with the information you need to translate the message being sent by a standard BIOS. If you know the make of your PC’s BIOS, include it in the web-search query. The most common makes of BIOS are AMI, Award and Phoenix.

Test the computer by creating a Linux boot disc

This is certainly a hardware-related problem, but you can test the computer by creating a Linux boot disc that boots the system from a CD or DVD, such as the one provided by Ubuntu from ubuntu.com or Puppy Linux from puppylinux.com. If the PC can be run from the boot disc then it’s a software problem (a hardware problem if it doesn’t work). You use disc-burning software to burn the downloaded Ubuntu ISO file to a disc. Note that to boot the system using a boot disc, the system BIOS has to have the boot-order settings of devices set so that the CD/DVD drive is set as the first boot device. Windows 7 provides disc-burning software, but there are many excellent free third-party tools, such as CDBurnerXP Pro from cdburnerxp.se. Note that Windows 8 does not provide a disc-burning tool.

The order of components that can be responsible for this kind of failure

The order of components that can be responsible for this kind of failure are: 1. – RAM memory 2. – Power supply failure. 3. Motherboard failure. 4. Processor fault. 5. –  Graphics-card problem.

It’s most probably a problem with the RAM memory

Looking at the symptoms, if resetting or reflashing the BIOS fails, I would say that it’s most likely to be a problem with the RAM memory.

If any of the other components are responsible you can only find out by swapping them out with components known to be working or get a computer repair shop to find out which component is responsible. I have come across a few PCs with those tell-tale signs and the memory is usually to blame.

Look at the motherboard user manual to find out how the two memory modules can be installed in the DIMM memory slots on the motherboard and install them in all of the available configurations – singly and together. This, of course, requires opening the PC’s case to access its motherboard. Not usually a difficult thing to do, but some cases require more than removing four screws at the back of the case to set the side panels free. For example, access might require removing the whole front section of the case to allow the side panels to be removed. Most brand-name cases have user manuals provided by their manufacturers and most brand-name PCs come with a user manual that provides instructions on how to open the case.

A memory slot might have become faulty as well as a module. Some motherboards require the modules to be installed in specific banks and others don’t mind which banks are occupied or left empty, but most of them only allow specific configurations with the first bank, which is numbered as such, having to be filled. To run the memory in a dual-channel configuration that runs two modules as if they are one module, for example, might require installing the modules in specific slots that can be colour-coded.

You might find that using one module alone in the first bank works while the other module doesn’t (has become faulty) in the same slot. Experiment until you are sure that both memory modules are working or that one or both of them need to be replaced. Also remember that the slots can become faulty, so if a module doesn’t work in a slot, try the other module in it. If both don’t work but work in another slot then you know that the slot has become faulty not the memory.

The following free utilities can test your system’s RAM, which must be operating 100% all of the time or serious data corruption and/or system failures (that can be very difficult to track down) will occur. Note that they can take a lengthy time or a very long time to go through their various tests. As long as you can boot the computer from a CD/DVD disc or USB flash drive, you can run the diagnostic tests in Windows 7/8.1/10.

Microsoft Windows Memory Diagnostic –

http://www.softpedia.com/get/Tweak/Memory-Tweak/…

Memtest86 – latest version – http://www.memtest.org/

The person who reported this problem subsequently reported that the problem was cause by one of his memory modules having become faulty.

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