Computer Woes

So, a few weeks back, my desktop computer decided to stop booting. It was quite frustrating (as any computer geek without their computer can tell you).

The BIOS boot screen wouldn’t get past seeing that I have an Athlon XP 3200+ processor; no RAM information, no disk information, no OS selection screen (I dual-boot Debian and Windows XP), no booting at all. I figured something on the motherboard got fried and the computer was useless.

In a last-ditch effort, I pulled the computer 100% apart and rebuilt it piece by piece to see if I could isolate the problem. It wasn’t the sound card, my usb/firewire interface card, or my video card. It wasn’t either stick of RAM. It wasn’t my CD burner or my floppy drive. I was able to put just about everything back together and it would boot reliably while sitting on my coffee table. Huh?!? Why was it working now?

Thinking I was in the clear and it was just a bad contact or some dust got into place it shouldn’t have, I buttoned it back up and put it under my desk again and added back all of my USB devices after the computer was powered up. Everything appeared to be working perfectly once again.

That is, it was working well until I powered it back up again today. The same lack of booting behavior had come back! What that ****?

Maybe it was a flaky wire in a cable; I tried moving the cables around and reseated them in all of my drives and on the motherboard. No dice. Was it a power issue, where something wasn’t getting enough current? Nope, I tried switching power plugs and all of the devices would start, but the computer wouldn’t boot still.

In a fit of near rage, I unplugged all USB devices (except for my keyboard and mouse) to see if one of them had gone bad. Bam! The computer worked again! I was still left with a great big “WFT” feeling not knowing what device had been preventing it from working previously. Trying to see what device broke the system, I started adding everything back again, but decided to try different ports just to throw in another variable into the equation.

I plugged the web cam into the expansion card; check – the system worked. USB WiFi card in the motherboard USB jack; system still boots. USB hub in the expansion card; no issues. Bluetooth adapter in one of the after-market USB ports from the motherboard; black screen of death (as I refer to a near-empty BIOS boot screen where the system isn’t booting at all). I moved it from the motherboard port to the last USB port on my expansion card and the system booted back up as it should.

So, as it turns out, the after-market USB lines from my motherboard are the most likely targets to blame for all of my problems. They used to work, so I’m thinking the root hub on the motherboard must have gone bad and was pulling too much current on boot, which, in turn, must have been holding the computer in some sort of weird state. Even though I think I’ve found the problem, I’m still suspicious that something else may go bad soon. I guess that’s life in the big city… electronics are made so shabbily these days that they are not intended to be used for longer than a few years.

At least I can boot and work with my computer again… until the next problem comes up…



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