Does My BIOS Need Flashing? Wait, What's BIOS Again?

Discussion in 'PC Hardware' started by RKeaton, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

    Feb 3, 2009
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    #1 RKeaton, Feb 3, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
    Hello, novice computer user here.

    My HP m7330n is having a hell of a time booting up. It takes dozens of tries and sometimes upwards of an hour. This has been going on for weeks. (Meaning it's gotten totally ridiculous.)

    My latest guess was that my motherboard needs replacing. First, I have no idea how to do this and it sounds a little tricky. Second, I don't want to replace a large part if it isn't actually broken.

    A google search on the issue led me to this site and some threads about corrupt BIOS and flashing them to fix the problem. When my computer does boot up I have noticed that it says something like "default bios settings loaded due to checksum issue". I don't know if that's a clue or not. All I know for sure is that the damn thing is like a mule when it comes to starting.

    But the strange thing is that it will eventually start just by pusing the power button repeatedly...I don't know why. Anyway, do you think flashing my BIOS would fix my problem? If so, what the hell is flashing your BIOS? ;) Can a clueless (but otherwise reasonably smart) noob handle such a task?

    Seriously, I could really use your input.
     
  2. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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  3. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

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    I replaced the battery and that did nothing so I checked that off the list. I'll look at those links to see what I can find.

    And btw, another symptom - or extension of the same problem - is that now when I do get it up and running it's only a matter of time before it just freezes and I have to power it off and start over. Usually it'll work fine all day, I'll leave it on and go to sleep but when I wake up it's frozen.
     
  4. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    Ok, what's next?

    In my experience, one of the most common causes of spontaneous shutdowns is overheating. I do not use the dinky little computer fans anymore. I leave the side panel off my case and have two 6-inch fans (very quiet) blowing in the case: one at the area of the CPU/gfx card, the other in the area of the HDDs.

    One of the more common causes of spontaneous reboots is gfx card driver conflicts. My test, uninstall (not disable) the gfx card driver. Reboot and Windows will install a generic VGA driver. If machine runs OK, go to the gfx card mfr and DL most update driver. However, I have found NVIDIA chipsets to cause fits - at least in my hands; many times an updated driver causes the problem. If so, roll back.

    Finally, as part of your TS, go to Event Viewer: START>RUN> and type "eventvwr.msc" without the quotes. In the left hand pane, click on Applications and System. In the right pane if you see errors (red shield/white X) right-click the error entry>PROPERTIES and read the description. Then, while connected to the Internet click on the blue link; a Help window will open. Then wait . . . maybe minute or two. Eventually the window will populate with details about the error. (Sometimes it will just refer you to MS Help page) EV is a good means of TS crashes.

    These TS steps presume an OS problem v. a BIOS problem.

    By the way, when you say won't boot, the boot is a two step process. The first is the BIOS POST which, simply stated, verifies mechanical integrity of PNP devices and the system buses. The second boot is the OS boot that starts via winlogon. How far does your machine get? And, when you say pushing power button repeatedly, you mean you push the button and absolutely nothing happens? Or do you mean the machine starts to power up and then, at some point shuts down?

    Monk
     
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  5. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

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    #5 RKeaton, Feb 4, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2009
    (OP)
    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Let me be a little more clear about what exactly my computer is doing and see if that helps.

    First things first. In the very beginning "several" weeks ago I turned on my computer one day and everything on the monitor was wavy. Almost scrambled. At the same time, it had trouble booting up. There was definitely power. The norm for this computer since new had always been a short 'burst' of power with the fans at high rpm and then, after about one second, it got very quiet and booted up. Now, it was just getting stuck at that loud phase, with both fans running fast and loud, and doing nothing.

    I would hold the power button down for 5 seconds til it powered off completely, then push it again. After a couple of tries it would come on.

    Since the screen had gotten weird the first thought I had was to get a new graphics card (never bought one before). So I went to my local Fry's and got one, came home to swap out the old one and realized there was no old one. I guess there was/is something integrated into the mobo but the slot was empty. I just stuck the new one in anyway. Turned on the computer - hoping it would skip straight into smooth startup. It didn't, it got stuck again in that 'loud' mode. I had to power it off and on a few times just like I'd been doing of late, but it came on. Good thing was, the screen looked perfect. Slightly better than before, actually. My Syncmaster flat panel monitor was looking more vibrant than ever, so it was a slight upgrade. But while this had fixed the screen it had not fixed the starting problem at all. It was disappointing.

    So I did the most logical thing - I just stopped turning it off...ever :) Seemed like a brilliant plan. And for several weeks this worked. Very occasionally I would be forced to reboot - installing new programs, completing anti-virus scans, power outage in my neighborhood, etc. But otherwise my master plan of avoiding the problem was working pretty well. Then, "several" weeks later, there was a new symptom: it started to freeze up while I was using it. When this happened I was forced to power it off and try to restart.

    Somewhere around this time another thing happened, my main hard drive was not being recognized. Some message told me it was bad, which I doubt. But anyway I thought I'd fix this mess by installing a backup drive from my old computer where the C drive was. I figured out how to do this, did a new installation of Windows (Vista Home) and it worked again but the booting problem was not fixed.

    This all compelled me to fiddle around a bit more. I replaced the power supply with a new one, no effect. I took out some RAM (I have four 512mb sticks), tried swapping that around. I unplugged various things from the motherboard (usb readers, cd/dvd drives, other hard drives) and plugged back in only what I needed. I removed the heatsink and put it back in. Keep in mind I could barely point to the motherboard if asked to before, so this is new ground for me. I also replaced the little coin battery and tried one or two other little things. Nothing has worked.

    So now I have to go through the ritual of rebooting every single day (because I go to sleep with it on and wake up to still running quietly, but the screen is frozen). To make matters worse, it has gotten increasingly difficult to start. Long gone are the times when 4 or 5 tries will do the trick. Now it takes 20 or 30 tries.

    There is also the question of WHERE it gets stuck. When working normally (I barely remember anymore) it goes like this: press power button, computer makes loud noise, then gets very quiet, then a blue HP screen appears, then a screen showing some specs of my computer (what type of processor, ram, etc), then a couple more screens flash quickly and the Windows copyright with the progress bar appears showing that Windows is loading, then another flash or two and the Windows logo appears, another flash, and my desktop appears.

    Used to be if the fans slowed down and it got quiet I knew it was going to come on. Then once it got past the blue HP screen I was golden. Then the progress bar with Windows copyright was my milestone. But now, it will freeze up at any of these points or others in between. I never know it's actually going to boot up fully until my desktop appears (and I mutter something like, "f**king finally, piece of s**t...").

    Strange thing is it will ALWAYS eventually get there. And when it does it seems to work just perfectly (like right now). But the problems are apparent and they aren't just going away. I hate when problems don't just go away :( So I'm prepared to take a stab at buying a new mobo but even this is a little daunting to me. I have no idea a) how to know I'm getting the right motherboard, b) how to properly install it and c) if I even need to do this or if it's just a waste. I'm sort of determined to fix this on my on though. For budgetary reasons and just because I like to think it's within my grasp to do so.

    So as I said before, a fresh Google search of my symptoms led me to a thread on this message board about a couple of people having a similar problem with this same model computer. Flashing of the BIOS was one of the things mentioned that I had not heard before. But I read a couple of articles on that and it sounds over my head, quite frankly. Not to mention that it sounds like doing it would require turning the computer off one or two times and that could take forever. (I watched a kid do a youtube video on it, one of the things he did was install some 'image viewer software' and that alone required a reboot.)

    So that's my whooooole problem right there. Longer than you care to read, perhaps, but I thought I'd tell the story to see if it helps anyone diagnose me. My heartfelt appreciation to anyone who tries. Oh and if you make a suggestion and then don't hear from me for awhile you can probably guess why.
     
  6. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    Separate issues

    Good post! Be a bit careful about what you mutter, i.e., no need to spell it out.

    One note of caution when working on a mobo (at which you are doing well; easy stuff really - just mysterious at first): chips are VERY sensitive to static electricity. Always wear a wrist grounding strap (connected to the unplugged case) and try to avoid sitting on a nice soft carpet while working. Carpets, as you know from your feet-scuffing-touch-her-nose days generate a lot of static.

    Fact: mobos RARELY are the seat of issues. That does not mean you ignore them; to me it means I check everything else before I condemn the mobo.

    Likewise with the BIOS; there is nothing there to corrupt. Now it is possible that flashing might be necessitated by hardware demands, overclocking, etc. but unless you made hardware changes one would expect the BIOS to just keep on keeping on. One check you can do, go into the BIOS setup and, especially if you altered settings in the past, reset the BIOS to "Default." See what happens.

    In 21 years of computing, I have NEVER suffered a mobo/BIOS failure and I have owned more computers than your grandmother has cats!

    GFX CARD

    The wavy lines/scrambled image/freezes: gfx card issue (driver) nearly 100% of the time. If you have not done so yet, go to card mfr web site and update driver if available. Most gfx cards out of the box have outdated drivers. If your screen image is OK during the BIOS POST, then you know (almost a sure bet) that image issues are not BIOS related.

    Fan Speed

    This is, in fact, controlled by the mobo or the fan. The BIOS setup may or may not allow for fan speed control. Some fans, like car engines, are heat sensing fans that are self regulating (cool: slow speed; hot:high speed). Having never heard your fans I, obviously, cannot tell what is their usual "normal" sound. For example, the loud, high speed could be a good thing: they are pushing a lot of air. The quiet could be a problem: they are old, caked with dust, and after a few minutes of cranking they wimp out. I mention this only to point out how one might interpret the speed knowing nothing more.

    An overheated CPU/GPU causes spontaneous shutdowns, although an overheated GPU can simply cause your OS to freeze, as would bad RAM sticks. MS has a cmd line RAM testing utility. Update the gfx driver if needed.

    Did you look at the Event Viewer? I ask because it will ALWAYS log boot crashes (Win boot, not BIOS boot) and system crashes (may not log system freezes).

    You mean the fans are running but nothing else is: no HDD spinning, no BIOS beep, no BIOS boot screen? I cannot imagine how fans and nothing else would operate - if that is what you are saying.

    At this point:

    1. I am really interested in what the EV has logged about crashes;

    2. Want to make sure my gfx driver is current;

    3. Want to set BIOS to its default settings.

    4. As a diagnostic test at some point, test RAM;

    5. Boot to Safe Mode and let machine run overnight or for however long it usually takes to freeze - to see if it freezes in Safe Mode. If it does not, your OS is at fault. If it does, we are still on first base.

    Monk
     
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  7. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

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    I will do some more investigating with this latest post in mind and report back. Thanks a lot, HMonk! Help from someone like you is just what I need.
     
  8. 911medic

    911medic MDL Guru

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  9. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    Blown tops

    First off, the fact that 911medic has never used a static strap and has had no problems could mean that 911medic is, well . . . one volt shy of a full charge. :D

    As I mentioned, I defer mobo inspection because it is low in my priority list of possible issues. I also defer mobo inspection because my routine is to completely remove the board and inspect it with a magnifying glass - a pain at best.

    What to look at/for: all of the components and both sides of the board. Is anything deformed, blackened, charred, or cracked = lost or compromised function; cold solder joints (component pins are enveloped by solder but not bonded to the solder (push-pull the ends of the connector to see if they are loose) = intermittent function; loose connectors/plugs = interrupted function; broken/interrupted printed circuits = interrupted pathways; dust bridges = shorted pathways/components.

    Perhaps I am a tad lazy but disassembling my machine louses up my day. But 911medic makes a very good and valid point - which should not be ignored. My personal scheme just wants to make sure that I rule out OS issues first. On the other hand, read over some of the posts in this forum and you can see that TS an OS issue can run into days and create a lot of headaches. The computer is, indeed, a complex beastie.

    Monk
     
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  10. 911medic

    911medic MDL Guru

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    bingo..:eek::D:D
     
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  11. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    Volts x Amps = What?

    Cheeky Monkey ;)
     
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  12. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

    Feb 3, 2009
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    I haven't made any progress the last week on finding the source of my booting/freezing issues. But I have a new symptom that I thought might tell you guys something.

    As I mentioned in my long post, in addition to immense difficulty in booting my computer up it is also freezing up after a half day or so.

    This morning I got it up and running after the typical number of tries. Then, I wanted to look at some photos I took the other day. I put my compact flash card in my card reader and plugged it into the USB 2.0 port as per usual. About 10 seconds into the download the computer froze. I had to shut down and restart (45 minute process) and here I am again.

    I remembered that this was the second time in a row that it had frozen while trying to use the USB port to a CF card. The last time was a couple of weeks ago and I'd forgotten about it. But this time was especially unusual because of how it made the computer crash (freeze up) so quickly after being booted up.

    So does this mean the culprit is most likely my motherboard? If so, do you think it's repairable or should I just go ahead and replace it?
     
  13. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    #13 HMonk, Feb 9, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
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  14. RKeaton

    RKeaton MDL Novice

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    I skimmed your last post and don't see where you told me what's wrong with my computer. What the hell, guy. Thanks for nothing.
     
  15. HMonk

    HMonk MDL Addicted

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    Adios and good luck

    Monk wrote:

    Monk
     
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