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Thread: Possible motherboard problem?

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    Possible motherboard problem?

    Hi all, I was wondering if you could help me get to the root of a technical "dilemma" I'm having with a PC.

    It was put together by myself over a year and a half ago and ran smoothly all that time until the other day. When booting up, everything looked normal until a message saying that the computer was resetting CMOS popped up, and since then it won't boot from the hard-drive (even though, and I've double-checked, this is the first thing it'll try to boot from) and instead tries to boot from the CD-drive.

    After triple-checking the BIOS options and having a peek inside to see if any of the connections were loose/faulty (they weren't, of course) and since everything important is backed up anyway I decided to give in and try and re-install Windows. However, when Windows is being installed it restarts the computer at some point, and at that point it seems to completely forget that it was installing Windows the last time it was on, and tries to start all over again!

    I managed to get the Windows set-up CD to let me use a command-prompt type interface - I seem to be able to access everything on the hard-disk okay.

    Any ideas as to what could be up, and what a possible solution would be? My first thought was the mother-board, but I don't want to fork out for a new one if there's an easier fix or I'm (fairly) sure that replacing it'll do the trick.

    Anyone - help?

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Personally I'd replace the CMOS battery as your first point of call. It's possible that when it reset it hasn't saved correctly and is resorting to a default setting.

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    I would clear the CMOS on purpose, it's usually along the lines of 'remove mains supply and remove CMOS battery for a minute' although some machines have a jumper setting, read the manual and follow it to the letter, it's a very simple procedure but getting it wrong can kill a motherboard.

    Once cleared, reboot and enter the BIOS, scroll through and look for the option that says 'Load BIOS defaults' and select that, save and reboot and see what it does.

    You could also disconnect ALL non-essential hardware and drives, with no CD/DVD drive's, 2nd hard drives, USB Pen drives, external USB drives, etc etc, it will only have 1 possible disk to boot from... would be interesting to see what, if any, error it throws up.. and you never know, it might work !!

    Good luck !

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Hey - thanks for the replies!

    Was trying to fix it last night (obviously I can only read these helpful posts when at work now! ) I tried resetting CMOS (there's a jumper setting) and that did no good, and did try disconnecting my DVD drive, but it just hangs with an error message that's similar (though not identical) to when the drive is connected with no disk in.

    I managed to use windows recovery console (command prompt-type interface) to get onto the drive again, and after using the CHKDSK command it told me there was an "unrecoverable problem" or something similar. So I did a full format (previously I'd only done a "quick" format - would be interested to know what the difference is!) and it said there were now no problems. But still, same problem, and now an additional error message that says something along the lines of "no hard drive connected to FastTrack controller" or something like that.

    Although I have just had the sudden realisation that I've not reset CMOS since I got rid of the problem on the hard-drive... maybe that's the next thing to try? Anybody have any ideas if that doesn't work? Maybe I should threaten it with a knife?

    Sorry for the long posts - am determined this shouldn't be happening and can be fixed!

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    If you have cleared the CMOS settings, you need to restore them again manually, by entering the bios at the appropriate point in the POST process and configuring it approprately. As Lucio suggested, you should replace the CMOS battery as it could be that that was the original cause of the problem. However as you have formatted the hard drive, you really have no option but to re-install the OS (unless you use an unformat utility, but these have variable success rates).

    If resetting the CMOS and bios settings does not cure the problem, try downloading Memtest (burn it to a CD and boot from that) to check out the memory. If that checks out, try a different hard drive as that could have failed, but you need to take it one step at a time.

    Reports of messages during the POST sequence would be helpful.

    A quick format only initilises the file system on the disk - a long format checks for errors as well.
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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dross View Post
    However, when Windows is being installed it restarts the computer at some point, and at that point it seems to completely forget that it was installing Windows the last time it was on, and tries to start all over again!
    Dross, it sounds like when the machine rebooted you let it boot from the CDRom again which would as you said start the process all over again.

    When the machine reboots during the windows install, make sure you don't press any keys when it says "press any key to boot from CDROM" - If your boot priority is setup correctly in the BIOS, it will try to read the CDROM as the first boot device then go to the harddrive. The windows installation has to boot from the harddrive at this stage of the install (the first bit copies all the necessary files to the harddrive then the pc reboots and the installation continues from the harddrive).

    Alternatively, you can change the BIOS setting to only boot from the harddrive (Do this when it reboots during the Windows install).

    A couple of other things to check: If you set the date in the BIOS, does it remember it when you power off the PC and power it back on? If it doesn't then you most likely have a dead CMOS battery (this keeps the BIOS settings when your PC is powered off). They are about a fiver to replace. If you can locate it on your motherboard, just pop it out and take it to a pc shop so you know which type you need (I think they are pretty standard across all motherboards).

    If your PC does remember the date in the BIOS after a power off/on then just make sure your "boot priority" settings are correct - It should be CDROM THEN HDD if you're reinstalling windows from a CD.

    Hope that made some kind of sense?
    Last edited by finnrogers; 14-11-2007 at 01:04 PM. Reason: typos

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Thanks again for the help, all!

    I didn't think to consider whether the CMOS battery was dead... will see about that tonight. [afterthought: any settings I change with regards to boot priority are preserved when turning the computer off and on again, this would indicate that there's no problem with the CMOS battery, yes?]

    I've downloaded a bootable diagnostic tool from my HDD manufacturer (Samsung) to see if that's okay. The problem with installing Windows is definitely not a boot priority problem - even when I set it to boot from the hard disk only (i.e. set it as the first, second and third priority) it still doesn't recognise it and proceeds to boot from the CD (when there's a disk in - have tried taking it out after the initial Windows installation reboot, but to no avail).



    I don't know if this extra information will help, but when the problem first occurred, the settings for my IDE channels displayed at start-up were:

    IDE Channel 0 Master: [DVD drive]
    IDE Channel 0 Slave: None
    IDE Channel 1 Master: None
    IDE Channel 1 Slave: None

    After plugging the connectors from both my hard drive and DVD drive into every SATA/IDE (resp.) port on the motherboard, I can get the DVD drive to be shown as either the channel 0 master or channel 1 master, depending on which IDE port it's plugged into. But alas, the hard drive is never recognised...

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dross View Post
    Thanks again for the help, all!

    I didn't think to consider whether the CMOS battery was dead... will see about that tonight. [afterthought: any settings I change with regards to boot priority are preserved when turning the computer off and on again, this would indicate that there's no problem with the CMOS battery, yes?]

    ..........

    After plugging the connectors from both my hard drive and DVD drive into every SATA/IDE (resp.) port on the motherboard, I can get the DVD drive to be shown as either the channel 0 master or channel 1 master, depending on which IDE port it's plugged into. But alas, the hard drive is never recognised...
    It's simple enough to determine if the CMOS battery is not doing it's job... Remove the mains cable from the computer, then press the power button as if to turn the computer on, wait a few seconds then plug the mains cable back in and start it up normally. If the battery is not working, I would expect you would see the 'updating and saving CMOS settings' message that like you got when all this started, and the clock would be wrong, resetting it's self to some date way in the past....

    If you did this a few times, and each time you got the same 'updating and saving CMOS' message, then there is little doubt that the CMOS battery is not doing it's job. At this point you can assume that either the CMOS battery is in fact dead, OR, that the motherboard is shorting out against your PC case somewhere, effectively preventing the CMOS battery from doing it's job.

    Further to your post above, it also seems possible that when the BIOS reset it's self in the first place, it may have defaulted to having the SATA controller either set to DISABLED in the BIOS, or possibly that it may have reset it's self to RAID, not sure if your BIOS has that option or not, but my ASUS board has the option to disable the controller or set it to RAID....

    Might be worth checking the BIOS to ensure that all references to the sata controller are enabled and not set to raid, this is the only reason I can think of why the drive wouldn't show up as you describe, unless of course, the drive it's self, or the SATA controller on the mobo, have died and gone to the great SATA controller playground in the sky...

    EDIT :- or indeed the SATA cable is faulty.... got another SATA cable you can try ?
    Last edited by Sema4; 14-11-2007 at 02:54 PM. Reason: Adding 'sata cable' suggestion...

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Is your hard drive IDE or SATA. Some motherboards have a seperate menu for setting the SATA boot priority.

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    It's SATA - I will have another look at the manual to see if there's another menu for this.

    I *think* the RAID settings are all disabled by default, but I didn't pay particular attention. I'm unfamiliar with RAID (having only one hard drive) - would a single hard drive not work if the motherboard is expecting to see a RAID array?

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    The standard controller may not see the single drive if the board is set to RAID, it's possible it would only show up if you entered the RAID utility at boot, thats how my ASUS board works anyways... thats why I'm suggesting you check it

    Furthermore, windows won't install if the drive is present on a RAID controller because it needs the drivers in order to see anything connected to it, thats the reason for the 'press F6 if you need to install 3rd party raid drivers' message you will see when you start installing XP from the CD

    All that said however, in your first post you implied that you could access the contents of the HD just fine during the XP install, so it really doesn't make sense that it doesn't show up in the BIOS as you mentioned in one of your later posts... if the BIOS can't see the drive, it shouldn't be possible for XP to see it either...

    Something is not as it seems....
    Last edited by Sema4; 14-11-2007 at 03:02 PM.

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    It won't be visible on that screen in the BIOS because older motherboards only list IDE devices and floppy drives there. I have an MSI Neo2 Platinum which does this. I have to go into a seperate screen and set the SATA boot priority. The raid wouldn't be enabled by default and even if it was, you would have to manually set up the raid using the motherboard's raid setup utility. It would treat each SATA drive as individual drives by default.

    Furthermore, you wouldn't get as far as you have with the windows install if the raid settings were causing a problem.

    I'm pretty sure this is simply a case of boot priority and getting your bios to boot from the SATA drive. Some BIOS's are a bit obscure with their boot options so it might be worth checking the manual to be sure. What motherboard are you using? If you can tell us, we might be able to look this up for you.

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    Quote Originally Posted by finnrogers View Post
    I'm pretty sure this is simply a case of boot priority and getting your bios to boot from the SATA drive. Some BIOS's are a bit obscure with their boot options so it might be worth checking the manual to be sure. What motherboard are you using? If you can tell us, we might be able to look this up for you.
    I'm using a Gigabyte GA 8N SLI Royal. I think (IIRC from last night) that the default boot priority is (1) floppy disk, (2) hard drive and then (3) CD/DVD drive, so it must be more to do with it being a SATA drive. Do you know if the hard drive should appear in the IDE Channel 0/1 Master/Slave list on this type of motherboard?

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    Re: Possible motherboard problem?

    I thought it was a boot priority thing too, thats why I suggested in my first post, that all drives should be disconnected from the system leaving only the hard disk, with a lack of alternatives, the system would have no choice but to attempt to boot from it... but it seems that didn't work either...

    I also have a K8T Neo2 board here and it shows me SATA devices during POST, I can't think why your doesn't..

    SATA drives do not have the Master/Slave arrangement as seen on IDE devices, and do not report the same way of IDE channel 1 etc, they usually appear on the next black and white screen you should see immediately after the IDE device screen you mention.

    What version of XP are you trying to install from ? If it's a pre-SP2 CD then I have a feeling you will may need a floppy with SATA drivers on it in order for windows to see the drive during the install. Got an old IDE drive you can try to see if the install goes ok ?

    How far in to the install did it get exactly ? did it copy all the files to the HD and then reboot ? or did it say something like 'no valid hard disk can be found to install windows to' and then reboot ?

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