Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

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Triple failures?  Hard Drive Data?  Hard drive? Video Card?  CPU?
Power Supply?

Last night, when I was running, as I have for at least 6 years,  a
home-built computer with 1.5Gig memory and an 800MHaz CPU.  All PATA,
no SATA.

I'm ib a another computer now and don't have details about the broken
one, but I can probably find them.

I clicked Back on my Firefox3 and the compuer restarted.

(It got to the point where it urges me to run chkdsk, but   I was in
the middle of something and skipped that.  The screen went black (or
blue) as normal, but before any Windows screen showed up, it restarted

This time it offerred me safe mode etc. but I chose regular.  I let it
run chkdsk and all it reported were two lengthy errors in avg log
files.   But when it got to the same place, it restarted again.

This time I chose Safe Mode with Internet and it started fine, and I
even retrieved a couple of things from Usenet.

I wanted to go back to regular mode so I restarted.

This time it only got as far as the memory count-off, and it stopped.
Normally it shows a grid about my hard drives and CD dirves.

When I pushed the restart button, it took me to the CMOS/setup page.
Looking there, I found in the Boot Order, for hard drive it was set to
None, and had only two options, None and Skip.     But the CD options
were both of my CD drives.  A network was set for the fourth place to
look even though I don't remember ever doing that.

In the first page of setup, I have all four possible PATA drives set
to Auto, so iirc there woudl be no indication there about what drive
it  finds.

I Escaped out, checking,  Don't save any changes.   Usually that is
plenty on other times, once or twice a year, when I get kicked to the
Setup screen.

It only got to the memory count-off again,   Reset again put me on the
Setup screeen.

Turning it off completely and restarting showed a black screen.  Even
though  the red light of one   CD drive goes on for a moment (I didn't
see the second one's light)

The screen is black partly because the monitor never wakes out of
standby, and if I turn it off and back on, it displays a little square
in the middle of the screen which says, Standby, Wake with PC, or
something like that.

It was very low humidity last night so I guess it was hotter than I
thought, mauybe 85, and for the first time I  had five Firefox Windows
open, with at least 100 tabs.   I had turned the fan/temp monitor off
for the winter.

I would think I overheated the CPU but it did start fine in Safe Mode,
and I sort of think some other chip is responsible for the POST

Waited 6 and 15 hours and works no better than it did.

I have I burned out my CPU, my video card**, the harddrive, my power

**The video card has acted up 5 times ln the last year, with a red
colored ghost for each letter and lots of funny dots on the screen to
where it's impossible to read.  . If I put the computer in standby for
even a couple minutes, it's been all right again for another 6 hours.

I have a back up of the hard drive, but of course it's tailored for
this computer.  I'd rather fix this computer then try to copy piece by
piece  from the harddrive only.

I can fix this if it's not the CPU, but helpful advice would be much

Thank you.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

micky wrote:
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[Based on the attempts in the header of one of the posts,
crossposted to alt.comp.hardware . I think that is where you
meant it to go.]

There are a few things you can start with.

1) Visual inspection. Use your senses, to detect something is amiss.
2) Simplify hardware setup and retest.
3) Use the PC "beeper" function for hardware testing, if
    video no longer works well enough to get error messages
    from the PC.

For visual inspection, you take the side off and look for loose wires.
Or, perhaps a strap on a heatsink broke, and the heatsink is hanging down.

Check, with power off, that fans turn freely. And that heatsinks are not
clogged with dust.

Now, to the hardware specifics. You want to inspect the "capacitors" on
the motherboard, for bulged tops or brown or orange colored deposits on
top, or near the base of the capacitor. The capacitors are aluminum cylinders
with a plastic sleeve, with the component value printed on it. On the top
of the cylinder, there is a "stamped" pattern, perhaps the letter "K",
where the seams in the metal are for pressure relief. If hydrogen gas
builds up inside the capacitor (it is failing), the seams open releasing
the pressure before there is an explosion.

Your computer predates the "capacitor plague" incident. So your capacitors
might not be failing prematurely. Capacitors may last for fifteen years or
more, if the internal chemistry is still good. The capacitor plague ones,
lack stability internally, and chemical breakdown can happen, cold, over
a period of a couple years (I've had some fail like that).

The top of the caps should be flat, and the pressure relief seams should
still be intact. If the capacitor has failed, a "slight" failure causes
an increase in Vcore ripple. If the capacitor shorts out internally,
you may see smoke, hear "sizzling" at startup and so on. If a cap fails
near the processor socket, it can take out a toroidal coil of wire
or one or more MOSFETs (things with three legs soldered near the CPU
socket). While the Vcore regulator is protected against some fault
types, collateral damage can still occur.

Inside the power supply, you can have similar issues. If your power supply
was a replacement, purchased in the last five to seven years, it could be
it was affected by bad caps as well. I had an Antec power supply (contract
manufactured by ChannelWell CWT), that failed pretty much exactly
like this one. You can see orange deposits on at least four caps here.

It's only advisable to inspect the power supply, if the warranty
has expired. Unplug the supply. Remove four screws on the top. Remove the
top plate, noting how any insulation sheet fits into place. Put any
insulation back, exactly as you found it. You may "look but don't touch".
This is an inspection only. If you see the orange deposits, you'll need
a new supply (unless you live in a country with a ready supply of good
quality caps). The reason you "can't touch" in there, is the main cap
is charged to 300VDC or so, and if any juice remains on there, it's
dangerous. You always assume the bleeder resistor has failed, and the cap
is fully charged. Put the cover back on when you're finished. (The reason
you can't do this with a warranty in place, is usually there is a tear-away
sticker over one of the screws, so the manufacturer can detect tampering,
and refuse warranty service if the supply has been tampered with.)

So you're looking for visual clues, loose wires, broken heatsink or fan,
"bad caps", the smell of burning or chemical smells and so on.

The motherboard may have a coin cell to power the CMOS (BIOS settings).
If you use a multimeter, and ground the black lead to a screw on the
chassis (like a screw on an I/O connector), you can probe the top of the
CR2032 coin cell and check the voltage. It should read around 3V. Below 2.3
or 2.4V or so, the battery can fail to maintain BIOS settings when all
power is off on the PC. I didn't see anything in your symptom
description to implicate the battery.

Your startup where disks weren't detected, could have resulted in
the BIOS modifying the boot order. BIOS designs have evolved over
the years, in how they handle the boot order. Time was, the BIOS was
pretty good at keeping a reasonable boot order. I have some PCs here,
which are terrible at it, and the BIOS frequently does whatever the
hell it feels like. And puts the disks in some order I didn't specify.
This is normally triggered by a change in the hard drive configuration.


In the "Simplify" department, you remove stuff according to the symptoms.

If you can no longer get video, you'll have to unplug a fair bit of stuff.
To offload the power supply, you can unplug the hard drives and CDROM drives.
Disconnect both the power cables (Molex 1x4) and data cables, making note
of the orientation and location of the cables for later. Leave the
floppy connected, so you can run memtest86+ later.

If you have no video, you can run "beep tests". These rely on a working
computer case speaker, connected to the SPKR 1x4 header pins on the
motherboard. If you were to unplug an AGP or PCI video card, such that
there was no video, the BIOS would "beep" a three beep pattern, indicating
a video failure. This has the beneficial side effect, of proving the
processor works, it read some BIOS code, it carried out tests. So in
fact, any beeps heard, are a positive sign.

If you power off again, and remove RAM sticks (placing them in an
antistatic bag), you can repeat the beep test again. A different pattern
will be heard. Video and RAM failures use two or three beep patterns,
and the pattern really isn't important, except that each kind of failure
uses a different pattern. Since the "success case" (normal PC startup)
is a single beep,  any other beep pattern means the BIOS has discovered
a fault.

If you get zero beeps, then the processor might not be running BIOS
code. Occasionally, on an older computer, the BIOS chip gets "bit rot"
and the code is corrupted. But in your case, this didn't start with
a BIOS level failure - your computer was running at the time, so it
isn't likely to be a bit rot problem.

Your PC description says "800 MMz". That could be 800 MHz Pentium III
or Celeron. That would be powered by the main 20 pin power cable.
It wouldn't likely have the auxiliary power cable ATX12V with 2x2
power connector on the end. The other interpretation of your
description, is you have an Athlon processor. That could be
powered from the main cable as well. I have an AthlonXP motherboard,
and it doesn't use ATX12V, so up to 65W is drawn from the 5V rail of
the main power cable. (Athlon PCs may need a pretty decent +5V
current rating on the power supply. Not all modern power supplies
are a good match for that.)

The Pentium III and Athlon, may have BIOS monitoring of CPU temperature.
The BIOS is capable of a relatively slow response to overheating. If
a heatsink falls off an Athlon, it can overheat so quickly, the
processor crashes before the BIOS code can switch off the power.
Then, the power stays on and the processor is cooked. It was in
later generations, that "hardware overheat protection" in the
form of THERMTRIP was added to PCs, causing the power supply to
shut off, if a monitoring diode on the CPU silicon die is
overheating. But that happened a bit later perhaps, than your
800 MHz CPU.

In terms of probabilities, the power supply is a fairly unreliable
component. If you had no diagnostic equipment, and just played
the part of an equipment swapper, you'd swap that out first.

The CPU is relatively reliable.

RAM, isn't as reliable as they'd like you to believe. I had yet
another failure in that department, a week ago. (Fortunately,
not on one of my good PCs.) The computer vintage was around the
same age as your machine. I had (3) 512MB PC133 SDRAM in the
machine. Two sticks had failed. I had bought a grand total of
eight sticks of that stuff. What is funny, is the five remaining
sticks all tested good. Two of three sticks sitting in the PC
for years, were the ones that failed. It almost suggests some
kind of metallurgy problem while in storage, as that PC doesn't
get to run very often.

As part of your "beep testing", you remove video card and RAM,
and listen for beeps. If you hear two beeps, then maybe the processor
is still running. Then, you add in one stick of RAM (with the
power cord unplugged, no power present). Now, does the beep
pattern change to three beeps (video card missing) ? If so,
then the RAM might be OK. If you heard zero beeps, after
adding back the RAM, it could be that locations below 640K
have gone bad. You'd power down, and try one of the other
RAM sticks from your collection, trying them one at a time
until you find a (relatively) good one.

Say you install one RAM stick, hear the "missing video" beeps,
add in the video card, and now the machine POSTs again. You can
leave the hard drives and CDROM disconnected, and boot a memtest86+
floppy for a test. Now, you can verify memory locations above 640K. (scroll half way down, for downloads)

Do at least one full pass, with that test program. If you own
multiple RAM sticks, you can test each one individually, to
determine if any of the sticks are bad. Install any RAM that
completes a full pass. Once you've weeded out the duds, you
can do one final test run with all candidate sticks reinstalled.
Always fully power off, before making hardware config changes.

So now we've got RAM, video, floppy, but no hard drives. Now
you can cable those back up, and look for them in the BIOs
detection screen. Are they still missing ? Test your storage
devices one at a time (being careful to properly jumper the
drive for whatever cable config you're using to test). If
two drives disappear, and they share a common cable, you'll
need to test the drives one at a time, either as "Master" or
"Cable Select", depending on the ribbon cable type (80 wire
cable preferred).

Anyway, that's a few ideas to try out.


Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

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And thanks a lot for the enormous effort you put into writing this.

My point by point reply is amazingly well written, but you don't
really have to read it . The upshot is so far......

1) The SATA harddrive tests fine USBed to another computer.

2) Can I use any little speaker, even if it's bigger than the usual PC
speaker? (Why do I ask stupid questions like this?)

3) The quickest way out of this may be replacing my CPU, if that is
the problem.

They have them on Ebay from 5 to 11 dollars, shipping included.  

Do I need to match more than 800 MHz, Pentium III?????

My current one might be AMD, I can't remember, though I could take the
heat sink off and look.

(One of them includes grease, although I still have some grease and
I'm pretty sure I know where that is.)

4) Other fans good but a 1" x 1" fan on top of a chip has been running
badly for a year.  It doesn't start unless I push it, and I almost
never do.  My excuse is that I was supposed to migrate to the next
computer.           It's above the AMD761 System Controller.    Could
that have burned out.  If it did,  it's not worth repairing, right:?

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No smell of burning anywhere, esp. power supply.   Also CPU but harder
to get my nose close to that.

No bad caps seen.

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I don't think I put in a beeper when I assembled this, but I ran it a
couple more times with the sound card and amp'ed speakers and no
beeps.  I realize that the power the sound card could be bad.

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Heatsink okay, and I checked before I disconnected things,  CPU fan
running as normal

A 1" x 1" fan on top of a chip has been running badly for a year.  It
doesn't start unless I push it, and I almost never do.  My excuse is
that I was supposed to migrate to the next computer.

It's above the AMD761 System Controller.    Could that have burned
out.  If it did,  it's not worth repairing, right:?

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Fans turn.  Heatsinks cleaned about 6 months ago.  Still good.
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That's good. I don't want an explosion.  No bulges or brown or orange
deposttis, top or bottom. >

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Yes, I forgot that the mother board was given to me by a friend, who
had used it for years before IO did.  So it 's even older.  
Asus A7M266, but soon I'll be testing the board.   The google search
for the manual says 2001.

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I don't rememer how old it is -- it is a replacement --, but I'm never
going to send it back for warranty replacement. .

Still, I would rather disconnect it and test the voltages at the mobo
connector.  That would  work, right?

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Ooo. Good to know!! I will remember this.

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I will do that, but I don't remember seeing wierd things in the BIOS
settings.  I think the time was correct, for example. .

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I remove the hard drive and used a Roseill adapter/USB cable/power
supply to connect it to the computer I'm using.   Everything was
there.  That's a relief.  I have a backup but it was more than a day

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Okay, so that's fine, although it's not fine that it didn't find my
still working HDD.

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I have that on a floppy somewhere, and if I can't find it, I put a
floppy in every desk computer I have.   For 10 dollars, less when you
already have one, I don't know why people don'.t

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The mobo manual is on my HDD, which is disconnected again, but it's
easy to dl again.   I have a speaker from some computer I stripped,
although it's getting harder and harder to find things the more things
I have.

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I should look for the speaker now.

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Very good to know.

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Right!! You know my computer better than I do.  (I thought I had the
2x2, but I'm thinking of some other computer I fidded with.  I think
it's the one I can't find!!!  I know it's here somewhere.   It was
going to be my next computer until I couldn't find it and a friend
gave me his old one.

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That may be!  I could still buy another CPU, I guess. Then I woudln't
have to filddle with setup .

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I"ve noticed that some tv's often have problems if I don't watch them
for years.

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WOW!!   That  should keep me busy!!

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Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On 7/4/2011 8:42 AM, micky wrote:
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One other thing worth mentioning is that the life of the motherboard
battery is usually only rated for 5 years from date of manufacture.  I
have seen many strange things happen when one finally dies or gets too
low to fully drive the motherboard, including symptoms like you describe.

The battery is relatively cheap.  I would replace this one just as a
precaution due to the age of the motherboard, then tell the BIOS to
return to factory settings and go from there.  If your BIOS has a
setting that sounds similar to Failsafe rather than factory original try
that one first.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On Mon, 04 Jul 2011 09:19:13 -0500, GlowingBlueMist

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I think I've replaced it once, but that could be 5 years ago already!

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Does it need the mobo battery when the computer is plugged and
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Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

micky wrote:
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When the computer is plugged in, and switched on at the back,
the +5VSB rail will be running. That rail runs, even when the
fans aren't spinning. The +5VSB takes the place of the
battery, as a source of current for the clock (RTC).
Another purpose of +5VSB, is to power the system RAM
sticks, while the system is in Standby Suspend To RAM (sleep
or S3).

The power supply has two halves. This shows how the
CR2032 coin cell battery fits in the picture.

                  CR2032 coin cell -----+
                                         \___ Clock
    ATX PSU ----- +5VSB supply ---------+
            ----- All other rails ----------- Motherboard power

If you unplug the computer from the wall, the CR2032 lasts
for three years. In that case, it is the sole source of
power for the clock.

If the computer is plugged in and switched on at the back, then
the +5VSB source is available and takes the place of the battery.
In that case, the battery can last for up to ten years (or
whatever its shelf life rating is). If +5VSB is present,
then no current flows out of the CR2032. As a result, the
battery lasts much longer (up to "shelf life" years).

The motherboard is not allowed to charge the battery. The current
flows out of the battery, but a diode prevents it from flowing

The simplest alternative, if you own a multimeter, is to take
a reading off the top surface of the coin cell battery, with
respect to chassis ground. You can pick up a ground connection,
using a metal screw on an I/O connector in the I/O place area
of the computer. I clip on there with one lead of the
multimeter, and then use the red lead to make a voltage
reading from the top of the coin cell. Slightly above +3V,
is a good battery. Below 2.3V is a bad battery. The "knee"
of the battery is relatively sharp, so if the battery is
"on the decline" and near end of life, it'll be flat after
three or four weeks or so.

If you don't own a multimeter, you can remove the battery
and take it to your local Radio Shack. And they can test it
with a meter. But removing the battery is just a PITA,
and I'd just replace it on the spot. If I was going to
go to the trouble of getting it out of that damn socket,
I'd want to resolve the issue immediately, instead of
wasting the gas on a trip to Radio Shack for a test.

You should buy your replacement battery, from a store
with a high "turnover" rate. It is possible to find stores,
selling weak or flat batteries. And at the Mall of all places!


Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

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Mine was exactly 3.   IIRC.   Two days ago and I'm starting to forget
details. :(

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Yes it is. Amazingly, some times the battery learns to fly.

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Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On 7/4/2011 9:39 PM, micky wrote:
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A low battery can keep a system from booting.  Fortunately it is easier
to swap the battery than it is to determine if it really needs replacing.

About the only definite proof is if the clock looses or resets the time
when the system is unplugged from the wall, but I have seen batteries
that were too low to allow a good boot while still barely maintaining
the clock.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On 05/07/2011 06:57, GlowingBlueMist wrote:
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I've even seen bad batteries make the clock run fast.  Sounds
unlikely I know, but true (was an Asus P4C800E.)

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

Ken Springer wrote:
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True enough!    Sometimes the open circuit voltage can be close to normal,
but it's still bad (when tested under load, due to excessive internal
resistance in the cells).

Don't tell anyone, but I sometimes test these dinky batteries directly (but
briefly!) with an ammeter (i.e., for their short circuit current value).

Caveat: I said dinky battery.   Don't even think about trying this on a car
battery (at least not with most meters).  :-)

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

Bill in Co wrote:
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But the load on the CMOS cell is 10 microamps, meaning
the open circuit voltage is very close to the voltage when
a 10 microamp load is present. A load test is unnecessary.
Just using a multimeter reading, and the curve from the datasheet,
is enough to predict lifespan.

Even with a high internal cell resistance, 10 microamps times
that resistance is nothing.

As a matter of fact, there is a 1K ohm resistor in series
with the CMOS coin cell, as a current limiter. That should give
you some idea how little they care about cell resistance. A
ceramic cap is placed at the end of the circuit, where it
joins to the Southbridge, to provide good transient response,
which happens mainly when the computer is running. There are
next to no transients when the battery is being called on
to deliver the 10 microamps.


Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

Paul wrote:
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Well, maybe you're right for testing these CMOS/BIOS batteries.   10 ua is
practically nothing, I agree (and it would take a really high internal
resistance to drop much of anything, as you said).

But for flashlight batteries, and the like, I find the load test often
necessary.  :-)
But I stand corrected on the former.   Thanks.   :-)

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help


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Yes, my battery does read 3V.   Easy to measure, since any part of the
the case is the ground, and the battery face is pretty big.

3V was under the tiny load of the CMOS, but if any of you think I
should, I'll measure again while the computer is on.   I thought the
load was no greater then, since at that point, the power supply powers

A mobo battery doesn 't face the load that many batteries do.  In fact
it's not much more than a digital watch to keep  the clock ticking and
a little more data saved than in a watch.    But less load than a
digital watch because it's not used to display the time, change the
time display, or do the alarm beeping.   And the battery is several
times as big as most digital watch batteries.
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Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

micky wrote:
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I'd be surprised if it reads any different in circuit, in that case.

If it did, it could indicate an excessive leakage problem somewhere in the
circuit connected to the battery.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On 7/8/11 2:37 AM, micky wrote:

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Sort of out of the box here, but if you've got a computer that is
working right, switch batteries.

But, unless you're also looking for the knowledge, by now you could have
bought a new battery and known for sure.  :-)


Mac OS X 10.6.8
Firefox 5.0
Thunderbird 3.1.11
LibreOffice 3.3.2

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

Nobody > (Revisited) wrote:
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But a cheap analog meter costs more than a Harbor Freight digital
meter that includes a loaded battery test function, especially when
you use a store coupon and get it free with purchase.   That HF meter
is actually very accurate, but I'd be leery of using it with high

Harbor Freight used to give out those meters free with coupon, but the
coupons have changed, and now require a purchase anywhere from $0.01
to $19.99.  I believe the worst HF coupons are in Motor Trend, Popular
Mechanics, Popular Science, and Auto Week, while Playboy, Road &
Track, Car & Driver, and the weekend Wall Street Journal have the
"free with any purchase" coupons.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

Nobody > (Revisited) wrote:
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I envy you.  My only good meters are a Fluke 73 (somebody owed me
money) and a Radio Shack 50K/volt analog meter built from a kit.

I remember NLS making tiny scopes that could run off battery, and I
once saw about ten of them monitoring signals in some equipment room.

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help


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No. It not only doesn't need it, it doesn't use it. That's the reason
why I've posted the following many times:

Before anyone whose clock is running slow rushes out to buy a new
battery, he should first take note of whether he is losing time while
the computer is running or while it's powered off. If it's while
powered off, the problem *is* very likely the battery. But if it's
while running, it can *not* be the battery, because the battery isn't
used while the computer is running.

Ken Blake, Microsoft MVP (Windows Desktop Experience) since 2003
Please Reply to the Newsgroup

Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help

On Tue, 05 Jul 2011 12:51:01 -0700, "Ken Blake, MVP"

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Good to know.

I havent' had any problems with computer batteries, unless you count
twice in 27 years that the battery got used up and had to be replaced
(Actually iirc there was no battery in the PCJr and one had to put the
date and time in every time you logged in.)

But I do have major problems with my DVDR-HDD.   It needs to know what
time it is to start recording at the right time, yet the time is wrong
soon after it's set.      Is this because there's a bad piece of
quartz in the built in clock and if, when this breaks, I buy another
of the same model, will I likely get a better clock?

It has three settings for "Automatic Time Set"

Whjen it's on Off, the time runs slow (or maybe fast)  and the
recording starts late (or ends early**)

When it's on Auto, I think the time jumps around by a minute or two,
and even when it's just "jumped" its not very likely to be right.

When it's on Manual, I guess that means that's Manual Time Set, not
automatic Time Set like the whole box is called., the next screen lets
me set it.  I don't want to have set it every few days.  I don't even
wear my watch to the bedroom and no clock in the room has a second

Because the time is usually wrong, I set it to record starting a
minute or two early and ending a minute late.  But if I want to record
or watch something in time period before or after that, it can't
record both at the same time, so I lose part of one show, and when the
clock is wrong in the other direction, I lose part of the other.
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Re: Triple failure. Software? Hardware? Please help


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Yes,  I  think I do.  

The mobo manual says  

I have  Socket 462, socket A
    Not every ebay ad includes the socket, but some do.

And that I can use

Athlon CPU's  up to 1.2 ghz   1.1g, 1g, 950m, 900m, 850m, 800m

or  Duron 750 to 650 but this is slower than what I have now, 800.

Pentium, AMD, Cyrix, IBM

These seem to start at 20 dollars on ebay.

I'm still not sure the problem is the CPU.  I have the pinouts for the
PSU and willl be testing.  IIUC, I have to keep pushing the on button
every few seconds.

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