Troubleshooting Abrupt Power-Offs

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For the last year or more Iíve been having the following problems with my
system Ė and Athlon XP 2500 on an MSI KT4V mainboard, MSI Nvidia video card.

  1.. Sometimes fails to boot on power up (the fans come on, nothing else
happens.). This happens every few months.
  2.. It starts to boot, but fails to detect the primary IDE drive, or
primary IDE drive and slave. (This happens a few times a month.)
  3.. Ultimately the system does boot, but very rarely it just locks up. The
disk drive light is on.  Hitting the reset button reveals a POST code of 2
short beeps followed by 8 longer ones. This is an AMI bios, dated 2004, and
Iíve not been able to diagnose that.  Full power down (i.e. cutting the AC)
is needed to re-boot.
  4.. Very very rarely, the system just shuts down, ba-boom. I thought this
was a heat problem and upgraded the cooling.

I figure the above was the result of the primary hard drive malfunctioning,
even though it passed both the Maxtor and Western Digital diagnostics (the
drive is a Maxtor 120 gig, the slave is a WD 120 gig.)

Yesterday I tried to replace the main drive, with a Maxtor 200 gig
partitioned at 50 / 150 gigs.  (The current 120 drive is partitioned at

Any  sustained disk activity lead to an abrupt shutdown of the system.  So
when I tried to clone the boot partition from one drive to the other, it
would go along a ways and then the system would just shut down, as it
someone yanked the power cord.  It would not reboot till the main power was
switched off and left off for a minute or so.

Ultimately, I unplugged the drive I thought was bad, and left only the new
200 gig drive active on the system, booted off the Win XP CD, and ran format
from the command prompt (via the recovery consol.) Again Ė a few minutes
into the disk activity and everything shut down.

I had the case off and ultimately put a 12 inch fan blowing right on the
main board, and temps for the processor and case were under 40c (the case
being fairly cool.)

After it crashed last night I just left it.  This morning I unplugged the
new drive, which was setup as the slave, and plugged in my old slave / data
drive so I could do some actual work.  Nothing except for the fans turning
on happened when I powered up - no video, no beeps.  Hard power downs did
not resolve this. Finally after I unplugged both drives (from the power
cables) the system powered up OK.  Power-down, plug both drives in, and it
powered up fine and has been running OK for the last few hours while I've
been burning backup DVD's....

Any suggestions?  Would a PCI IDE card solve this? I have the latest VIA
drivers installed, but an at a bit of a lose if I should have 32 bit disk
access on, or enable / disable PCI bus-masteringÖ. Or is the PCI or maybe
DMA controller on the motherboard bad?  Iím not a tech person and really
hate the idea of trying to install a motherboard - I've done it a few time
but it never felt like it was in the case right.

System summary: Athlon 2500 +, 1.5 gig ram, MSI KT4V mobo, MSI GeForce
4200ti (?) video card, Maxtor 120 gig main drive, WD 120 gig second drive,
Mad Dog DVD burner, old HP CD burner, dual monitor display, Tornado cooling
fan, USB scanner, printer, wireless adapter, wireless and wired network

Thanks in advance Ė


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Mark Cassino Photography
Kalamazoo, MI
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Re: Troubleshooting Abrupt Power-Offs

On Mon, 8 Aug 2005 08:34:02 -0400, "Mark Cassino"

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Have you tried a newer motherboard bios and leaving them at
defaults?  Even if "defaults" results in the speed being too
low, try leaving it underclocked temporarily, a test to see
if it effects stability.

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You could have multiple problems, though since you upgraded
cooling and are presumably monitoring that it would be good
to focus on the other two most likely.  Power and
motherboard.  Most often it's power supply inadequacy or
slow failure.

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Isolate the situation, put in a Memtest86 floppy then set
the bios to boot from it.  See if the system "tries" to boot
from it and if it's stable running memtest.  An instable
system can have odd quirks that seem drive related.

Does it sometimes run ok, presumably so since you write that
it suddenly shuts down so it runs OK for a time?  Is there
any commonality to the shutdowns?  Perhaps ambient room
temp?  I presume you've checked all the fans including in
the power supply and checked voltages?

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Most likely the power supply.  What make and model PSU?

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I would be VERY cautious about trusting those backup CDs- if
it isn't stable some of the data could be corrupt before it
ever gets onto the DVD.  That's not to suggest it's a bad
idea to make the backup, only a concern about relying on it.

Examine the motherboard for failed capacitors-  domed, vents
tops on them, swelling or leaky residue on the tops or

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A PCI IDE card is not likely to be the solution.

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You might try temporarily removing one of the memory
modules.  If you had another video card you could try that
too.  I would still suspect the power supply more than
anything else at this point.

Re: Troubleshooting Abrupt Power-Offs

Thanks for reply.

Shortly after I posted the system got so unstable that it was unusable, so I
broke down and took it to the repair shop. It was indeed a power supply
problem - the hard drives were not getting enough power and that was leading
to the PS shutting down during the disk to disk copies.  The low voltage to
the drives also lead to the drives periodically failing to spin up fast
enough for the bios to recognize them.  Just back from the repair shop with
a new PS and a new removable HD for backups - hopefully things will be
stable for a while now.

Thanks again -


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Mark Cassino Photography
Kalamazoo, MI
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Re: Troubleshooting Abrupt Power-Offs

Mark Cassino wrote:
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I would try replacing the power supply.  What kind of power supply is it.

I am not a big fan of Via Chipsets.  Is the via chipset overheating?
Maybe a fan is giving up once in a while.

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