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An intremittent computer fault.

deekay
Grafter
Posts: 209
Registered: 05-08-2007

An intremittent computer fault.

I have an intermittent computer fault which started a month or so ago and which is getting more and more frequent.
My desktop computer is a 5 year old P4 and is fitted with two IDE hard drives. One drive has XP installed and the other Linux Mint. The drives are completely separate, and I press F8 on booting to select which one I want to use.
The problems:
1) It will be working OK, when occasionally it will freeze. (With a BSOD if I am using XP at the time). Then if I either do a soft reboot, or if I switch off the power supply to the computer for a couple of minutes and reboot, the BIOS will not detect either hard drive. After much experimenting, I have found that the only way to solve this, is to switch off, then unplug and replug both the ribbon cable and the power cable on both of the drives. Reboot, and all is well - until the next time it fails. I have two DVD drives and the BIOS always detects them correctly. It's just the hard drives which are intermittent.
2) Sometimes, the machine will be working OK when I close it down (correctly!) and switch off. The next time I switch on and boot, neither hard drive is detected. The remedy is as before.
3) However, If I only have one hard drive connected (either drive) all is well and there is no sign of the problem. It is only when I have both drives connected.
Please, has anyone any idea as to the cause of this problem?
If it's not something fairly straightforward which I can do, I will replace it with a new machine.
Many thanks.
Cheers
Keith
13 REPLIES
community
Grafter
Posts: 666
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

I am by no means a computer savvy, even after 20 years but I have had a similar problem previously when I had both 98 and XP systems installed.
The answer was to correctly (!?) modify the BOOT.INI in msconfig.
I presume you have already looked at this? It will tell you about the operating systems installed and what you have it pre-set for..
My Computer Company friends tell me that running two different systems on one PC can be a pain which the PC doesn't like.
Denzil
Grafter
Posts: 1,733
Registered: 31-07-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Seeing as this has only recently started, and appears to be getting worse, this looks to me more like a hardware problem - perhaps a flaky hard drive controller on the motherboard. If you can find an equivalent motherboard (not guaranteed on a five year old spec) it might be worth replacing that rather than splash out on a whole new PC.
VileReynard
Seasoned Pro
Posts: 10,976
Thanks: 265
Fixes: 11
Registered: 01-09-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Next time it fails, you could try a boot from the CD slot with a live Linux disk.
Try running appropriate mount commands.

Community Veteran
Posts: 14,380
Thanks: 713
Fixes: 10
Registered: 01-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Change the battery on the motherboard. I know it doesn't sound like the likeliest of causes but I've seen it really confuse some motherboards. For some reason when the battery becomes flaky they have trouble seeing the hard drives intermittently. I can also say that from personal experience unplugging a IDE drive while the system is running (or the drive not being available due to a clock battery being dead) results in a BSOD.
Only a couple of quid for another battery.
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
deekay
Grafter
Posts: 209
Registered: 05-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Thank you all for your advice.
At the moment, the computer is working, detecting both hard dirves.
okrzynska,  I have now changed the motherboard battery.
community, I have checked MSCONF BOOT INI but can't see anything obviously wrong.
Axisofevil, A good idea about trying a Linux live CD. I'll certainly try your suggestion if it goes faulty again.
Denzil, a good suggestion, but I don't want to go to the trouble of fitting a new motherboard except as a last resort.
Thanks all.
Keith
Community Veteran
Posts: 14,380
Thanks: 713
Fixes: 10
Registered: 01-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Well? - Any news?
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!
deekay
Grafter
Posts: 209
Registered: 05-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Sorry for the delay in replying, but I wanted to give the computer a good run.
After replacing the battery, the computer was OK for several hours. Then it went faulty again with the same problems.
So, I removed the second hard drive and it has run with just the one drive, without problems, for six days.
I was considering putting the second hard drive back in tomorrow and see if it starts failing again, as I really would like both hard drives.
Some time ago, I had the hard drives in plug-in caddies. That worked well, so, if it doesn't like the second hard drive inside the computer I will try to get some.
Thanks.
Keith
pierre_pierre
Grafter
Posts: 19,757
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

sounds like your PC power supply isnt up to it
Community Veteran
Posts: 38,460
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Alternatively check the power supply feeds
Some power supplies have two separate feed groups with individual current limits and it may be that the one you are using is overloaded
VileReynard
Seasoned Pro
Posts: 10,976
Thanks: 265
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Registered: 01-09-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Note that the maximum drain is when the drives start-up.
You would expect them to fail immediately if they both start-up simultaneously.

Community Veteran
Posts: 38,460
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Registered: 15-06-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

That depends on what else was drawing power from the same rail which could cause the PSU to overheat and trip.
However it does sound more like a motherboard problem
deekay
Grafter
Posts: 209
Registered: 05-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

@pierre_pierre
I hope that you are wrong!
It's a 450watt PSU and was only fitted about 18 months ago, to replace the original (lower output one) which had packed up.
This fault only started a couple of weeks ago.

@ Oldjim
I'll check if it has two feed groups and try swapping the connectors.

@ Axisofevil!
Noted about the maximum drain.
I will spend tomorrow doing more experiments - the joys of being retired!  

Thank you all for your ideas.
Cheers
Keith
Community Veteran
Posts: 14,380
Thanks: 713
Fixes: 10
Registered: 01-08-2007

Re: An intremittent computer fault.

Could also simply be a defective power plug that goes into the back of the hard drive. The pins inside them can come loose and move about freely. I had that years ago and the second internal hard drive would randomly power up and down causing the system to freeze and then unfreeze.
Try a different connector in the drive first to see what happens. I've still using my same machine now but I just leave the dodgy plug marked with a big black X and never use it. Been fine since.
I need a new signature... i'm bored of the old one!