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How do I diagnose a machine that won't boot reliably?


My Windows XP occasionally does not boot up. I power on/off and sometimes it

In this excerpt from
Answercast #24
, I run through a list of things that might be causing a
machine to not boot reliably. Unfortunately, that won’t be much help.


Computer won’t boot

I hear this kind of scenario fairly often and unfortunately, it’s not nearly enough information for me to make even an educated guess as to what could possibly be going on. It’s also extremely difficult to diagnose remotely: so I typically end up suggesting to people that they find a technician to help them through.

The problem is that this could almost literally be anything:

  • It could be a hardware problem.

  • It could be hardware that doesn’t work until it’s warm enough.

  • It could be hardware that’s only connecting sometimes.

  • It could be RAM that’s flaky.

  • It could be software that gets loaded into one place on one boot up and a different place on another boot up.

  • It could be a software issue.

  • It could be a software timing issue.

  • It could be out-of-date drivers.

  • It could be malware.

It could be any number of things.

Time for a technician

So the only suggestion I can make for these kinds of questions (for a scenario where you have to turn the machine on two, four, eight times before it will actually come up and stay up) is to find yourself a technician. A technician who can diagnose the machine, look at it hands-on, and see what may or may not be going on.

Do this

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3 comments on “How do I diagnose a machine that won't boot reliably?”

  1. Recently went through this. Booting went from 90% of the time down to never. I fortunately had two hard drives, and on a hunch, unplugged the non-OS one and my boot problems cleared right up. I replaced that drive and am back up and running. At this level of troubleshooting, a technician will have the hardware on hand to swap things out, about the only thing you can do (as Leo always-correctly points out!).

  2. Leo, my computer wont boot with the second sata hard drive not connected. Machine is backed up to the second drive. I wanted to back up, then disconnect the second drive and only hook it up in the need for a restore, but it wont boot unless both are hooked up. What? m

  3. Try this before giving up.

    (1) Disconnect everything except mouse and keyboard. Switch off mains power for at least 30 seconds.For laptops remove power battery by releasing 2 clips at rear. Then reboot.

    (2) Use a Linux boot disc to check computer hardware functionality. eg Ultimate Boot CD {free) also has a memory checker and Firefox browser so you can go on line if it loads correctly.
    Bios must be set to boot from CD first.

    (3) Reinstall windows operating system.Newer computers usually have default factory settings in hidden partition.Google on another computer how to access & restore system if not sure.
    Data not backed up will be lost,however you can save important data by using Linux based boot disc & saving to mobile hard drive or flash drive.

    (4) Access BIOS ,usually by pressing del key or F1 or F2 several times when boot first starts. Select safe or default settings and save and exit.
    By removing the motherboard 3 volt battery the BIOS automatically is reset to factory default settings if these cannot be changed by menu selection.


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