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What if my new computer doesn't work?

What if my new computer doesn’t work?

You’ve shelled out the money and ordered your machine. You anticipate its
arrival, and when it finally does show up you quickly open the box, set it up,
and start to install applications and customize the system to your liking.

But what if your brand-new, just out-of-the-box system has a problem?

Well, it just happened to me. Let me tell you my experience so that you can
see the issues I faced, and the steps I took to fix them.

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In a previous article, What
computer should I get?
I detailed the decisions that went into my latest
purchase of a Dell Latitude D600 laptop. At the end of that article I promised
I’d describe how I went through the process of setting it up
and customizing it once it arrived.

Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as I had hoped.

Manuals – I’ve done this so many times that I rarely read
the manuals any more. Naturally I recommend that you at least review any quick
start or setup manuals that accompany your machine. I had ordered a
port-replicator with the machine, which is a smallish docking station to which
a keyboard, monitor, mouse, and other peripherals can be attached. Since it had
been a while since I’d dealt with one of those (and in years past, they had
been problematic), I paged through its setup manual. The instructions indicated
that I needed to setup Windows BEFORE docking the laptop. Good to know because
I almost did that wrong.

So I plugged in only the power adapter and turned on the machine.

Windows Setup – The first step with a newly built machine
is to complete Windows XP Setup. XP had, in fact, already been installed on the
machine, but the final stages of setup which customize it with your details
still needed to be completed. That involved:

  • reading and accepting the Dell license agreement

  • confirming my country and keyboard layout

  • selecting my time zone

  • reading and accepting the Microsoft license agreement

  • choosing whether or not to enable Auto Updates (I selected no for now, so
    as not to interfere with anything I might do later – I plan to turn it on when
    my setup is complete)

  • entering the computer’s name and description

  • confirming that the computer could not find an internet connection (I had
    not yet connected to any network)

  • declining the option to register online with Microsoft (particularly since
    I wasn’t on any network)

  • declining to setup internet access (that’s something I’ll do later)

  • entering a user name for each person who will use the computer (in this
    case, one person: me)

It was at this point I got my first clue that something was amiss. Windows
Setup needed to reboot to proceed.

Instead, it hung.

Continued Configuration – I also have done this enough
times to be perhaps too forgiving. I simply forced the a reboot by powering
down the machine and restarting it.

I docked the laptop in the port replicator. I changed the administrator
password. I set up a network connection. But as I was doing all this (which
I’ll detail in a later article), I noted something odd. The fan started to run.
That happens when the processor gets warm, and that happens when it’s busy. It
shouldn’t be that busy.

100% CPU – I fired up Task Manager and noted that the CPU
was pegged at 100% usage. My first thought was
a virus
. It was really unlikely that a virus was propagating on my
firewalled network, but stranger things can happen. In all honesty I wondered
if the machine had shipped with a virus already on it. So I installed my anti-virus updated its database and scanned away. The machine scanned clean. I
also visited Windows Update, but there was nothing
particularly interesting there either.

I attempted to reboot the machine. It hung.

After forcing the reboot again the processor was still pegged at 100%. I
grabbed my copy of SysInternals Process Explorer to
see if it would tell me which process was consuming all the CPU. No real help
there as the process was the generic “System” process (not the idle process).
But a clue: procexp also told me that between 5 and 15% of the processor was
handling hardware interrupts. That simply shouldn’t be if the machine is doing

Getting Help – At this point I decided I needed help. I
went first to the Dell forums and posted a description of
my problem
. The very first response was “Send It Back!”. While I could
understand that response (a new machine should just work), that’s a hassle and
I at least wanted to give fixing it a try.

I called Dell support. To their credit, each technician I spoke to was
helpful and listened to what I had to say and what I had done so far. The
suggestions they made were reasonable. But the suggestions didn’t help.

The final step a technician and I both arrived at was to reformat and
reinstall Windows XP. Since I’d barely touched the machine, there was nothing
on it that would be lost so this made perfect sense.

I inserted the CD-ROM (Always insist on getting a CD-ROM of
any pre-installed operating system for exactly this reason.) Formatting went
well, though slowly. I suspect the processor was still pegged at 100%. Windows
“character mode” setup proceeded properly and copied all the files to the hard
disk. Then it went to reboot.

You guessed it. It hung.

At this point I knew I was sunk. But I plodded on, forcing the reboot and
allowing Windows GUI setup to complete. Then it went to reboot.

It hung.

I turned off the machine, called Dell’s “Customer Care” unit and arranged
for an exchange. As I write this my “old” new machine is re-boxed and awaiting
pickup and the “new” new machine is being built by Dell, hopefully to arrive
next week.

I’ll continue my “how to configure your machine” once that machine arrives
and is working.

Some Lessons Learned – and items to remember:

  • Keep the original boxes and packing material. I typically keep it all for a
    year, but at a minimum keep it for the “easy return” period that your
    manufacturer has. For Dell, I believe that’s 21 days.

  • Always get a CD-ROM of the operating system. You could be in serious
    trouble if you
    don’t have one
    . I’m shocked that some other manufacturers refuse to provide
    one, and would never buy a machine from them.

  • Expect the best. A new machine should work. Period. Especially before
    connecting it to the network, and before installing any additional software.
    Take the time to check it out under those conditions.

  • Ask for help. The first response to my Dell forum posting was within
    minutes and dead-on accurate. The folks at Dell’s technical support were also
    easy to work with and helpful.

  • Play nice. Firm, but nice. It doesn’t pay to get upset or annoyed with
    phone support technicians – in fact doing so will typically only make matters
    worse. Escalate if you need to; firmly if that’s what it takes, if but always,
    always, be polite and friendly. No technician is going to go out of
    their way to go the extra mile for an abusive customer.

  • Remember that “stuff” happens. I don’t mean to make excuses for bad
    hardware or machines, but the fact is things can go wrong. Naturally there
    should be a high expectation of quality, so in my case if replacement machine
    also has a problem I’ll return it and politely take my business elsewhere.

Do this

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60 comments on “What if my new computer doesn't work?”

  1. I just wanted to say that while Dell has good desktop computers, their laptops REALLY disappointed me. After only a few months of buying one for myself, the fan started turning on almost as soon as I turned it on. This was back a few years ago and I will never buy a Dell laptop again.

  2. Same thing happend with my daughter’s PC for college. It never completed a boot up. Only issue I have is the Dell reps would not respond to our requests to replace the box. So after four weeks we insisted on returning the whole package for credit (since she was leaving for college the next day). The Dell reps seemed to be working off a script, and that script seemed designed to keep us trying new things rather than just replacing the computer.

    Tim Beckett
    Fort Myers, FL

  3. I have heard that if you go through the small business path on purchase, you’ll get better technical support. I have not tested this since I always purchase as a small business.

  4. I just bought a laptop for my freshman in college son. It’s an inspiron 9300. In August we received it and it was defective,. After numerous call sto dell’s tech support thry sent a replacement one. The day before my son left for college. The replacement has the same defect. My son is an engineering student with no computer. I have called dell repeatedtly for hours on wait time being switched around. They will not let me get a refund or send a replacement they want to have him from his dorm room try to talk to tech support to fix it. I know that won’t fix the problem The only other solution is to send it back and pay the 20% restocking fee on a 2,000+ computer that has never worked. I don’t know what to do? Any tips. Should I contact their headquarters. The tech support person actually fought with customer service to please refund my money so my son could get a computer that will work. What should I do????

  5. Sir,
    I just received a used computer from a friend of mine, VIA UPS. The computer worked when my friend sent it through the mail. I received it yesterday, hooked everything up correctly, but it does not show anything on the monitor. I took off one of the side covers, and discovered that a fan came off of its mount, and was sitting on one of the cards.
    Could you tell me if this would cause the computer to not function correctly, or if it could be something else.
    The computer does not even boot up.

    Thanks for your assistance.


    Joe Kmetz

  6. I could. Other components could also have shaken loose. I would unplug it, and then press all the expansion cards and socketted chips into place.

  7. Well I have two problems,first is that when I start up my computer the Intel desktop board screen does not appear and instead the computer starts with a screen displaying a message
    “CHECKSUM-Bad”.I have to enter the bios and exit from there to boot my system normally.Secondly when the windows starts the time is incorrect every time I set it.Also there aren’t any time zones being shown in the time zones section.Is there a solution to these problems?

  8. It sounds like your CMOS battery has died. That’s typically a small battery on the motherboard that keeps the CMOS from loosing its settings and keeps the clock running. I’d start by replacing that. Exactly how depends on the computer, so check with the manufacturer.

  9. i bought a new laptop with AMD 64 Athlonm 3200+
    few months ago. i hav downloaded Oracle 9i and VB software. it was working good before but now a days it seems so slow. even it shows connected to internet via wireless router but i don’t get anything on my internet screen. i alway recieve a message with the Error report with 2 command buttons -> send report and don’t send. could you help me out with this. thanx

  10. Need a lot more information … like the specific error messages you are seeing along the way. But to start with Please read this article: and make sure you’re following the recommendations there, and then also try running the system file checker:

    After you done those things, report back with the full text of the error message(s) you’re seeing, and perhaps I or someone else can help.

  11. I just got this new computer, about a month ago and now I have no internet connection, it says something wrong with my DNS and my Key Ports. I have wireless internet and it works, I can get internet from my PalmPiolet. That’s how I know. I just don’t know if it’s my software or what…Help?

    E-Mail me

  12. Got a new Dell computer for our parents for Xmas. Have DSL cable internet service. During installation, blue screen said hardware not installed properly, and we could not get out of it. After re-booting, it worked. My parents may have logged less than 10 hrs on the computer and this blue screen appears often rendering the computer useless. Spoke to Dell techs and they said we are covered for hardware and not software and that the blue screen was a virus so we would have to pay almost $100 for a tech guy to come. I refused since it was a new computer, but they gave me a tech over the phone to run a diagnostics, but I did not have the CD rom, so they sent us one. Have a telephone appointment tomorrow with Dell to run the diagnostics to tell if it is a hard or software problem.
    Why am I doing this? We paid for a one year warranty that covers a tech to come to the house.
    I think they are dragging their feet so they won’t have to replace it. (The computer was purchased on 12/12/05 and installed 12/25/05)

  13. I just got a new computer to replace my old sony vaio. I made it myself and everything worked great, then I got a new keyboard to replace the old VAIO one. The vaio keyboard has a ps/2 connection and the new one i got is usb. I plugged in my new one while the old one was still attached and it worked fine. But whenever i restart my computer, my mouse won’t work. But if I plug my old keyboard back into the computer then start it up, the mouse works fine and i can unplug my old keyboard and use the new one. What’s the problem? Thanks.

  14. My computer is dead….Completly dead. Everytime i try to boot up my computer the only thing that happens it gives me the green and red lights and there just steady no blinking or anything…its not giving me any response could it be my motherboard?

  15. My father bought a new cpu (tower) to replace Windows 98. He now installed himself Windows XP.

    He’s not receiving any e-mail, nor can he send any. He’s registered with Roadrunner. Does he need to establish an internet connection by going to the “Tools Options” menu?


  16. Dear Leo, I have been having error problems on my dell dimension 4600 computer. I contacted the customer support and paid them $100 and told them i wanted my computer set back to factory. I followed their directions explicitly and whenever it finally came up after working on it for 2hrs it looked like it was set back to factory, but it wasnt it was just covered up. I went to my computer on the desktop and there was everything still there. I called them back and told them that it wasnt set back to factory and that they also messed up my video on it also. I asked them for a refund in which they gave me but my computer is still messed up. I have all the disks but need to reboot it back to factory setting and fix the problems that they created. Can you help me? tell me how to reboot it back correctly. thank you.

  17. Hi,
    We just bought a Dimension 9150 which arrived on Valentine’s Day. It’s our third Dell (also have a Latitude laptop and an earlier Dimension). Had a series of problems starting several days after we had the 9150 and we succeeded in getting Dell to send us a new system. The screen went black and would only come back with a manual shutoff. We had done some uninstalling of preinstalled software and had added just a few things that are commonly used and that we had used for years without problem, including Quicken, iTunes, and MS Office 2000 Pro. Included in our uninstall was the McAfee Security Center because we get Symantec free through my partner’s employer. We had two 1-hour tech support calls. Both were nice guys. First did a system restore and we thought we were set. Annoying because I had to reinstall files from my external hard drive, re-setup Outlook Express, etc. but okay.

    It happened again the following day after reinstalling iTunes. The second tech took us through another sys restore and was convinced it was a software problem. I don’t get why that would be, but if it is, I want to avoid it on the replacement system that is now on its way. I want to be able to get rid of a lot of the preinstalled junk they load it up with and put on what I want and need. Any tips on what to do/avoid doing when it’s first out of the box in terms of uninstalling? BTW, our third Dell call was to a customer care person who was very sympathetic and immediately agreed to send a new system. While I’m still a bit frustrated, I agree with you – sometimes things go wrong and there’s no use blaming anyone or yelling at tech support. Thanks,

  18. Hey Leo, right now im building a aspire x-q pack (case) computer costum.
    well i havea inte socket 478 p4 3.0 ghz cpu, cpu fan, case fan , 1 gig of ram hynix 512x 2 , creative aduigy 2 sound card , and nvidia 6800 graphic card.
    i plug in everything and when i plug in my blue monitor plug in the back of my compuiter nothing shows on the monitor but a black screen but, my computer starts up such as my hardrive, cd/ dvd drive, case fun, cpu fan, power supply.
    do you know how to fix it?

  19. I got a gateway laptop with DVD-RW drive. Small, good battery life, I took it with me on a long trip. After I got home and installed a few programs, I was recording audio CDs when the player stopped. Now it won’t read audio or data CDs, but it will read a DVD and play a movie, even burn a data DVD. On explorer, itunes, windowsmedia, any one, the audio CDs and data CDs are not recognized, it keeps spinning but nothing opens, and no error message. Put any DVD it will play right away. Its seemed to me the player might be bad, but can it keep playing DVDs normally? I didn’t have much to backup, the computer is ready to be reinitialised. Am I missing something?

  20. I got the same problem as Harrison Posted in May

    I have a newly built computer and everything turns on correctly, i just get a black screen on the monitor. Its like this with 3 motherboards 1 is new 2 are old but I know all work and ive tested all my parts in a different working computer and they all work

    This is Harrison’s post

    ——-Hey Leo, right now im building a aspire x-q pack (case) computer costum.
    well i havea inte socket 478 p4 3.0 ghz cpu, cpu fan, case fan , 1 gig of ram hynix 512x 2 , creative aduigy 2 sound card , and nvidia 6800 graphic card.
    i plug in everything and when i plug in my blue monitor plug in the back of my compuiter nothing shows on the monitor but a black screen but, my computer starts up such as my hardrive, cd/ dvd drive, case fun, cpu fan, power supply.
    do you know how to fix it? ———

  21. Hi! Im having the same problem as some people here. I turn on the PC and as soon as I do that the LED of the monitor turns yellow (as it is on stand-by) But I think that there is something else, because the PC turns on but not normaly because when I used to turn it on I could turn it off by a single click on the power button before it gets to windows. But now I have to hold it for 4 seconds like it was on windows but I do this as soon as I turn it on. Any ideas? I suspect is the video card, I unplugged the monitor to it and it appears a “no signal” message so I think it works fine.

  22. i am trying to install the internet on my computer,but when i put a disk in my dvd/cd drawer it does not go round/drive this can be any cds i have windows xp couid you please help me[advice]how to get them to go round

  23. when i turn on my computer a black screen comes up and says operating system not found i dont know what the problem is

  24. THE most common cause is leaving a floppy disk in the drive. The computer tries to boot from that first, but doesn’t find the OS.

    Ig that’s not it, then there’s most likely a problem with your installation of Windows on the hard disk.

  25. Hi. I just put together my own gaming computer. It has a lot of really great, high quality components in it, and cost me about $800. Problem is, I installed all the components, powered it up, and all that happens is I get a green light on the mobo lighting up (beside the 10×2 power supply cable), and the blue alien LED on the front lights up. None of the fans start, and nothing even makes noise at all. It just won’t start. I think it could either be not wired right with the power supply, the power button isn;t wired right, or I bent something on the LGA775 slot so that the processor won’t start. What do you think it could be? I really wouldn’t want to goout and buy a new motherboard and spend even more money. Thanks


    Intel D195PBL Mobo
    450 Watt MGE PSU
    1GB DDR2 533mhz PC2-4200 RAM w/ SPD
    Intel Pentium 4 Processor 551(3.4Ghz w/ Hyper-threading & 64-bit processing & 1mb L2 cache)
    ATI 256mb VX600PRO video card
    200GB SATA HDD

    I hope that will help with your answer. Thanks

  26. Hello, my computer doesn’t work. I waked up this morning and it doesn’t work. But it’s ok, it’s happened many times. I just have to plud out the battery and put it back. But this morning this doesn’t wokr. When I put back the baterry at the first momen the light was red, after that it was green for around 20 seconds, and no light and computer can not start, because it doesn’t have electricy. I took the battery out, I pluged out the electric cabel. Pluged in the electric cable, again red light, and after that no light. My laptop is Dell inspiron 1000 and battery type P5413. Is the problem in battery? But the computer have to work without battery?!?

  27. It certainly sounds like the battery, but normally you should be able to work with the battery removed, and the machine plugged in. In any case, it’s a power related problem of some sort. My guess is you’ll need to have a technician look at the machine. You could try replacing the battery, but there’s no guarantee that’ll help.

  28. when i turn on my computer the screen is black an its light is orange and don’t become green
    even i can’t access BIOS information.
    when i changed the HDD with another one this problem appeared but when i replace its own HDD back on its place the problem was there yet.
    i don’t know what must i do please help me.
    thanks a lot.

  29. I’ve had my Dell Latitude D600 for almost a year now. It’s been a great machine for me and hasn’t had any problems. However, randomly today, it stopped working. I shut it down and haven’t been able to turn it back on since – with or without the power adapter plugged into it. Now, when I plug in the power adapter to a wall outlet, the green light turns on, but as soon as I hook it up to my laptop, it goes off. How can I get my laptop back on? What’s wrong with it?

  30. Whenever I restart my computer, (or turn it on, or log off user name) the monitor stops working and the light turns orange. I have to wiggle the connector to the hard drive for it to finally turn back on after a lot of hassle. Sometimes the monitor will shut off when I’m in the middle of a task, and after I hassle with the connector, the computer automatically is at the startup screen.

    Also, we have a NetGear router connected to our main computer, and I have the USB Adapter on mine. The adapter often loses connection with the router and I don’t know how to fix it. Everything is hooked up right, I made sure of it.

    My computer is a Compaq Presario if that helps at all.

    Please, what should I do?

  31. I’ve had my Dell Latitude D600 for almost a year now. It’s been a great machine for me and hasn’t had any problems. However, randomly today, it stopped working. I shut it down and haven’t been able to turn it back on since – with or without the power adapter plugged into it. Now, when I plug in the power adapter to a wall outlet, the green light turns on, but as soon as I hook it up to my laptop, it goes off. How can I get my laptop back on? Please Help

  32. Hello Leo, My computer will not load windows no matter what i try to do it just starts runs alittle bit and won’t load windows xp any help will be a great help.. Thank You

    P.S. I know i can reinstall windows but i have a small online business and theres alot of stuff i don’t want to loose please help.. Thanks again.. Lisa

  33. Hello,
    Just the past 3 days my computer is not shutting down.I’m trying to be a good wife and figure out why! Can you help.

  34. Um…somethin sorta weird is happening to my comp…its sound isn’t working, and i’ve already hooked up everything that needs to be hooked up and i put in the cords in the right places…what do you do next if the sound isn’t working?

  35. I have a dell 3100 and I shut down my computer and wasn’t able to turn it back on. Every time that I push the button to start it turns an orange color which usually turns green when working properly. The orange color keeps blinking and still doesn’t start even though I unplug the computer and plug it again. If you have any answer, please email me.

  36. My Laptop Isnt Detecting Any Cd’s Or Dvd’s I Put Into It, I Dont Know Wether It Makes Any Difference But I Have An Acer Aspire 9301AWSMi with Vista Home Premium! Thanks

  37. my PC was running well, but in the evening when i turned it on, it starts but doesn’t respond the power light on the casing is on, processor and chasis fan running, no startup beep and nothing. what is it ? plz help.

  38. I recently updated my computer to windows vista, but after a few weeks all of a sudden my CD DVD rom doesnt work… i dont know why. It use to work but then after some day it just stopped. It says in device managers: Windows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing. (Code 39)
    I have an ATAPI DVD DD 2X16X4X16 ATA plz help me out :D

  39. Hi Leo…Haven’t used my laptop for a while. When i turn it on it begins to load normally (windows xp green bar ) then stops and the screen stays blank! I have tried to load in various ways (safe mode + others) but nothing changes.
    I have tried to GO TO LAST GOOD USEAGE and it starts to load lots of data (flashing on screen) but always stops at the same point and freezes!
    Can you help?
    Glen Baxter

  40. HI, my pc just quit turning on. When I hit the pwer button it sounds ok, but the monitor light turns orange instead of green, and there’s no image. What could it be?

  41. hi. I recently received a new laptop as a gift. its a gateway and has windows vista..theres something wrong with my sound. is there anyway you can tell me how to fix this?

    please get back at me..its driving me insane.

    thank you

  42. well apparently this guy is not any help for any of you. so here we go. dianne you need to be more descriptive it wont go off or the shutdown option doesnt work? Ishima you need to check and see if your windows sound is muted. in the bottom right hand corner of the taskbar double click on the speaker icon and make sure it is not muted. or reinstall the drivers for your hardware. Julio you need a new motherboard or a fresh install of xp to do this you need to open your case and reset your bios there should be a jumper in your manual to change this if there is no jumper you cand turn over the battery for 5 secs and then back over you need to be vary careful and dont do it with it plugged in. Kate you need to get your laptop checked by a friend or a tech and make sure that they know what they are doing. Fahad try a different monitor. e-mail me for any questions. [email address removed]

  43. I too have an Acer Aspire 9301AWSMi with Vista Home Premium, and I am having the same problem. Occasionally cds and dvds work, but when they don’t the dvd drive icon goes missing from “My Computer”. And sometimes, when the thing finally realises it has a dvd drive, it starts the set-up and then dissapears again. It’s terribly fraustrating, and is there any way to fix it?

  44. We’ve got a new computer for Christmas and on start-up we keep getting a message reading ‘The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error. Windows installation cannot proceed. to install Windows click ‘OK’ to restart the computer,and then restart the installation.’
    When we do this, the same message appears again.
    Is there anything we can so?

  45. Hi Leo, I bought a new HP laptop DV6000, for some reason everytime my laptop stays on for a while Windows Vista starts acting funny. The clock would dissapear in the corner. Sometimes the whole bottom would dissapear. If I click on the Windows key to log off or shut it down, A clear box just shows with nothing in it. I have to constantly use the Ctrl Alt Del buttom to logg of and log back again. After that the problem goes away. Sometimes when I would go click on the corner where the clock is it would say “Windows explorer stopped working”, and then it would fix it for me. Now it doesnt do that anymore. What is causing it to do this and is there a way I could prevent it?

  46. Hi Leo, I bought a new Gateway laptop and the keyboard isn’t working. I can’t type in anything and the only thing on the keyboard that works is the mouse. How can I fix this?

    Hash: SHA1

    If it’s a new computer, have Gateway fix or replace it.


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  48. hi leo! i have a problem whit my dell d 600, i droped like 2feets on the carpet and then doesnt work anithing no charge batery no bios nothing; what can i do?

    Hash: SHA1

    Clearly something broke when you dropped it. I’d have you
    take it to a technician for diagnosis and repair.

    Good luck!


    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  50. Similar problem, I have just got a new Acer desktop and turned on for the first time. Get message ‘The computer restarted unexpectedly or encountered an unexpected error. Windows installation cannot proceed. to install Windows click ‘OK’ to restart the computer,and then restart the installation.’
    When we do this, the same message appears again.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  51. My computor is not letting set the set up details request to advcie how should i set it my self it vwery important even i have been denied of computer access for more than 3 years for authorities in Pakistan with having no facts


  53. I recently start building a new computer its a P7P55D Pro motherboard, i7-860 Quadcore cpu, 4gb kingston Ram, GTX 275 896MB 448Bit Gddr3 VideoCard, 600W power supply.
    When i powered up the computer the Dram LED stayed on, then when i hold the memOK button to begin memory compatibility tuning it starts blinking and reboots however it continues to reboot a few more times then finally nothing has changed.
    i have no image on screen and no beeps of any kind


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