older desktop startup problems

working on the poor old emachine has been like a comedy of errors.

the problems started at the junction of a few factors. changing the CMOS battery, adding sata hard drive, installation and uninstallation of Windows XP service pack 3, but mostly it became unstable after service pack 3.

at that same time i had tried an NVidia graphics card friend gave me. but quickly switched it back to the ATI it had in it the whole time it was a stable system. it remained unplugged and in outdoor storage for a long time. and then there is the ‘jostling’ factor of being moved around. but am thinking that maostly happened AFTER it became unstable and i stopped using it.

so far, am looking at a possible problem in the IDE controller/drivers. that along with possible IRQ conflicts, where practically every hardware element is attached to IRQ 11.

many seem to get around instability problems on emachines by installing a new power supply. but i’m thinking that just forces the machine to reset the other drivers/firmware. or extra power somehow kicks things into working at least for awhile. not a long-term solution.

if i run the Bios under RAID — it starts up fine booting into a Linux thumb drive. that is with the main hard drive disconnected. have tried re-adding the SATA drive to the machine, having it only on SATA and saw some improvement in the boot. not a lot — but enough to give me some hope. but it still will only run it under the IDE controllers. Linux errors come back with a hardware error. which i have read that it is usually the memory, or the motherboard just plain crapping out. the memory passes all the Linux memory tests.

so these are the possible problems:

  • IDE controller corrupted
  • ACPI controller corrupted
  • APIC controller corrupted
  • blown/faulty capacitor in power supply
  • blown/faulty capacitor on motherboard
  • Bios corrupted
  • Memory hardware failure
  • Video controller corrupted
  • CPU failure – thermal paste is a little dry
  • Sound card failure

already downloaded every driver available from the maker website, including a Bios update that is not really an update since the date on it is less than a year from original Bios — from 2005. but have run every package on it, some a few times. flashed the Bios and all that … but very hard to tell if any of it actually went through and re-installed the original firmware.

i could spend $129 for various parts, including a new CPU …. but that doesn’t guarantee anything because corrupted motherboard firmware might still be in place and create the exact same problems. i suppose i could order the parts, and return them to Amazon if they don’t do the trick. but i don’t think that’s a very honest thing to do.

my next step is i will try to run the system on RAID — the problem i have with that is that does not even recognize the SATA or IDE HDD under RAID. i’m not even sure how or why it would recognize a USB drive under RAID but not a SATA.

so i’m really leaning toward the problems with this machine being related to the hard drive firmware. so IF i can get RAID to work on it somehow and recognize the main hard drive, then i could install an OS under RAID and see if simply not using the IDE controller fixes everything.

it is very confusing when trying to research problems with computer start up, or cold boot problems. the machine runs fine once it has been on for awhile. it’s just that initial stage of coming alive that seems to be unstable and difficult. to the effect that errors that should NOT create a reboot, do create a reboot.

and the sad thing i guess is that it reminds me of how i myself have gotten old, and harder to get going in the mornings now. it is really weird but i feel like if i give up on this computer, i’m conceding to old age just being the problem. and i’ll tell you, that emachine might be a dinosaur but in her prime she was a fine piece of machinery.
too bad can’t say that about myself…. 🙂

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