Calling all Computer Gurus

Last week my computer was running fine. I went out of town last Friday and when I came back on Monday it seems to have developed a little quirk: it spontaneously reboots itself. No blue screen of death, no fancy shut down, just one minute I’m humming along, next it’s rebooting.

What I’ve done so far:

-Virus scan
-disk doctor
-ad aware

Result: Nada, same problem.

Things I’ve done:

-dusted it out with canned air
-tested the memory (it’s ok)
-put on some heat sink grease because it wasn’t done when the
computer was built (4/01)
-uninstalled/reinstalled ICQ
-deleted all temp files & temp. internet files (including cookies)
-checked the fans (all three are running)
-checked the cpu temp in the bios (high seems to be a steady 95f)
-cpu fan rpm ranges from 5000 - 53XX

Result: Still reboots itself.

Things I know about the problem:

-ICQ seems to cause the problem to happen more often
-It only happens when I’m actively using the computer (browsing websites mainly)
-I can leave my computer running all night and all day at work and it won’t reboot
-I was able to go in and play an online video game for about 15mins without a reboot happening
-I was able to move all my mp3s (about 10mins) to my spare hard drive w/o a reboot happening, however, when I downloaded some drivers for my new video card (thanks Ian!!) it rebooted about 3/4 of the way. I was able to make it through the second attempt though.
-no funny electrical smells coming from the computer and the surge protector looks fine
-It rebooted itself when trying to place some settings or something for the new video card. The wizard started automatically after it detected the new hardware and I had restarted the computer
Based on this last thing, I’m very cautious about attempting a reformat because I’m afraid it will keep rebooting itself while trying to install windows and all the components, etc and I won’t be able to get it up and running. I’m running Win98, but if I do attempt the reinstall, I’ll be upgrading to Win2000.

It was suggested to me that I should replace the battery on the MB, which I could do (once I go through all my current bios settings so I can put them back), but is it really necessary?

My ex is convinced it’s the Mauvaise-Virus. Every computer I’ve had I run into problems that make experienced techs say, “Huh… I’ve never seen that before.”

A friend of mine is almost convinced it’s my processor (which is another reason I’m reluctant to attempt the reformat). I can pick up a Celeron processor that is compatible with my board for about $60, but… well, I’m just not sure that’s the next step. Another friend suggest swapping out the power supply. Of course I don’t have a spare, but I could go buy one. I just don’t want to buy a lot of computer parts that I don’t really need just to rule things out.

Basically what I’m asking is what else can I try? And what do you think the problem could be?

not a guru, but it seems there’s a bunch of info. out there on topic, like:

I tried “computer reboots itself” on google. I’d hate that problem.

I’ve had that problem. I researched the subject extensively on the web by doing lots of searches similar to Violet’s and reading for hours and hours. Basically (oh, I know you’re going to hate to hear this) it could be one of a dozen or more problems.

I never did figure out exactly which problem was causing my reboots. I even replaced the power supply with a 400 watt PS, and the problem persisted.

After a few weeks of searching in vain for the answer, I gave up. Then a funny thing happened. The computer gave up, too. It stopped rebooting. Now it works fine. Ah, the joys of owning a computer!

if it don’t work get a bigger hammer.

seriously, your problem is very very simple, overheated CPU.

You live in a warm place, and or your CPU fan is not functioning properly.
A overheated hard disk will also crash your system as you stated.

Get another fan for the case, fix/clean the existing fans so they spin freely when rotated by finger(power OFF and unplugged when done), if the fan does less than two rotations by your finger hitting it quickly to spin it, it needs replaced.

Your problem could be many things as mentioned, but I lay 2 cents on this being your solution.

If not a heat issue, check all of the devices listed in windoes|control panel|system|device manager(for win95-98)and find the resource info for each, carefully writing down the IRQ and any memory range address you see next to the device name. You might see an IRQ shared between two or more devices. If so, go into your CMOS and make sure the modem setting for the IRQ used by the modem is matched up with what windows is using. They say it don’t matter what the IRQ settings in windows are, but my self taught guru status says your growing old machine will be fixed after you do the above.

This is a common symptom of failure of the capacitors on the motherboard. Examine the capacitors (They will surround the CPU, they are the cylindrical “towers” with the silvery tops). They should be clean, as should the area around them, and the tops should be perfectly flat. If the tops are bulging, you see fluid around them or the base, or they are broken, this is causing your problem. Capacitors often fail, especially on cheap motherboards, after a year or two. There’s nothing you can do about this except replace the motherboard.

My experience with overheating is that it is much more likely to cause lockups rather than rebooting, but it can do both.

I have had this problem personally with at least one PC at home, and helped out with a few at work that had this. In 50% of the cases in was Win95 and Win98, and the only think that worked was a complete format and re-install.

Since that is a drastic and very troublesome step, let’s look at some other things.

In the other 50% of the cases, the problem was a bad power supply - this can and will defintely cause this to happen. Fortunately, a bad power supply is both cheap and easy to fix, if this is the case, but it is also very diffcult to determine for certain that that is the problem.

I had this problem once too. I fixed to by switching the PCI cards around to different, open slots. Don’t know why it worked but it did. Only takes a minute to try this solution.

Thank you for your help/suggestions! I’m not a very computer savvy person. My ex had always taken care of any problems for me.

Violet Thanks for the link! At least I’m not alone.

Neutron I’m not sure giving up and hoping it goes away by itself is something I can do … I’m too anal :stuck_out_tongue:

Slacker: I already have three fans in there (the one that comes with the power supply, the cpu fan, and an extra case fan) so I don’t think I need another (as this is a new problem on a year and a half old computer). However, maybe one or more of the fans aren’t working, so replacing them may help. I have a cpu fan on order, and I can pick up a replacement case fan today.

FDisk I’ll check the capacitors (they are the things that look like little batteries sticking up from the mb, right?) But I’m not sure what the looked like new, so I’m not sure I’d recognise a problem, unless they were oozing.

Una I’m not at all adverse to doing a format/reinstall, in fact I planned on doing so today, but considering it sometimes happens while it’s still booting up windows, I’m afraid that I won’t make it through the install. Which would make me cry. :wink: I will run out and pick up a power supply once PC Club opens this morning and try that. I’ll also check the capacitors and blow more air through the damn thing. If that doesn’t work, I’ll suck it up and risk the format/install (I’ll also upgrade to Win2K at the same time).

I do have one more piece of information, a new thing happened this morning: It rebooted itself three times in a row during the windows boot up. Since then, the scan disk thing that it does before booting windows keeps failing. It gets through a step or two, then stops. It flashes while it continues to go through the boot up and there’s an error message at the bottom of the screen. I wrote down as much as I could during two reboots:

Error 35: General protection error … something … C: Windows/Command/ScanDisk.alt

It happens during the “Analyze DOS Boot Record” phase of the scan disk. This is a new problem as of this morning.

I’m going to try that IRQ thing of Slacker’s while I wait for the computer store to open… it can’t hurt.

Shagnasty what are PCI cards?

Did you have Norton Utilities installed? If so check this article. There may be other problems as well, and there is also the (slight) possibility that the original problem is a bad hard drive, though more likely the scandisk errors were caused by the multiple improper shutdowns. I would try running a thorough scandisk from a boot floppy before attempting to boot into windows again, both to clear up any errors and also to be sure there is nothing wrong with the hard drive. Sometimes it helps to rule out the easiest things first, even if they aren’t the most likely.

I do … and that’s almost my error! I tried googling it myself (in between reboots :rolleyes: without any luck.

I’m afraid you’re speaking computer with your “boot floopy”, but I should be able to call a friend shortly and I’m sure he’ll be able to walk me through that. Thank you!

He’s referring to PCI-bus expansion cards, such as video, ethernet, soundcards, etc. Sometimes moving them helps in that it increases or improves airflow in the case, and sometimes they just work better in different slots. No one knows why. :confused:

When I open up the case to replace the power supply I’ll try it… I’m willing to try just about anything at this point.

Thanks again!

It was the motherboard capacitors.

When I read your description above I was picturing BULGING and LEAKING, but I did notice that the capacitors by the processor were not as flat as the other ones, and there was some brown/rust colour “dust” on top of a couple of them. Dust that had to be scraped off instead of blown off.

The bad news is that my motherboard/processor/agp slot combo is obsolete. Well, they had one mb, but it wasn’t something they advertised, it’s just one they had “left over” for $100. Well, I didn’t feel too comfortable with that and for not too much more, I could get a new AMD processor & motherboard.

So I did. It’s sitting on my coffee table to put put in my case sometime today or tomorrow. If you never hear from me again it’s because I’m too stupid to figure it out.

Thanks for the help!!

Interestingly, I also ran into this problem when I upgraded from 98 to 98SE. But it would only happen when I was dialing in with my USR 56K faxmodem. My solution was to upgrade to 2000, and it worked just fine.

Better to just take the case top off, point a fan at the computer & see if that does it. Heat is the number one issue in my opion ( as is some of the others)