Computer doesn't start - No sounds, fans, nothing

Okay, this is actually my girlfriend’s computer I’m talking about. Anyway, apparently there was a thunderstorm a while back, and ever since the storm, the computer hasn’t worked. It was plugged in to a surge protector (just a small, cheap affair), but not turned on. Everything else plugged into the same surge protector still works (monitor, lights). But now, when you push the on switch, nothing happens. I, in my boyfriend-I-can-fix-anything-because-I-used-to-work-as-tech-support-for-an-ISP mode, thought, “Huh, must be the power supply.” So I replaced the power supply, and nothing. The only thing else I can think of would be the mother board. I didn’t see any burn marks or anything on it, I unplugged and plugged everything back in, and it doesn’t work. But here’s my question: why would only the computer go and not anything else? Okay, just found out that she hadn’t turned on the computer for months before the storm, so really, it could have been any time before the storm. But the computer was not in any bad place, just sitting on her desk. Anyway, any help on this would be great. I’m afraid I’ll have to get her a new mobo, but her computer is old and she might as well just get a new computer. I’m doubting that the harddrive is damaged, but is there any chance it might be wiped?

Couldn’t be as dumb as something as a blown fuse, could it? If the the PC has one, it’s easily overlooked. Other simple, esily checkable things could be bad power lead (very unlikely) or bad socket on the surge protector.

It could be the power switch itself is bad. If the fan on the new PS doesn’t run when the power switch is pressed, that could be the problem. If it’s an ATX board, it could be the mainboard, since the power switch on those works through the board and is not directly wired to the PS, like the AT switches were. Trace the wires from the switch back to the other end. If they go to a header on teh mainboard, it’s ATX. You can test the switch by pulling the connector off and directly jumping the pins, with the unit plugged in. If the computer starts, you’ve found the problem. Otherwise, it’s probably the mainboard; time for a replacement or upgrade.

Surge supressors don’t work forever. Once they’ve abosrbed their rated surge energy, they no longer function as suppressors and become ordinary outlet strips. To let you know this has happneed, there is a little LED on them, labeled “Protected When Lit” or somesuch. If this light is out, then the unit is NOT protecting your equipment. Replace it ASAP, in this case. Note also, that no surge protector will protect against direct lightnign strikes, and even strong lightning-induced surges and spikes can overwhelm the typical supressor. During lighting storms, it is highly advisable to unplug any electronic equipment you can’t readily or affordably replace.

5: MB component deaths don’t always leave telltales. Hard drive is likely to be undamaged,

1: Remove the modem if it’s on a separate card

2: Per Tapioca Dextrin check that the AC socket you are using is good

3: Unsocket and resocket the PCI cards, memory and the CPU

4: Make sure the power button jumper wire did not get knocked loose or replaced incorrectly on the MB jumper pins

5: Make sure the PS power connectors are properly and firmly socketed into the ATX MB connector

Many newer MBs have a set of diagnostic LEDs either on the board itself or in an expansion slot – you may want to check if any of these are lit. I think a problem with the power supply seems most likely. A similar thing happened to me once that did involve a power supply failure, but replacing the power supply allowed me to boot again.

I also had a problem with the RAM that caused my computer to fail to power up. IIRC it did produce a few beeps when I switched it on, but it may be worth removing your RAM and replacing it with one stick from a computer that you know is functional.

Finally, carefully check all your IDE cables – maybe even try removing the cables from your CD-ROM drives and leave only the connection to the hard drive, after checking that it’s securely connected and the pins are aligned properly. I’ve had computers fail to boot because of a loose IDE cable. It’s unlikely that your hard drive is wiped; if it was, the computer would boot but it would give an error message about the drive. If it still fails to boot with only the hard drive’s IDE cable connected, you still might want to try detaching the HDD also, in case that’s the problem.

Well, it’s definitely an ATX board, but unfortunately I’m flying off so I won’t be able to test if it’s the switch and not the board. It’s definitely not the RAM, as I’m pretty sure that the computer itself would at least do something even if the RAM or other components weren’t completely plugged in. I had also already tried unplugging all the drives except the hard drive and seeing if that worked - no good. As I said before, I’m fairly certain it’s not the PS as I replaced that there was no change. I checked the outlet and it all works. I still can’t figure out what could have happened. If it were the storm, why does everything else that was plugged in there still work? Including the surge protector? I don’t know how old the surge protector is; my guess is that it’s old.
Anybody know a good place to buy cheap Compaq Presario motherboards?

Could be that the surge didn’t come through the surge protector. It could have come through the modem. I had a lightning strike enter through the telephone line once. The machine wouldn’t even POST although I did get fan noise. All I had to do is remove the modem (internal peripheral card) and the computer came back to life.

Ever after that I insisted on external modems wherever possible, or at least peripheral modems. If your modem is integrated into the mobo, when lightning strikes, you lose your whole motherboard.

Side note, many “surge supressors” are actually just power strips with no real surge protection. Check what you’ve got on the floor.

The symptoms you’re describing make me think of two things:

  1. Dead battery on the motherboard. It’s one of those little flat lithium batteries about the size of a quarter. Usually under a little spring clip, you can get a new one at any camera shop (they’re about $7 last time I checked), swap it out and see if that helps. If the PC was sitting there unused for months the battery could have died a while ago. How old is the PC?

  2. I had this exact same problem once because the “Clear CMOS” jumper on my mobo had been left in the “clear” position. I doubt that’s the problem here but try checking that jumper. If it’s in the normal operating position, move it to the “clear” position and then back. Only takes a minute.

Aside from that, do normal hardware troubleshooting routine - unplug everything except power supply and one RAM, see if you can get any activity. If you can, start adding things back one at a time with reboots inbetween and see when it stops working.

I have seen a dead hard drive due to lightning. IIRC the victim was able to take the drive to someplace that does recovery work and have the information transfered off it. So I assume that lightning can damage the internal electrical components of a hard drive without actually erasing data.

The other items on the surge protector/power strip, did you change the PC power cord so that it plugged into an outlet that you know works? You know, unplug the working lamp and plug the PC in there.

  1. Is there an “On/Off” switch on the rear of the machine.

  2. If it has a push button on the front it may also have a relay on the MB.

As far as the strip goes, I’m about 100% certain that there’s nothing wrong with the outlets. I switched the plug (for the computer) around on different outlets on the power strip, and skipped the power strip and plugged it into the wall. It didn’t do anything. She doesn’t use the modem on her computer, so it wasn’t plugged in. I did think that maybe the battery on the mobo was dead, but the computer’s only about 5 years. I don’t know much about those battery’s life expectancies, but my computer is older and I’ve never had a problem with the battery dying. I’ll tell her to try it though.
As far as the realy on the motherboard goes, what do you mean by this? I took off the push-switch and it looked like a regular switch to me. What are the chances that maybe something’s wrong with the wires that connect the switch to the motherboard?
And does it really seem likely that it was the thunderstorm that caused all this given the other details?

Have you tested the power cord itself? I had a friend once that had weird problems with her computer mouse. Turns out her cat had chewed on the chord so the wires would make contact intermittently. Could be an animal (cat? rat? mynock?) could have bitten through the cord.

I switched the power cord as well. No difference. With either power supply. It really seems like it’s the mobo, but I can hope that it’s a dead battery or bad contact on the switch.