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Question on a dead laptop.

  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1
    My step son gave me a dead laptop. The symptom is when I try to turn it on, it fail to load the OS. I tried to put it in set up mode by hitting F2 to get into the setup mode. But it will turn off in like 20 seconds. I tapped F11 to get to safe mode and still it will turn off by itself.

    Do you agree this is more hardware problem than virus? I would expect I can boot up to setup mode no matter what. Also I should be able to boot into safe mode even it's a virus attack.

    Please advice before I dump the whole thing in the garby can!!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2
    Yeah, this is a hardware problem. I'm not sure what kind of a hardware problem this is though...
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3


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    This sounds suspiciously like the problem I had with my Dell desktop a month ago. It passed every hardware test, both from Dell and from the Geeks where I took it for servicing. Even after they re-installed the OS five times, it still died within 1-2 minutes of starting up - never in the same place.

    HD ruled out, RAM ruled out. We concluded something on the board had gone splah.
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4

    That's what I suspect. Is it true that the setup and safe mode are both inside the computer rather than in the hard drive that can be infected by virus? So no matter how infected the computer, you can always boot into setup or safe mode?
  6. Dec 11, 2011 #5


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    Setup is from the system's BIOS, it's immune. Safe mode is software, it's not immune.
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6
    if your computer is shutting down while you are in the BIOS setup screens, its almost certainly a hardware issue. The computer should just sit there in BIOS setup indefinitely without any problems. There is almost no load on the CPU so heat (plague of the notebook world) shouldn't be an issue.
  8. Dec 12, 2011 #7
    I had a similar problem with a laptop, which I think was probably something to do with RAM I added (although it had worked OK with the extra RAM for a year or so beforehand). I found that with the extra RAM it would reboot after a few minutes, without it it would work OK (but then it didn't have enough RAM to do most of what I wanted)
  9. Dec 12, 2011 #8
    Could it be RAM problem? You think it would help if I swap the two RAM cards to see maybe one is bad? I am not willing to go buy new RAMs, by switch the two, I am hoping to switch the bad one out of the booting sequence.
  10. Dec 12, 2011 #9


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    Could be but that should have turned up in the systems tests.

    Did you run the exhaustive systems tests? There's a way to run tests on every component - takes about a half hour to run through it. Can;t remember exactly how to do it but you should be able to Google it.
  11. Dec 12, 2011 #10
    I can't even keep it on for half a minutes!!!!:rofl:

    I am blind shooting unless I can find a way to keep it on, then everything will be a lot easier. In the setup, I can't even move the arrow fast enough to do anything before it shut down.
  12. Dec 12, 2011 #11


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    The BIOS code is stored in reprogrammable ROM, so it's not 100% immune, but the code and the method of reprogramming it is specific to each particular make of computer motherboard, so it's very unlikely a virus would try to reprogram it unless if it was trying to attack a specific piece of computer hardware (as in Stuxnet).

    The BIOS code can get corrupted by other means, e.g. power supply problems. That has happened to me with a desktop system. In my case the computer was apparently working OK, but it was impossible to get into the BIOS setup. The fix was to reprogram the BIOS memory, using software from the motherboard maker's website. The hardware to reprogam the chip is already built into the motherboard.

    But you need a system that will run stably to reprogram the BIOS, because a crash half way through would be terminally fatal. You could pull the chip and use a standalone programmer, or buy a replacement chip already programmed - but best leave that sort of thing to a repair shop, especially since we don't know if this is actually the OP's problem.

    The easiest way to troubleshoot this type of problem is just swap components till it goes away, but that's not possible unless you have an identical spare system available. It could be the power supply, memory, battery, motherboard, graphics hardware, ... pretty much anything.
  13. Dec 12, 2011 #12
    You could remove one, leaving only one in at a time. Boot and swap them if the problem is still there. After that you pretty much just need to start swapping out components as AlephZero said. Remove any expansion stuff that isn't strictly necessary to boot into BIOS (including video card, network card, CD/DVD drive, hard drive, mouse, wifi, anything USB other than a keyboard). The only things connected should be: power supply, motherboard, CPU, RAM, keyboard, monitor.

    Once you have it down to that core list of a few things, you can test RAM (or already did), and keyboard/monitor are easy to test. Then power supply is possible depending on what you have laying around. CPU/motherboard are probably not going to testable separately (you'd have to have a correct CPU laying around). If you have a different PC you can remove the CPU/motherboard from that and put it in the broken computer (with the bare minimum parts needed for boot).
  14. Jan 17, 2012 #13
    You've probably either solved the problem or have given up by now, but I have a question. After the laptop shuts down do you have to press the power button twice to get it to turn back on? If so it is likely a thermal issue, and for such an event to occur so quickly is very odd. It's probably that the board is shot, but I have encountered two laptops that had the same symptoms. The problem was that the heat exchanger separated form the die. Pretty crazy, although some careful cleaning , application of silver paste, and tightening some screws yielded spectacular results.
  15. Jan 21, 2012 #14
    "yungman", did you finally resolve the problem?

    My Dell laptop recently died. It was over ten years old, so I wasn't surprised. However, it was a bit of a hassle to get some important data off it. I had to bring it to a computer repair store where they took the hard drive out, put it in a working system, and then slowly copy data from that hard drive to a USB drive. It all had to be done through the DOS prompt instead of through Windows, so it was a slow and tedious chore.

    If you don't have any sensitive data on that computer, I recommend dropping it off at your local electronics recycling depot.

    If you do have sensitive data on that computer, I recommend removing the hard drive, smashing it with a hammer so nobody can ever extract that data, then dropping the rest of the computer off at your local electronics recycling depot.
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