In our last article, here at Computer Repair Calgary, we began discussing the motherboard. As a quick recap, the motherboard is that thin, rectangular fiberglass board screwed onto the inside of your computer’s case. It is the device which houses your CPU (central processing unit – the brains of your PC), and allows it to communicate with your machine’s other components (everything from RAM to your video card).
As is evident, the motherboard plays an integral part in the success of your PC. So what, you may be thinking, happens when it dies or begins to fail? Won’t your computer simply refuse to work when it can no longer send/receive data? The short answer is, yes! A computer whose motherboard is malfunctioning or completely dead is unlikely to load up its operating system (generally Microsoft Windows or Mac OSX) at all. Rather, upon startup, it will likely let out a seemingly random bunch of beeps without any visible identification of the issues it is having. Frequently, members of Computer Repair Calgary get questions related to these beeps. Why are they there, and what do they signify. In order to answer this question we need to take a brief look at your system’s startup.
When your computer first turns on it is hardwired to automatically perform a series of tests (referred to as the “power-on self test” or POST) before loading the operating system. In general terms, the role of the POST is to make sure that all of your key parts are in working order. More specifically, the post generally entails checking that:
1) The CPU (central processing unit) is fine
2) The CPU can talk to its memory
3) The CPU has access to video capabilities
4) The motherboards busses (communications channels) are ok
5) The power supply is in working order
6) The BIOS is ok
Now if the POST finishes and everything is fine then generally you will hear a single beep coming from within your computer (or possibly two beeps in relatively quick succession). After this happens, your operating system (Windows) will begin to load and you will eventually see your desktop. If, however, a problem is found during the POST then you will be greeted with a seemingly random beep pattern, as mentioned above. It is important to note that, in fact, this beep pattern is not random at all. It is your system’s way of telling you what the problem is.
In a simple world the beep pattern for every single computer would be the same. Unfortunately, this is not the case. See, the POST is part of the BIOS (a topic we will discuss in due order at Computer Repair Calgary), and not all BIOS’s are created alike. Therefore to check what a particular beep code means follow the instructions below.
Computer Repair Calgary’s beep code identification system
1) Write down the type of beep code you are getting from your machine
2) Download and install CPU-Z, a small, free computer information program.
3) Open CPU-Z, click on the “Mainboard” tab, look under the “BIOS” subsection and note the “Brand”.
4) Head on over to PCHell’s beep code page.
5) Look for the appropriate section based on your BIOS’s Brand
6) Within the appropriate section, look for the beep code pattern you are experiencing
7) Take appropriate action
Although the final step here is rather vague, the action you need to take depends upon the outcome from your research. We will discuss a few possibilities in our next article. Nonetheless, this should give you the ability to determine, generally, what is wrong with your computer.
So far we have only talked about the case where a motherboard failure results in an irregular BIOS beeping pattern and an inoperable operating system. A mobo failure need not necessarily be so severe. There are times when your OS will load, yet, you experience random computer crashes or random reboots (where your machine suddenly turns off and then turns on again). The problem with these results is that it is difficult to pin down exactly where the problem lies. Random crashes can result from hard drive failure, RAM failure, or even motherboard failure.
So there you have it. A bad motherboard may result in a strange beeping pattern upon startup, random crashes, or random reboots. Make sure to come back and visit Computer Repair Calgary soon as we will be discussing several ways to test if your motherboard is truly being troublesome and in need of repair.