Hardware Thread, PC won't boot when it's cold in Technical; I've just come back from visiting the outlaws and my father-in-law tells me he has been having problems with his ...
15th March 2009, 06:59 PM #1
PC won't boot when it's cold
I've just come back from visiting the outlaws and my father-in-law tells me he has been having problems with his Dell (XP home SP2) PC. On cold mornings, his PC won't boot. He says says he gets a message "something about thermal" (It's great isn't it? Vague messages even from the family!)
The outlaws live in a fairly standard centrally-heated bungalow, the heating is off at night, but even so it doesn't get that cold. The power to the PC is switched off at the wall overnight.
Anyone got any ideas please?
I'm not going to get overly stressed about this. He says the problem isn't happeing so often now the weather's got warmer. The bit that concerns me is my father-in-law using a hairdryer to warm it up until it will boot.
IDG Tech News
15th March 2009, 07:01 PM #2
I'll be honest, I've never seen one which will actually give a message when it's too cold to boot! - I've seen machines that won't boot up whilst cold (random errors, etc) but this is a new one on me.
15th March 2009, 07:39 PM #3
Cold boot problems are generally caused by motherboard failure, or the early signs of motherboard failure.
Thanks to Michael from:
elsiegee40 (15th March 2009)
15th March 2009, 07:40 PM #4
that's not as daft as it sounds....i've had dodgy laptop power bricks that needed to be heated up before they would work. A five minute blast under the heat of an air conditioning unit would do it in no time, sans a/c it would require one of those dimplex jobbies being turned up to maximum or for the power supply to be held on top of an oil rad for about 10 minutes. normally centrally heated room would no do, it had to be fairly direct heat.
Originally Posted by elsiegee40
i've had that happen to two power bricks now. very strange.
15th March 2009, 07:54 PM #5
What sort of Dell is it?
I'd hazard a guess at it being an Optiplex GX260/270 type:
If so, pop open the cover and take a look at the mainboard, specifically the capacitors around the processor (cylindrical tower objects just in case you're not technical, I dont know so please don't take offence if you are!). They should be entirely flat on top, it's quite likely they are bulging or have brown stuff on top/around them, meaning they're blown and not doing their job, causing system instability and very commonly the message your inlaws are receiving.
If so, you've a few options.
1. Replace the capacitors, lets hope you're good with a soldering iron
2. Replace the PC and hope the inlaws have a wallet to suit.
3. Soldier on and put up with it. As drastic as it seems, I've seen Dell machine soldier own with this symptom and blown capacitors for years without any further sideeffects. It WILL be causing "distress" to other parts of the PC but if it is one of these, it's fairly end of lifespan anyway and won't be the end of the world if it "only" lasts another year. It could pop entirely next week, but it's a matter of luck.
Thanks to synaesthesia from:
elsiegee40 (15th March 2009)
15th March 2009, 09:20 PM #6
Absolutely none whatsoever taken!
Originally Posted by synaesthesia
In this case i could have identified the components, but it's always helpful to have a simple explanation for when the brain isn't in gear or for someone else reading the thread who's having the same problem and doesn't know what they're looking for.
I'll take a look inside the case when I'm over there next.
15th March 2009, 09:28 PM #7
Let us know if it is the capacitors
Shame I'm not nearer - dab hand with a soldering iron, me!
15th March 2009, 09:49 PM #8
Aye, come from a hardware engineering and technical background and as you can tell have spent many an hour with these particular units Shamefully I don't get the time at home to play too much these days - and more to the point I don't want to get out my soldering irons with a very, very curious 7 month old on the loose!
It's not a hugely difficult job as long as you know what you're replacing, just fiddly unless you've got exactly the right gear to hand.
15th March 2009, 10:51 PM #9
Had a printer that would only work when it had warmed up. I think though that was more to the paper been damp!
The guy who worked in a warehouse had to warm his paper up on his oil heater just so it could print his orders for the guys to pick!
16th March 2009, 12:48 AM #10
Sounds something like my old computer. The fan used to be very load in cold weather.
16th March 2009, 07:29 AM #11
If it was giving a thermal warning then it should not be the capacitors, A thermal warning would require a sensor in the system to be reporting temperature values outside the acceptable range. Given the workable range of the average CPU there is almost never a low value implemented which would stop it and so it is probably a sensor fault. These sensors are basic variable resistors which change their resistance based on the temperature that they are exposed to.
Given the nature of the materials involved in electronics it is no surprise that certain hardware fails when it is cold. As it gets colder the metal contracts and so if the solder is damaged a small crack can expand and break the circuit or at least make it unreliable.
If there was a thermal warning there it is more likely that it was an overheat warning which could have been caused by this contraction problem affecting one of the sensors thereby increasing the resistance and making the reported temperature much higher than the actual one.
The fault may be the fault of a single solder joint embedded on the motherboard or perhaps a faulting sensor in the CPU. Tracking it down would probably require the full error message and for the BIOS to be helpful regarding which sensor was throwing the error. The 'fix' may be as simple as disabling the temperature shutdown settings in the BIOS.
Thanks to SYNACK from:
elsiegee40 (16th March 2009)
16th March 2009, 08:13 AM #12
I mentioned the caps as it's first most apparent symptom on the optiplexes (other than not working at all in severe cases) was thermal protection error messages. Why that's the case I don't know, but I've experience of probably circa 500 of those machines with that fault to go by
Of course the more possibilities we can cover the better though.
16th March 2009, 09:03 PM #13
I've got a pc that needs to be plugged in for a while before you power it up. If you boot it up as soon as you flick on the power you get a warning about the CPU fan not being quick enough (with an awful noise). If you leave it plugged in for a while this doesn't happen.
Yes I know it needs a new CPU fan, but I also find this problem interesting in a sad way.
16th March 2009, 09:58 PM #14
I have one exactly like that at my school - leave it plugged into the mains for an hour before booting and it's fine.
Originally Posted by fiendishlyclever
I must admit, I have been wondering if leaving the mains on for my inlaw's PC might be enough to boot it in the mornings.
This feels more like a car problem from the 1970s than a computer problem! Memories of the clothes peg holding the choke out on my old mini!
16th March 2009, 10:51 PM #15
I'm beginning to think most computers and printers are like cars from the 70s, I actually refer to an old printer as reliable as a morris minor and the newer (failed) printer as a vauxhall chevette. Only staff over 40 know what I mean though!
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