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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting the Motherboard and System Devices | General Failures ]

There is an apparent failure of the motherboard or a system device on the motherboard

Explanation: There is suspicion of a possible failure related to the motherboard. This can be a result of a specific message strongly implicating the motherboard in some sort of erratic system behavior. It may also be the case that the motherboard probably isn't the problem, but that we want to rule it out as a possible cause. Since the motherboard is where all the other components meet and connect, a bad motherboard can affect virtually any other part of the PC. For this reason the motherboard must often be checked to ensure it is working properly, even if it is unlikely to be the cause of whatever is happening.

Diagnosis: Outright motherboard failure is fairly rare in a new system, and extremely rare in a system that is already up and running. Usually, the problem is that the motherboard has been misconfigured or there is a failure with one or more of the components that connect to it. Getting a system in the mail that has a loose component or disconnected cable is very common. In fact, though, there are a surprisingly large possible causes for what may appear to be a motherboard failure.

Recommendation: Follow the suggestions below to diagnose the possible failure of the motherboard. You will find a lot of possible causes listed below, since there are so many problems that can make it look like the motherboard is at fault. This part of the Troubleshooting Expert is referenced by a large number of other sections. For this reason, you may want to skip some of the steps below if you have already tried them elsewhere. Also, try to avoid the very difficult diagnostic steps--especially replacing the motherboard--until you have exhausted the other possibilities both here and elsewhere on the site:

  • First of all, if you have just recently installed this motherboard, or performed upgrades or additions to the PC of any sort, read this section, which contains items to check that may cause problems after working on the system unit.
  • If the PC isn't booting at all, make sure you have at least the minimums in the machine required to make it work: processor, a full bank of memory, video card, and a drive. Make sure that all of these are inserted correctly into the motherboard, especially the memory. Partially inserted memory modules can cause all sorts of bizarre behavior.
  • Remove all optional devices from the motherboard, including expansion cards, external peripherals, etc. and see if the problem can be resolved.
  • Double-check all the motherboard jumper settings, carefully. Make sure they are all correct. In particular, check the processor type, bus speed, clock multiplier and voltage jumpers. Also make sure the CMOS clear and flash BIOS jumpers are in their normal, default operating positions.
  • Reset all BIOS settings to default, conservative values to make sure an overly aggressive BIOS setting isn't causing the problem. Set all cache, memory and hard disk timing as slow as possible. Turn off BIOS shadowing and see if the problem goes away.
  • Double-check all connections to the motherboard.
  • Check the inside of the case to see if any components seem to be overheating.
  • Inspect the motherboard physically. Check to make sure the board itself isn't cracked; if it is look here. Make sure there are no broken pins or components on the board; if there are, you will have problems with whatever component of the PC uses that connection. Check for any socketed components that may be loose in their sockets, and push them gently but firmly back into the socket if this has happened.
  • Make sure the keyboard is inserted correctly into the motherboard.
  • A failed cache module or using the wrong type can cause motherboard problems. If you suspect it, troubleshoot the secondary cache.
  • An overheated processor can cause system problems. Try troubleshooting the processor.
  • Troubleshoot the system memory. Memory problems are often mistaken for motherboard faults, especially on systems that don't have the protection of using memory error detection.
  • Try troubleshooting the video card or replacing it with another one, preferably a simple straight VGA card that is known to work from being in another system that functioned properly.
  • If the power supply is older, or this is a cheap case, or you have added many new drives to a system with a weaker power supply (especially one that is less than 200W) then you may have a power supply problem. You may want to try replacing it.
  • You may have a BIOS bug or other problem. Check your manufacturer's technical support resources for any known problems with your motherboard. Check on USEnet as well.
  • Contact the technical support department of your system or motherboard manufacturer for additional troubleshooting information. If this is a new motherboard, you may want to consider returning it for an exchange if you have exhausted all other troubleshooting avenues.
  • Some newer viruses, when activated, overwrite part of the BIOS code in systems that employ a flash BIOS. If the BIOS is corrupted, the system won't boot. See here for ideas on recovering from this.
  • Try swapping the motherboard with another one and see if the problem resolves itself. If it does then the original motherboard is probably faulty, but it could just have been misconfigured or installed incorrectly.

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