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Re:PCs Troubleshooting Techniques

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  • Andrius Kulikauskas
    Fred Kayiwa has been training as an online assistant at our WorkNets help room http://www.worknets.org/chat/ All are welcome to train with us to help with
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 18, 2009
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      Fred Kayiwa has been training as an online assistant at our WorkNets help room http://www.worknets.org/chat/ All are welcome to train with us to help with our tasks http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?Tasks and our "economy of dreams" http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?Dreams In recognition of Fred's work, I've sent him $100 so that he can help us actively during the next month.

      One way to help is to respond to newcomers or people who don't get response. Proscoviour Vunyiwa (Prossy) of Kenya
      http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?ProscoviourVunyiwa
      wrote us about Computer Troubleshooting
      http://www.worknets.org/wiki.cgi?ComputerTroubleshooting
      and Fred is replying and sharing her letter. Thank you, Prossy! and please write us more about yourself and your interests!
      Andrius Kulikauskas, Minciu Sodas, http://www.ms.lt, ms@...

      -----------------------------

      Fred: I read about Posy's need to Understand the Techiques of Computer Troubleshooting. I believe many people here will give you any information you`need and you are in the right place

      Andrius: Hi Fred, actually, Prossy knows about computer troubleshooting. We can spread the word, as you and I are, about what she has learned.

      -----------------------------

      Prosciour Vunyiwa:

      Dealing with computer problems can be challenging especially if you have no idea of what the problem is and the remedy thereto. Below are some of the common computer symptoms and their diagnosis and troubleshooting techniques:

      1.There is no power light and you cannot hear the cooling fan running
      Chances are that there is insufficient power reaching the computer. Thus to remedy this symptom, check the following areas:

      * (a)Check SMPS power, main power connection, and check connection on Motherboard from SMPS, check front panel connections.
      * (b)Check the Alternating Current (AC) voltage. Use a voltmeter and confirm that there is adequate AC voltage at the wall outlet.
      * (c)Check the AC cord. The AC cord may be loose or disconnected.
      * (d)Check the power supply fuse(s). The main fuse may have opened. Replace any failed fuse.
      o It should be noted that if you replace a main fuse and the fuse continues to fail, you may have a serious fault in the power supply. Try replacing the power supply.

      2.There is no power light, but you hear the cooling fan running
      Chances are that Alternating current power is reaching the PC, but the supply is not providing adequate energy to the motherboard, drives, and other system components. Thus to remedy this symptom, perform the following checks:- (a)Check front panel connections. (b)Check the AC voltage: Use a voltmeter and confirm that there is adequate AC voltage at the wall outlet. Unusually low AC voltages (such as during ‘brownout’ conditions) can cause the power supply to malfunction. (c)Check the power supply cables. Verify that the power supply cables are attached properly and security to the motherboard and drives. (d)Check the power supply voltages. Use a voltmeter to verify that each output from the power supply is correct. If any output is low or absent (especially the +5 volt output), replace the power supply. (e)Check the ‘Power Good’ signal is +5 volts. If this signal is below 1.0 volts, it may inhibit the CPU from running by forcing a continuous reset condition. Since the ‘Power Good’ signal is generated by the power supply, replace the power supply.

      3.The power light is on, but there is no apparent system activity Many possible problems can cause this kind of behavior, but a systematic approach should help in isolating the trouble quickly. Some of these problems could be problem in Power Good signal, video card and RAM slots. The following remedies can help sort out the problem:

      (a)Check the power supply voltages. Use a voltmeter to verify that each output from the power supply is correct. If any output is very low or absent (especially the +5 volt output), replace the power supply. (b)Check the ‘Power Good’ signal. Use a voltmeter and verify that the Power Good Signal is +5 volts. If this signal is below 1.0 volts, it may inhibit the CPU from running forcing a continuous reset condition. Since the Power Good Signal is generated by the power supply, replace the power supply. (c)Check the CPU. Check to see that the CPU is cool, that the heat-sink/fan assembly is fitted on correctly, and that the CPU itself is inserted properly and completely into its socket/slot. (d)Check the CPU socket/slot. If the CPU is seated in a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) socket, make sure that the socket’s tension lever is closed and locked into place. If the CPU is seated in a slot (slot 1 or slot A), see that the retention mechanism is securely in place. (e)Check the MCP. If there is a separate math co-processor on the motherboard (i286 and i386 systems), make sure that the MCP is inserted properly and completely into its socket. (f)Check the expansion boards. Make sure that all expansion boards are seated properly. Any boards that are not secured properly or that are inserted unevenly can short bus signals and prevent the PC from starting. (g)Check the motherboard for shorts. Inspect the motherboard at every metal standoff and see that no metal traces are being shorted against a standoff or screw. You may want to free the motherboard and see if the system starts. If it does, use a non-conducive spacers (such as a small piece of manila folder) to insulate the motherboard from each metal standoff. If the system still fails to start (and all voltage from the power supply are correct), replace the motherboard.

      4.The power light is on, but the system hangs during initialization Video may be active, but there may be not text in the display. The POST has detected a fault and is unable to continue with the initialization process. The main task here is to determine the POST step by writing hexadecimal completion codes to port 80h thus the following remedies can be performed: (a)Check hardware settings, cables and bus. (b)Turn off and unplug the PC, and then insert a POST board to read the completion codes. Reboot the computer and find the last code to be written before initialization stops; that is the likely point of failure. (c)You can determine the meaning of that POST code by finding the BIOS maker (usually displayed in the initial moments of power up) and then locating the corresponding error message.

      5.You see a message indicating a CMOS Setup problem. The system parameters entered into CMOS RAM do not match the hardware configuration found during the POST. It also indicates CMOS memory has been failed. To find a solution, try the following remedies:- (a)Start the CMOS Setup. This can be done on most systems using a combination of keys. If you are working on an older system (early i386 & i286 systems), you will probably need to boot up the PC from a setup disk. (b)Check the CMOS Setup. Review each entry in the CMOS Setup, especially things like drive parameters and installed memory, and make sure that the CMOS entries accurately reflect the actual hardware installed on your system. If not, correct the error(s) save your changes and reboot the system. If your CMOS Setup offers a set of BIOS defaults, try selecting the defaults. (c)Test CMOS battery. See if CMOS RAM will hold its contents by turning off the PC, waiting several minutes and then rebooting the PC. If setup problems persist and you find that the values you entered have been lost, change the CMOS backup battery.

      6.You see no drive light activity. In most cases, there is a problem with the drive’s power, signal connections or system configuration, but the following steps should remedy the problem. (a)Check the drives power cable. The most frequent cause of drive problem is power connections. Inspect the four-pin power cable and see that it is attached properly and completely to the drive. Check also the front panel connections. (b)Check the power supply voltages. Use a voltmeter and verify that the +5 and +12 voltage levels (especially +12 volts) are correct at the four-pin connector. If either voltage is low or absent, replace the power supply. (c)Check the drive’s signal cable. Locate the wide ribbon cable that connects to the drive and make sure it is attached correctly and completely at the drive and controller ends. Look for any scrapes or nicks along the cable that might cause problems. You might try a reliable signal cable. (d)Start the CMOS Setup. (e)Check CMOS Setup: Review the drive parameters entered in the CMOS setup and make sure that the CMOS entries accurately reflect the actual boot drive installed on your system. If not, correct the error(s), save your changes, and reboot the system. (f)Check the drive’s controller. Make sure that the drive controller board is installed properly and completely in its expansion slot, and see that any jumpers are set correctly. (g)Try the boot diskette. Try booting the system from your boot floppy. If the system successfully boots to the A:prompt, the problem is limited to the hard drive system. Try switching to the drive if the drive responds (and you can access its information), there may be a problem with the boot sector. Try a package like PC Tools or Norton utilities to try and fix the boot sector. If you cannot access the hard drive, try a diagnostic to check the drive controller and drive. (h)Check for boot sector viruses: A boot sector virus can render the hard drive unbootable. If you have not checked for viruses, yet, use your antivirus work disk now and focus on boot sector problems. (i)Replace the drive: If you cannot determine the problem at this point, try replacing the drive with a reliable working drive. Remember that you will have to change the CMOS Setup parameters to accommodate the new drive. (j)Replace the drive controller: If all these fail, try a new drive controller board.

      7.The drive light remains on continuously This is a lens or head problem which indicates that Hard disk is in a bad condition. It happens if the signal cable is inserted backwards at one end. In most cases, this type of problem happens after replacing a drive or upgrading a controller. To fix the situation, the following are the remedies can be used: (a) Check the drive’s signal cable. Make sure the cable is inserted in the correct orientation at both ends. (b)Replace the drive. If you cannot determine the problem at this point, try replacing the drive with a reliable working drive. CMOS Setup parameters will have to be changed to accommodate the new drive. (c)Replace the drive controller. If all fails, try a new drive controller board.

      8.You see normal system activity, but there is no video In virtually every case, the system is working, but the video system is not installed or connected properly. The following are remedies:- (a)Check monitor power. Make sure the monitor is plugged in and turned on. (b)Check the monitor itself. Check to make sure that the monitor works (you may try the monitor on a known, reliable system). If the monitor fails, replace it. (c)Check the monitor cable. Trace the monitor cable to its connection at the video board and verify that the connector is inserted securely. (d)Check the video board. It is possible that the video board has failed. Try a reliable monitor. If the problem persists, replace the video board.

      9.The system fails to boot, freezes during boot, or freezes during operation for no apparent reason This is the classic sign of hardware conflict. It is a problem in RAM, cache memory. A PC is designed with a limited number of resources (memory, I/O addresses, interrupt (IRQ) lines, DMA channels among others). For a PC to function properly, each device added to the system must use its own unique resources. For example, no two devices can use the same IRQ, DMA, or I/O resources. When such an overlap of resources occurs, the PC can easily malfunction and freeze. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to predict when the malfunction will occur, so a conflict can manifest itself early (any time during the boot process) or a later on (after DOS is loaded) while an application is running. Remedy to this conflict requires patient and attention to detail as follows: (a) Examine the upgrade and its adapter board and check the IRQ, DMA, and I/O address setting of other boards in the system. Make sure that the upgrade hardware is set to use resources that are not in use by other devices already in the system. For example some motherboards offer built-in video controller circuits. Before another video adapter can be added to the system, the motherboard video adapter must be disabled, usually with a single motherboard jumper.

      10.The system fails to recognizes the newly installed device This could be as a result of power supply problem. To remedy this symptom, check power supply, cable connection, port, hardware. If this does not remedy the problem, enable settings in BIOS.

      11.You cannot access the hard drive, and the drive light stays on continuously This usually indicates a reversed signal cable and is most common when upgrading or replacing a drive system. Thus make the following checks:

      a)Check the signal cable. In virtually all cases, one end of the signal cable is reversed. Make sure that both ends of the cable are installed properly (remember that the red or blue stripe on the side of the cable represents pin 1). b)Replace the drive controller: If problems persist, replace the drive controller. It is rare for a fault in the drive controller to cause this type of problem, but if trouble persists, try a reliable drive controller board.

      12.You see a “No Fixed Dist Present� error message on the monitor This kind of problem can occur during installation or at any point in the PC’s working life. The following checks are recommended:

      a)Check the power connector. Make sure the four-pin power connector is inserted properly and completely. If the drive is being powered by a Y-connector, make sure any interim connections are secure. Use a voltmeter and measure the +5 volt (pin 4) and +12 volt (pin 1) levels. If either voltage (especially the +12 volt supply) is unusually low or absent, replace the power supply. b)Check the signal connector. Make sure the drives signal cable is connected securely at both the drive and controller. If the cable is visibly worn or damaged, try a new one. c)Check the CMOS Setup. Enter the CMOS Setup routine and see that all the parameters entered for the drive are correct. Heads, cylinders, sectors per track, landing zones, and write precompensation must all be correct. Otherwise, POST will not recognize the drive. You might also try auto-detecting the drive. d)Check for hardware conflicts. Make sure that no other expansion devices in the system ae using the IRQs or I/O addresses used by your drive controller. If so, change the resources used by the conflicting device. If your drive system uses a SCSI interface, make sure that the SCSI cable is terminated properly. e)Replace the hard drive or controller. If problems continue, try a reliable hard drive. If it works as expected, your original drive is probably defective. If problems persist with the drive, replace the drive controller board.

      13.Your drive spins up, but the system fails to recognize the drive Your computer may flag this as a hard-disk error or a hard-disk controller failure during system initialization. The following checks will help you find a solution:

      a)Check the signal connector. Make sure that the interface signal cable is inserted properly and completely at the drive and controller. Try a new signal cable. b)Check the drive jumpers. See that a primary (master) drive is configured as primary, and a secondary (slave) drive is configured as secondary. For SCSI drives, see that each drive has a unique ID setting and check that the SCSI bus is terminated properly. c)Check the CMOS Setup. Enter the CMOS Setup routine and see that all the parameters entered for the drive are correct. Heads, cylinders, sectors per track, landing zones, and write precompesantion must all be correct. Otherwise, POST will not recognize the drive. Try using the auto-detect feature if it is available. d)Check the partition. If the CMOS is configured properly, you should suspect a problem with the partition. Boot from a floppy dist and run FDISK to check the partitions on your hard drive. Make sure that at least one DOS partition exists. If the drive is to be your boot drive, the primary partition must be active and bootable. Repartition and reformat the drive if necessary. e)Try another hard drive or controller. If a reliable drive works as expected, your original drive is probably defective. If the hard drive fails to work as expected, replace the drive controller. If problems persist with a reliable floppy drive, replace the drive controller board.

      14.Your IDE drive spins up when power is applied and then rapidly spins down again. The drive is defective or it is not communicating properly with its host system. The following checks can help spot the cause of the problem:

      a)Check the power connector. Make sure the four-pin power connector is inserted properly and completely into the drive. b)Check the signal connector next. See that the interface signal cable is inserted properly and completely at the drive and controller. Try a new signal cable. c)Check the drive jumpers. The primary (master) drive should be configured as primary, and a secondary (slave) drive should be configured as secondary. For SCSI drives, see that each drive has a unique ID setting, and check that the SCSI bus is terminated properly. d)Replace the drive. If problems persist, try a reliable hard drive. If it works as expected, your original drive is probably defective.

      15.You see a “Sector not found� error message. This problem usually occurs after the drive has been in operation for quite some time and is typically the result of a media failure. Fortunately, a bad sector will only effect one file. Thus, make the following checks:

      a)Try recovering the file. Use a utility such as SpinRite from Gibson Research (or another data recovery utility) and attempt to recover the damaged file. Note that you may be unsuccessful and have to restore the file from a backup later. b)Check the disk media. Use a disk utility (such as ScanDisk) to evaluate the drive. Then locate and map out any bad sectors that are located on the drive. c)Try a low-level format. If problems persist, perform a low-level format (if possible). Lost sectors often occur as drives age and sector ID information degrades. LL formatting restores the sector IDs, but LL formatting is performed at the factory for IDE/EIDE and SCSI drives. If there is an LL formatting utility for your particular drive (available right from the drive manufacturer), and ScanDisk reveals a large number of bad sectors, you may consider backing up the drive completely, running the LL utility, repartitioning, reformatting, and then restoring the drive. If ScanDisk maps out bad sectors, you may need to restore those files from a backup.

      16.You see a 1780 or 1781 ERROR on the system. The classical 1780 error code indicates a Hard Disk 0 Failure, while the 1781 error code marks a Hard Disk 1 Failure. The following steps will help you solve the problem:

      a)Boot the system clean. Start the PC with a clean boot disk and make sure no TSRs or drivers are being loaded. b)Check for viruses. If you haven’t done so already, run you anti-virus checker and make sure that no memory-resident or file-based viruses are on the system. c)Check the boot files. If you can access the hard drive once your system is booted, chances are that the boot files are missing or corrupt. Try a utility such as DrivePro’s Drive Boot Fixer to recover the boot files or recopy the boot files with SYS and recreate the master boot record with FDISK/MBR. Otherwise, you will need to repartition and reformat the disk, and then restore disk files from a backup. d)Replace the hard drive or controller. If you cannot access the hard drive, run a diagnostic such as Windsor Technologies’ PC Technician. Test the drive and drive controller. If the controller responds but the drive does not, try repartitioning and reformattin the hard drive. If the drive still doesn’t respond, replace the hard drive outright. If the controller doesn’t respond, replace the hard drive controller.

      17.You see a 1790 or 1791 ERROR on the system. The classical 1790 error code indicates a Hard Disk 0 Error, while the 1791 error code marks a Hard Disk 1 Error. Thus, make the following checks:

      a) Check the signal connector. Make sure that the interface signal cable is inserted properly and completely at the drive and controller. Try a new signal cable. b)Check the partition. Boot from a floppy disk and run FDISK to check the partitions on your hard drive. Make sure that there is at least one DOS partition. If the drive is to be your boot drive, the primary partition must be active and bootable. Repartition an reformat the drive if necessary. c)Replace the hard drive or controller. If a reliable drive works as expected, yore original drive is probably defective. If problems persist with a reliable floppy drive, replace te drive controller board.

      18.You see a 1701 ERROR on the system The 1701 error code indicates a hard drive POST error and the drive did not pass its POST test. The following checks will help you narrow down the problem:

      a)Check the power connector. Make sure the four-pin power connector is inserted properly and completely. If the drive is being powered by a Y-connector, make sure any interim connections are secure. Use a voltmeter and measure the +5 volt (pin 4) and +12 volt (pin 1) levels. If either voltage (especially the +12 volt supply) is usually low or absent, replace the power supply. b)Check the CMOS Setup. Enter the CMOS Setup routine and see that all the parameters entered for the drive are correct. Heads, cylinders, sectors per track, landing zones, and write precompensation must all be correct. Otherwise, POST will not recognize the drive. Also try auto-detecting the drive. c)Try a low-level format. If problems persist, perform a LL format (if possible). If there is an LL formatting utility for your particular drive (available right from the drive manufacturer), you may consider backing up the drive completely, running the LL utility, repartitioning, reformatting, and then restoring the drive.

      19.The system reports random data, seek or format errors. Random errors rarely indicate a permanent problem, but identifying the problem source can be a time-consuming task. The following checks can help you start to do so: a)Check the power connector. Make sure the four-pin power connector is inserted properly and completely. If the drive is being powered by a Y-connector, make sure any interim connections are secure. Use a voltmeter and measure the +5 volt (pin 4) and +12 volt (pin 1) levels. If either voltage (especially the +12 volt supply) is unusually low, replace the power supply. b)Check the signal connector. Make sure that the interface signal cable is inserted properly and completely at the drive and controller. Try a new signal cable. Also try rerouting the signal cable away from the power supply or noisy expansion devices. c)Check the turbo mode. If your system has a turbo mode, your ISA drive controller may have trouble operating while the system is in this mode. Take the system out of the turbo mode. d)Replace the drive controller. If the problem disappears, try a new drove controller. e)Check the media. The disk media may also be defective. Use a utility such as ScanDisk to check for and map out any bad sectors. Once bad sectors are mapped out, you may need to restore some files from your backup. f)Try the hard drive and controller in another system. If the drive and controller work in another system, there is probably excessive noise or grounding problems in the original system. Reinstall the drive and controller in the original system and remove all extra expansion boards. If the problem goes away, replace one board at a time and retest the system until the problem returns. The last board you inserted when the problem returned is probably the culprit. If the problem persists, there may be a ground problem on the motherboard. Try replacing the motherboard as an absolute last effort.

      20.You see an “Error reading drive C:� error message. Read errors in a hard drive typically indicate problems with the disk media but may also indicate viruses or signaling problems. Thus, make the following checks:

      a)Check the signal connector. Make sure that the interface signal cable is inserted properly and completely at the drive and controller. Try a new signal cable. b)Boot the PC clean. Start the PC with a clean boot disk and make sure no TSRs or drivers are being loaded. c)Check for viruses. If you haven’t done so already, run your anti-virus checker and make sure that no memory-resident or file-based viruses are on the system. d)Consider the drive’s orientation. If problems occur after remounting the drive in different orientation, you may need to repartition and reformat the drive or return it to its original orientation. e)Check the disk media. Use a utility such as ScanDisk to check for and map out any bad sectors. Once bad sectors are mapped out, you may need to restore some files from your backup. f)Try another hard drive. If a reliable drive works as expected, your original drive is probably defective and should be replaced.

      Have you ever wondered why the computer takes so long to come up immediately you turn it on? This delay is not in vain or a waste of time but it is as a result of POST (Power on Self Test) process. Power-On Self Test is a series of program routines buried in the motherboard ROM-BIOS chip that tests all the main system components when the computer is first started. This series of routines is partially responsible for the delay when you turn on your PC; the computer executes the POST before loading the operating system.

      Power-On Self Test, or POST is the first thing that the BIOS performs when the PC boots. When the PC goes into POST, it is actually performing its own built-in diagnostic program that checks the hardware to ensure that everything is present and functioning properly, before the BIOS begins the boot process. As the start up process continues, it performs additional tests, such as the memory test that some machines show on the screen.

      Whenever you start up your computer, it automatically performs a series that checks the primary components in your system, such as the CPU, ROM, motherboard support circuitry, memory and major peripherals such as the expansion chassis. These tests are brief and are designed to catch hard (not intermittent) errors. The POST procedures are not very thorough compared with available disk-based diagnostics. The POST process provides error or warning messages whenever it encounters a faulty component. Although the diagnostics performed by the system POST are not very thorough, they are the first line of defense, especially when it comes to detecting severe motherboard problems. If the POST encounters a problem severe enough to keep the system from operating properly, it halts the system boot process and generates an error message that often identifies the cause of the problem. These POST detected problems are sometimes called fatal errors because they prevent the system from booting. The POST tests normally provide three types of output messages: audio codes, onscreen text messages, and hexadecimal numeric codes that are sent to an I/O port address. POST audio error codes take the form of a series of beeps that identify the faulty component. When your computer is functioning normally, you should usually hear one short beep when the system starts up at the completion of the POST, although some systems such as Compaq’s do not do this. If a problem is detected, a different number of beeps sound, sometimes in a combination of short and long tones.

      POST Visual Error Codes On most PCs the POST also displays the results of its system memory test on the monitor. The last number displayed is the amount of memory that tested successfully. For example a system might display the following message: 32768 KB OK The number displayed by the memory test should agree with the total amount of memory installed on the system motherboard. Some older systems display a slightly lower total because they deduct part or all of the 384KB of UMA (Upper Memory Area) from the count. On old systems that use expanded memory cards, the memory on the card is not tested by the POST and does not count in the numbers reported. This memory test is performed before any system software loads, so many memory managers or device drivers you might have installed do not affect the results of the test. If the POST memory test stops short of the expected total, the number can help you to identify the exact module that is at fault and can be a valuable troubleshooting aid in itself. If an error is detected during the POST procedures, an error message might be displayed onscreen. These messages usually are in the form of a numeric code several digits long for example, 1970 Disk 0 Error.

      I/O Port POST Codes A lesser known feature of the POST is that at the beginning of each POST, the BIOS sends test codes to a special I/O port address. These POST codes can be read only by a special adapter card plugged in to one of the system slots. These cards originally were designed to be used by system manufacturers for burn-in testing of the motherboard, to prevent the need for a video display adapter and display. When you plug one of these POST cards into a slot, during the POST you see two-digit hexadecimal numbers flash on the card’s display. If the system stops unexpectedly or hangs, you can identify the test in progress during the hang from the two-digit code. This step usually identifies the malfunctioning component.

      The computer POST (Power On Self Test) tests the computer, ensuring that it meets the necessary system requirements that all hardware is working properly before starting the remainder of the boot process. If the computer passes the POST the computer will have a single beep (with some computer BIOS manufacturers it may beep twice) as the computer starts and the computer will continue to start normally. However, if the computer fails the POST, the computer will either not beep at all or will generate a beep code, which tells the user the source of the problem.

      The steps of Power On Self Test (POST) Each time the computer boots up the computer must pass the POST. Below is the common steps a POST performs each time your computer starts. 1.Test the power supply to ensure that it is turned on and that it releases its reset signal. 2.CPU must exit the reset status mode and thereafter be able to execute instructions. 3.BIOS checksum must be valid, meaning that it must be readable. 4.CPU must be able to read all forms of memory such as the memory controller, memory bus, and memory module. 5.The first 64KB of memory must be operational and have the capability to be read and written to and from, and capable of containing the POST code. 6.I/O bus/controller must be accessible. 7.I/O bust must be able to write/read from the video subsystem and be able to read all video RAM If the computer does not pass any of the above tests, your computer will receive an irregular POST. An irregular POST is a beep code that is different from the standard one or two beeps. This could be either no beeps at all or a combination of different beeps indicating what is causing the computer not to pass the POST.
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