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How to Diagnose if Your Motherboard is Toast?

written by: theinkandpen (Robert Mullon)•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 6/16/2009

This article will look at the various steps you can take in order to find out if you have a bad motherboard. Read on if you are having problems with your Mobo and need to troubleshoot your motherboards current state, but don’t quite know how to find out.

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    Most computer users will have experienced the infamous ‘blue screen’, which suddenly pops up detailing the cause (or causes) of a fatal error with our system. These details come in the form of a ‘stop error number’ which tells us where the problem lies.

    In the majority of cases these errors are due to a failure in hardware components, such as your RAM or one of your drives for instance, so it is a case of removing components one by one until the error is no more. However the problem is rather more serious when you have a faulty motherboard; the stop errors simply keep on reappearing and, after taking the usual steps, it becomes difficult to determine what is causing these errors. You may even have problems starting your PC.

    Fortunately these cases are rare, but they do happen nonetheless. In the following paragraphs we will look at how to determine if you have a faulty motherboard? And if you will need to replace it?

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    The System Beep

    On turning your computer on you would have heard a beep (unless you’ve disabled it) which informs you that your hardware devices are fine and the system has the required memory. This is also called a ‘Power-On-Self Test’ (POST) and it is a function of the BIOS; it is recommended that you always leave the beep running, as it is extremely useful in determining motherboard problems. In short, as long as your computer beeps your motherboard is fine and the problem lies elsewhere.

    The beep is usually different depending on the error, but I expect it would be too difficult to determine what kind it is. Hence we’ll take the easier route and go through the following steps to find out whether the motherboard needs to be replaced; this is much easier, although often more time consuming.

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    Discovering the Problem

    Firstly, we will remove all cards (graphics, audio or other) and RAM sticks and power up without those; this is to find out if you are still getting a system beep and check for problems with the CPU. If there is no beep or it fails to power-up, there may actually be a problem with your processor and it may need replacement. Check if it is badly connected and try it in other motherboard, if you have the option.

    If the beep is sounding try the following:

    • Check your power supply and that the fan is working properly. If you can, replace the PSU (Power Supply Unit) anyway.
    • Check that the mobo is firmly in place and grounded properly.
    • Look for any loose cards (graphics, sound, etc.) Examine if there are any broken bits or any suspect rattling noises.
    • Check connections for keyboard, mouse or other peripherals.
    • Replace the RAM sticks which may be faulty.
    • Re-install all the original drivers and software which came with the board initially.
    • You can try to clear the CMOS memory. The CMOS is a small component which stores your Basic Input and Output Settings (BIOS). You can clear the CMOS by moving a button next to it (jumper); make sure your power is off and do not turn it on before re-setting the jumper to its original state.

    If none of these steps produce results you may actually have a damaged motherboard. You can also look for further tips at the following page http://www.duxcw.com/faq/mb/deadmb.htm.

    For more help and advice on motherboard troubleshooting read this thorough 5 part series Computer Won't Turn On?