Haunted Computer

easysurfer

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Jun 11, 2008
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I have a computer that's been on the fritz for about a month now. It would act up, I think that I've made a repair only to find it act up again. A symptom is like signs of a bad hard drive. I'd change the drive which seems to work for a short time, then the replacement drive indicates as bad. Then the computer says the other connections have issues like the DVR burner.

I'm still not 100% sure if the issue is software/hardware or both. But my theory now is the culprit might be a bad power supply. To add insult injury, I've ordered what seems like a good power supply tester but that won't arrive for another 10 days which feels like an eternity.

Usually, I chuckle at folks who give up on their computers and want to walk away, cut their losses, and just get another. But if when I get the power supply and it tests good, I'm tempted to just declare this computer haunted and walk away.
 
Pull and reset memory?

Run a memtest.

Lol. I'm like a fixit bot...
 
Problem is, after computer encountering all sorts of issues I don't have any confidence at all about what is working and what is not working.
 
Personally, I'd "walk away, cut my losses, and just get another", but then your choice to do this depends on the value of your time to you. Computers are gosh-awful cheap these days so I suspect money would barely even be a consideration.

Or, you could spend weeks messing around with it first and *then* get another if you decide that is the best use of your time and money.

:hide:
 
I had similar "haunted computer" issues :).

In one instance, it was the power supply - it was working, but not powerful enough, and would cause problems even though it was putting out its expected power. Upgrading to a more powerful PS (in that case 350 watts to 500 watts), no more issues.

In the other instance, the computer would just randomly shut down. All components tested fine. It would run for days when open and laid flat (a tower system). But when closed and standing, it would randomly shut down. Eventually I figured out that the design of the case, when stood up, was such that even a slight movement would case the motherboard to touch a part of the case that would case a short and shut down the system. Putting electrical tape in that particular area solved the issue.
 
For me, the most noticeable haunting is getting I/O errors. First noticeable with hard drives. I thought it was the hard drive brand so got another brand that seemed to work okay only for a short time. Then I'd got I/O errors on things like trying to do a restore on a Macrium image (which hardly ever happened in the past). My hunch (just a hunch) is a power supply issue but I won't bet on it. Hopefully, when I get the tester it will show bad power supply. Otherwise, more ghost chasing.
 
Old Dell Optiplex 980 midtower desktop. Not sure what year.

I've decided to take a step back and bide my time until I get my power supply tester to clear my mind. I've been chasing ghosts this past month (or longer without knowing). I do have a spare power supply that might work too but I'll wait to see what tests show. I may eventually take everything apart and reassemble. I will though switch to another HDD as the one I'm using now is actually a data backup HDD that I had to put in service as I thought a couple of other HDDs weren't working.
 
Old Dell Optiplex 980 midtower desktop. Not sure what year.
Before you throw any more money at that dinosaur, you can get a whole new refurbed one for $120 on amazon. Tech isn't supposed to live forever!
 
Before you throw any more money at that dinosaur, you can get a whole new refurbed one for $120 on amazon. Tech isn't supposed to live forever!
I know. The machine is just old hardware with linux so I don't mind the dinosaur-ness of it. But it is supposed to be one of those machines in the corner that is reliable and works. But instead, it is like a sick puppy, spitting out errors. I'd think that I "fixed" the problem only to to have it bark about something else.
 
I used to read through scattered threads across the internet to find solutions for wonky problems which others could not fix. I'd start the search with "Dell Optiplex 980" and of course find a million hits. But add important keywords or phrases, and you can find people (usually on Dell forums) with the problem. In your case I think you're running Linux on a box that's x years old (look up the dell service tag), and has upgrades performed, I'm sure.

It helps to write down the specifics in your journal, what you did, what you tried, and so on.

Getting a power supply to swap in and test is a good approach.
 
Before you throw any more money at that dinosaur, you can get a whole new refurbed one for $120 on amazon. Tech isn't supposed to live forever!

I just went down this research path about a month ago. If it's a refurbed Windows machine you likely won't be able to upgrade to Windows 11 when Windows 10 reaches end of its support life next year. I ended up getting a new mini PC for $269 that came with Windows 11 Pro and 512 GB SSD and 16 GB RAM.
 
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Heat buildup can cause problems. If possible open it up and vacuum out (VERY CAREFULLY) any accumulated dust.
 
Remove the CMOS battery and check voltage with a DVOM. Should be over 3 volts DC. I doubt your power supply is the issue. A P/S tester is only going to show its working and yours is because it powers on.
Your computer uses DDR3 memory which makes it at least 10 years old. I built a desktop PC 8 years ago and it has DDR4 memory.
I use a computer at my shop that I built in 2007. I have replaced the CMOS battery on it. Ten years is normally the life of those give or take a few years.

Yes heat can cause your problem also like Chuckanut mentioned. You can check it with software running windows but if you are running linux it might be a problem. I use a infrared thermometer and point it toward CPU :)
 
I'd recommend putting a detailed description of symptoms in an AI engine and asking it for possible problems.
 
I actually changed the CMOS battery not long ago. Did not make a difference.

I do know what you mean though about power supply tester might just be a false sense of security. If after testing and the tester shows PSU as fine, then I'm kind of back to square 1 and it's a guessing game.
 
I had an issue with my old machine, seemed to be hd issue. Turned out it was the connector to the HD , it actually split so fit very loosely on and would work itself off the HD.
 
Don't give up just yet. It could be the power supply or maybe the DVD drive . My dealing with computers over the last 25 years tells me there is nothing is wrong with your P/S .

Have you disconnected the DVD to see if you still get the error? I have had PC's drive me nuts . Some I give up on but not many.

Check the capacitors on motherboard to see if any shows signs of leaking and swelling.

Check the temperature on the CPU to see if its getting too hot. I have had to remove them and apply new thermal paste. Good luck with it . Hang in with it and I bet you figure it out.
 
I think the Dell SFF computers have a custom power supply - not easily replaceable.

Windows 11 will not install on a computer with an Intel 7th generation and older CPU. I think your computer has an Intel 6th generation CPU.

Unless you have a special PCI card that needs to run in this computer, my suggestion is to get a new mini computer that Amazon sells for $150-$200 and ships with Windows 11. The less expensive versions of these computers ship with a 4 core Intel N100 CPU that benchmarks faster than a 6th generation i5 CPU in your old PC.
 
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I'm not OP.

Dell Optiplex 980 midtower running Linux.

Someone mentioned cables, and I know that should be on the check list.
 
An update.

My eternal wait finally ended as I got the PSU tester today.

Good news and bad news. The good, the tester shows a fault in the SATA connections of the PSU. So, this follows my theory of my computer spitting out SATA errors on the screen.

The bad news, I do have an old Dell PSU but I can't test that as Dell has their own unique (greedy) sized connector.

My option is to either try using the Dell PSU or buy a better one.

At least good to know now that looks like I'm no longer seeing ghosts.
sata fault result.JPG
 
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I went ahead and bought a new PSU after all. Should arrive from Amazon in the morning.

I tried using my old Dell PSU, but it is pretty much shot.

At least the good is now I'll get to use my new PSU tester on a new PSU :).
 
I've had SATA cable/connector problems and they can be really annoying! I've pretty much decided that my days of building desktop PCs from scratch are over and my next "desktop" will be a mini PC.
 
I've had SATA cable/connector problems and they can be really annoying! I've pretty much decided that my days of building desktop PCs from scratch are over and my next "desktop" will be a mini PC.
I hear you about days of building a PC from scratch are over. I still repair my old desktops. But from scratch, the older I get the more difficult the task of seeing small connections (I need to take off glasses and go close to see which Sata channel is which) and handling small parts.
 
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