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Hardware Troubleshooting Guide

Some stop messages, hangs and unexplained crashes may be caused by a hardware problem, which may include any of the following conditions:

  • Defective RAM, video memory, CPU L2 cache
  • Cracked or scratched card or motherboard, a defective component on a card or motherboard
  • Broken wires, bent or worn-out connectors and pins
  • Dust, dirt, excessive heat, cold or moisture
  • Mismatched hardware, such as incompatible RAM sticks
  • Faulty or failing hard disk

Have you added any new hardware to the system? If so, remove it.

Have you changed the slot that a card was plugged into? If so, put it back to where you moved it from. If you moved a card, did you drop any screws onto the motherboard? Did you have to use force to remove or relocate the card? If so, did you do any damage to the card or the motherboard?

Try removing the PC case and put gentle pressure on each plugged-in card while trying to boot. Are all the cards sitting firm and secure in their slots?

Check for damaged or broken wires in critiical cables, such as those that go between a CD/DVD or hard disk to the motherboard. Gently but firmly push the connectors; also try gently manipulating the cables near the connector because this is a common failure point in cables.

Check for dirt and dust, and carefully remove it with a gentle brush. Don't use high-pressure or compressed air otherwise you may cause more damage.

Check for burn marks and swollen or burnt components on the motherboard. Leaking or swollen capacitors are a very common failure point on older motherboards. If you don't know what a capacitor looks like, try this link. Here is a picture of a leaking capacitor, and here is a picture of several leaky and swollen capacitors.

Check that all add-in cards are firmly seated and that the card's contacts are clean and not worn.

If the computer is new, or if you're adding a new card, check with the motherboard manufacturer for an updated BIOS. Checking for a BIOS update for a brand new computer or motherboard isn't as nutty as some might think. Your machine or, bits of it, could have been sitting in a warehouse for months on end. Component warehouses buy parts in bulk to get volume discounts, which means they will want to clear existing stock before shipping out newer parts. In all likelihood your brand new PC or motherboard is several months or more older than you might assume.

If the computer is in a place where it gets hot or is prone to getting cold or moist, move it.

If you can boot the computer, examine the System Log in the Event Viewer for error messages that might help determine what is causing the problem.

Are you sure it's not a virus or other malware? Viruses can cause problems that may appear to be hardware-related. Scan for viruses using reputable virus-scanning software.

Try disabling non-critical features in the computer's BIOS settings. For instructions on disabling BIOS features you will need to consult your hardware documentation or contact the manufacturer:
  • BIOS-enabled virus-protection
  • CPU L2 cache
  • Any other kind of cache, including disk caches
  • Shadow RAM
If you have a spare hard disk, replace the existing hard disk and try re-installing the operating system.

If the problem remains unresolved, take the equipment to your local dealer.
Hardware Malfunction Results in System Error Message

During the Windows startup process, the computer may stop responding (hang), and you may receive the following error message:

*** Hardware Malfunction
Call your hardware vendor for support
*** The system has halted ***

One of the following error messages may also be included:

NMI: Parity Check / Memory Parity Error

NMI: Channel Check / IOCHK

NMI: Fail-safe timer

NMI: Bus Timeout

NMI: Software NMI generated

NMI: Eisa IOCHKERR board x