Malfunctioning memory causes boot problems

When a member's PC wouldn't function normally unless the BIOS was reset before each reboot, he turned to the Technical Q&A for help. TechRepublic members provided a host of possible solutions, one of which solved the problem.

By Ray Geroski

One problem that might catch you unawares is an issue that prevents a system from booting normally unless you reset the BIOS. TechRepublic member Tris86 reported that the problem PC in question operated correctly before the boot problem suddenly emerged. Tris86 took a number of steps to correct the problem, including changing the CMOS battery. After resetting the BIOS, the system would boot fine for several days, but then the problem would recur. Tris86 also said that no warning beeps sound when starting the system. The motherboard in the system is an MSI K7T Turbo2, and the CPU is Duron 1.3 GHz.

Other TechRepublic members stepped in with a host of suggestions for troubleshooting the problem until one idea isolated the cause of the problem. Tris86’s experience can serve as a good example of an easily overlooked problem. If you encounter a system boot problem that appears to be BIOS related, use these suggestions to isolate possible causes.

The usual suspects
Member Scott.heath suggested swapping out parts, including the hard drive and video card, to attempt to isolate the problem. Another step he recommended was to flash the BIOS with the manufacturer’s latest release. Tris86 had already tried these measures, however, and none of them solved the problem.

For help with BIOS problems, Kc_1 offered the following Web sites:

BadFlash tells which precautions to take before flashing the BIOS and info to help users get their systems back up if flashing the BIOS results in a crippled computer. The Wim’s BIOS site contains information to help you find the BIOS flash utility you need and includes download links and FAQs about flashing the BIOS. If you have a problem with your BIOS, these resources might come in handy.

Nccorthu reported that a shorted motherboard could be the problem. This can occur, he said, if the motherboard isn’t securely fixed in place and spacers properly used to prevent metal-to-metal contact. Tris86 had also checked for this and found that the motherboard was properly mounted and wasn’t shorting anywhere.

TheChas said that this boot problem is actually common on Socket A motherboards and that the solution is to manually set the front-side bus speed and multiplier. Tris86 said that changing any such settings prevents the system from booting normally. Harag also suggested that Tris86 check out Paul’s FAQs on the issue at Sudhian Media site.

Other possible causes members discussed included a bad battery or the wrong battery, a bad controller chip, and incorrect front-side bus settings. Tris86 had already exhausted all of these suggestions, though, and still had not isolated the problem.

Bad memory strikes again
The actual cause of the boot issue, correctly identified by member Highend1234, was a bad memory chip. Mohammad said this is a fairly common problem when one memory stick goes bad or is incompatible. The system can still be booted because one memory chip is good, but the problem will persist unless the bad chip is removed. Once Tris86 replaced the bad memory chip, the system operated correctly.

If you encounter boot problems that appear to related to a BIOS issue, these suggestions can help you troubleshoot the problem. In addition to checking settings such as the front-side bus speed, replacing the CMOS battery, and checking for shorting in the motherboard, swapping out memory chips is also a good idea and may save you some troubleshooting time.