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    LANGALIST By Fred Langa For that matter, how do you know if any of your backups are working? The best proof is a nondestructive, no-overwrite, test-re
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    • #1871517

      I feel for the person who has trouble booting their antique computer. I have exactly the same issue or so it seems based on the description of the problem.

      -An older PC that sometimes (in my case often) will not boot to POST. No video output, no speaker so I can’t tell if there are any warning beeps, just a black screen and nothing else.

      In my case the issue is not HD related as I have an SSD as the boot drive. I’ve narrowed my issue(s) to three possibilities with one being my favored cause.

      1. Bad memory module or memory slot on the motherboard
      2. A short circuit on the motherboard or improperly contacting CPU
      3. A bad bios chip or something that often corrupts the main bios

      Memory works when the system works so I have all but dismissed memory itself as a cause. However, I can’t confirm an intermittent problem with the dimm sockets as the computer either boots or it won’t and if it does, then the sockets are working on that day at that time.

      Entirely possible that there is some sort of failure with the motherboard or the cpu socket and I have no way of tracking that down if that is the case. All the cpu pins look fine and I have loosened and tightened the motherboard screws and the cpu cooler screws to see if that would help. No reliable difference either way as far as I can tell.

      The bios – my favored cause. My antique motherboard has an Award dual bios system. I have found no reliable way to tell the MB to boot from the backup bios so I have to keep turning the failed system on and off until “it” decides to restore the bios on its own. After this is done, I can always boot into the bios settings, reflash the bios to a more current version that supports my hardware and memory, reset all the cmos settings, save the bios and reboot into windows.

      For my issue I believe that my main bios is faulty and prone to corruption when the computer is powered down. I wish there was an easy way to force the backup bios rewrite but there isn’t (I’ve tried shorting bios pins, power/reset button combinations, resetting cmos button and removing the cmos battery) – no consistent joy.

      When I am trying to get the system to boot, as far as I can tell, it’s just a matter of on, off, on, off until one random time the system gets to the bios screen or reflashes the bios itself. I don’t turn this computer off anymore and installing updates that require a reboot can turn into an all day event.

      To the person having this problem, sorry I can’t solve it for you but take a bit of comfort in knowing that someone else knows your pain.

      1. Don’t turn your computer off unless you really have to
      2. See if you can find a way to boot from a backup bios if your MB supports this option
      3. Use a cmos battery with lots of charge remaining

      If you can find a replacement MB, you can try installing that and see if your problem disappears. Otherwise I suspect the re-occurrence of this problem for you will increase in frequency over time. Milk the system you have until you just can’t stand the aggravation  anymore and then buy a new computer. All of Fred’s comments are spot on. A new system, with new components is well overdue. Powering on to a black screen is disastrous as there is literally nothing you can do until you can access the bios at system POST.  You can address issues that prevent windows from loading properly, but if your bios or MB is faulty, you’re at the mercy of a chaotic computer universe where you have no options unless your computer decides to give you some or one.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by dph853. Reason: spelling
      • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by dph853.
    • #1871554

      One thing I haven’t seen mentioned lately is a problem that showed up a some years ago that caused intermittent issues is bulged and leaking capacitors.  They could show up on a motherboard and sometimes in a power supply.


      Before you wonder "Am I doing things right," ask "Am I doing the right things?"
    • #1871604

      Most backup programs have a way of verifying the integrity of the saved files, using their own internal checksums. This helps, but is not completely re-assuring. To be confident that your saved files are correct, you want to compare restored copies against the originals, or against your own checksums created from the originals at the time of the backup. I know I’m preaching to the converted here. There are numerous file/folder compare utilities. (Yes, I wrote one.) There are even more checksum utilities. (Did that, too.) Hint: it really helps if checksums are stored in a plain text file where you can manually edit and extract the checksums, because years from now, you may not be using the same backup program. I have standard backup advice I hand out to clients, but that would repeat what has been said many times on this site.

    • #1871980

      Years ago, boot problems like those described here could often be fixed by replacing the CMOS battery. Sometimes the cure was as simple as removing the battery, cleaning the contacts and putting it back (no actual replacement needed). HTH… EstherD

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    • #1873472

      Back twenty years or so, I bought BootIt Next Generation, with built-in drive imaging capability.  I was doing a whole lot of plundering into Windows XP’s nether regions, and would often pooch my installation.  I would reboot using the BootIt NG floppy, restore my latest drive image, reboot into XP and continue my plundering where I left off.

      TeraByte eventually separated the drive imaging from BootIt, making it a Windows program with a UI, but BootIt could still read the image files, and still restore them if the need arose.  Over the next twenty years there has been a steady march of improvements, keeping up with the changes in Windows, and TeraByte Drive Image is still my tool of choice.  Of course, I must admit that I’ve never used any other, but then, I never saw a need to try another.

      In those earlier years, I pooched Windows more times than I can remember, restored my last working iteration from a drive image and kept going.  Subsequently, I learned a lot about how Windows works, ways to noticeably improve performance, and developed complete trust in my imaging software along the way.

      I still do an occasional restoration of a drive image to my working daily driver, just to maintain that confidence level.  I have other, multi-level means of protecting my data, so I don’t use File History, and have the service turned off.

      And since I dual boot Windows, I have System Restore disabled; each installation uses the same folders for restore points, which become completely garbled and useless.  And drive images are so much more reliable.  I’ve never had an image restore fail, but I’ve read plenty of cases where System Restore would not work.

      Task Scheduler makes weekly images of three partitions/logical drives; OS, Program Files/(x86) and Users.  If I pooch Windows (I still tinker quite a bit) I only need to restore the OS image, which I can do in under six minutes.

      If I have a drive failure (and I’ve had a few over the years) I don’t reinstall, I just replace the drive and restore the appropriate image.  The difference in the time element is in opening the case, replacing the drive and closing the case.  Other than that, it’s quite painless.  And so far, it’s never failed me.

      Create a fresh drive image before making system changes/Windows updates, in case you need to start over!
      We all have our own reasons for doing the things that we do. We don't all have to do the same things.

    • #1873756

      Almost a month ago, I installed a Kingston SSD (that I wasn’t using) in my daily driver desktop PC and restored my Users partitions to it. I seldom shut down, but I wanted to see if the extra drive would have an effect on startup, which it did, speeding it up quite a bit.

      Last week I was checking my TeraByte Drive Image For Windows log file, and noticed this: “Warning: Validate Byte-for-Byte may fail because the source SSD drive does not support DRAT.”  DRAT is “Deterministic Read After TRIM”.  The Kingston was kinda old.  But, Amazon had a Samsung 860 EVO 250GB on sale, so I bought one, and it arrived today.  It does support DRAT.

      I used Image For Windows to create a full drive image of the Kingston, all partitions included.  That took under 10 minutes.  Then I opened the case and swapped out the new Samsung for the Kingston, buttoned up and booted to my TBWinRE thumb drive.  First I opened a Command Prompt, then DISKPART to see if the drive was online, and it was, but it was MBR, not GPT.  I selected the drive, used the Convert GPT command, exited DISKPART, then the Command Prompt.

      I launched Image For Windows, restored the full disk image from the Kingston to the Samsung (less than six minutes), rebooted into Windows, and everything is back to normal, just a tad faster still.  Pushing the start button for a cold boot to a logged in Desktop is ~35 seconds.

      Create a fresh drive image before making system changes/Windows updates, in case you need to start over!
      We all have our own reasons for doing the things that we do. We don't all have to do the same things.

    • #1874102

      You can get two identical hard drives – one for normal use and the other for backups. When it’s time to do a backup, image your working hard drive to the backup drive. Power down, swap drives, and power up. If all is ok, you’ve got yourself a good backup. In fact, you can alternate which drive is for backups and which is for normal use. The one you just backed up to is now the working drive.

      There’s no other way to really know for sure if your backup will work except to do a restore then try out the restore. The 2nd drive allows you to do a restore without wiping out what you currently have.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
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