My home’s PC suffered from a weird problem which eventually became a headache for me and my brother. I was not sure about the root cause or even the symptoms of the problem for long, as simultaneously operating system on my computer failed as well and wasn’t booting up. Now that I am able to nail down every aspect of the problem I want to share with others too. I am glad that my PC is up and running back to normal.
PC was refreshed successfully, normal operations like browsing windows were performed for testing which worked pretty well. I thought to shift back PC to its original location. It was all working very normal, when I connected DSL cable to the modem and ran internet to download the latest drivers for ATI Radeon HD series. Suddenly, PC was halted like power failure as occurring earlier the problem popped out again.
I noticed some very important symptoms which led me to the root cause during this failure:
PC worked without any issue in the safe mode, so I tried to locate crash dump or any other clue but was unsuccessful.
PC was again disconnected from all extra devices (like headphones, DSL connection, DVD ROM etc.).
I searched over the internet and read somewhere to check the temperature of the CPU. Utility named RealTemp (http://www.techpowerup.com/realtemp/) was downloaded from the internet with the help of my cellphone and transferred it to the PC using USB disk. Luckily, in this whole process the problem didn’t arise again and I was able to run the utility. The temperature of the CPU was really high, I took a screenshot which is shown below:
Figure 2: RealTemp Temperature Calculation
PC Hardware Specifications:
Hardware specifications of the PC are as follows:
- Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q9400 @ 2.66GHz
- ASUS Motherboard (P5Q Pro Turbo)
- 4 GB RAM
- ATI Radeon HD 5850 External Graphics Card
I happened to have Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit running very stable with ATI Radeon 5850 external graphics card. There were no driver problems and hardware/software compatibility issues at all. I was able to run graphics and image processing software along with high-end graphics demanding games without any issues.
In the mid of year 2014, I upgraded the OS (operating system) to Windows 8 (64 bit) and gradually to Windows 8.1. Graphics Card drivers for ATI Radeon HD 5850 were upgraded too. The upgraded OS and drivers didn’t work really well and PC suffered runtime exceptions. We tried a lot to debug the cause by analyzing the crash dump files but were unable to diagnose.
Few months back I was told by my brother that now he is facing some screen resolution issue with the computer as well. After few days of his complaint, the operating system crashed. Every time when the computer was turned on, windows 8 recovery screen appeared with troubleshooting options. We couple of times tried to recover the system but it was all in vain.
Every troubleshooting options was tried that exists in the Windows 8 recovery menu.
Figure 1: Window 8 Recovery Menu
Problem, Symptoms and Diagnosis
The main problem popped out in front of us in a very strange way. Each time “refresh or reset your PC” options were tried, it ended up in the middle like a power failure.
Here is a list of steps/actions in a sequence that were performed to debug the problem:
- Refreshed BIOS to the default settings from options available when PC is just starting and by removing jumper on the motherboard as well. [Note: As a side note I would like to mention that this step actually did not work for me as it was not the actual cause of the problem.]
- Used a different power input to the power supply for voltage stability.
- Luckily by shifting PC to another location where we have different power input I was able to proceed with the windows recovery setup. It all happened as matter of luck that I connected following minimum devices and was able to refresh my PC:
- Hard Drive
- Motherboard and processor of course
- Bootable USB drive
- Processor fan was stopped
- Monitor display was blank
- NUMLOCK was still ON and was not responding
After performing the above mentioned steps, the root cause of the problem came out to be with the temperature of CPU. There was nothing wrong with the operating system.
In order to fix the temperature of the CPU, PC along with its power supply and all the devices were one by one cleaned using a brush. Processor’s heat sink, RAM, Graphics card were unplugged from the motherboard and cleaned. Processor heat sink and fan were full of dirt as shown in the figure below:
Figure 3: Dusty Processor Heat Sink and Fan
After cleaning, all the devices were assembled/connected together to perform temperature test again. With all the devices connected (DSL cable, DVD ROM etc.) the temperature was very normal. Please see the screenshot of RealTemp reading below:
Figure 4: RealTemp Temperature Calculation after cleaning
All the device drivers including ATI Radeon HD series were downloaded and tested. PC is now up and running without any issues.
As an extension to this I would like you to read more about TJ Max on the internet. I read somewhere that it is another word for core temperatures.
“It is the maximum allowable temperature for a processor's internal cores, if you reach TJ Max the processor's THERMTRIP# signal will activate shutdown to prevent damage to the processor.”
I hope this post will be helpful and relevant for all the concerned who are troubleshooting their PC's.
Thanks for reading!