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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: Help! My PC keeps rebooting every 10 to 20 minutes!

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) April 25, 2008 10:09 AM PDT

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Help! My PC keeps rebooting every 10 to 20 minutes!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 4/25/08 10:09 AM


Hi. I have a problem with my PC (AMD Athlon 1700+, 256MB of RAM, 80GB hard disk, CD writer) and I hope you guys can clue me in as to what can be the issue of my system rebooting every 10 to 20 minutes after it has been on. I've changed my RAM and also reformatted my hard drive in attempt to see if that will remedy my issue, but no success and I'm at a lost. Is this a hardware issue? Please kindly help me and if possible list out all the possible culprits that can cause such issues and possible solutions to remedy it. Thank you kindly.

--Submitted by Santhsh K.

Answer voted most helpful by the CNET Community newsletter readers:

Troubleshooting - System reboots automatically

Here are three basic sources of automatic reboot problems:

Recovery settings
Software incompatibilities, including driver issues
BIOS problems
Weak Memory Module
Bad Power Supply
Bad Motherboard

Software incompatibilities can be omitted in your case as you have already reinstalled windows. But they are still worth mentioning.

1. Recovery Settings

One of the things that is quite different about Windows XP compared to Windows 9x (9x is shorthand for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me in all their various versions), is that one can control how it responds to certain critical errorsthose that cause the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). In Windows XP, the default setting is for the computer to reboot automatically when a fatal error occurs. Simplified, if a fatal error occurs the system will reboots automatically.

If you haven't changed any of the system failure settings, you should be able to see the error by looking in the Event Log. But a better long-term solution is to turn off the automatic reboot so you can actually see the error when it happenschances are it will tell you enough about itself to let you troubleshoot further. To change the recovery settings to disable automatic rebooting:

1. Right-click My Computer, and then click Properties.
2. Click the Advanced tab.
3. Under Startup and Recovery, click Settings to open the Startup and Recovery dialog box.
4. Clear the Automatically restart check box, and click OK the necessary number of times.
5. Restart your computer for the settings to take effect.

Now when a fatal error occurs, you'll at least see it and it won't cause an automatic reboot. You still have to sort out what's causing the problem.

2. Software Incompatibility

The most common cause of a fatal error or Automatically restart is a software or driver problem, and troubleshooting these can be tricky. The mechanism for troubleshooting, however, is pretty much the same for any problem on a PC. The first thing to look at is what's changedwhat new software program or drivers have you added, usually just before the problem started. This sounds easy and it often is, but if it's something you've lived with for a while, you'll often have no idea what the proximate cause is. When you do, it's a lot easier. When you don't, you need to do a bit of research to find out if there is a specific cause for the particular error message you're getting (when you have one) or a known issue with certain programs or drivers that causes the behavior you're seeing. Also i would recommend updating your drivers and windows.

3. BIOS Problems

Finally, the last and often trickiest to troubleshoot source of reboot problems: your computer's BIOS. If there is a problem in your BIOS, or sometimes even in the firmware for one of the other pieces of hardware installed in your machine, it could cause an instability and lead to one of those automatic restarts that we talked about in the first section. Especially if the problem is in the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) portion. The good news is that these problems are much less common than they used to be in the bad old days. But it never hurts to check with your computer manufacturer to see if there's an updated BIOS available.

4. Overheating

Accumulating dust in a computers case can cause a great deal of problems with computer systems components. Dust acts as insulation and will keep the case and all of its components hot. Dust accumulating in fans and heat sinks is the major cause of overheating. Also, check your fans if they are working. I recommend a computer case be cleaned at least every 4 - 6 months.

Cleaning Tips:
Before you clean a computer or any component, be sure to turn the power off and unplug it from the outlet.

Use caution when cleaning inside the computers case not to disturb any plugs or jumpers. If you do, this will make for difficult troubleshooting when you turn the computer back on.|

Avoid spraying any type of liquid directly on to a computer component. Spray the liquid on to a cloth, then apply it to the computer component.

Never use a house vacuum cleaner to clean the dust out of your computer case. House vacuums generate a lot of static electricity that can damage your systems components. There are portable battery operated vacuums available that are designed for use in a computer environment. It is fine to use your house vacuum to suck up the dirt and dust around your computer or even to suck the dust out of your keyboard.

Make sure that you never get any component inside your computer wet. It is not advisable to use any cleaning liquid inside the case. You can use some canned compressed air to remove any dust from the case and case fans. Be sure to take your computer to a different location when blowing the dust out.

Be sure to visit your computer manufactures web site to find out what cleaning solvents are recommended for cleaning your computer. I recommend just using warm water for almost any computer cleaning task. But if you need a stronger cleaning solution, be sure that it is highly diluted.

5. Weak Memory Module

I know you have changed the RAM but it is important that any new RAM module(s) be fully compatible with both the motherboard and/or any other RAM module(s) already in the system (New RAM Could also be bad). Secondly, there are sometimes jumper switches on older motherboards that need to be reset for new RAM configurations. Consult your motherboard's manual or the manufacturer's web site for specific instructions and compatibility requirements. Additionally, Get a good memory test program and check your new and old RAM.
Here are a couple to choose from

If you do not have your computer's manual and the manufacturer doesn't provide a support web site, you can use Crucial Memory's web site to determine the correct RAM and capacity for your specific make and model computer and/or motherboard.
If you turn on your computer and you hear a series of beeps, this behaviour usually indicates a hardware problem. The beeps that you hear are clues to what the problem could be.

6. Bad Power Supply

Your power supply could be going bad. It can be checked by using the following procedure:

ATX power supplies have a simple diagnostic circuit that you can use to determine if your power supply is good or bad. Here's how.

Tools needed: Voltmeter.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 5 minutes

1. Shut down your computer and open it up. Leave the power supply connected to the AC power cord.
2. Leave the power supply's master power switch on, if it has one.
3. Disconnect the ATX power connector from the motherboard. This is a wide, flat connector with two rows of pins and a locking tab.
4. Locate the pin connected to the gray wire. This is the PWR_OK pin.
5. Locate any pin connected to a black wire. These are the ground/earth pins.
6. Place the red (positive) probe of your voltmeter on the PWR_OK pin, and the black (negative) probe on any ground pin.
7. If the gray pin reads 2 volts or more, then the power supply passed its internal diagnostic. Your power supply is probably good.
8. If the gray pin reads much less than 1 volt, then the power supply is dead. Replace the power supply.

7. Bad Motherboard

Malfunctioning capacitors on a Motherboard can create a wide range of issues. It is even possible for capacitors to fail due to a bad Power Source. A leaking capacitor is a very easy visual check. Open your case and take a look at the Motherboard. If you see a leaking capacitor (Google it), then replacement of the Motherboard is necessary. Be sure to check if your system is still under warranty before spending your money.
Test your Motherboard. Many Motherboard manufactures have their own testing software, so try them first. Or, here are a couple listed below:,fid,7309,00.asp

Submitted by CNET member Ankit B.

Here are some additional advice:

If you have any additional advice or solution for Santhsh to trouble shoot his PC, please click on the reply link and post your answer. Please be detailed as possible in your answer. Thank you!

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