Archive for the 'Troubleshooting' Category

Troubleshooting Grounding Issues and How to Spot Them

Troubleshooting Grounding Issues:

“Grounding” or “Grounding Out” is the act of the system short circuiting due to contact with metal or conductive parts within your system.

Grounding issues can be caused by numerous problems. The most common causes are problems that were overlooked by the builder, or a defect or non standard case feature.

The symptoms of grounding issues can range from a No POST situation, to random reboots and in some cases I have even heard of people being shocked whenever they touched any metal part of their case.

The best way to try and avoid running into grounding issues is to double check all your parts before you build your system. Look at the size and shape of your motherboard and how it will fit into your case. Are there any obstructions or overhangs it might touch once you install it. Check the metal plate in your case that your motherboard will be screwed down to. Is it completely flat? Does it have raised areas and if so, do they present a problem or special build consideration. Is the back plate for your motherboard straight and will it be seated flush when it’s installed into your case?

These are just general considerations you can make when you are getting ready to assemble your case and system. This guide will cover the most common grounding issues and ways you can resolve them.

Below is a list of item and areas to check if it seems like you are running into grounding issues. Follow the steps below to ensure your system is properly assembled to avoid any type of grounding issues.

01. Check the IO Shield back plate. Trace the edges of the plate with your eyes and make sure all the sides are flush [top to bottom, left to right] and make sure one is not sticking out a little bit. Double check that the back plate is firmly in position. If it looks good but you are unsure remove the back plate from the case, and reinstall it. Usually if it is a perfect fit, it will snap into place. If it’s not double check all edges and make sure they are flush with the back of the case.

02. Make sure to use the exact amount of standoffs as required for mounting your motherboard in your case. Make sure they are aligned with all of the screw holes in your motherboard. If there is 1 extra standoff or one that is touching the bottom of the motherboard, this could lead to grounding issues.

03. In the screw hole directly below your memory slots [middle of the motherboard] make sure to use a plastic standoff instead of a brass/metal standoff as this can sometimes lead to grounding issues.

04. For front panel connections from the case, make sure you only have the Power Switch lead connected, with the colored wire oriented towards the rear of the case. You only want this 1 lead connected for the sake of POST testing the motherboard.

05. The mounting pins themselves may be grounding out the motherboard. If the problem persists then you can insert small, cardboard washers between the screws and motherboard on the top side of the motherboard. If the problem persists, then you can insert the washers between the mounting posts and motherboard on the bottom side of the board also.

06. Check the bottom of the motherboard and the mounting surface inside your case to make sure there are no spots where the metal solder points on the motherboard might be touching the metal plate in your case and grounding out.

07. Make sure the screws you are using are the smaller internal case screws for mounting the motherboard into your case, and not the larger external screws like the ones that hold on your side panels.

08. Make sure the metal pads that surround the mounting holes are getting a good contact, so that the screw is resting flat against the board, but at the same time make sure you do not “over tighten” the screw as this in itself can lead to grounding issues. [Rule of thumb is to hold your screwdriver with minimal pressure, and turn until it would require force on your part to make it go further, at this point you should stop.]

At this point you have covered all the most common grounding issues that can develop during a build. If you are still running into issues you may want to check out our:

POST Test Guide

This can help you further diagnose any boot issues you are running into with your system.

Hopefully this guide helped you in resolving any issues related to grounding problems with your case and motherboard. This should now give you a better idea of what grounding issues are, where they happen and what to look for when they do. You can now feel confident that your case is being assembled correctly to avoid problems while building your system.



How to Create a Bootable Floppy Disk

How to Create a Bootable Floppy Disc:

The “Create Startup Disc” option will allow you to make a bootable floppy disc with the diagnostic program installed. Make sure you have a BLANK floppy disc available as the program will overwrite any data that is currently on the floppy disc. [Don't use your family photos disc, or the disc you save your homework to.]

I recommend formatting any disc you plan to use prior to creating it with the program. This way you can avoid any issues with the disc not working once it has been written to. You can do this by clicking on “My Computer” and then right clicking on your “A:\” drive and selecting the format option from the menu. Make sure the drive you have selected is in fact your floppy drive to avoid wiping out data on any of your hard drives.

Once you click the Create Startup Disc option it will bring up a smaller window that says “Select the floppy disc you want to use and then click create”. Since the floppy disc should be ready to go now, go ahead and click “create”. You will see the lights on your floppy drive come on, and a progress bar that will let you know when the process is complete. Once it is done it will say “Success – Floppy Created Successfully”. You have now created your diagnostic disc.

Check the disc by clicking on “My Computer” and then by clicking on your “A:\” drive to make sure that you can see files on the disc to ensure it has been created successfully.

You can now close the disc maker application and leave your floppy disc in the floppy drive. [If this is the system you want to diagnose.] Once you have closed out of the program select the option to “Restart” your computer, and make sure the floppy disc is still in the drive.

Once the computer restarts it should automatically go into the diagnostic program on the floppy disc. Some computers may need to have the boot order changed in order to run from a floppy disc on boot. If this is the case, when you reboot your computer it will just go back into Windows.

If it does simply restart the system again and look for a message to hit a certain key to enter “setup”. On most systems it is the “DEL” key. This will take you to a screen with a blue background. You are now in the BIOS of your computer. Be carefully when working in the BIOS as any changes you make can affect the system.

You are looking for a section that has something similar to “Boot Order” which should list about 3 or 4 devices. To boot from a floppy disc you want to make sure that the first device listed is “floppy”. If it is something else, highlight the device and then click enter which should bring up a menu with several devices. You can use the arrow keys to select the “floppy” option from the list. Once you have it selected hit enter again and it should take you back to the boot order screen. If t does not, then hit escape and just make sure the first device listed is now your floppy drive.

One other thing that can keep the system from booting from the floppy drive is an option that says “Boot Floppy Seek”. This must be set to enable in order for the system to check the floppy drive when it boots up. If it is disabled follow the above procedure to select a different option from the list.

Once you have made the necessary changes, hit the F10 key and the system will ask if you want to save changes and reboot. Say YES or “Y” and then hit enter. The system will now reboot and if you have your floppy disc in the system, it will automatically go into the diagnostic mode.

[If you have problems getting into your BIOS or finding a section that is referenced in this guide, please contact the company you purchased your computer from and their tech department should be able to walk you through enabling the necessary steps in order to get your system to boot from the floppy drive.]



How to Create a Bootable CD ISO with Nero

How to Create a Bootable CD:

The “Save CD Image to Disk” option allows you to create a bootable CD to diagnose your system. This can be valuable if you have a newer system that does not have a floppy disc drive. Or if your BIOS is not setup to boot from a floppy disc, but is setup to boot from a CD-Rom. Most new computers are setup to boot from a CD-Rom by default.

From the “Windows Memory Diagnostic Setup” window select the “Save CD Image to Disk” option. When you do this it will open a “Save CD Image” window. Save the file to your desktop. Once you have done this the program will tell you “File saved successfully”. You should now have a “windiag.iso” file on your desktop.

An ISO file, also known as an “Image” file is used to burn an exact copy of a file or program within certain CD burning software. One program that works great for burning these types of files is “Nero Burning Rom”. If you have this program you are good to go. If not you can download the program from the following location:

http://www.nero.com/

If you do not want to purchase this software, you can look for the “Free Trial” version on their site which will let you use the basic functions of the software needed to burn the ISO file. Once you have Nero downloaded and installed you open up your “windiag.iso” file into Nero so that you can burn the diagnostic program to CD.

You need to open the file in Nero a certain way to make to make sure that it burns the ISO file correctly. To do this, right click on the file and it will bring up a menu of options. You want to select the “Open With” option from the menu. Once you have selected this it will open an “Open With” dialog that will display all the programs that are currently installed on your system

If you have installed Nero correctly you should be able to scroll down the list and select Nero and then click “OK”. If you like you an leave the “Always use this program to open these files” option checked [or add a check if it is not] and in the future your computer will know to always open ISO image files in Nero so you can burn them.

Once you have selected OK Nero will open automatically and take you to the “Image Recording – Write a premastered image” window. You can leave the options that are set at their defaults and then click the “next” button in the lower right hand corner.

At this point Nero should begin the “Burning Process” which will show you a percentage bar of how much time is left on the program for burning your CD. Since this is such a small file, the burn process should only take about 1 minute and then it will pop up with a window that says

“Burn process completed successfully at 40x (6,000 KB/s)”

Or something similar to that, you are mainly checking to make sure it says it completed successfully. Click ok on the success window and then click the “next” button in the lower right corner one more time to finish your diagnostic disc.

At this point the program should automatically eject your disc from the system at which point you can close down Nero since we are done using it. I would recommend putting the disc back into the system and then checking through Windows Explorer to make sure you see data on the disc as another method to verify the disc was burned successfully.

When you click on the CD-Rom drive in your system, it should show you that there is a folder on the CD labeled “I386″. If you see this on the disc, your project has burned successfully and you can now reboot your system with the CD-Rom still in the drive so the computer will detect it and boot from the CD.

[NOTE: on some system you need to watch during the boot process, and you will get a message that says "Hit any key to boot from CD". If you see this message come up, hit any key and then you should see the diagnostic program startup.]



Basic Modem Troubleshooting Guide

Basic Modem Troubleshooting:

Basic modem troubleshooting is preformed when you are unable to get onto the internet with your dial-up modem. It has become more and more common for people to switch over to “high speed internet” to avoid the hassles caused by using dial-up internet. If you are still using a standard modem or are unable to get high speed access in your area this guide will walk you through what you need to know to get your modem working.

You will need the following three items to ensure proper testing can be preformed. They are; a verified working phone cord that is about 6′ feet long, a working phone & phone line in the house, and an internet account with your local ISP. [Internet Service Provider] You NEED an ISP account to access the internet because if you do not have one you will be unable to dial in to a server.

Once you have the listed items, you can begin to work off the guide to resolve the problems you are having with your modem. The most common errors are getting a message that the computer does not recognize the modem or is not getting a dial tone.

Other common issues are getting a busy signal when you dial out to your ISP. Getting a dropped connection where you are constantly getting disconnected from your ISP. Or speed issues which result from using dial-up internet.

We DO NOT support those issues as they are a problem with your ISP. If you are experiencing busy signals, dropped connections or speed issues, you will need to contact your ISP’s tech support line for help. There are many issues with software configuration, initialization strings and external hardware on your phone lines that we cannot determine as the reseller of your hardware. Your ISP is best equipped to walk you through fixing those listed issues.

Now that you are ready to troubleshoot your hardware, please follow the steps below to ensure proper steps are taken to diagnose your problem.

01.  Check Your Connections

Make sure all your phone cords, and the phone line you are connected to is working properly. To do this connect a telephone to the phone line you are using for your internet connection. Use the phone to dial any outside number to verify that you can complete the call. If you are able to reach the number you are calling you can verify that the phone line is working so you can rule it out as a problem. The next step would be hooking up the phone cord you are using between your computer and phone jack to the telephone you tested the first step with. Perform the first step again with the phone “cord” that you use to connect to the internet and verify it is working. [Bad cables and cords are rare but are easy to overlook when they go bad, since most people assume a cord stays good forever. It can also be important to test them if you have recently had an electrical storm in your area.]

02.  Make Sure Your Modem is Recognized by Your PC:

This can be done in two different ways. The methods are slightly different on Windows XP and Windows 98 / ME.

For Windows XP Users:

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel” or “Control Panel”.
  2. In Control Panel select the “Phone and Modem Options” icon.
  3. Select the “Modems” tab in the top middle, of the new window that opens..
  4. Then on the next screen select the “Properties” button in the lower right.
  5. You should now select the “Diagnostic” tab in the top of the new window..
  6. Then click on the “Query Modem” button in the middle of the window.

At this point a dialog box will pop up and tell you “Please wait…” “Communicating with Modem”

Once this is complete you should now see a text readout in the “Command” “Response” window below the “Query Modem” button. If you see the text displayed there you have now verified that Windows sees your modem hardware.

If the modem fails this test you should try to uninstall and reinstall the modem software. [STEP #4]

For Windows 98 / ME Users:

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel”
  2. Double click on the “Modem” icon and then click the “Diagnostics” tab.
  3. Select the “COM Port” that lists the modem.
  4. Click “More Info” button.


At this point the computer will run a series of tests to ensure you hardware modem is working correctly and is recognized by Windows.

If the modem fails this test you should try to uninstall and reinstall the modem software. [STEP #4]

03.  Make Sure You can Connect to Your ISP:

Now we need to check to make sure the modem can communicate with the outside world. To do this follow the listed procedure to ensure you are testing your modem correctly.

  1. Click “Start” then “Run” and type HYPERTRM into the run line.
  2. Once you hit ENTER, and you will see a new window pop up with a world spinning around in it. Once this goes away it will take you to the “Connection Description” window. [If a default Telnet window opens click "No"]
  3. Click the “Cancel” button on the “Connection Description” window.
  4. Once that window is gone, click somewhere into the white space of the window behind it to move your cursor to this command field. [NOTE: Characters may not show up in the HYERTRM window as you are typing them.]
  5. Type ATZ and press ENTER [The word OK should appear and the Modem is now reset]
  6. Type ATX0 and hit ENTER. [The number zero not the letter "O". It should now say OK again, this disables dial-tone detection.]
  7. Type ATDT 123   [Do not press ENTER this time]
  8. Pick up the phone receiver that is on the same phone line as the modem / PC and listen carefully.
  9. Press the ENTER key now.
  10. The modem will now attempt to dial out and will dial the numbers 1, 2, 3.

If you can hear tones on the phone line at this point the modem is able to dial out. You have now completed Step #3 of the modem troubleshooting guide.

If you do not hear tones at this point it means the modem needs to be moved to a different PCI slot in the computer and retested. If it fails the test once it’s in a new PCI slot it is a sign that the modem may be defective and you should contact the store you purchased your hardware from to find out about an exchange

04.  Reset Your Modem and Com Ports:

For this next step you will be resetting ALL the modem properties by uninstalling and reinstalling your hardware modem. To uninstall your modem follow these steps:

  1. Right Click on “My Computer” and select “Properties”
  2. Click on the “Hardware” tab in the top middle of the new window, and then select the “Device Manager” button.
  3. Scroll down the list of hardware and click on the + sign that is next to the “Modems” sections in device manager.
  4. Select your modem and right click it and select the “Uninstall” option from the menu. [Or the "Delete" button in Windows 98']
  5. Once your modem has been removed from the list, click the “Start” button and then select the “Shutdown” option.
  6. Once you restart the computer you should see a window that says “Detecting new hardware” or something similar to that when you load back into Windows.
  7. At this point you will need to go back into “Device Manager” and you should see your modem back on the list.


If you can now see your hardware modem listed try reconnecting to the internet to retest your connection.

If you do not see your modem on the list shut down your PC and try moving the modem to a different PCI slot to test whether the modem itself may be bad. If it doesn’t show up in device manager after it has been moved to a new PCI slot you may have a bad modem, and will want to contact the company you purchased it from to find out about an exchange.

05.  Uninstall and Reinstall Your ISP Software:

The last step of the guide will walk you through how to remove your ISP software to rule out any possible problem with a bad installation. Since all ISPs can vary on how their software is installed out guide will walk you through how to remove your software only. If you need help reinstalling your software you will need to contact your ISP so they can give you the detailed settings you need to connect to their service.

Work off the following steps to ensure you are able to completely remove your ISP software from your computer to ensure problems are not occurring from corruption or a bad installation.

  1. Click “Start” then “Settings > Control Panel” or “Control Panel”.
  2. In control panel select the “Network and Dial up Connections” icon.
  3. In the new window find the connection that has the name of your ISP, and highlight it and then click the DELETE key. [or right click and select delete from the menu]
  4. Say “YES” to confirm that you want to delete this connection. If there is more than one dialup connection you may want to remove the others also.
  5. Once you have removed your dial up connections you will also want to remove the software provided by your ISP so you can do a clean reinstall of it.
  6. While still in control panel select the “Add Remove Programs” option.
  7. The new window will show you a list of all your installed software.
  8. Check for any software with the name of your ISP [for example: AOL, Chorus, AT&T, etc]
  9. Once you have found the software select the “Remove” option to uninstall the software.
  10. Now that you have removed your dial up connections and ISP software you can do a clean reinstall to ensure all the settings are configured back to default. If you run into any problems while reinstalling your software and dial up connection please contact your ISP’s tech department and they can walk you through the steps needed to setup your software again. In some cases you may need specific details from them for configuring your connection so it can be a good idea to work with them anyway to ensure the software gets reinstalled and configured correctly.

Conclusion:

You have now completed the Basic Modem Troubleshooting guide. If you are still running into issues with your modem you may have a bad modem or you may be running into another issue that is not covered by this guide. If this is the case you will want to contact your ISP for further troubleshooting. Most any company that you purchase a modem from can only support the hardware troubleshooting for it, but won’t go more in depth than that because there can be so many variables with dial up modems.

As mentioned before, if you have access to “High Speed Internet” in your area, I would highly recommend getting it. The cost is hardly that much more over dial up now a days, and the return far surpasses the quality of dial up internet. I would compare it to paying $1000 dollars for a Gremlin [dial up internet] as vs. $1500 for BMW. [High speed internet]. It is also much easier to troubleshoot high speed internet because it usually consists of two steps.

01. Turn off your modem.

02. Turn your modem back on.

[You should now be back online.]

All in all, this guide took you through configuring and troubleshooting your hardware based dial up modem. If you have worked through the guide, you should now be comfortable in diagnosing the majority of problems that can occur with a dial up modem. This should help you for any possible problems you run into. Just remember to be patient when working with a dial up modem since it is an older technology that requires more patience and knowledge to keep working, into the future.




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