Sunday, November 21

Laptop trouble

My trusty somewhat-old laptop has been under the weather lately. It will not boot when it's cold, and it's fairly picky. ~20 °C seems too cold already; so I have to heat it up at little.
Now that winter is coming, this needs to be done almost every morning, and that is extremely annoying. Does anybody have an idea of what could be wrong? It seems that the problem is not just a loose connection, as the laptop goes up in stages:

1) when the power button is pressed the power LED will blink for a split-second and nothing will happen,
2) the LED will light up for slightly longer, but the laptop still will not boot,
3) the laptop starts booting but shuts off spontaneously after while on the BIOS screen,
4) the laptop goes through the BIOS screen, but shuts down before showing the boot menu.
Past that, apparently the CPU generates enough heat for stable operation.
This is fairly complicated behaviour for a hardware problem. I wonder, maybe the power supply is at fault? Any ideas, anyone? This is a good excuse to buy a new laptop, but I would rather not splurge right before Christmas season.

17 comments:

mmc said...

You should bring the laptop in bed with you at night to keep it at the right temperature.

Gottin said...

Winter, is it? You should probably close the Windows.

Anonymous said...

bad caps, most likely.. they'll eventually blow and the laptop/powersupply will be dead.

Ben Huthcings said...

I suspect a cracked solder joint. The move to lead-free solder unfortunately resulted in more brittle joints. If you can find the cracked joint it may be fixable with a soldering iron, but if it's under a BGA-packaged chip it will probably be impractical to fix.

lukian said...

If you check your manual, I'm pretty sure -20C would be outside the operating range. ;)

rozie said...

You can easily check if it's power supply by booting on battery with power supply disconnected. You can also check (if you hardware allows) power supply only, with no battery inserted. This way you will know if there's problem somewhere with the power (and in which part of it).

Can you provide more info (lspci, cat /proc/cpuinfo)? I have Sempron laptop which looks like having cooling problem. There appears acpi alarm 110C (after random time, sometimes at start, sometimes it doesn't even boot) and it switches off - looks similar. Or rather this is some temperature measurement problem (don't know if Sempron have build in diode, if so I could easily replace processor to check), because I checked cooling and it looks fine. I also doubt it it's possible to reach 110C in a few seconds after power on even with no cooling at all... If you can (I cannot), you may disable shutdown after overheating in BIOS.

It may also be problem with not starting fan. Seen this on my friend desktop - computer didn't start, because fan was dirty, had trouble with starting, and there was check in BIOS. Higher temp. might may oil (in a fan's bearing) more loose, so it starts then...

And it may be capacitors - already mentioned. You may take a look on them, if they don't have leaks, if they have flat tops.

Gintautas Miliauskas said...

The problem persists when the laptop is powered only from the battery. It seems that the problem is not in the power supply then.

I don't think it's the fan either, as the fan does turn on before the computer shuts off, and there's not enough time for the CPU to heat up anyway.

And it's +20 C here in the room.

Mate Soos said...

I used to have exactly the same problem with one of my desktop computers. I changed the power supply and it worked flawlessly afterwards.

Basically, those 'stages' you described are the signs of this, I think, since to me they say: "a bit of power", "a bit more power", etc. which to me seems to indicate that your power adapter is heating up and providing more and more electricity before some some checking element in it shuts off the power because it detects too much electricity flowing. This checking element is faulty, and shuts off the laptop.

So, I guess it's an element of the circuitry that checks for the correct voltage and correct amps being supplied that needs to be heated up to function correctly and not switch the power off due to (faultily) detected over-powering. That circuitry should be close to the power cord entering, so try to heat that part up, and see if that helps.

Matthew W.S. Bell said...

It's not just the battery being cold and unable to provide enough power, is it?

Diggory said...

Start running volunteer computing. Leave the laptop on overnight and you also have an efficient electric heater; that way it won't be cold in the morning ;)

I wonder if it wouldn't cause other problems though. Constant high-CPU loads will put extra stress on the CPU and power supply.

Gintautas Miliauskas said...

Mate, you may be right. That is indeed why I suspected the power supply. However, the same problem occurs when only on battery power. In fact, sometimes when the laptop fails to boot it gets "stuck" and I have to disconnect the battery in order to reset it. I wonder if there's a limiter common to external power supply and battery that could be at fault.

For the record: the battery is always almost full, the temperature is, well, room temperature, so no extreme cold. And I don't really want to keep the computer on overnight.

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Joseph Russo said...

The first step in repairing any laptop or notebook is troubleshooting the problem accurately. For example, some people will run out and buy a new battery on the assumption it's failed when the problem is a frayed wire or a bad connector on the power cord, something that can be fixed with a little solder or electric tape. Likewise, a "dead" LCD screen could be a mainboard or video adapter failure, a bad inverter or a burnt out backlight.
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