Here is a troubleshooting guide to solve why your computer isn’t posting. Try these steps to hopefully get your computer up and running, or at the very least, find out which component is most likely the cause.
- Troubleshooting a computer that’s not posting
It can happen to computers, old and new. You go to turn on a computer, and nothing happens. It’s most certainly not the best feeling in the world. The good news is that computers can be easily repaired.
Here are some of the symptoms that may be happening to indicate a no post situation:
- Beeping: You could have a single beep or a series of beeps. Some could be short, and others long. We will go into the various beeps and their meanings later in this article.
- Power light: It could be that you hear nothing and only see a power light.
- Cooling fans: Your computer could have the fans spinning and nothing else much happening.
Important: For this troubleshooting guide to be effective, we are going to assume that you have checked your power supply. This can be by testing it on another computer or replacing it with a new one.
Troubleshooting a computer that’s not posting
Go through these steps in order to help you track down the problem. By removing all of the components out of the scene first, will not only help speed up the diagnosing process but also reduce the number of components that could cause problems.
If you are hearing beeping when trying to start up your computer, you can get an idea of which component could be at fault by observing the beep sequence.
1. Set up your workspace and prepare your computer
- Find the motherboard manual: If you can download the motherboard manual. If you have kept it, well done!
- Get a screwdriver: Find a Phillips screwdriver that fits nicely in the computer’s screws.
- Move to a good work area: Set your computer up in a location that’s easy to work on. Lots of free room that is clutter-free around the computer is great.
- Ground yourself: Before touching any components, touch the computer case to limit any potential electrostatic discharges.
- Unplug everything: Before following any of the following steps, make sure you have unplugged the power to the computer. Also, disconnect all other plugs or cables connected to your computer.
2. Disconnect all drives
Unplug all the power connectors to all drives. Then unplug all data cables connected to your motherboard. You can do this at the drive end of the cable to help make it easier to reconnect. It will also help you keep track of which cable was connected to which drive.
3. Remove all add-in cards
Unscrew all the cards that are plugged into the motherboard. Remove them all by pulling them evenly straight up and level.
If your motherboard doesn’t have an onboard graphics output, get your hands on a different graphics card and replace your existing one. If you don’t have another one to try, leave it plugged in for now.
4. Disconnect all fans (Except the CPU fan)
Unplug all the fan connections from power. Some will be connected to the motherboard using pin header connections, and others will be plugged straight into the power supply.
Once all of them have been unplugged, check that you still have your CPU fan connected. This will be the fan attached to a heatsink that is screwed or clipped directly on your motherboard.
5. Remove the BIOS battery
Gently remove the BIOS battery. This is a silver coin cell battery that keeps the information held in a memory chip. This keeps all the settings for various hardware functions operating as set by the user.
If you cannot see it, look in your motherboard manual to find where it is situated. Sometimes some cables or drives etc. can obstruct your view.
Sometimes, I have found batteries that have gone below circuit voltage and unleashed a variety of problems. I have also found some to have high internal resistance, causing more issues.
The computer doesn’t need it installed to run. It will operate fine without it. All it does is retain the settings you have saved in the BIOS when power has been disconnected from the computer altogether.
Important: Make sure that you have no power connected to the computer for about five minutes with the battery removed before continuing.
6. Reconnect a keyboard, monitor, and mains power
Plugin your keyboard, the monitor’s display cable, and mains power cable to the computer. Make sure the power is turned on.
7. Press the power button
Press the power button and observe. If the computer starts normally, congratulations! All you have to do is add each component back to find out which one was the cause.
If you still can’t get it to start, continue with the guide.
If the computer still won’t post
Now we are getting down to the final few components that will be causing a problem if you have made it this far. Follow these instructions until you reach the stage that your computer posts again.
Disconnect all front panel connectors from your motherboard. You will have to use a screwdriver, tweezers, pliers or anything else that can short out the pins instead of the power button from your computer’s case.
The correct power button pins will be shown in the manual. If you couldn’t get your hands on your motherboard manual, take a photo of the front panel connectors before removing them. The most important pins to memorize are the power button pins.
The remaining suspects:
- CPU: This is the brain of the computer. It’s the component that processes all the information for your computer to use.
- RAM: This keeps all the data ready for your CPU to use, amongst other things.
- Motherboard: This is the main board secured to the computer case that everything plugs into.
- Graphics card: It sends all visual data from your computer to be displayed on the monitor.
Eliminate the graphics card
If you have already removed your graphics card or are using the display output from the motherboard for the monitor, skip this step.
If you are using the original graphics card from when the computer went faulty, it’s time to swap it out with a replacement to test if it was the cause of the no post situation.
If you are on a tight budget, purchase a cheap card to get you by in the meanwhile, nothing wrong with that. It can also be kept as a test card for the future if it turns out that it wasn’t the cause of your problems.
Eliminating the RAM (Random Access Memory)
In my computer repair career, I have had a handful of times where I found RAM to be truly faulty. A RAM module is often blamed when it is simply a RAM contact problem.
Please follow my guide on how to clean the RAM contacts properly.
If cleaning the RAM still leaves you with no posting, try leaving one module in at a time and cycle through the modules.
If the situation remains unchanged, it’s most likely not the RAM at fault.
Eliminate the CPU and motherboard
I’m afraid that the only way to test a CPU is by actually replacing it and seeing if the computer posts. The motherboard can be just as difficult unless you are trained to repair them.
It will be easy enough to figure out which one of them is faulty by swapping one of them out if you had the spare parts. But for most average people, spare parts aren’t just hanging around.
If you are determined to fix your computer yourself, check the motherboard for signs of damage, burn marks on components or the board, or swollen capacitors.
If you see anything unusual, replace your motherboard. I have seen more faulty motherboards compared to CPUs, provided that some CPU overclocking was never applied.
Alternative Option: You could take the CPU and motherboard over to your local computer store to ask them to test them for you. They would most likely have spares to test either your CPU or motherboard so you can eliminate the faulty component.
Double-check that the CPU cooler is making proper contact with the CPU. If your CPU gets hot extremely quickly, it can cause the computer to not post.
To eliminate this, please my article on how to know if your CPU cooler is mounted properly.
Always make sure that you use your senses to assess a component’s condition.
- Sight: Look carefully for any physical damage. It’s easy to overlook, so take your time. Use some sort of magnification, too, if possible.
- Smell: Be aware of any out-of-the-ordinary smells. Components that don’t have visible damage could have an odor telling you something is wrong.
- Touch: Feel for components running too hot. This can be any semiconductor or a tiny passive component. See where it connects to.
- Hear: Listen out for odd sounds. Sometimes this can be a dead giveaway for a component that is faulty.
Your senses can be a sophisticated diagnostic tool. With practice, you will be surprised at how good you can get.
Always take your time and think. Sometimes you can figure out the likely suspects by memory and reason alone.
I wish you all the best luck in tracking down your computer’s problem and that you get it to post once again!