My computer takes up to 5 minutes to POST!

By hypermikem ยท 26 replies
Mar 5, 2003
  1. I have a computer that I got as part of my tuition at school and have had it since 2000. It is a 500mhz Celeron system with an AMerican Megatrends Mo/Bo. It has Windows ME on it. Recently, it developed a problem that has me perplexed. When starting the computer from the Hard off state, all the lights from the drives light up, but hang inexplicably. I leave it alone and about 4 to 5 minutes later, I hear the POST beep, and then the drive light starts blinking like a normal bootup, then it boots up normally. I've scanned with nortons and found no viruses. Could my master boot record have become corrupt? I first thought it was the power supply, but I put a brand new one in there and it acted the same. Is there a setting in CMOS that could be causing this hang. can do a soft reboot and it boots immediately, but from a cold start, it hangs a loooong long for me. I am almost ready to do an Fdisk and format, but that is the last resort. I'm hoping to save the info on this HD. I guess if I can't figure it out, I'll back up the good stuff to CD then Nuke the hard drive and try a fresh install of windows. HELP!:(
  2. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Master boot record is not invoked until the OS is booted, later on, so that's not it.

    A virus could have corrupted your BIOS. Perhaps you should look into flashing it.

    You could also have a fault processor or RAM, I am afraid. I have seen intermitten problems just like this, and it turned out to be a faulty processor.
  3. hypermikem

    hypermikem TS Rookie Topic Starter


    If it was the processor, would the OS still perform as normal, once booted up? Once booted, my system works just as it always has. I have noticed that "stand by" is no longer an option at the shutdown pulldown menu. SO you are saying I should reflash my BIOS to the latest version for my motherboard first? This sounds like the easiest thing to check, but how will I know if it's the RAM or the Processor? Is there a utility that I can use?;) If in fact a virus corrupted my BIOS, why would the system behave as normal once booted? I ran Nortons and found nothing.
  4. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

    Cold boot tests memory, warm doesn't. I guess it's the memory. You can test it with Memtest86.
  5. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Yes it is possible for the CPU to be defective in such a way that POST does not happen properly, but when it does get past the POST all is well. I've only seen it a couple of times but it does happen.

    Its most likely RAM, CPU or mobo. Pray that its RAM and you can buy some cheaply and replace it. I would try to see if you can borrow compatible RAM from a friend and try that.
  6. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    I had a similar problem to yours a while back and it was very difficult to track down. Mine was caused by a faulty jumper on the hard drive that only failed to make good contact when cold. I suggest that you check and reseat all the connecting cables and jumpers on your hard drive. I am assuming that you did not change anything before the problem became apparent.

    The long boot may be because your system is having problems querying the hard drive, so try out my suggestions and maybe even try another IDE cable in case yours has a damaged connector if the other advice doesn't work for you.

    Also it could be that your hard disk may be about to fail, so it could be a good idea to run a S.M.AR.T. test on it. You can probably download the software to do this from the disk manufacturer's web site.

    Hope this helps.:cool:

    One last thing, be sure and check/reseat ALL jumpers on your hard drive, not just the master/slave jumper.:grinthumb
  7. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    It would certainly be worth reseating CPU, memory, cards, etc and even thinking about taking the whole thing apart and putting it back together again.
  8. RustyZip

    RustyZip TechSpot Paladin Posts: 322

    I had a problem similar to your just this week, all i did was take out the ram, swapped it around, and hey presto... I reckon i didnt have the ram seated properly, although it looked perfect to me...
  9. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    Your problem definitely exhibits the classic symptoms of a heat related issue (going by the description you provided), so I suspect a dodgy contact somewhere.

    There are some good ideas in the suggestions that have been posted here, so its worth giving them all a try, just start with the most likely suspects based on the symptoms.

    It should be easily fixed once you track down the source, so just try one thing at a time to be sure you find the right suspect - just in case it happens again.

    These types of problems are notoriously difficult to find, just follow a methodical routine to eliminate all possible suspects, one at a time, and you'll have it fixed with the minimum of fuss. :cool:

    Just to be better informed - Does the system post properly from power off if you try this immediately after it has been running and then shut down (i.e. before it has had a chance to cool down)?
  10. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    I doubt this is heat related, if so, it would get worse and possibly cause more problems as the system ran and got hotter.

    What is displayed on the screen during this long POST time? Is it showing any POST info? has the memory test run at this point? have the drives been detected yet? Also, any configuration changes recently before this started would be helpful.

    Have you tried a barebones boot to see if it there was any difference?
  11. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    While I can't think of a single setting that would cause such a delay in the BIOS, you may want to try resetting your CMOS by shorting out the "clear CMOS" jumper located on your board.
  12. Nodsu

    Nodsu TS Rookie Posts: 5,837   +6

    Drive lights staying on would suggest a problem detecting the devices. Do all IDE things show up in Windows when you funally get there?

    Also, maybe you have turned on the HDD spin up delay in BIOS settings?
  13. Phantasm66

    Phantasm66 TS Rookie Posts: 5,734   +8

    Storm is on to something with the barebones boot. Just mobo, processor, RAM, graphics card and PSU. Does it still do it?
  14. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    StormBringer ...
    I doubt this is heat related, if so, it would get worse and possibly cause
    more problems as the system ran and got hotter.


    Sorry Storm, but I think that this statement is incorrect.

    As we all know, heating causes expansion, which can affect different things in different ways.

    In some cases this expansion can cause cause contacts to be become 'out-of-contact',
    and in other cases the opposite can happen - it depends on the physical layout at the contact.

    The issue would be much easier to clarify if a more complete description of the symptoms were provided.

    For example,
    Does the system take a long time to POST from every Hard Boot, or only from cold?

    Its too easy to make assumptions when vital information is not provided and therefore make an incorrect diagnosis.

    Please provide more info hypermikem, in particular answering my previous question
    would help to determine if your problem was heat related or not.
  15. mrslippyfist

    mrslippyfist TS Rookie Posts: 50

    I had something similar happen when, my Hd had some errors, and windows automatically set the drive to PIO mode, slowing the boot right down, its easily solved by reinstalling the IDE drivers. Although that would only be a problem once it's got past the POST. When the drive eventually started to pack in, it would take a while for the bios to recognise it, but not 5 mins. I guess the easiest way to find out is to strip it to basics, and borrow bits to test with till you find the problem.
  16. hypermikem

    hypermikem TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I'll try it all!

    Thanks guys, I will try it all until I find a solution. Upon a cold boot, not a soft(warm) boot, I mean when totally powered down, it will hang before detecting memory and drives. The HD light is on solid, and so is the light on the HD, the lights on the floppy, and zip drive blink and then go off. It will hand for 4 to five minutes, then the post beep, and all is fine with no reduction in performance once it finally is booted up. Although sometimes while navigating windows, it will totally freeze, then I will have to soft boot, but this does not happen often at all. Not sure if the problems are related. I will post more when I get home and carefully pay attention to the symptoms, and post back. Thanks. Oh, and yes I did make changes to the cmos, but only after the symptoms appeared. The crashes preceeded the bootup problem for some time, and then it finally escallated to the bootup problem. The changes that I made to cmos, were that I chose to autodetect the drives, which it did, and it made no difference. I then chose to employ optimum performmace settings. I have yet to try the fail safe setting. Thsoe are the only changes that I can remember making. If I short out the cmos jumper, will that reset everything?
  17. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    You're still not answering my question as posted earlier, but going by your response I can presume that rebooting after a freeze in windows does not take 5 mins, as it does from cold.

    This being the case, your problem would definitely be heat related, and as you say that your hard disk LED stays ON, this points to the most likely cause as being hard disk related (i.e. either imminent hard drive failure, or more likely a dodgy jumper or cable connection).

    It would also explain the random freezing that happens in windows, as this is probably occuring during disk access.

    Good Luck with your investigation - you've got plenty of good advice and places to look from all the posts here, so you'll get to the root problem eventually. Just be sure to let us all know what it was when you eventually track it down.:cool:
  18. Rick

    Rick TechSpot Staff Posts: 4,572   +65

    Heat does affect the platters of the hard disk, causing them to expand and contract. Being such sensitive and precise devices and given the differences between cold and warm boots, it is conceivable that your hard disk may be about to kick the bucket.

    Try leaving the side/cover off of your computer and placing a house fan aimed directly inside of it. It should keep your system cool enough that should not be any harsh temperature swings.

    Can you read from all of your drivers? I know from personal experience that incorrect jumper settings can cause major delays.. This varies BIOS to BIOS, hard disk to hard disk though. But this has happened to me and is a possible explanation. You may want to check your jumpers and at the very LEAST, reseat them. Possibly even replace IDE cables and such...
  19. hypermikem

    hypermikem TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I haven't touched any jumpers.

    Jumper settings are ruled out as I have not adjusted any of them. Nic, to answer your question, if I power down through the normal start menu, and immediately try to boot up, it will boot up normally for about two minutes following shutdown, after that, it will hang. I think I see where you are going with this. It is starting to seem like a temperature thing. I will post more info as it becomes apparent, or if you wish, ask questions and I will give as much info as I am able to.
  20. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    Try and boot to the Windows ME boot floppy with your hard drive disconnected - from cold.

    If it boots fine then I think you will have narrowed the problem to the hard drive.

    One other thing, the fact that you have not touched jumper settings does not rule them out - in this case it rules them in as poor contacts happen over time!

    If after trying the above test you find that the problem is with your hard drive, and if you have tried all my previous suggestions then you could additionally try reseating all connections to the printed circuit board that is on your hard drive - this might include reseating the connector that attaches to the board and also removing and remounting the board in the case where the drive motor connects via some type of removable contact.

    Have fun.:D
  21. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    I got the impression that he meant that the system took 5 mins to boot from cold boot(not necessarily meaning the system is cold, just meaning powered on from being shut off) but it didn't do it with a reboot. If that assumption isn't correct then he needs to clarify. Also, if it is incorrect, then yes, there is a possibility of heat related issue, or a temp related issue rather, because it would seem that the heat would actually be correcting the problem here. But that is jumping ahead so I digress.

    You still need to clarify, if you run the system till it is good and warmed up, then shut down(not a reboot) then power the system back on, does it take the 5mins, or does it boot up like it does when you simply reboot? This answer will determine whether we can rule out a thermal problem.
  22. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    StormBringer ...
    You still need to clarify, if you run the system till it is good
    and warmed up, then shut down(not a reboot) then power
    the system back on, does it take the 5mins, or does it
    boot up like it does when you simply reboot?

    Storm, take a look back to hypermikem's last post and you'll find that this question has finally been answered. :grinthumb

    Also, I'd like to mention that anyone posting requests for help should provide precise info regarding their problem. Tell us about when the problem occurs AND under what conditions it does'nt occur. Also tell us what has been tried and if anything was done before the problem started to appear. Be as detailed as possible to avoid any ambiguity - as witnessed here. Anyways, I'm digressing now, so I'll sign off.:cool:
  23. StormBringer

    StormBringer TS Maniac Posts: 2,244

    It was still kind of a vague explanation, and I thought it needed more clarification to make sure that is what he meant. Anyway, I still think if you boot barebones, it will help you narrow this down. You will be removing many variable from the equation. If the problem does not present itself, add one device back, reboot, repeat until the problem returns.
  24. Nic

    Nic TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,549

    This is GOOD advice Storm. I am in the 'fortunate' (possibly not the right word to use:D) position that I have experienced this exact problem (same symptoms etc.).

    Something I can say for sure is that if the problem is caused by a faulty IDE device, then such a long delay on boot can only be caused by the boot device itself. If another IDE device was faulty, then you would not get the 5 min boot delay, but you would still get the occasional freeze while in windows. :eek:

    I had the problem for quite some time before I figured it out, and I tried everything!:cool:

    And I agree that the problem description could have been a little clearer.:D

    I'm loging off as its now bedtime over here in the UK.

    Sweet dreams all ...
  25. JuniorHP

    JuniorHP TS Rookie

    Thanks guys, I registered just to tell you that this thread solved the problem I had.
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