Solved M7VKQ Pro boot weirdness

March 28, 2012 at 13:35:10
Specs: Ubuntu 11.10, Athlon 2600/512MB
Mobo won't boot until I remove the RAM and put it in the other slot. I have tried this with different RAM sticks and it behaves consistently but weirdly. No BIOS beeps, no video, but I can hear the floppy seek, the CD lights (briefly) and the hard disk light comes on for a second. To get it to boot, I take the RAM out of the slot it is in (there are only two slots and the mobo only accepts 2GB max) and plug it into the other slot. Now the mobo boots normally. The next time I power it off (or restart it) I have to go through the same procedure again. I've tried different sticks of RAM (512MB PC2100, 1GB PC2400) and the mobo does the same thing with both. As you might notice, this is not a new mobo. I think I stored it away several years ago because it was acting up. I'm trying to get my old systems working again as part of spring cleanup, but this one baffles me.

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✔ Best Answer
March 30, 2012 at 19:13:28
Newer ram types have gold plated contacts. Gold doesn't oxidize so it's not necessary to use a non abrasive pencil eraser on them like was sometimes necessary for tin plated contacts on older ram module types. However, they can get "mung" on them, such as nicotine and tar deposits from a smoker' s environment, and in that case isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, the less the water % in it the better, or methanol (methyl hydrate; wood alcohol), will remove that.

This mboard may be as old as circa ten years old.

For older mboards, sometimes you also have to clean the contacts in the ram slots.
E.g. wrap a tougher tissue like one used to clean a monitor screen around thin cardboard such as from a breakfast cereal box, drip a few drops of isopropyl alcohol on the tissue, insert the assembly into the slots a few times each.
....

Use good lighting and something such as a magnifying glass to examine what you think are suspicious looking solder blobs - you'll probably find most if not all of them are fine when magnified. From what I've seen and read, usually when you have problems with the soldering the symptoms of that show up early in the life of the mboard, not later.

It's recommended you use at least a 60 watt soldering iron on the solder on a mboard.



#1
March 30, 2012 at 03:44:30
That's weird.

Have you tried updating the BIOS?
Does it still happen if you reset the CMOS?

<zany theories>
1: The BIOS remembers the RAM position, so maybe in the process of remembering the RAM position it's forgetting to initialize the video card. It's gone senile and needs to be medicated.

2: The motherboard does the floppy seek and then hangs - if it's the real floppy seek and not just a jitter, then the BIOS is recognizing the RAM. Therefore, the problem is related to the video card. It could be with the way the video card drivers / BIOS are behaving (shadow BIOS perhaps?) try disabling BIOS caching.

3: It could also be that it is initializing the video cards in the wrong order after the first boot: If you have an on board and an add on card, or an on board with two outputs, it might just be using the wrong output.

</zany theories>

Otherwise it's not really worth £10 - satisfy your frustration by busting it with a hammer.


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#2
March 30, 2012 at 07:36:06
Some mboards develop this problem - electrolytic capacitors were installed on them that were not properly made, and they fail eventually - the mboard manufacturer didn't know they were improperly made at the time the mboard was made.

Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .

What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
http://www.badcaps.net/pages.php?vid=5
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.
http://www.badcaps.net/

Pictures of blown capacitors, other components, power supplies, fried Athlon cpus, etc.:
http://www.halfdone.com/Personal/Jo...


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#3
March 30, 2012 at 11:18:49
<Astreya27>
The BIOS is the latest release.

I removed the battery (and unplugged the power supply), waited 5 minutes to make sure all the capacitors had discharged, and this did reset the CMOS to the default values. I thought the problem was gone because the system booted normally, but when I powered the system off and then turned it back on it behaved weirdly again: I had to remove the RAM and put it in the other slot...

1. Lol! I wish I knew a way to medicate these hardworking mobos - some of them have more than put in their time and just need to be retired.

2. It is the real floppy seek. I was using the built-in video, but I have a working AGP card that I substituted, changed the CMOS from PCI to AGP, and I get the same symptoms. Next I turned off the BIOS caching for the video, but this had no effect.

I like your last suggestion the best - I'll salvage the CPU and RAM and the mobo goes into recycling :)

<Tubesandwires>
I LOVE the example pictures on badcaps.net and halfdone.com - unfortunately, none of the caps look bad. I used a magnifier and checked them out carefully. With the price of capacitors, it's not worth pulling and replacing them for this old mobo.

Thank you both for trying to help. I suspected I would not be able to fix this one. Oh, well - I have nine other systems that now work, and five more to repair. First I'll try to sell the working ones at a yard sale this weekend. If they don't sell, I'll try to donate them to the local senior center.


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Related Solutions

#4
March 30, 2012 at 14:31:03
Okay, so the capacitors look fine.

The bios version probably has nothing to do with your problem.

Rarely, some bios updates cure problems with certain specific ram modules, but if that isn't mentioned in the release notes for any bios update for the mboard, then that doesn't apply.

If the SAME mboard worked fine previously with the SAME ram, it makes NO SENSE AT ALL to flash the bios !

It's unlikely an improper bios setting is causing your problem - if that were the case, clearing the cmos by removing the battery would have cured your problem.
A cmos battery that is too weak or dead cannot cause your problem.
....

Try the no ram test.

Make sure any cards installed in mboard slots are all the way down in their slots.

Make sure you have a speaker or speakers or the equivalent connected to the mboard so you can hear mboard beeps (see your mboard manual if you need to).
Remove the AC power to the case/power supply.
Remove all the ram.
Restore AC power.
Try to boot.
If nothing else is wrong, you will get no video but you will hear a pattern of beeps that indicate no ram is installed, or a ram problem.
E.g. for an Award bios or a bios based on one, that's often a beep of about a half second, silence for a half second, a beep of about a half second, silence for a half second, continuously.
.....

If the system DOES NOT pass the no ram test, lots of things could be wrong. A common cause is the power supply is in the process of failing.
Try another known good power supply (e.g. one from another working system) with the system, if you can.
(Power supplies often develop failing electrolytic capacitors, over time.)

If it still doesn't pass the no ram test with another known good power supply connected, the mboard is probably damaged.
....

If the system passes the no ram test.....

BAD ram is extremely RARE, but it's common for ram to develop a poor connection in it's slots, for the ram to not be seated properly, and less common for ram that you might think should work fine to NOT work properly because it's not 100% compatible with using it in your mboard.

Any ram slot that hasn't had ram in it for a long time is likely to have accumulated crap in the bottom of it that's hard to see - if in doubt, blow out all the ram slots, with compressed air, or with canned air or canned gas made for the purpose of cleaning up electronic boards. .

A common thing that can happen with ram, even ram that worked fine previously, is the ram has, or has developed, a poor connection in it's slot(s).
This usually happens a long time after the ram was installed, but it can happen with new ram, or after moving the computer case from one place to another, and I've had even new modules that needed to have their contacts cleaned.

See response 2 in this - try cleaning the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure the modules are properly seated:
http://www.computing.net/hardware/w...

If the SAME mboard worked fine previously with the SAME ram, there's probably nothing wrong with the ram ! You can be introducing new problems by trying ram that hasn't been used in the same mboard and found to work fine previously !

You can still have problems if any ram module is not 100% compatible with using it in your mboard.
In the worst cases of incompatibility your mboard WILL NOT BOOT all the way with it installed, and the mboard may not even beep - the ram has to be compatible with the mboard's main chipset, or in the case of recent mboards, compatible with the memory controller built into the cpu.
(The latter does not apply to this mboard.)

Try the ram modules one at a time.

Assuming you DO have a case speaker or piezo sound device connected to the mboard so you can hear mboard beeps, if you DID hear the no ram beep pattern, but you DO NOT hear the usual normal single beep that indicates the POST has completed successfully while booting when a certain ram module is installed, your mboard is NOT going to boot all the way with that ram module installed.


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#5
March 30, 2012 at 16:05:29
<Tubesandwires>
The no RAM test works as expected. I take the RAM out and the I get three short beeps, silence, 3 short beeps, etc. This is the beep code for 64k base RAM problems. Just in case, I switched to known-good power supply, but that didn't help.

I think you may be on to something with the crud in the bottom of the RAM sockets, or contact cleaning, or perhaps the RAM sockets themselves being out-of-whack. I used a can of compressed air and blew out the sockets, used a pencil eraser to clean up the contacts on the RAM, and tried it again. This time I got a few cold boots in a row without having to switch the RAM, but then it went back to the same old symptoms.

I've pulled the motherboard from the case scrutinized the solder joints on the bottom and they look suspicious - tiny hairline fractures around some of the pins. I need to get some soldering supplies before I touch them up - it wouldn't do to resolder and get cold solder joints. I'll post the results tomorrow.


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#6
March 30, 2012 at 19:13:28
✔ Best Answer
Newer ram types have gold plated contacts. Gold doesn't oxidize so it's not necessary to use a non abrasive pencil eraser on them like was sometimes necessary for tin plated contacts on older ram module types. However, they can get "mung" on them, such as nicotine and tar deposits from a smoker' s environment, and in that case isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, the less the water % in it the better, or methanol (methyl hydrate; wood alcohol), will remove that.

This mboard may be as old as circa ten years old.

For older mboards, sometimes you also have to clean the contacts in the ram slots.
E.g. wrap a tougher tissue like one used to clean a monitor screen around thin cardboard such as from a breakfast cereal box, drip a few drops of isopropyl alcohol on the tissue, insert the assembly into the slots a few times each.
....

Use good lighting and something such as a magnifying glass to examine what you think are suspicious looking solder blobs - you'll probably find most if not all of them are fine when magnified. From what I've seen and read, usually when you have problems with the soldering the symptoms of that show up early in the life of the mboard, not later.

It's recommended you use at least a 60 watt soldering iron on the solder on a mboard.


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#7
March 31, 2012 at 08:55:56
FIXED!

The problem was with the DIMM sockets. The mobo is a micro ATX form factor. The RAM sockets are in an area that is not stabilized by a standoff. My best guess is that the constant switching of RAM flexed the board enough to cause solder cracks around some of the pins - especially the middle pins in the socket. I used my solder sucker to remove the old solder and resoldered the sockets. I've tested the mobo through a dozen or so power cycles and it works like new :)

To be on the safe side, I also cleaned the contacts like Tubesandwires suggested with methanol, some rugged tissue, and a bit of cardboard from a cereal box.

To prevent this from happening again (not that I intend to be moving RAM about on this mobo anymore), I glued a plastic standoff to the bottom of the board near the RAM sockets to provide some stiffening.


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#8
March 31, 2012 at 18:56:15
Hooray !
We're glad to hear you solved your problem !

Most people would not have looked at the underside of the mboard to see if there were any problems with the soldering, and even if they did, they're not likely to fix the problem or even have an adequate proper soldering iron and/or a solder sucker.
.............

However....

"....My best guess is that the constant switching of RAM flexed the board enough to cause solder cracks around some of the pins..."

That's extremely unlikely.

M7VKQ PRO (home support page)
http://www.biostar-usa.com/mbdetail...

"This motherboard is identical to M7SUA. In North America, M7SUA boards will be sold under the model number of M7VKQ Pro."

Manual - M7SUA
ftp://ftp.biostar-usa.com/manuals/M7VKQ%20PRO/M7VKQPROmanual.pdf


The ram slots are in a standard placement position on the mboard.

The manual doesn't show where the mounting holes are, and the picture of the mboard is no longer there on the home support page.

I looked at several mboards I have lying around, and ones in open cases, and all of the ATX or MATX ones either
- have a mounting hole for a screw a case mounting post should be under close to the inner end of the ram slots,
- or - two mounting holes a case mounting post should be under close to near both ends of the ram slots.

All ATX or MATX cases I've come across have a place to mount a mounting post at both of those locations.

Was one mounting post, or both mounting posts missing ?

If NO, I think it's more likely the cracking was always there, at least since
....." I think I stored it away several years ago because it was acting up. "

In any case, it should NOT take much force to plug in the modules.
I've never damaged the solder below the ram slots even when someone elses's case had no mounting posts there.

It's more likely the soldering was poor there along, but it may not have been cracked at first - it could be that it was simply the normal heating / cooling cycles the system was exposed to that cracked the solder there.



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