Vaio VGN-FS315E boot problem

Sony / Vgn-fs315e
June 24, 2010 at 10:54:40
Specs: Windows XP, Celeron M 1.6GHz/1GB

I've been having some problems with the model of laptop in title. It belongs to a friend, and just recently stopped booting. The lights come on as they're supposed to, but the fans don't kick in unless I leave it long enough for the processor to start overheating.

I did do a thorough Google search, and I found a couple of people who were claiming that it was caused simply by something shorting out on the case. I have had it in pieces all day though and it still won't kick into life.

A year or so back I came across another Vaio model that had exactly the same symptoms, except it was memory socket failure and I did get it fixed.

Does anyone know of common faults in this model that might produce these symptoms? It does seem to be a common failure, there's quite a lot of them posted on eBay etc. Like I said it's for a friend, and I know they are quite attached to this laptop. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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June 24, 2010 at 11:41:25
The fan inside the laptop may not come on after you first boot until the temperature inside the case gets above a certain threshold, and when it does come on, it cycles on and off according to the temp inside the case. With some laptops, it comes on while booting then shuts off within a short time, and doesn't come on again until that temp is exceeded - with others the fan doesn't come on until that temp is exceeded.

Problems with ram slots being defective are extremely rare, unless you damaged the ram slot circuits yourself by doing something you shouldn't have (e.g. unplugging or plugging in ram when the main battery and/or AC adapter was installed / connected), or the laptop was exposed to some damaging event (e.g. being dropped, having liquid spilled on it, exposure to a power spike or surge while the AC adapter was plugged in), but there may be a problem with the connection of the ram to it's ram slots.

Not all ram that you might think should work is compatible with using it in your mboard. If the ram installed has been changed from ram that worked fine previously, of if you're not sure, see Ram Compatibility below.

Assuming the ram installed in the laptop was working fine previously and no modules have been changed......

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:

For a laptop, or netbook, you must remove both its main battery and AC adapter before you do that.

For a brand name computer, see the Owner's or User's manual if you need to - how to remove or replace the ram is usually in that - it may already be in your installed programs. If you can't get into Windows, it may be on a disk that came with the computer, or you can go online and look at it or download it - it's in the downloads for your specific model.

Laptop hard drives do not last as long as desktop hard drives. This model is relatively old, and that may be what the problem is - the hard drive is dying or is dead.

Your ram must be working properly in order to test the hard drive.

Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities

If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibility, on another computer if you need to.

If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.

If the drive us made by Toshiba, they have no drive diagnostics. You can use the Seagate Desktop Tools to test any hard drive brand, but it can only attempt to fix Seagate or Maxtor drives.

You haven't said what you mean by a boot problem.
Having no video on the built in screen doesn't necessarily mean the computer is not booting.
Laptop no video (or video problems), and battery, AC adapter, power jack T shooting.

See response 1:

DO NOT plug in or unplug a monitor's video cable into / from a video port while the computer is running. Doing so can damage the monitor's circuits and/or the video adapter's circuits.

Some laptops will display on an external monitor without you having to do anything.

If you get no video on an external monitor, some laptops have a key combo that you must press to toggle the display to external video only / sometimes both / built in display video only - see the Owner's or User's manual for the model.

The computer not booting at all is a different problem from it's booting but there is no video, or it's booting but Windows isn't loading properly.
You can have video before Windows is supposed to load but no video once Windows is supposed to load.

Ram Compatibility.

Ram that works in another mboard , or any ram you buy or have lying around, may not work properly, or sometimes, not at all - even if it physically fits and is the right overall type (e.g. SDram, DDR, DDR2, etc.; PCxxxx, xxx mhz) for your mboard. In the worst cases of incompatibilty 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.

If you still have the ram that was installed when the system worked fine, try installing just that ram.

See response 5 in this for some info about ram compatibilty, and some places where you can find out what will work in your mboard for sure:
Correction to that:

Once you know which module ID strings (part numbers) work in your mboard, you can get them from anywhere you like that has ram with those ID strings.

If you have brand name ram, it is usually easy to look up whether it's ID string is in a list of compatible modules found by using your mboard or brand name system model number.
If the ram is generic, that may be difficult or impossible.

It is easy to test for incompatible ram that has caused your mboard to fail to boot.

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 your ram passes a ram test, it's working fine, even if you can't determine whether it's listed for your mboard or system model anywhere

If you do a ram test, do that AFTER having tried cleaning the contacts and making sure the ram is seated properly - otherwise any errors found may be FALSE.
If the ram is incompatible with the chipset, or on more recent computers, incompatible with the memory controller built into the cpu, it will likely FAIL a ram test - that is NOT a true indication of the ram being faulty - there is probably nothing wrong with it, and it will pass the test if installed in a mboard it is compatible with.
NOTE: Sometimes incompatible modules (or matched pairs) won't work properly when more than one is installed, but will pass when by itself.

If you want to try a memory diagnostic utility that takes a lot less time to run a full pass than memtest86 does, this one is pretty good - Microsoft's
Windows Memory Diagnostic:
It can be toggled (press T) to do a standard or a more comprehensive set of tests - use the default 6 test one first - if it passes one pass of that, use the latter one. A few of the tests in the latter set are intentionally slower.
If you don't have a floppy drive, see the Quick Start Information at that Microsoft link for how to make a bootable CD of the Windows Memory Diagnostic (you need Windiag.iso - you don't necessarily need to use the program they mention to add it to the CD).

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June 24, 2010 at 12:08:44

Thanks for your reply, I had a quick scan over it and I'm about to read it properly now to see if anything stands out, but I did notice you stating I hadn't said what I meant by a boot problem.

Ok, the mobo itself is obviously getting power from the AC adapter (I haven't got the battery plugged in), and like I said the lights and the fan are functional (I didn't know that not all laptop fans spun on startup, thank you for that).

The problem is it won't boot to POST. Even with the RAM and optical drive removed, still nothing. I've tried it with no RAM, and singly in each module. (It is the correct RAM btw, that was one of the first things I checked, it would be one of the stupid things this guy would do to his computer)

I've also tried external monitors (both CRT and TFT). Actually now that I'm thinking about it, I'm staring to think his graphics chip may have gone (I can't be sure of that because he kept his HDD, I don't know if it was working before)

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June 24, 2010 at 13:05:20
More recent laptops will often not boot or not boot fully unless the main battery is installed and can retain at least a minimal charge - they will not boot or not fully boot when only the AC adapter is connected to it, or when both are connected but the main battery cannot retain at least a minimal charge - however that may not apply to this older model.

If you do have a main battery for this, try plugging it in as well. You may need to let the AC adapter attempt to charge it for a while, e.g. at least a half hour. People tend to neglect replacing laptop main batteries. If it's older than two years, it may be shorted internally and cannot retain even a minimal charge. If the main battery gets HOT rather then just warm when you attempt to charge it for at least a half hour, it's shorted internally.

"I'm staring to think his graphics chip may have gone (I can't be sure of that because he kept his HDD, I don't know if it was working before"

The video should display on an external monitor even if there is no hard drive, if nothing else is wrong, but you may need to press a specific key combo.
If you get no video on an external monitor, in most cases, except for much more expensive models, the video adapter is built into the mboard and cannot be removed from it - the only cure is to get another mboard - however, since this is an old model, you may be able to get a used one cheaply - make sure it has no passwords enabled (for system or bios access).

If this laptop has been dropped, or has been otherwise subjected to a physical jarring, or it has had liquid spilled on it, or has been exposed to liquid e.g.rain, those are the most common causes that result in damage that cannot be repaired, unless you get another mboard, etc.

"The problem is it won't boot to POST. Even with the RAM and optical drive removed, still nothing. "

It can't complete the post and you get no video when no ram is installed, but you should get mboard beeps when you try to boot with no ram installed, assuming that this model can boot with no main battery installed.

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June 25, 2010 at 07:22:57

I charged the battery up, the battery light was blinking indicating that it was charging ok. Left it for an hour and the light was still blinking fine, but the battery wasn't overly hot (no hotter than any of the batteries from laptops I've owned get anyway).

What I meant by the no HDD comment was that I couldn't tell whether the system was booting, just with no visual output. I did get the drive off him though, and it and the optical drive spin up for a few seconds once I turn it on, then die

An unusual thing I did notice is that all 3 of the keylock lights come on and don't go out, almost like they've been shorted

I've also looked over the whole motherboard, and I can't see any liquid damage, corrosion or blown components/scorch damage

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June 25, 2010 at 13:47:43
"CPU/Ram: Celeron M 1.6GHz/1GB"

I'm assuming that applies to the subject laptop.

"....I can't see any liquid damage, corrosion or blown components/scorch damage."

You usually don't see anything obvious, unless it's been dropped or had liquid spilled on it. Dried liquid may merely leave a film, depending on what was in it - even water with a tiny amount of contamination (e.g. rain, water out of a tap) can conduct and fry things - that may not leave any film at all.

I've examined maybe a dozen desktop mboards that were malfunctioning or had failed - some had capacitors that had failed and were leaking, but otherwise nothing obvious.
I've only seen a couple of laptop mboards in laptops I or another guy have taken apart.
One was an Asus one, about 3 1/4 years old now.
No video, the guy, who got it third hand, used an external monitor for a while, it worked fine for a few months, then the keyboard and all the USB ports stopped working. It still booted, produced video on the external monitor, but without a working keyboard or working USB ports, you couldn't get past the logon screen.
I found a Maintenance manual for it, took it apart. I found evidence someone had dropped the laptop, but otherwise I couldn't find any obvious signs of damage on anything.

There are two small power boards in it - one in the case, near the jack, the other the voltage inverter for the display, in the lid. From what I've come across, most laptops have that arrangement. You could try finding another power board, by using it's part number if there's a label on it.

Shorted boards or other problems with boards on drives can cause weird symptoms. The motor in an optical drive seizing, which is common after it has been used a lot, can cause weird symptoms.
Remove the main battery, unplug the AC adapter.
Remove both the hard drive and optical drive, remove the ram.
Install the main battery, plug in the AC adapter, plug in an external monitor.
By the way, did you check the Owner's or User's manual to see if you need to press a key combo to get a display on the external monitor?
Try to boot. If you get no beeps, the laptop is malfunctioning for (an) unknown reason(s). You could try replacing the power board, and/or the mboard, but I wouldn't waste by time on such an old laptop.
You could then
Remove the main battery, unplug the AC adapter.
Install some ram , then install the main battery, plug in the AC adapter, plug in an external monitor.
and try to boot, but there's probably no point in doing that if you got no beeps with the ram removed.

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