Troubleshooting Basics

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Before Installing the Motherboard

Try to get it to POST (Power On Self Test) so you don’t go through a lot of effort installing, only to pull it out again. Place the board on top of the box it came in, position it so that you can connect the power supply plugs (Note: AT Form Factor: P8 & P9 – black wires together!), insert the CPU, memory and video card then turn it on. If it does complete POST (probably saying something like NO BOOT DEVICE), you can now feel secure that the board will probably at least go that far after you install it.

If the board doesn’t POST successfully, follow the appropriate procedure in the Symtoms Table before deciding that the board is actually bad. This way if you need to call for assistance or to request an RMA (Return Material Authorization), you can provide all of the diagnostics tried to the technician and shorten the process.

Start with a Clear BIOS

Many motherboards today come with a FLASH BIOS which can be re-programmed using a software utility and a binary (.BIN) program file. Many times this is done for you by the vendor or by the motherboard manufacturer. After each update, the BIOS needs to be cleared, since there can be some ‘residue’ left over in some BIOS fields which can cause some very strange behavior. Typically clearing the BIOS is done with a three pin jumper as follows:

  • Set the jumper across pins 2-3 (or whatever pins your motherboard manual specifies)
  • Turn on the power for a few seconds, then turn off
  • Reset the jumper across pins 1-2 (again, refer to your motherboard manual)
  • Power up the motherboard again, and set all user values in the BIOS.

Beware that you do not turn off the machine at an inappropriate time while flashing your BIOS. If you do, you may find that your system no longer boots at all. When this happens, your course of action depends upon the features of your BIOS. If it has a Boot Block, you will be able to recover with just a little trouble, but if it does not you will need to purchase another BIOS chip that has been pre-programmed. The procedure for re-flashing using the Boot Block is as follows:

  • The Boot Block of the BIOS contains minimal routines for reading from the A: drive, but without any video (except to tell you that the system is running with the Boot Block).
  • Put your diskette with the Flash Utility in the A: drive, and type the name (such as AWDFLASH, AOFLASH, etc.). You will see no video for this, but you should always get the same sequence of questions.
  • Now put your diskette with the BIOS Update in the A: drive. Type the name of the BIOS Update binary file and hit enter. Next type your choice of whether you wish to save the current BIOS (‘Y’ or ‘N’). Finally, type the letter ‘Y’ to program the BIOS and wait for about 30 seconds, then reboot.
  • If all went well, you should have a bootable system again. Of course, this assumes that you typed in the correct name of the Flash Update utility and the correct name of the BIOS Update file.

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