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Basara549
1 Nickel

Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

This intermittent failure started in January (Though may have been happening for months, on a very sporadic basis). It continually became worse and worse until now it will not stay started, or not start at all.

Description of the issue:

1. When running, it will suddenly shut down hard to a restart (as if someone pushed and held the power button - no shutdown screens, or warnings). this could be 5 minutes or several hours into a session. This is what the problem originally surfaced as.

2. Sometimes it will start to boot, but power back down before reaching the "DELL" screen. It will periodically try to start back on its own, as it apparently still realizes that it is in the process of starting.

3. Currently, most of the time when you attempt to start it, it starts for a fraction of a second, before the monitor even has time to respond to the attempt, then shuts back down. If left alone, it may try to restart on its own minutes later, occasionally succeeding in a fashion similar to 1 or 2 above.

4. On rare occasions, it froze on the DELL/BIOS screen a couple times, but went back to the old issue shortly afterward.

Fixes already tried, that failed:

  1. New Power supply (still does it with new PSU 3 times the capability of the old one)
  2. New Motherboard (acquired new MB of identical make, but Inspiron instead of Vostro BIOS). Booted a couple times with new board, and had to deal with driver issues - then the old problems came back once again.  As the issue proved to not be the MB, I returned the original MB to the case, and returned all the components to the original MB.
  3. Replaced battery on the motherboard. No change (though I found it amusing that my glucose meter uses the same batteries).
  4. Rechecked all connectors repeatedly, and (obviously, from the MB swap, then swap back) have reseated all the RAM and the processor itself. All are secure.
  5. Removed all the USB connectors - no change.
  6. Removed a PCI card that adds additional USB ports to see if it might be the issue. The card has functioned well over 2 years. It booted normally once, ran for a half hour, then shut down on me as I was typing. So, it's not the issue.

Any ideas as what might be causing the issue? A bad power switch, perhaps?

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10 Replies
7- Gold

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Hi Basara549,

Have you tested the hard drive and RAM?

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Basara549
1 Nickel

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Hard drive has been mounted to where it could be scanned from a different computer, and checked out.


checking RAM's a bit more problematic, but I'm not sure the RAM could be the issue because some of the failures are occurring literally a fraction of a second after the power button is pushed, almost before I can get my finger clear of the button. It's definitely quicker than before an older machine would even start a memory scan as part of the boot-up. I can't rule it out, but don't have a means of testing the memory without taking into a shop.

I could remove sticks one at a time to see if a difference is made...

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Basara549
1 Nickel

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

As soon as I think I've got this licked, it kicks me in the nuts again....

Now ruled out RAM as a cause. Sticks 1 & 3 had a shutdown, as did Sticks 2 & 4, with the other pair not in the machine.


A further scan of the hard drive using another computer found no errors, unless the error is in the XP install itself. However, at least I got it to run tonight long enough to get XP updated. Drive has no issues being used as a data drive in an external enclosure connected to another machine via USB.

Shutdowns are a mix, in appearance, to shutdowns from pushing the power button (some that go to windows shutting down, as if the button is held for a second - others that act as if the power button was held in until it shuts down hard).

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7- Gold

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Are you running the Dell diagnostics? That's what I would try.

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Basara549
1 Nickel

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

typically, it won't stay started long enough in its current state to successfully run the diagnostics. I just attempted to boot up and didn't even get through the firewall & AV coming up before it shut down.

The last time I ran the diagnostics, in December when the symptoms started appearing (about one shutdown a week), I got nothing showing up out of the ordinary in the diagnostics.

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RoHe
6 Thallium

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Have you looked in Windows Event viewer for error messages around the time of a crash?

Overheating, meaning failed heat sink or failed fan(s)?

Are you using a power strip, surge protector or UPS? Have you tried removing those and connecting directly to the wall outlet?

Ron

   Forum Member since 2004
   I am not a Dell employee

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Basara549
1 Nickel

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Fans appear to be working normally when I do get a short-lived start.

It will sometimes not even respond to the power button being pushed on what would be a cold start (not started for days).

I've tried replacing the power cords, and hooking into different outlets instead of the UPS, and also into other UPS and power strips plugged into outlets on different circuits - no change.

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7- Gold

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

I was referring to the Diagnostics on the F12 partition. You don't boot to Windows to run it.

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Basara549
1 Nickel

RE: Vostro 400 - won't start, or won't stay started

Again, it's not starting up long enough even to get to THAT stage, most of the time.

Last state was not responding to the power button at all, though when plugged up the motherboard's light would come on. Odds are if I plug it back in it will get about to the point where I COULD hit F12, then it would shut down before that diagnostic could load.

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