Troubleshoot Motherboard, CPU and RAM

by Jack


Can you give me some tips on how to troubleshoot motherboard, CPU and RAM?

I am unsure where my problem lies so please can you give me some tips and tricks that will help me to fix my computer problem?



PC Tips and Tricks Answers:

Hi Jack,

Fault-finding your motherboard, RAM and CPU setup should be tackled in a logical manner whereby you keep careful notes of your fault-finding process and therefore do not miss any steps or overlook anything.

First off, does the PC exhibit any signs of life at all or is it completely dead?

Is there really anything wrong with your motherboard setup at all or could it perhaps be a problem with your power supply?

Modern motherboards usually have an LED fitted which will indicate that standby power is being supplied from the power supply to your motherboard.

It is useful to have access to a Digital Multimeter here so that you can confirm that the Power Supply is giving out the correct voltages – you can probe the back of the PSU to Motherboard ATX connector to check this and a quick search on Google will give you the wiring connector pin-out/wiring color coding to enable you to identify the various output voltages.

Note that if your CPU fan fails to spin up then it’s a sure sign of PSU failure or something overloading the output of the PSU.

Do remember that in order for the Motherboard to power up it does require that the ‘Power On’ pins (located on one of the headers on your motherboard – see the motherboard manual) that connect to the case front panel ‘ON’ button are actually receiving a momentary short when the button is depressed – again, confirm this with a Digital Multimeter.

If you are checking the operation of your motherboard setup outside of the PC case you will need to momentarily short these header pins on the Motherboard to turn on the PC.

If the motherboard doesn’t have an on-board buzzer, you will also find the fault finding process a lot easier if you have a speaker connected so that you can hear the POST (Power On Self-Test) beep codes generated by the Motherboards BIOS (Basic Input/output System) – these give you an indication of the possible causes for failure to boot up.

Make sure that you remove all drive connectors to the motherboard and power supply to eliminate the possibility of a faulty drive causing the PSU to latch off into a protection mode.

Also remove any daughter cards plugged into the PCI, PCI-E or ISA slots etc. with the exception of your Graphics card unless your motherboard has on-board graphics capability which you are using.

Power up and make a note of any audible beeps (POST) coming from your motherboard on-board buzzer or from your speaker.

The pattern/number of beeps/duration of beeps give you an indication of what a particular problem could be but note that different BIOS suppliers (AMI, Pheonix, Award) use different codes.

With an AMI BIOS one short beep is good, 2 short beeps indicate a memory problem etc.
Do a Google search for your particular motherboards BIOS Post codes.

At its most basic your PC only requires a motherboard, CPU and RAM to operate together with a graphics card if there is no on-board graphics.

You will also need to connect up a monitor to view messages during the boot process.

If you cannot get any output from your monitor, using the POST beeps as a guide, try swapping out the components with known working parts if you can.

First try swapping out the memory or, if you have more than one stick of RAM, remove one stick and see if it works then swap with your other stick and see if that one works.

Borrow a graphics card and try swapping this out.
The CPU may be trickier to borrow but it’s worth checking at least to ensure that it is seated correctly and not overheating – without a good heatsink compound (has a habit of drying up on older boards) your CPU will overheat in mere seconds!

Use Artic Silver heat sink compound here for the best thermal performance.

Could the CMOS battery have failed?

If your motherboard has jumpers fitted are they fitted correctly?

If you have exhausted all of the above then the likelihood is that your motherboard is indeed faulty.

As a final note it’s probably worth removing the motherboard from your case when fault-finding as this will make it easier to access everything and there is always the possibility of an incorrect mounting pillar placement or trapped screws etc. causing a short between tracks or component legs on the bottom of your motherboard.

When testing outside of the PC case do make sure your that your board is placed on a non-conductive surface to prevent shorting the tracking and pins on the bottom of the motherboard – perhaps the motherboard box if this is a new build and failing this a wood surface or desk top.

I hope this has helped Jack, please let me know how you get on and whether you require any more help.

And for our readers out there please let us know your own tips, tricks and experiences when fault-finding a motherboard, CPU and RAM bare bone setup.

All the best
Colin - PC Tips and Tricks

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