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General Problems in a System Recently Assembled

Explanation: It is suspected that there may be a problem related to the fact that the system was just assembled or upgraded. This is usually related to an error message, trouble booting, or general system instability.

Diagnosis: There are many different reasons that a system can experience these sorts of difficulties, but some are relatively unique to new systems, especially ones that have just been homebuilt. Following the assembly instructions carefully is the best way to avoid these problems, but we are all human and make mistakes. There are some common gotchas that are typically made by those who do new system assembly or upgrading.


  • You may find it helpful to examine this inspection procedure, which is used as a checklist after completing significant assembly work in the PC. The procedure covers many of the common pitfalls that can result after doing work in a new system.
  • Any time the PC is worked on, there is the chance of loose connections or shorts. Check here for a listing of things to check for in this area.
  • Check for cables that have been inserted incorrectly. Many cables, such as IDE data cables, are not keyed to force correct entry, and can therefore be easily inserted backwards; make sure all your "pin 1"s line up. Another common problem is the "off by one" error, where the connector is placed over a set of pins shifted one column off, so that the pins and connectors don't line up properly.
  • Some people try to assemble PCs a little at a time, starting with only a minimal set of components at first. This is done to reduce complications during assembly, and in general makes sense. However, if you do this, do not try to start up the PC unless you have connected to the power supply at least the motherboard (with CPU, memory and video card in it) and a hard disk drive. Power supplies may malfunction if started up without enough of a load to draw current.
  • A common problem in new systems is an overheating device, especially due to misconfiguration. If after running the PC for a while, you suspect an overheating problem, look here.
  • Be wary of possibly overloading the power supply. If your system has an older or smaller power supply, especially under 200W, you may have difficulties if you try to upgrade to a machine that uses a lot of power. Pentium Pro motherboards and processors use a lot of power, for example. Adding a new hard disk to a system that already has several and is struggling with a smallish supply can tax the system and cause intermittent problems. Troubleshoot suspected power problems here.
  • You may have a problem related to the system memory. It may have failed, or may be inserted or configured incorrectly. You may have chosen the wrong type for the motherboard.
  • You may have a problem associated with the motherboard, such as a misconfigured jumper, or an outright failure. You may want to diagnose it here.
  • It is possible for the processor to be the source of problems. Troubleshoot the processor here.
  • You may have your BIOS settings set up incorrectly. Go through the settings and make sure they are correct. Try resetting them to their default values, and being very conservative with items such as memory timing, cache speed and hard disk timing modes, until you are sure the system is working properly.
  • Troubleshoot expansion cards. Check them especially for incorrect jumpers and settings.
  • Check hard disk drives to make sure they are jumpered correctly.
  • Check the system for resource conflicts, which commonly arise when adding new hardware to an existing system, or setting up a new system.

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Site Version: 2.2.0 - Version Date: April 17, 2001
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