Computer Beeps and Won’t Start


Dead CPU

I have a popular post on troubleshooting startup problems. Problem is, I only cover how to troubleshoot software problems. If your computer is beeping and Windows doesn’t even begin to load, then you’ve got yourself a hardware problem.

The beeping at startup is the computer’s way of telling you that something is wrong. If the computer doesn’t do anything at startup, well, that’s also a good sign that something is wrong. Let’s figure out what it is, based on the symptoms.

You See the Windows Logo but Windows Doesn’t Start

Good news–you’ve got a software-related problem. OK, it’s not great news, but it’s easier to fix than a hardware problem. Follow these steps.

Basic Troubleshooting

Is it plugged in? <– Nerd joke

First, undo anything you’ve changed recently. If you’ve been fooling around in the BIOS settings (for example, by overclocking), change it back (if you can access the BIOS). You might try restoring the settings to their default.

Next, unplug any optional hardware. That includes webcams, soundcards, remote controls, and especially USB drives. Leave your video card and keyboard plugged in. If your computer starts, one of your hardware components is flakey. Reconnect them one-by-one until the computer fails again. You’ve then identified the problem component.

If your computer won’t start with just a video card and keyboard, open the case up. Keep a hand touching a metal part of the case to minimize static electricity. Then re-seat the computer’s memory (shown below left) and all internal cards (shown below right). Re-seating means to remove the component completely and then re-connect it. It’s a good way to re-establish any connections that have shaken loose. Also, disconnect any hard disks and reconnect them. For now, leave the CPU in place. Try and start your computer again. If it works, yay! If not, we know that an internal component has failed.

Re-seat the memory

Look around your motherboard for a small watch battery. Make note of the model number, then run to a pharmacy or Radio Shack and buy a replacement. These little batteries keep power to your computer when it’s turned off. It’s responsible for the system clock and some parts of the memory. If the battery gets low, your computer can behave unpredictably. The battery might not be the problem, but they’re cheap and you need to replace them occasionally anyway, so it’s a good place to start.

Still not working, eh. What’s happening?

Nothing Happens–No Video, No Beeping, Nothing

Good news–your data is safe on the hard disk.

OK, first question–are any fans or lights coming on? If not, you’ve probably got a bad power supply. The power supply is the box inside your computer that the power plug goes into. They die regularly, especially if you have flakey power and you don’t keep your computer plugged into an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). Figure out how many watts your current power supply is, buy a replacement with at least as many watts, and swap it out. It’s not too hard and shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes. You could also take it to a computer repair shop.

It could also be your motherboard, memory, or CPU, however. Testing individual components requires specialized equipment, so you’re better off taking it to a repair shop. Or, do what I did recently, and just buy a new computer and move the hard disk over. In my case, a new (and faster) computer was only about $250, and I had it up and running in an hour.

A BIOS Error Appears

That error is a good clue! At least you know your motherboard, CPU, and video card are (mostly) working. Try googling the error along with the make and model of your computer (such as “Dell Precision T3400 0xe4″).

No Video, One Short Beep

The BIOS thinks everything is working. It can communicate with the memory and CPU just fine, and there’s power. So, who are you to argue?

Your computer might actually be starting just fine, but you can’t see it. If you don’t have any video, try re-seating your video card. Check the video cord and its connection to your computer. Make sure the monitor is turned on and that it’s connected to your computer. Try connecting a different monitor.

No Video, One Long Beep

You’ve probably grown to hate that beep by now, haven’t you? Well, different computers have different beep codes, but one long beep generally means the computer couldn’t even communicate a more specific code. The power could be insufficient, in which case you need a new power supply. Or, there could be a short circuit in the motherboard, memory, CPU, or any cards you have connected. A computer repair shop can test the individual components, or you can try swapping parts with a working computer to figure out what’s broken.

No Video, Multiple Beeps

The BIOS is alive and it wants to tell you something! Different computers speak different beep languages, and you’re not C3PO. To know what the beeps mean, you need to know the type of BIOS you have. The name of the BIOS is displayed when your computer first starts, but if you don’t remember what it says, look around your motherboard for “AMI”, “Award”, or “Phoenix”. Then, look-up the number of beeps for your BIOS type in the following tables*:

* The solutions represent my best guess about what to do. The codes aren’t always accurate–your computer is malfunctioning, after all. Often it’s easier just to replace a part than to try and fix it. Also, sorry about the formatting! I’m doing the writing in Microsoft Word and then trying to paste it in here. Turns out, that’s a terrible idea.

AMI

Beeps

Problem

Solution

1 short

DRAM refresh failure

Replace the memory

2 short

Parity circuit failure

Replace the memory

3 short

Base 64K RAM failure

Replace the memory

4 short

System timer failure

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

5 short

Process failure

Replace the motherboard/CPU

6 short

Keyboard controller Gate A20 error

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

7 short

Virtual mode exception error

Replace the motherboard/CPU

8 short

Display memory Read/Write test failure

Replace the video card

9 short

ROM BIOS checksum failure

Replace the motherboard/CPU

10 short

CMOS shutdown Read/Write error

Replace the motherboard/CPU

11 short

Cache Memory error

Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 3 short

Conventional/Extended memory failure

Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 8 short

Display/Retrace test failed

Replace the video card

AST

Beeps

Problem

Solution

1 short

Low level processor verification test failed

Replace the CPU, then replace the motherboard

2 short

Clearing keyboard controller buffers failed

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

3 short

Keyboard controller reset failed

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

4 short

Low level keyboard controller interface test

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

5 short

Reading data from keyboard controller failed

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

6 short

System board support chip initialization failed

Replace the motherboard

7 short

Processor register read/write verify test failed

Replace the CPU, then the motherboard

8 short

CMOS timer initialization failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

9 short

ROM BIOS checksum test failed

Replace the motherboard

10 short

Initialize primary video

Replace the video card

11 short

8254 timer channel 0 test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

12 short

8254 timer channel 1 test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

13 short

8254 timer channel 2 test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

14 short

CMOS power-on and time test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

15 short

CMOS shutdown byte test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 0 short

DMA channel 0 test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 1 short

DMA channel 1 test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 2 short

DMA page register test failed

Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU

1 long, 3 short

Keyboard controller interface test failed

Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard

1 long, 4 short

Memory refresh toggle test failed

Replace the memory

1 long, 5 short

First 64 KB memory test failed

Replace the memory

1 long, 6 short

Setup interrupt vector table failed

Replace the motherboard, then the CPU

1 long, 7 short

Video initialization failed

Replace the video card

1 long, 8 short

Video memory test failed

Replace the video card

AWARD

Beep Code

Descriptions

1 long, 2 short

Indicates a video error has occurred and the BIOS cannot initialize the video screen to display any additional information

Any other beep(s)

>RAM problem.

Phoenix

Beeps Problem Solution
1-1-1-3 Verify Real Mode. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-1-2-1 Get CPU type. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-1-2-3 Initialize system hardware. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-1-3-1 Initialize chipset registers with initial POST values. Replace the motherboard
1-1-3-2 Set in POST flag. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-1-3-3 Initialize CPU registers. Replace the CPU/motherboard
1-1-4-1 Initialize cache to initial POST values. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-1-4-3 Initialize I/O. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-1-1 Initialize Power Management. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-1-2 Load alternate registers with initial POST values. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-1-3 Jump to UserPatch0. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-2-1 Initialize keyboard controller. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
1-2-2-3 BIOS ROM checksum. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-3-1 8254 timer initialization. Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU
1-2-3-3 8237 DMA controller initialization. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-2-4-1 Reset Programmable Interrupt Controller. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-3-1-1 Test DRAM refresh. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-3-1-3 Test 8742 Keyboard Controller. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
1-3-2-1 Set ES segment to register to 4 GB. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-3-3-1 28 Autosize DRAM. Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU
1-3-3-3 Clear 512K base RAM. Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU
1-3-4-1 Test 512 base address lines. Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU
1-3-4-3 Test 512K base memory. Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU
1-4-1-3 Test CPU bus-clock frequency. Reset BIOS to its factory default. Then, try replacing the CPU
1-4-2-4 Reinitialize the chipset. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-4-3-1 Shadow system BIOS ROM. Replace the memory, then the motherboard/CPU
1-4-3-2 Reinitialize the cache. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-4-3-3 Autosize cache. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-4-4-1 Configure advanced chipset registers. Replace the motherboard/CPU
1-4-4-2 Load alternate registers with CMOS values. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-1-1 Set Initial CPU speed. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-1-3 Initialize interrupt vectors. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-2-1 Initialize BIOS interrupts. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-2-3 Check ROM copyright notice. Replace the motherboard
2-1-2-4 Initialize manager for PCI Options ROMs. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-3-1 Check video configuration against CMOS. Replace the video card
2-1-3-2 Initialize PCI bus and devices. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-1-3-3 Initialize all video adapters in system. Replace the video card
2-1-4-1 Shadow video BIOS ROM. Replace the video card, then motherboard/CPU
2-1-4-3 Display copyright notice. Replace the motherboard
2-2-1-1 Display CPU type and speed. Reset BIOS to its factory default. Then, try replacing the CPU
2-2-1-3 Test keyboard. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
2-2-2-1 Set key click if enabled. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
2-2-2-3 56 Enable keyboard. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
2-2-3-1 Test for unexpected interrupts. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-2-3-3 Display prompt “Press F2 to enter SETUP”. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-2-4-1 Test RAM between 512 and 640k. Replace the memory
2-3-1-1 Test expanded memory. Replace the memory
2-3-1-3 Test extended memory address lines. Replace the memory
2-3-2-1 Jump to UserPatch1. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-3-2-3 Configure advanced cache registers. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-3-3-1 Enable external and CPU caches. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-3-3-3 Display external cache size. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-3-4-1 Display shadow message. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-3-4-3 Display non-disposable segments. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-4-1-1 Display error messages. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-4-1-3 Check for configuration errors. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-4-2-1 Test real-time clock. Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU
2-4-2-3 Check for keyboard errors Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
2-4-4-1 Set up hardware interrupts vectors. Replace the motherboard/CPU
2-4-4-3 Test coprocessor if present. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-1-1 Disable onboard I/O ports. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-1-3 Detect and install external RS232 ports. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-2-1 Detect and install external parallel ports. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-2-3 Re-initialize onboard I/O ports. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-3-1 Initialize BIOS Data Area. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-3-3 Initialize Extended BIOS Data Area. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-1-4-1 Initialize floppy controller. Re-seat any disk controllers, then try disconnecting the floppy drive
3-2-1-1 Initialize hard-disk controller. Re-seat any disk controllers, then try replacing the hard disk and cables
3-2-1-2 Initialize local-bus hard-disk controller. Re-seat any disk controllers, then try replacing the hard disk and cables
3-2-1-3 Jump to UserPatch2. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-2-1 Disable A20 address line. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-2-3 Clear huge ES segment register. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-3-1 Search for option ROMs. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-3-3 Shadow option ROMs. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-4-1 Set up Power Management. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-2-4-3 Enable hardware interrupts. Replace the motherboard/CPU
3-3-1-1 Set time of day. Replace the watch battery on the motherboard, then the motherboard/CPU
3-3-1-3 Check key lock. Make sure the computer is unlocked—some computers have a physical lock.
3-3-3-1 Erase F2 prompt. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
3-3-3-3 Scan for F2 key stroke. Replace the keyboard, then replace the motherboard
3-3-4-1 Enter SETUP.
3-3-4-3 Clear in-POST flag.
3-4-1-1 Check for errors
3-4-1-3 POST done–prepare to boot operating system.
3-4-2-1 One beep.
3-4-2-3 Check password (optional).
3-4-3-1 Clear global descriptor table.
3-4-4-1 Clear parity checkers.
3-4-4-3 Clear screen (optional).
3-4-4-4 Check virus and backup reminders.
4-1-1-1 Try to boot with INT 19. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-1-1 Interrupt handler error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-1-3 Unknown interrupt error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-2-1 Pending interrupt error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-2-3 Initialize option ROM error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-3-1 Shutdown error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-3-3 Extended Block Move. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-2-4-1 Shutdown 10 error. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-1-3 Initialize the chipset. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-1-4 Initialize refresh counter. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-2-1 Check for Forced Flash. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-2-2 Check HW status of ROM. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-2-3 BIOS ROM is OK.
4-3-2-4 Do a complete RAM test. Replace memory
4-3-3-1 Do OEM initialization. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-3-2 Initialize interrupt controller. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-3-3 Read in bootstrap code. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-3-4 Initialize all vectors. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-4-1 Boot the Flash program. Replace the motherboard/CPU
4-3-4-2 Initialize the boot device. Replace the hard disk, disk controller, and/or cable
4-3-4-3 Boot code was read OK.

Well then, I hope that helped! Feel free to add a comment if you need more help.

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