A lot of Beepen and Tooten But No Booten?

Stephen Bucaro

You start your computer and all you get is a blank screen and some beeping noise. You panic because you think you have some very serious computer problems. Actually, your concern is justified. The reason your computer is beeping is because it has a serious problem that prevents it from communicating via its standard output, the screen. But don't lose hope, here are some troubleshooting steps you can take.

The beeps coming from your computer are most likely not coming from your sound board or on-board sound circuitry. They are coming from a tiny PC speaker mounted inside the computer case for the specific purpose of communicating with humans when it can't communicate via the screen.

You may have noticed that every time you start your computer the beeps come in the same pattern. They are not random beeps. The computer is sending a special beep code. Beep codes are programmed into the computers BIOS (Basic Input Output System). Unfortunately, there is no standard for beep codes. Each BIOS manufacturer has their own patterns. They are not even standard by manufacturer. They vary by the BIOS version, the motherboard, and computer manufacturer.

Your first step is to look in the information that came with your computer for the meaning of beep codes or for the identity of your BIOS. If you didn't get that information, try to find it at the web site of the manufacturer of your computer. If you can't find it at there, you'll need to open the case of your computer and read the manufacturer's name and BIOS version off the BIOS chip.

Although there are thousands of different computer and motherboard manufacturers, fortunately there are only a few BIOS manufacturers. Below is a list of the major BIOS manufacturers websites.

AMI (American Megatrends, Inc.) www.megatrends.com Phoenix Technologies www.ptltd.com IBM www.us.pc.ibm.com

If you can't find useful information about your computer's beep codes at the computer manufacturer's or BIOS manufacturer's web site, you'll need to troubleshoot by process of elimination.

A single beep when your computer starts is not an error. It's to test the PC speaker. If you don't hear a single beep, either your computer's power supply, motherboard, or PC speaker is bad.

It's unlikely that you have a bad keyboard, but a bad keyboard can cause a computer to emit beep codes, and changing out the keyboard is cheap and easy.

Open your the case of your computer and perform a close inspection of the motherboard with a magnifying glass. It's unlikely but possible that something like a staple has been sucked into the case and is causing a short.

A common cause of beep codes is a problem with RAM. Make sure the memory modules are installed correctly by gently but firmly pushing down on each module. If that doesn't fix it, remove all but one memory module. Usually a single memory module must be installed in the first bank. If that doesn't fix it, swap out that module with the next one. You may need to identify the type of memory your computer uses and try a brand new memory module.

The reason your computer is emitting beep codes may be because the video circuitry is bad. If your motherboard has on-board video, try disabling it and installing a video adapter card. If your computer uses a video adapter card, try replacing it or removing it and enabling on-board video.

If that doesn't fix the problem, try removing any expansion cards (except the video adapter card) and disabling any I/O circuitry such as USB ports. If that doesn't work, try replacing the power supply.

If your computer still has a blank screen and is emitting beep codes, the only posibility left is a bad component on the motherboard. It could be a CPU failure, but replacing the CPU is usually expensive - if the type your motherboard uses is still available.

Replacing a motherboard involves almost totally isassembling the computer and may require reinstalling and/or reactivating the operating system, and replacing some drivers. Hopefully, you will find information about the meaning of the beep codes, and they will indicate a problem easier to fix than replacing the motherboard.

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About the Author
2005 All rights reserved
Stephen Bucaro

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