John Carrona - BSOD analyst

I have the Knack: sound byte here

Hardware Stripdown Troubleshooting RSS Feed Subscribe to the RSS feed Originally Added to Website:  14 Sep 2009
Last updated:  11 Aug 2014
Unknown change - didn't find any when comparing to the stored copy.

This guide was written for a system that's getting power, but is having hardware problems of some sort (and may have problems booting into Windows).
I'm primarily interested in BSOD analysis, so this guide is written from that viewpoint.
This may not be easy to do with a minor problem that's not easily reproducible - but it's the only way that I've seen so far.

Just FYI, the most common failure that I see is with video cards - especially those used in gaming.  Next comes RAM, then hard drives, and then the motherboard.  If it's a motherboard problem it can be very difficult to diagnose, so be prepared to take a lot of time!  Good luck!

I have a similar blog entry here (dated 24 Feb 2012):

H/W Diagnostics:
Please start by running these bootable hardware diagnostics: (read the details at the link) (read the details at the link) - Test ALL of the hard drives.

Also, please run one of these free, independent online malware scans to ensure that your current protection hasn't been compromised: (read the details at the link)
There are also free, bootable antivirus disks at this link:

Run the additional free diagnostics here (if able to boot into Windows):
Run SiSoftSandra freeware (if able to boot into Windows):
Use the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD) to run additional tests (this is a bootable disk, so booting to Windows isn't necessary):

Unplug the system from the wall, and ensure that you remain grounded to the metal chassis throughout the procedure.
Then, remove everything from the system leaving only these components:

    Case (and remove it if you've got a non-conductive mat you can use for testing (and no kids or cats to get into it)).
    PSU (Power Supply Unit)
    CPU, cooler and fan
    1 stick of RAM (presumed to be good since you ran the MemTest86+ utility earlier)
    Video card (only one - this includes any onboard video)
    Keyboard (notice I didn't mention the mouse - you'll have to use keyboard commands for the first 2 steps!)
    Floppy drive OR CD drive (not both)

On the very first boot, disable any onboard devices (like the USB ports) in the system BIOS.

NOTE:  At some point (if this is a hardware failure) you'll find the error is caused by a particular piece of hardware. While this is most likely the cause of your problems - please remember that it can be a combination of things that have caused this. As such, a single device replacement won't necessarily fix the problem.

Boot Troubleshooting:
So, on to the troubleshooting! Just follow these steps until you get the error. Then do it again to double check. Then replace the device that caused it and all should be well with the system (see caveats above).

    - Try and boot from a DOS floppy/CD.  See if the problem occurs.
    - If it works, then add the mouse and try again.  See if the problem occurs.
    - If that works, then add the hard drive and try again.  See if the problem occurs
    - If that works, then start trying to get Windows to load.  See if the problem occurs

    Generally, this sequence should at least allow your system to boot up. If not, post what you've done on the forums and someone will be able to help you isolate the problem.

Boot Devices Troubleshooing:
This involves replacing each of the devices that was left attached to the system.  Obviously, you can't replace everything, but the more you do replace (and test) the more likely you are to find the problem.  If you had no trouble booting, then you can leave this to last - checking the Device Troubleshooting section first.

Here's my suggestions/comments:
    Case - as a last ditch effort, ensure that you test outside of the case on a non-conductive mat.
    PSU (Power Supply Unit) - get a PSU tester (about $10 US) - use HWInfo if you can get into Windows (free from here: ).  The stripdown procedure will (generally) reduce the load on the PSU - so it should be obvious if this problem is caused by the load on the PSU.  OCCT (one of the video tests from above) has a PSU test.
    CPU, cooler and fan - run lot's of CPU stress tests.  Monitor temps and ensure that the fan/cooler is working an not clogged with hair, dust, etc.
    1 stick of RAM (presumed to be good since you ran the MemTest86+ utility earlier)
    Video card (only one - this includes any onboard video).  Replace it.  If you don't have a spare, purchase one from a store that allows returns.
    Monitor - try another one.  Don't forget that the cable can also be to blame!
    Keyboard (notice I didn't mention the mouse - you'll have to use keyboard commands!)  Get a spare, it's good to have one on hand
    Floppy drive OR CD drive (not both) - If you don't have a spare, either remove the device from the system or purchase one from a store that allows returns.

As an aside, it's always a good idea to have a spare network card on hand.  They run about $15 (US) from most major retailers - and there's just no substitute if your network card dies while you're working on your system!

Device Troubleshooting:
    Once that's done, start by enabling the onboard devices (one at a time) and rebooting. Check for the error and then enable the next one.
    After all the onboard devices are done, then start with the devices that plug into the mobo inside of the case. Do these one at a time also.
    Then start plugging in the external devices, one by one, until they're all in.

    So, you've found the bad device and have replaced it. Either this makes the problem go away or it doesn't. If it fixed it, great! If not, let's start the troubleshooting all over and try it again. Since the case is stripped, the easiest thing is to run through this hardware troubleshooter again.

© 2017 - John D. Carrona
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