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Graphics Card Causing Computer Startup Problems
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Graphics Card Causing Computer Startup Problems

A number of months ago I was contacted by a new client whose computer was shutting down. Each time he would switch it on it would turn itself off again after a few seconds. It was a relatively new computer, with a powerful specification. We made an appointment for me to go and troubleshoot his computer.

My first instinct in this type of scenario is to suspect a graphics card problem. I’ve seen this quite a number of times, when desktop tower computers with this issue have started successfully following removal of the graphics card. I proceeded to disassemble the computer and the first thing I did was to remove the graphics card. Sure enough, the computer started successfully, though without any graphics. I then installed an inexpensive graphics card in order to confirm that the computer would function successfully.

I was relieved to see the computer start up and the Windows 10 sign-in screen was displayed on the monitor. This would appear to have resolved the issue, although the client would probably have wanted to install a more powerful graphics card than the one I had used for test purposes. In fact, the computer was still under warranty so it wouldn’t have cost him anything to have it replaced by the manufacturer.

I proceeded to reassemble the computer in preparation for my client to return it to the supplier. I removed my graphics card and reinstalled the original one. When we switched the computer on after doing so, it started successfully, remained on and my client was able to use it as normal. To my knowledge, it has continued to operate until this day and there was no need to return it to the supplier for replacement of the graphics card.

When troubleshooting potentially faulty hardware, it’s remarkable how often I’ve seen an issue disappear after simply disassembling and reassembling components in the computer. It’s possible that these issues have been resolved as a result of a bad connection, which was corrected after reinserting the relevant connector. It’s also possible that the action of removing hardware and reinstalling it has reset whatever was causing the issue. Either way, it’s the perfect fix as there is no need to spend money on replacing faulty hardware.

I had two more clients this past week with similar issues. With the first one, their computer was exhibiting the same behaviour as just described. It was turning itself off again right after being switched on. With this computer I noted that the HDMI connection to the monitor was coming from the motherboard, and not from the graphics card. This seemed strange to me and the owner of the computer was unable to explain why this was the case.

It suggested to me that, at some point in the past, the graphics card had been having issues and that someone had moved the connector to the motherboard. For this to work with the graphics card still installed, it would normally be necessary to make an adjustment in the computer’s startup settings (BIOS/UEFI).

In terms of resolving the immediate issue, the first thing I did was to remove the PCI Express power connectors from the top of the graphics card. I didn’t remove the card completely as the computer was using a water-cooling system which would also have had to be removed in order to gain access to remove the card.

After removing the PCI-E connectors from the graphics card, I was able to start the computer successfully. I repeated this several times and each time the computer powered on and remained on. It would have been preferable to have removed the graphics card completely and, should the issue recur, this will be my approach.

My other client this week had a similar issue but, in his case, the computer was shutting down some time after being powered on. In fact, it would tend to shut down when he launched his video editing application. With this client, I initially replaced his graphics card with my test graphics card. The computer started successfully and he was able to launch his video editing application. However, the graphics card I had installed was unable to adequately handle the application.

We shut the computer down and reinstalled the original graphics card. Once again, the computer started successfully and my client was able to launch and use his video editing software. It seemed that the action of removing the graphics card and reinstalling it may have solved the issue. However, after the computer had operated successfully for a couple of days, the original issue returned.

At this stage it was a toss-up as to whether the issue was with the graphics card, or with the computer’s power supply unit (PSU). Potentially the resource-intensive video editing application was resulting in demands on the graphics card to draw power at a level which was unsustainable by the PSU. I had had another similar scenario recently when the issue was fully resolved after replacing the PSU.

The PSU in this computer was a 750W unit, which should certainly have been able to handle the demands being made on it. However, the computer was a number of years old, and it was entirely possible that the PSU wasn’t operating as efficiently as it had previously done. I agreed with my client that the most effective approach would be to replace the PSU with a new 750W unit. If the issue returned, we could then revert to the old PSU and replace the graphics card instead.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have encountered quite a number of occasions when a computer would shut down very soon after being switched on. I have often found graphics card issues to be causing this problem and, in a number of fortunate instances, the issue has been readily resolved by removing and then reinserting the graphics card. It’s remarkable how often a hardware issue is resolved simply by disassembly and reassembly of various components.

This computer startup troubleshooting guide was written by Norm McLaughlin. Norm is the owner of Norm’s Computer Services, a computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia. He works with both business and residential clients to resolve computer issues such as the ones described here.

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