UEU-co logo

Diagnostics Software


Previous Page

Next Page

Diagnostics Software

Several types of diagnostic software are available for PCs. Some diagnostic functions are integrated into the PC hardware or into peripheral devices, such as expansion cards, whereas others take the form of operating system utilities or separate software products. This software, some of which is included with the system when purchased, assists users in identifying many problems that can occur with a computer’s components. In many cases, these programs can do most of the work in determining which PC component is defective or malfunctioning. The types of diagnostic software are as follows:

The Power On Self Test

When IBM first began shipping the original PC in 1981, it included safety features that had never been seen in a personal computer. These features were the power on self test (POST) and parity-checked memory. Although parity-checked or even error correcting code (ECC) memory is no longer available in most low-end chipsets, every PC still executes a POST when you turn it on. The following sections provide more detail on the POST, a series of program routines buried in the motherboard ROM-BIOS chip that tests all the main system components at power-on time. This series of routines is partially responsible for the delay when you turn on your PC; the computer executes the POST before loading the operating system.

What Is Tested?

Whenever you start up your computer, it automatically performs a series of tests that checks the primary components in your system, such as the CPU, ROM, motherboard support circuitry, memory, and major peripherals such as the expansion chassis. These tests are brief and are designed to catch hard (not intermittent) errors. The POST procedures are not very thorough compared with available disk-based diagnostics. The POST process provides error or warning messages whenever it encounters a faulty component.

Although the diagnostics performed by the system POST are not very thorough, they are the first line of defense, especially when it comes to detecting severe motherboard problems. If the POST encounters a problem severe enough to keep the system from operating properly, it halts the system boot process and generates an error message that often identifies the cause of the problem. These POST-detected problems are sometimes called fatal errors because they prevent the system from booting.

How Errors Are Displayed

The POST tests normally provide three types of output messages: audio codes, onscreen text messages, and hexadecimal numeric codes that are sent to an I/O port address.

POST errors can be displayed in the following three ways:

BIOS POST Beep Codes

Beep codes are used for fatal errors only, which are errors that occur so early in the process that the video card and other devices are not yet functional. Because no display is available, these codes take the form of a series of beeps that identify the faulty component. When your computer is functioning normally, you should hear one short beep when the system starts up at the completion of the POST, although some systems (such as Compaq’s) beep twice at the end of a normal POST. If a problem is detected, a different number of beeps sounds, sometimes in a combination of short and long tones.

BIOS POST Checkpoint Codes

POST checkpoint codes are hexadecimal numeric codes written by POST routines to I/O port address 80h as each major step is begun. These are often simply called POST codes. These POST codes can be read by only a special adapter card plugged into one of the system slots. These cards originally were designed for system manufacturers to use for burn-in testing of the motherboard. Several companies make these cards available to technicians. Micro 2000, JDR Microdevices, Data Depot, Ultra-X, and Trinitech (search for PC Analyzer) are just a few manufacturers that market these POST cards. See the vendor list on the accompanying disc for more information about these manufacturers.

POST checkpoint codes can be used to track the system’s progress through the boot process from power-on right up to the point at which the bootstrap loader runs (when the operating system load begins). When you plug a POST code reader card into a slot, during the POST you will see two-digit hexadecimal numbers flash on the card’s display. If the system stops unexpectedly or hangs, you can identify the test that was in progress during the hang from the two-digit code. This step usually helps to identify the malfunctioning component.

Originally, most POST reader cards plugged into the 8-bit connector that is a part of the ISA or EISA bus. Some older PCI-based systems do still have ISA connectors that can use these cards. However, the motherboards found in most newer PCs have no ISA slots at all, so obviously an ISA POST card won’t work. Fortunately, the companies that make POST cards more often than not make PCI versions. Micro 2000 has a card called the Post-Probe, which has both ISA and PCI connectors on the same board. PC Certify has a similar card called the PCISA FlipPOST (see Figure 22.1).

Figure 22.1. The PC Certify PCISA FlipPOST diagnostics card works with both PCI- and ISA-based systems, and it also tests motherboard voltage levels.

Although rare at this point, if you maintain older Compaq or EISA-based systems from any vendor, these systems might use an I/O port address other than port 80. Simpler POST cards monitor only port 80, but more sophisticated cards (such as the PCISA FlipPOST shown in Figure 22.1) have DIP switches or jumper blocks to configure the card to monitor the different I/O port addresses these systems used.

Note

Listings for additional POST checkpoint codes can be found in the Technical Reference section of the accompanying DVD. Also, see Chapter 5, “BIOS,” to learn more about working with your BIOS. Remember to consult your motherboard documentation for codes specific to your BIOS version. Also, the documentation included with the various POST cards covers most older as well as newer BIOS versions.

BIOS POST Onscreen Messages

Onscreen messages are brief messages that attempt to indicate a specific failure. These messages can be displayed only after the point at which the video adapter card and display have been initialized.

These different types of error messages are BIOS dependent and vary among BIOS manufacturers, and even in some cases among different BIOSs from the same manufacturer. The following sections list the codes used by the most popular ROM BIOS versions (AMI, Award, Phoenix, and IBM BIOS), but you should consult your motherboard or ROM BIOS manufacturer for the codes specific to your board and BIOS.

Most POST code cards come with documentation listing the POST checkpoint codes for various BIOS versions. If your BIOS is different from what I have listed here, consult the documentation for your BIOS or the information that came with your particular POST card.

Note

I’ve also included additional BIOS error messages in the Technical Reference section on the disc included with this book.

AMI BIOS POST Error Codes

Table 22.1. AMI BIOS POST Beep Codes

Beeps

Error Description

Action

1

Memory Refresh Error

Clean the memory contacts and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

2

Memory Parity Error

Clean the memory contacts and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

3

Base 64KB Memory Error

Clean the memory contacts and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

4

Timer Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

5

Processor Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Make sure the processor and heatsink are installed properly; remove and reseat them. Replace the processor. Replace the motherboard.

6

8042 Gate A20 Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the keyboard, motherboard, and processor.

7

Processor Exception Interrupt Error

Make sure the processor and heatsink are installed properly; remove and reseat them. Replace the processor. Replace the motherboard.

8

Display Memory Read/Write Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

9

ROM Checksum Error

Try reseating the motherboard ROM chip. Try reflashing the motherboard ROM. Replace the motherboard.

10

CMOS Shutdown Register Read/Write Error

Replace the CMOS battery. Replace the motherboard.

11

Cache Memory Bad

Make sure cache settings in BIOS Setup are properly configured. Replace the processor. Replace the motherboard.

1 long, 3 short

Conventional/Extended Memory Error

Clean the memory contacts and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

1 long, 8 short

Display/Retrace Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory. Replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

AMI BIOS codes used by permission of American Megatrends, Inc.

If you have a POST card, you can find the AMI BIOS POST checkpoint codes in the Technical Reference section of the disc packaged with this book.

Award BIOS and Phoenix FirstBIOS POST Error Codes

Currently, only one standard beep code exists in the Award BIOS (also known as the Phoenix FirstBIOS). A single long beep followed by two short beeps indicates that a video error has occurred and that the BIOS cannot initialize the video screen to display any additional information. If multiple or continuous beeps occur with an Award BIOS, this usually indicates problems with the power supply or memory.

Table 22.2. AwardBIOS/Phoenix FirstBIOS POST Beep Codes

Beeps

Error Description

Action

1 long, 2 short

Video Card Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

1 long, 3 short

Video Card Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

Continuous beeps

Memory Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

If you have a POST card, you can find the AwardBIOS and Phoenix FirstBIOS POST checkpoint codes in the Technical Reference section of the disc packaged with this book.

Table 22.3. AwardBIOS POST Onscreen Error Messages

Message

Description

BIOS ROM checksum error – System halted

The checksum of the BIOS code in the BIOS chip is incorrect, indicating the BIOS code might have become corrupt. Contact your system dealer to replace the BIOS.

CMOS battery failed

The CMOS battery is no longer functional. Contact your system dealer for a replacement battery.

CMOS checksum error – Defaults loaded

Checksum of CMOS is incorrect, so the system loads the default equipment configuration. A checksum error can indicate that CMOS has become corrupt. This error might have been caused by a weak battery. Check the battery and replace if necessary.

CPU at nnnn

Displays the running speed of the CPU.

Display switch is set incorrectly

The display switch on the motherboard can be set to either monochrome or color. This message indicates the switch is set to a different setting than indicated in Setup. Determine which setting is correct, and then either turn off the system and change the jumper or enter Setup and change the VIDEO selection.

Press ESC to skip memory test

The user can press Esc to skip the full memory test.

Floppy disk(s) fail

Can’t find or initialize the floppy drive controller or the drive. Make sure the controller is installed correctly. If no floppy drives are installed, be sure the Diskette Drive selection in Setup is set to NONE or AUTO.

HARD DISK initializing. Please wait amoment

Some hard drives require extra time to initialize.

HARD DISK INSTALL FAILURE

Can’t find or initialize the hard drive controller or the drive. Make sure the controller is installed correctly. If no hard drives are installed, be sure the Hard Drive selection in Setup is set to NONE.

Hard disk(s) diagnosis fail

The system might run specific disk diagnostic routines. This message appears if one or more hard disks return an error when the diagnostics run.

Keyboard error or no keyboard present

Can’t initialize the keyboard. Make sure the keyboard is attached correctly and no keys are pressed during POST. To purposely configure the system without a keyboard, set the error halt condition in Setup to HALT ON ALL, BUT KEYBOARD. The BIOS then ignores the missing keyboard during POST.

Keyboard is locked out – Unlock the key

This message usually indicates that one or more keys have been pressed during the keyboard tests. Be sure no objects are resting on the keyboard.

Memory Test:

This message displays during a full memory test, counting down the memory areas being tested.

Memory test fail

If POST detects an error during memory testing, additional information appears giving specifics about the type and location of the memory error.

Override enabled – Defaults loaded

If the system can’t boot using the current CMOS configuration, the BIOS can override the current configuration with a set of BIOS defaults designed for the most stable, minimal-performance system operations.

Press TAB to show POST screen

System OEMs might replace Phoenix Technologies’ AwardBIOS POST display with their own proprietary displays. Including this message in the OEM display permits the operator to switch between the OEM display and the default POST display.

Primary master hard disk fail

POST detects an error in the primary master IDE hard drive.

Primary slave hard disk fail

POST detects an error in the secondary master IDE hard drive.

Resuming from disk, Press TAB to showPOST screen

Phoenix Technologies offers a save-to-disk feature for notebook computers. This message might appear when the operator restarts the system after a save-to-disk shutdown.

Secondary master hard disk fail

POST detects an error in the primary slave IDE hard drive.

Secondary slave

POST detects an error in the secondary slave IDE hard hard disk fail drive.

PhoenixBIOS POST Error Codes

The following codes are for the PhoenixBIOS, version 4.

Table 22.4. PhoenixBIOS 5.x and Earlier POST Beep Codes

Beeps

Error Description

Action

1-2

Video Card Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

1-3

CMOS RAM Read/Write Error

Replace the CMOS battery. Replace the motherboard.

1-1-4

ROM Checksum Error

Try reseating the motherboard ROM chip. Try reflashing the motherboard ROM. Replace the motherboard.

1-2-1

Timer Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

1-2-2

DMA Initialization Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

1-2-3

DMA Page Register Read/Write Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

1-3-1

RAM Refresh Verification Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

1-3-3

First 64KB RAM Multibit Data Line Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

1-3-4

First 64KB RAM Odd/Even Logic Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

1-4-1

First 64KB RAM Address Line Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory, power supply, and motherboard.

1-4-2

First 64KB RAM Parity Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

2-x-x[*]

First 64KB RAM Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

3-1-1

Slave DMA Register Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

3-1-2

Master DMA Register Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

3-1-3

Master Interrupt Mask Register Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

3-1-4

Slave Interrupt Mask Register Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

3-2-4

Keyboard Controller Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the keyboard. Replace the motherboard. Replace the processor.

3-3-4

Screen Initialization Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

3-4-1

Screen Retrace Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

3-4-2

Video ROM Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

4-2-1

Timer Interrupt Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

4-2-2

Shutdown Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the keyboard. Replace the motherboard. Replace the processor.

4-2-3

Gate A20 Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the keyboard. Replace the motherboard. Replace the processor.

4-2-4

Unexpected Interrupt In Protected Mode

Check for a bad expansion card. Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

4-3-1

RAM Address Error >FFFh

Clean the memory contacts, reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

4-3-3

Interval Timer Channel 2 Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

4-3-4

Real Time Clock Error

Replace the CMOS battery. Replace the motherboard.

4-4-1

Serial Port Error

Reset the port configuration in BIOS Setup. Disable the port.

4-4-2

Parallel Port Error

Reset the port configuration in BIOS Setup. Disable the port.

4-4-3

Math Coprocessor Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Make sure the processor and heatsink are installed properly; remove and reseat them. Replace the processor. Replace the motherboard.

Low 1-1-2

System Board Select Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Make sure the processor and heatsink are installed properly; remove and reseat them. Replace the processor. Replace the motherboard.

Low 1-1-3

Extended CMOS RAM Error

Replace the CMOS battery. Replace the motherboard.

[*]Second and third codes can be 14 beeps each, indicating different failed bits within the first 64KB of RAM.

Table 22.5. PhoenixBIOS 6.x and Later POST Beep Codes

Beeps

Error Description

Description/Action

1-2-2-3

BIOS ROM Checksum Error

Try reseating the motherboard ROM chip. Try reflashing the motherboard ROM. Replace the motherboard.

1-3-1-1

DRAM Refresh Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

1-3-1-3

8742 Keyboard Controller Error

Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the keyboard. Replace the motherboard. Replace the processor.

1-3-4-1

Memory Address Line Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

1-3-4-3

Memory Low Byte Data Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

1-4-1-1

Memory High Byte Data Error

Clean the memory contacts, and reseat the modules. Remove all modules except the first bank. Replace the memory. Replace the power supply. Replace the motherboard.

2-1-2-3

ROM Copyright Error

Try reseating the motherboard ROM chip. Try reflashing the motherboard ROM. Replace the motherboard.

2-2-3-1

Unexpected Interrupts

Check for a bad expansion card. Check for proper motherboard installation, loose screws, foreign objects causing shorts, and over-tightened screws. Replace the motherboard.

1-2

Video Card Error

Check the video card for proper installation. Try replacing the video card memory, and replace the video card. Replace the motherboard.

If you are using a POST card, you can find the PhoenixBIOS POST codes in the Technical Reference section of the disc packaged with this book.

IBM BIOS POST Error Codes

Table 22.6. IBM BIOS Beep Codes

Audio Code

Description

1 short beep

Normal POSTsystem okay

2 short beeps

POST errorview code on screen

No beep

Power supply, motherboard

Continuous beep

Power supply, motherboard

Repeating short beeps

Power supply, motherboard

1 long, 1 short beep

Motherboard

1 long, 2 short beeps

Video card (MDA/CGA)

1 long, 3 short beeps

Video card (EGA/VGA)

3 long beeps

3270 keyboard card

IBM BIOS beep and alphanumeric error codes used by permission of IBM.

Table 22.7. IBM BIOS POST/Diagnostics Display Error Codes

Code

Description

1xx

System board errors

2xx

Memory (RAM) errors

3xx

Keyboard errors

4xx

Monochrome Display Adapter (MDA) errors

4xx

PS/2 system board parallel port errors

5xx

Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) errors

6xx

Floppy drive/controller errors

7xx

Math Coprocessor errors

9xx

Parallel printer adapter errors

10xx

Alternate parallel printer adapter errors

11xx

Primary Async Communications (Serial COM1:) errors

12xx

Alternate Async Communications (Serial COM2:, COM3:, and COM4:) errors

13xx

Game control adapter errors

14xx

Matrix printer errors

15xx

Synchronous Data Link Control (SDLC) Communications adapter errors

16xx

Display Station Emulation Adapter (DSEA) errors (5520, 525x)

17xx

ST-506/412 fixed disk and controller errors

18xx

I/O expansion unit errors

19xx

3270 PC attachment card errors

20xx

Binary Synchronous Communications (BSC) adapter errors

21xx

Alternate Binary Synchronous Communications (BSC) adapter errors

22xx

Cluster adapter errors

23xx

Plasma monitor adapter errors

24xx

Enhanced graphics adapter (EGA) or video graphics array (VGA) errors

25xx

Alternate Enhanced Graphics Adapter (EGA) errors

26xx

XT or AT/370 370-M (memory) and 370-P (processor) adapter errors

27xx

XT or AT/370 3277-EM (emulation) adapter errors

28xx

3278/79 emulation adapter or 3270 connection adapter errors

29xx

Color/graphics printer errors

30xx

Primary PC network adapter errors

31xx

Secondary PC network adapter errors

32xx

3270 PC or AT display and programmed symbols adapter errors

33xx

Compact printer errors

35xx

Enhanced display station emulation adapter (EDSEA) errors

36xx

General-purpose interface bus (GPIB) adapter errors

37xx

System board SCSI controller errors

38xx

Data acquisition adapter errors

39xx

Professional graphics adapter (PGA) errors

44xx

5278 display attachment unit and 5279 display errors

45xx

IEEE interface adapter (IEEE 488) errors

46xx

A real-time interface coprocessor (ARTIC) multiport/2 adapter errors

48xx

Internal modem errors

49xx

Alternate internal modem errors

50xx

PC-convertible LCD errors

51xx

PC-convertible portable printer errors

56xx

Financial communication system errors

70xx

PhoenixBIOS/chipset unique error codes

71xx

Voice communications adapter (VCA) errors

73xx

3 1/2″ external disk drive errors

74xx

IBM PS/2 display adapter (VGA Card) errors

74xx

8514/A display adapter errors

76xx

4216 PagePrinter adapter errors

84xx

PS/2 speech adapter errors

85xx

2MB XMA memory adapter or XMA adapter/A errors

86xx

PS/2 pointing device (mouse) errors

89xx

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) adapter errors

91xx

IBM 3363 write-once read multiple (WORM) optical drive/adapter errors

96xx

SCSI adapter with cache (32-bit) errors

100xx

Multiprotocol adapter/A errors

101xx

300/1200bps internal modem/A errors

104xx

ESDI or MCA IDE fixed disk or adapter errors

107xx

5 1/4″ external disk drive or adapter errors

112xx

SCSI adapter (16-bit without cache) errors

113xx

System board SCSI adapter (16-bit) errors

129xx

Processor complex (CPU board) errors

149xx

P70/P75 plasma display and adapter errors

152xx

XGA display adapter/A errors

164xx

120MB internal tape drive errors

165xx

6157 streaming tape drive or tape attachment adapter errors

166xx

Primary Token-Ring network adapter errors

167xx

Alternate Token-Ring network adapter errors

180xx

PS/2 wizard adapter errors

185xx

DBCS Japanese display adapter/A errors

194xx

80286 memory-expansion option memory-module errors

200xx

Image adapter/A errors

208xx

Unknown SCSI device errors

209xx

SCSI removable disk errors

210xx

SCSI fixed disk errors

211xx

SCSI tape drive errors

212xx

SCSI printer errors

213xx

SCSI processor errors

214xx

SCSI write-once read multiple (WORM) drive errors

215xx

SCSI CD-ROM drive errors

216xx

SCSI scanner errors

217xx

SCSI magneto optical drive errors

218xx

SCSI jukebox changer errors

219xx

SCSI communications errors

243xxxx

XGA-2 adapter/A errors

I998xxxx

Dynamic configuration select (DCS) information codes

I99900xx

Initial microcode load (IML) error

I99903xx

No bootable device, initial program load (IPL) errors

I99904xx

IML-to-system mismatch

I99906xx

IML (boot) errors

IBM BIOS beep and alphanumeric error codes used by permission of IBM.

POST Memory Count

On some PCs, the POST also displays the results of its system memory test on the monitor. The last number displayed is the amount of memory that tested successfully. For example, a system might display the following message:

32768 KB OK

The number displayed by the memory test should agree with the total amount of memory installed on the system motherboard. Some older systems display a slightly lower total because they deduct part or all of the 384KB of UMA (upper memory area) from the count. On old systems that use expanded memory cards, the memory on the card is not tested by the POST and does not count in the numbers reported. Also, this memory test is performed before any system software loads, so many memory managers or device drivers you might have installed do not affect the results of the test. If the POST memory test stops short of the expected total, the number displayed can indicate how far into the system memory array a memory error lies. This number can help you identify the exact module that is at fault and can be a valuable troubleshooting aid in itself.

Peripheral Diagnostics

Many types of diagnostic software are used with specific hardware products. This software can be integrated into the hardware, included with the hardware purchase, or sold as a separate product. The following sections examine several types of hardware-specific diagnostics.

SCSI Diagnostics

Unlike the IDE drive support that is built into the system BIOS of virtually every PC, SCSI is an addon technology, and most SCSI host adapters contain their own BIOS that enables you to boot the system from a SCSI hard drive. In some cases, the SCSI BIOS also contains configuration software for the adapter’s various features, and diagnostics software as well.

The most popular manufacturer of SCSI host adapters is Adaptec, and most of its host adapters contain these features. An Adaptec SCSI adapter normally includes a BIOS that can be enabled or disabled. When the BIOS is activated, you see a message on the monitor as the system boots, identifying the model of the adapter and the revision number of the BIOS. The message also instructs you to press Ctrl+A to access what Adaptec calls its SCSISelect utility.

The SCSISelect utility identifies the Adaptec host adapters installed in the system and, if more than one exists, enables you to choose the adapter you want to work with by selecting its port address. After you do this, you are presented with a menu of the functions built into the adapter’s BIOS. Every adapter BIOS contains a configuration program and a SCSI Disk Utilities feature that scans the SCSI bus, identifying the devices connected to it. For each hard disk drive connected to the bus, you can perform a low-level disk format or scan the disk for defects, remapping any bad blocks that are found.

For SCSI adapters that use direct memory access (DMA), a Host Adapter Diagnostics feature is also available, which tests the communication between the adapter and the main system memory array by performing a series of DMA transfers. If this test fails, you are instructed how to configure the adapter to use a lower DMA transfer rate.

Network Interface Diagnostics

As with SCSI adapters, many network interface adapters are equipped with their own diagnostics, designed to test their own specialized functions. Depending on the network adapter, these tests might require you to boot with a DOS disk, or they might function within Windows.

The DIAG program included with all Linksys network interface cards, for example, performs the following internal tests on the Linksys EtherFast 10/100 Ethernet adapter:

  • Configuration test

  • I/O test

  • ID test

  • Internal Loopback test

  • Link Status test

  • Interrupt test

  • Network Function test

The Network Function test sequence requires that you have another node installed on the same network with a Linksys adapter. By running the Diag software on both computers, you can configure one adapter to send data and the other to be the receiver. The sender transmits test messages to the receiver, which echoes the same messages back again. If the adapters and network are functioning properly, the messages should return to the sending system in exactly the same form as they were transmitted.

Other network adapters have similar testing capabilities, although the names of the tests might not be exactly the same.

If you do not have the driver or diagnostics files for your network adapter, you can normally download them free of charge from the manufacturers’ respective websites.

General-Purpose Diagnostics Programs

A large number of professional third-party diagnostics programs are available for PC systems. These are commercial programs that are used by technicians to perform testing of new systems (often called burn-in testing) or testing of existing systems either in the shop or in the field.

Most of the commercial PC diagnostics can test all your PC’s key components. In addition, specific programs are available to test memory, floppy drives, hard disks, video adapters, and most other areas of the system. Some of the programs I recommend most highly include

Tip

Before trying a commercial diagnostic program to solve your problem, look in your operating system. Most operating systems today provide at least some of the diagnostic functions that diagnostic programs do. You might be able to save some time and money.

Unfortunately, no clear leader exists in the area of diagnostic software. Each program has unique advantages, and as a result, no program is universally better than another. When deciding which diagnostic programs to include in your arsenal, look for the features you need.

One of the most popular is AMIDiag from AMI. This program runs on virtually any PC and tests most of the hardware in the system. AMIDiag is available in a native Windows version that also supports third-party diagnostics modules or in a DOS version that can be used to test hardware, regardless of the operating system, by using a DOS boot disk to start the system.

Note

The disc included with this book contains a breakdown of some of the PC diagnostics software available today. See the Technical Reference section of the disc.

Operating System Diagnostics

In many cases, it might not be necessary to purchase third-party diagnostic software because your operating system has all the diagnostic tools you need. Windows 9x/Me and NT/2000/XP include a large selection of programs that enable you to view, monitor, and troubleshoot the hardware in your system.

Windows XP has numerous tools, utilities, and error-reporting features that can be useful in helping you determine the cause of problems. The most serious problems can be caused by corrupt files or buggy software on the system, as well as defective or incorrectly configured hardware, and will often result in a STOP or “blue-screen” error, causing Windows to enter a special debugging mode. When this happens, Windows XP is normally configured to save a dump of the error in a memory dump file, which can be useful if it is a software bug you are going to report to Microsoft. Still, it is always a good idea to write down the error for future reference.

Previous Page

Next Page
Tags:  , , ,

Leave a Reply


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

Categories

apply_now Pepperstone Group Limited