In Progress Weird Startup Problem With Toshiba Laptop - Genius Diagnostician Needed

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steverob

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Jan 12, 2021
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This concerns an old Tosh Satellite Pro L450D which was stuck at the back of a cupboard and I'm now trying to inject life into it again.

When I first dusted it down and booted it (Win 7 installed), all went well no problems, but the following day when I tried again, I had the black screen of death - not even a dim image on the screen.

Since Google is supposed to be my friend I tried the usual remedies over many hours:
  • Remove power and battery, power button pressed down, then various reboot protocols using the shift and f8 and f5 buttons. Nothing worked.
  • Removed the RAM (2 x 2GB sticks) and tried again. Nope.
  • Plugged into a monitor - nothing.
At this point I'd concluded it was likely the graphics chip, so I ordered and installed a cheap refurbed Mobo - still no result. (There followed a short bout of screaming, but since lockdown the neighbours have grown used to it.)

On close inspection it seemed that there was a signal from the VGA port - the external monitor wasn't displaying the "no signal" warning - so the graphics chip was doing something, even if it was just sending a blank screen.

When I pressed power, the hard drive leaps into action, but within a second it stops, and the only sign of life is the CPU fan and the PSU and "on" green lights. With the battery installed the battery light is red. I tested starting with and without the battery and PSU (a Toshiba PSU)

All this led me to think that perhaps the battery/PSU is my problem especially after I cooled the battery in the refrigerator, reinstalled in the laptop and tried to start it, without the HDD installed (to conserve power) - and lo! the Toshiba BIOS splash screen appeared. Ahah!

Thus encouraged I bought a new battery, and without charging it, tried again with HDD installed. And this time I got all the way to the Windows splash screen, then the spinner and then a permanent black screen. Obviously tried again with the charger plugged in and so many combinations with nothing happening.

Fiddling around switching off, on, with/without the HDD I can sometimes get the BIOS to run, but then nothing. The fan is cycling 20 seconds on, then off for a while, then it comes on again.

So - I don't think it can be the motherboard. The battery is new. Removing the RAM makes no difference. I have it on authority from Gregory House that it's definitely not lupus - so are we now suspecting the CPU?
 

steverob

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Hmmm - I don't think so. It's an AMD processor, and the caddy just opens up when you turn the screw 180 deg - the CPU lifts out no tugging necessary. I dropped it back carefully, and no resistance felt when it dropped in. Then turn the locking screw and it was firmly in place. These problems started before I removed the MoBo soI'm inclined to think it's not a CPU mechanical problem...
 

Rustys

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From the sounds probably not would not hurt to check.

Have you retried the original motherboard?

What is the make and model of the newer motherboard.
You did make sure that it was and AMD motherboard and not and Intel and that the current CPU was combatable.

Connect an external monitor to it and see if you get anything.

Lets also see what other have t state on this as well.
@georgeks @Bruce
 

steverob

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OK - will check, but if this MoBo wasn't made for my processor I can't see how I would have been able to get the BIOS to run. I was able to set the clock and restore the default settings at one point with the new MoBo. Then when everything was saved and I exited from BIOS, black screen again.
 

Bruce

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it seems a bit of a waste of time and money to be investing so much resources into old tech - but hey, when in iso, why the heck not. :)

since you have already replaced the PSU and mobo, why not look at the HDD as well, in particular, upgrading to a SSD - if it turns out not to help, this is one component that won't go to waste afterwards.
I mention the HDD because you seemed to have had luck with it removed and the laptop getting further along the start process.

but in general it seems to be certain parts effecting the startup at one boot but not other boots.
so very hard to pinpoint one particular fault, so you could be looking at multiple failures.

again, playing devil's advocate - at what point do you draw a line in the sand and walk away from the old girl?
what was the reason it was shelved in the first place?
 

steverob

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Fair question: the motivation is that this is an old laptop that my daughter stopped using and it just got pushed to the back of a cupboard. I think because it had some reliability issues but that was ages ago and I can't remember the details. Anyway now my elderly dad could do with a laptop just for Zoom and browsing the internet. This is in really good condition and would be fine, I'm sure, if I could get it working. The screen is huge and it has a webcam. Having got $30 into the hole with the refurbed mobo, and seeing flickers of life this is like thinking the summit of the mountain is just over the brow of the hill only to find that it's not quite.
I won't spend any more on it unless there's a compelling explanation of what's going on. The fiddling around with the old battery left me thinking that it was being power-starved on startup, and what was needed was a new battery. So when that arrived and was installed there seemed to be an improvement when Windows almost booted and then... black screen. Later on I was able to run the BIOS and everything seemed normal for a few minutes.

I think there's a danger of thinking there's a sequence of actions that produces a result, and so, we might think, there's a huge clue to what is going on in the sequence of actions. But it may also be that it's just random, and the actions have little consequence on the outcome. This can then produce pseudo-religious beliefs: "if I do this, then this, then this, then sometimes/usually, the rains come" But actually the rains would have come anyway for totally different reasons that, at the moment are unknown. (Actually that's given me an idea: I haven't tried whispering incantations over it accompanied by endangered-species body parts cooked up in the microwave. Might work. )
More likely there could be, as you point out, more than one issue, and this interplay produces the confusing symptoms. I could never be a doctor.
 

Bruce

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when you removed the memory, did you wipe the contacts, and the mobo slot and the RAM chips with a brush, then re-seat and cross those fingers.
 

steverob

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when you removed the memory, did you wipe the contacts, and the mobo slot and the RAM chips with a brush, then re-seat and cross those fingers.
No, I didn't - sounds like I have some work to do.
 

steverob

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Well - I did take everything to bits again, cleaned the caddy and blew out the contacts, installed fresh thermal paste, swapped out the HDD for an old one with Debian installed and used a new stick of RAM. And it started up, as it should! Hurrah. So I powered down, swapped out the HDD for the original (with Win 7 installed), and tried again- nothing! So, swapped back to the Debian HDD - again nothing. Beginning to think this might be a thermal issue or a very dodgy CPU. Thoughts?
 

Rustys

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Could be thermal, dodgy CPU could be and in no particular order

When you state that is started as it should with Linux HDD in how long did you run the system or do anything?

Have you tried with the battery and no power connected hold the power button down for 30 or more seconds. Then attach the power (no battery) to what happens.

Is the battery in the system and can it be removed maybe see what happens if it is just plugged into the mains?

Speaking of does the charger, battery and or where it plugs into feel loose warmer than normal.

Have you tried resetting the BIOS back to factory and have you replaced the BIOS battery. If you can check t make sure that it is reading what is in the system.
Thinking outside of the box a bit.

Might try and see how the system reacts using a live version of Linux on USB.

Both idle and under a load. Monitor the temps.

Attach an external display, it could be attempting to boot properly yet the display may be crapping out.

When you power on what are the light doing?

Are the fans running, starting stopping, faster than normal speed.
 

steverob

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Thanks - I have some answers below - will check out some further ideas prompted by your message. Also, I can get a replacement CPU for a few $ (it's so old) so will try that as well. And then it's probably the end of the road.



When you state that is started as it should with Linux HDD in how long did you run the system or do anything?
A few minutes - in retrospect, perhaps should have left it operating for an hour or two to see what happened. Weird that after switching off and restrating it reverts to its bad behavior

Have you tried with the battery and no power connected hold the power button down for 30 or more seconds. Then attach the power (no battery) to what happens.

Yes, lots of times - doesn't seem to make any difference, but it's my normal protocol after removing and before reinserting the battery.

Is the battery in the system and can it be removed maybe see what happens if it is just plugged into the mains?
Yes - brand new battery.

Speaking of does the charger, battery and or where it plugs into feel loose warmer than normal.
Hard to say - it gets warm but nothing that suggests a major issue.

Have you tried resetting the BIOS back to factory and have you replaced the BIOS battery. If you can check t make sure that it is reading what is in the system.
No - good idea - I think I may try that if all else fails. A failure resetting the BIOS could easily lead to bricking everything so I won't do this until all esle fails.

Might try and see how the system reacts using a live version of Linux on USB.
Yes - good idea - will try.

Both idle and under a load. Monitor the temps.

Attach an external display, it could be attempting to boot properly yet the display may be crapping out.
I have tried that - the monitor knows it's connected to a VGA port but just a black screen.

When you power on what are the light doing?

Nothing exceptional: battery charged up, no PSU: green power light. PSU plugged in, green charge PSU light, plus red or green battery light depending on how much charge is in it.

Are the fans running, starting stopping, faster than normal speed.

Hard to say: the fan starts and stops with a 1 - 2 minue frequency, which suggest the CPU is trying to do something.
 

steverob

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I just swapped out the processor. It's made no difference: it still won't start.
So in summary:
- Refurbed mobo (and this means the BIOS is different as well)
- New battery
- swapped out SODIMMs
- refurbed CPU
- nothing out of the video port, and occasionally the screen springs into action as mentioned, so I don't see how it can be the screen

All the main components changed and nothing has made any measurable difference.
 

georgeks

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Have you tried one memory module at a time (try both on the 1st slot and then on the 2nd) ?
Are there any additional boards that you have to connect to the motherboard (e.g. USB ports)?
Do you get a signal on Video out if you disconnect the LCD?
 

Bruce

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about the only thing 'out of the box' that may (just may) be left to blame is the LCD backlight.
once gone, I've never seen one come back to life - but maybe lose wire, lose connection.... who knows.

when it does work (the screen that is) and it shows either the BIOS info or the Windows splash screen, those locations where you know there should be text - when it doesn't show signal, can you really squint at those spots and see any wording? signing a torch onto the screen can help.

I'm just wondering if the text is there but due to the backlight not working, it's just really hard to see.

long shot I know but otherwise I'm tapped out.

what was the end result of swapping the HDD - any luck?
and did you try removing the drive and memory and booting - you should at least get "no boot drive" or "no memory" errors on the screen and be able to get into BIOS.
 

steverob

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More developments:
a) Swapped out memory modules - no change
b) changed the HDD - it booted once. Then on reboot it displayed the same symptoms - nothing. No amount of Fn f5 and shift f8 reboot sequencing would help.

I wondered if the issue is that there's been an unknown accident to the keyboard and it's booting with one or more keys"activated" due to some liquid being poured over the keyboard in the past (it belonged to my daughter - nothing is impossible.) That said, there's no evidence of liquid damage, although plenty of crumbs. So I removed the keyboard. It booted, but I couldn't go any further because of there being no keyboard (but will try with a USB keyboard later). On reboot, the same black screen. No amount of switching on and off changes anything.

I noticed that at switch-on the CDROM activates - not sure whether this is a normal part of the pre-boot routine, so I removed the CD-ROM drive. Again, it booted, but refused to boot a second time after switching off.
When I've been able to get something going, I've entered BIOS and examined the settings: everything is as it should be. I changed the order of boot devices - makes no difference.

So all in all, in summary, when there's a hardware change, there seems to be a higher probability of booting. The screen is definitely OK and no faint characters observable with a flashlight with a blacks screen. And no signal from the VGA port.