I have seen this problem on a few computers with three different hardware causes:
1) The problem might be a disconnected or failed fan on the computer.
2) The problem might be faulty RAM that has use or heat issues.
3) The problem might be an underpowered/failing power supply unit.
All of these above problems can became more pronounced when the computer had been running for a while or when the room was hot. The RAM issue can sometime become more pronounced as you load more or larger programs into memory and then use a new memory location.
To diagnose the first problem, fan issues, a quick visual inspection of the computer's fans with the computer case open is all it takes. If the CPU or case fan is disconnected, power off the PC and reconnect the computer power to the fan. If the fan still fails to function when the computer is warmed up, replace the fan. If the power supply's internal fan has failed, replace the power supply.
To diagnose the second problem, faulty memory chips, power off the computer and remove the RAM sticks. If the contacts on the RAM look discolored, carefully clean them using an eraser. Carefully replace the RAM sticks back into the computer. (Look for the notch(es) in the RAM to make sure that you place it facing the correct direction in memory slots.) Visually and using a finger as a straight edge inspect the seated RAM sticks for horizontal alignment. This makes sure the RAM is inserted fully into each slot. Power on the computer and download a free memory check utility from the Internet. (I've successfully used Memtest86 and others.) Follow the program's directions for installation and use. The memory checker utility should give you an option to run it from once to a continuous loop. Choose to let the program run a long test loop and then come back and check it in the morning for errors. If it finds an error, purchase and replace the faulty RAM stick. Next, run the memory check utility program again. Once computer's memory passes the memory testing, you can continue to use the computer normally.
To diagnose the third problem, the power supply, takes a bit more investigation. Power down your PC and remove any unneeded add-in cards and then power on your computer to see if the reboot problem reoccurs when you start to use it. If your computer is not running with an built-in video from the computer's motherboard but is using an added video card, this video card is likely to contribute to the problem. Powerful video cards tend to draw lots of power and can overtax a failing or low current power supply. Additional or larger hard drives are also common contributors to a power instability issues.
The only solution for power supply issues, short of permanently removing power drawing hardware, is to replace the Dell's OEM 250 watts power supply with a more powerful "ATX style" power supply. I would look for at least a 350 watt power supply from a name brand company such as Antec, PC Power and Cooling, Thermaltake, Coolmax, etc. A quick Google search can give you lots of power supply reviews and replacement tips.
Submitted by: Steve H. of Beaverton, OR
I think that the most important information to be gleaned from the writers question is that the machine was badly infected, wiped and had the system restored. This tells us that it had viruses or worms but it doesn't tell us what kind of infection. Some of the old Trojans / worms, used to cause exactly the described behavior. How was the drive wiped? What if the worm resided in the boot sector and was never removed? In a badly infected machine that does not seem to improve after being reformatted, I recommend a low level scan, resetting all of the drive's sectors back to zero. It is the only true way to clean a drive. I once had a drive that caused a motherboard to fail after being used for a couple of weeks. I could
never truly clean the drive. I have built three other systems with exactly the same parts but without the board failures. Only the change of motherboard type, same manufacturer, solved the problem.
Another trick I like to use is to download and install AVG for free on the infected machine after having disabled Norton. I then use a full system scan with AVG. This has found many viruses which the infected Norton has not. I have had to do this several times recently on customer's machines.
It would seem that the writer has also made a fatal assumption. I would consider that her friend was not really computer savvy. I assume this based on her letting her machine get so very infected. I would not assume that she installed either the latest or even correct drivers for the system. Sometimes, proprietary machine makers have different hardware for machines with the same model number. Perhaps those drivers installed on the reformat were not the correct ones. Also, since the writer is using SP2, the machine might not have the updated SP2 drivers. The clock problem might very well be just a bad chip on the board or again a deeply seeded virus.
In summary, the problem is most likely either an infection or driver problem. I would search out the manufacturer's knowledge base for driver queries on the same issue or just bite the bullet and do a full low level scan and reformat. In the end, the time wasted searching out rare and obscure problems can be better spent enjoying the computer, once it is wiped properly.
Submitted by: Thomas P.
Hi Derek. Random restarts are a problem that has several likely causes, so the search may take you a while.
2) computer has been overclocked
3) memory unseated or partially seated
4) bad memory stick (or mis-matched memory)
5) system overheating
6) case shorting somewhere
Easiest: Run Adaware and Spybot (both available free) to rule out malware. Second easiest - look into your bios and make sure that the CPU is running at the right speed. Overclocking (or wrong-clocking) can cause both of the problems you describe.
Then reseat all your memory sticks. If that does not help, try using different ram sticks - and make sure they match. It would be odd if a Dell had this problem, but maybe it was upgraded locally. Or maybe one has gone bad.
If the system is overheating, the restarts might still seem random. Your heating/AC might change the external temps enough to make a difference. You should carefully measure the CPU temperature which should not be above 40 degrees C. If it is, check for dust, dirt, anything blocking the fan. If none of this helps, try running it with the case open and see if it makes a difference.
If nothing there you can start the real treasure hunt - looking for a crimped or cut wire, spider web or anything else that could be shorting to the case. The ultimate tough job is removing the mobo and looking for a screw that fell under it and is causing a short.
And the system clock inaccuracy - if not clock speed, I'm betting on a memory problem. I never figured out specifically why it happened, but my clock problem went away after I fixed my memory problem.
With good luck, you will find it long before the wire/case search. Hope this helps.
Submitted by: Merry S.
Sounds like a few possibilities to me....either the PS may be failing, you have one (or more) bad memory modules, your CPU cooling fan could be starting to fail, or you installed too many add-ons to the computer (new video card, CD/DVD drives, other PCI cards) and the power supply can't keep up.
If you purchase a new power supply for the computer I would make sure you buy a Dell power supply, or be absolutely sure that your version of the Dimension motherboard is a true *Standard ATX* type motherboard, and not one of Dell's "modified" (/ie. proprietary/) ATX boards. I don't know if things have changed much for them since the early Pentium I ? II days, but Dell used to use non-standard "ATX-style" connections. This means you could take any standard ATX connector ( on a standard power supply) and plug it into the non-standard Dell ATX header on the motherboard, or visa-versa, and it would totally fit. The unfortunate part came when you powered the computer on and <poof>...smoke, sparks, nothing.
Congratulations, you just fried your motherboard....and Dell doesn't care. Dell would re-wire their ATX connectors, example...12V where ground should be; -5V where +5 should be, and so on and so on. Big reason why I'm not a Dell fan, or any other name-brand computer fan, for that matter.
That said, here's the list of things I would do if troubleshooting your computer (in this order):
* Look inside the tower for signs of anything shorting, loose
connections, or dirt/dust build up. Definitely check the Clear
CMOS jumper on the moboard and verify that nothing is making
contact with it. Also, be sure to check that the clips to the
memory sticks are secure. If there is a lot of dust built up on
the fans or fan covers, then clean them with something like Tech
Duster, or whatever.
* Power on the computer and enter BIOS to have a look at a section
called System Monitor (or something to that effect) to check
voltages. It's typically the area in new BIOS' that list voltages
and CPU frequencies. You really want to leave the computer on for
a couple of minutes to get everything warmed up inside and watch
for any unusual fluctuations, like plus or minus 1V on the signal
lines. If you see any of the readings bouncing all over the
place, chances are the power supply is starting to fail and
creating "noise". Noise in DC voltage lines is bad news for data.
* While in BIOS check the CPU temp. Pentiums seem to run a little
cooler than AMDs chips so I would be wary of anything 50C and
above with the machine just sitting there displaying CMOS. Maybe
the CPU is going, maybe the fan is going. Replace fan(s).
* If the BIOS PS voltages look relatively stable, and the CPU temp
isn't too terribly hot, then download and run a program called
Memtest86+. It's a free diagnostic program that can be loaded to
either a boot floppy or boot CD (I prefer floppies still,
personally). Install the program, reboot with disk in the drive
(make sure the hard drive isn't set to boot in BIOS) and basically
leave the computer running for 24 hours at least. What this
program does is run a battery of memory tests over and over
again. The idea being to tax the system, heat it up, and flush
out any failures. Any errors that the program finds will be
listed in red. Memtest86+ also makes for a good burn-in program
after you build a brand new PC. Microsoft has a similar program
for free from their website, just search for "memory diagnostic".
I think it's called Windows Diagnostic, or something to that
effect. Any errors you find mean one, or more, of the memory
sticks is possibly on the fritz. If you have multiple sticks
start switching them out, and in different configurations and
re-run the program. If you have only 1 stick, replace it with new
memory and re-run the program.
I'm leaning toward the PS being the culprit. I hope it's not, considering you'd probably pay double for a Dell PS than a standard ATX one of similar power. The rebooting and system clock thing just sounds a little too weird to be strictly memory problems. I've heard there are weird viruses that can damage BIOS, but I have yet to come across any.....and I think it's bunk, personally.
Good luck with your investigation.
Submitted by: Tony M.
I see your PC keeps randomly restarting and you can't tell exactly why. I also see you suspect it may be your power supply, and you probably are right. I will examine what you say and tell you an overall conclusion from my own experience and things I've heard from others.
If your computer keeps restarting like this, there is only two possibilities, a program is causing it, or it is a hardware problem. You say it isn't any application, but it could be one of the most secured processes that you don't know about. Is automatic updating turned on? If so, maybe your PC is downloading updates that need it to be restarted. But lets rule that out since you would probably have found out. You also say you have anti-spyware, anti-virus and ad-ware removers, so you can't have any of those. The problem now leads us to hardware.
Problems with the processor, memory and video card are discarded, since they would either give you a blue screen, or simply the computer wouldn't be able to boot. That leaves us with a faulty power supply and problems with the 'time'. As time goes by, power supplies can only take so much abuse and they start to degrade. Before they burn and become completely damaged, usually the fans start to fail first. Considering you have a Pentium 4 processor built around 2002, you are left with a processor that runs hotter and consumes far more power than the latest Pentium 4s despite their higher speeds. These days 300 watt is standard for a PC like yours, but 350 watt or 400 are recommended. Dell probably didn't know about this at the time they built the system, but your system is not powered with enough energy, and at first when you turn on the computer, the power use and the heat is minimal, but the longer the computer stays on, with more programs running at once (even if they are simple programs like Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word with maybe Windows Media Player in the background) the faster your power supply will heat up and need the fan to cool it down, but since the fan has taken more abuse than it could handle, it doesn't get its job done anymore, and therefore your PC is forced to either restart or turn off instantly, which may later on cause errors, to prevent your power supply from burning or any other of your hardware from becoming damaged. I would recommend you contact Dell about what power supply is best to upgrade your system. Remember to get at least a 350 watt one, or 400 if you will be doing some gaming, since gaming is the best PC over heater.
As for the problem with time, it probably is related to the settings in "Date and Time" properties. To check if that is the case, double click the time on the taskbar, then click the "Internet Time" tab, and uncheck the "Automatically synchronize with an internet time server" option. If you want it to be synchronized then choose the right time zone under the "Time Zone" tab, and make sure to choose if you want automatic daylight saving by checking or unchecking the option on that tab. I assume this may be the fix to the problem, since you didn't say it also loses the date, which if it did, would mean then that your Battery connector is damaged. I hope these methods solve your problems and you can have everything fixed as soon as possible.
Submitted by: Israel L.
Although I believe the answer to your problem may be a simple one, let's go over a few troubleshooting steps. I believe the most likely cause for this issue is external to the PC, most likely a bad power strip. It could also be with the actual power outlet where it is plugged in. I would first try another power strip, or possibly a UPS (battery backup). You can usually find a 325VA or 350VA model at Best Buy or CompUSA for under $40, and these are fine for a single PC. If the power outlet or the power strip has a "brown-out" (where the power drops below normal levels, usually about 97 volts), or if the power strip has a bad fuse, they could cause the power in the PC to cycle and could also cause the CMOS clock to reset.
The power supply inside the PC is a possible culprit. If it is overheating, when you put your hand behind it it should feel hot (not just a little warm). Most low end power supplies don't have a very powerful fan, so as long as the fan is still spinning and is not making noise it is probably OK. A 250W power supply should be enough for that PC, unless you are running a higher end video card or sound card, or if you have a large number of USB devices. If that is the case, it might be worth investing in a 350W or higher power supply. There could also be a short inside the power supply, if no other troubleshooting steps fix the issue, I would try replacing the power supply.
To eliminate the possibly of a virus, I would try a second scanning method. One virus scan that I like to use is Computer Associates online scan. Logon to http://www.ca.com/virusinfo and click on "Scan for Viruses" towards the middle of the page on the right. You will need to use Internet Explorer, and you will have to allow the ActiveX control to load by clicking on the Information Bar at the top of the window. After the control installs, it will download several virus definition files. When they are finished, select all of your hard drives (indicated by "Local Disk") by check the box next to them and then click "Start Scan" on the right. This scanner has helped me find viruses that Norton has missed.
If none of these steps help, the problem may unfortunately be with the motherboard itself. If you are familiar (and comfortable) with flashing the BIOS, that would definitely be worth a try, but you might need to replace the motherboard or the PC itself.
I hope these suggestions help (and I hope it was just a power strip!).
Submitted by: Dean L. of Colorado Springs, CO
Looking over your problems. I thought one of four things:
Damaged hard drive,
Poor settings on your BIOS (you should check that first before messing with the CMOS)
I'm guessing you aren't a computer guru type or you wouldn't have asked the question. Yet you seem to have a decent understanding of computers, and had no trouble going inside the case and replacing your CMOS battery. So I'm going with answers that should be easy for you to work with - not so simple for those less experienced than yourself - to make this as easy as possible.
Your motherboard regulates your power supply as to what goes where and, though rare, Motherboard electronics can be damaged if hooked up to a cheap and wonky power supply.
But let's start with the hard drive first. For a fact, you could spend days and even weeks trying to debug your hard drive, and in the end, it is possible that you can fix your problem. Just as possible is you could waste the next few days and even weeks working on an unsolvable problem. If you are like most people, time is money - or time is family, losing money or family time to a buggy computer is no fun so,
As a computer tech, I advise all of my friends and clients that, when buying a used computer, regardless of who you purchase from, Get A New Hard Drive. A new hard drive for your used computer is all good with no minuses.
Hard drives are incredibly inexpensive. You can get an excellent, high speed hard drive - with warranty - for under $100.00 in the U.S.
Any technology, in hard drives, that you purchase today will be better than anything that is even one year old.
Your new hard drive has no bad unknowns such as possible viruses, trojans, spyware, and such.
The installation of all of your software is clean!
And then you'll have a working hard drive. The majority of computer problems stem from faulty hard drives damaged by viruses and other ills. If you still have problems, you've at least eliminated the most likely source, plus you'll know that your old hard drive is good and you can wipe it and use it as a second hard drive for back up - which is always good.
Then your option would be your BIOS - which you should update only IF updates are available (See the computer or motherboard manufacturer's site for updates) Your power supply - which would have to be replaced (NEVER try to fix your computer's power supply), Or your motherboard improperly regulating your power supply - which would require the replacement of your motherboard.
Submitted by: E. C. M.
Random restarting of a computer can happen for many reasons. Sometimes it's software, sometimes it's hardware, and sometimes it can be cooling, as for the PSU it is highly unlikely to be your PSU with the exception of cooling.
There are a few things you can check, firstly check for viruses and malware which you've done already. I notice though you put that you only tested with Microsoft Malware remover and Norton Anti-Virus. You might want to do a double check with another antivirus and malware remover, like HiJack This, AVG Anti-Virus Free or Lavasoft Ad-Aware, just in case your current Anti-virus program is missing a particular virus. This happened to my friend a few years ago with Chernobyl, Chernobyl was infecting command.com and McAfee ignored it because command.com is a vital system file and it couldn't do anything about it, but Norton Anti-Virus warned us that the virus was there but couldn't remove it, so we at least knew it meant a full system re-install, rather than sat around wondering where this virus kept coming in from! So it's always best to get a second opinion from another anti-virus software (usually just try a free one rather than going out and buying another one)
Next thing to check is the cooling of the system. Sometimes it can be the CPU is getting too hot, or the PSU could be getting too hot. One really important thing to check is that the fan on the PSU is definitely spinning around. If it's not it won?t be too long at all before it goes bang. If the fan on the CPU isn't spinning around and you notice the PSU is getting very warm (similar to radiator heat), seriously consider a new PSU before it overheats and destroys the entire computer. I've had one do that to me and it took out the motherboard and video card too.
Now as for the CPU overheating. Usually when a CPU overheats you won?t notice anything from the outside, except the computer might crash a lot and sometimes do random resets where it just goes to a black screen and about a second later it comes back on and starts re-booting. The time to re-boot will depend on the amount that either you or Windows is using the CPU, it could be 5 minutes, it could be 3 hours (it's usually less when using high powered programs like 3D games and CAD programs). One way to check to see if the CPU is overheating is to go into the BIOS when the computer resets (this can be accessed usually by pressing either ESC, F1 or Delete when booting, on most BIOS's it will have a message at the bottom as to how to do this, if it's got a flash screen with Dell on it when it first boots up try pressing F2 to hide that so you can see the message)
When in the BIOS it should show you information about your computer, like available RAM etc, also in that list it should list current CPU temperature. This is probably best below 35 degrees Celsius, certainly no higher than 40. If it is higher than 40 then it is a cooling problem causing these random resets. Check all the fans are rotating properly in the system, especially the CPU fan, check also you have a good airflow going through the system, cold air should be going in from one fan (usually the side fan) and going out through another fan (usually the PSU fan) to create a air stream over the CPU and other components to
keep everything cool.
Finally if this doesn't solve it, it is either going to be a software problem with Windows and could need Windows re-installing or a hardware problem.
To check whether it is a software problem in Windows is quite easy. Go and find a version of Linux that runs from CD (like Puppy Linux), boot into Linux and keep the computer going in Linux for a few hours, if after a few hours the system still hasn't reset, you know that it's most probably time to dig out the Windows installation discs and get re-installing, but if it has reset in Linux then it is a hardware problem.
If it is hardware then you're best to check all the wires in the computer are securely connected, especially the front connectors like the power button.
Good luck in solving the problem.
Submitted by: Darren F.
It sounds to me like Derek has a worm that is keeping his processor running 100% most of the time which precludes his clock from being updated. The one I found in my computer a year or so ago also kept me from any update or antivirus sites. Nothing I had, including the programs he mentioned and several more, could find anything wrong. The way I found it was to go to task manager and see how much my processor was running. It was 100% most of the time and a service host was doing most of that. I couldn't select the service host in the list of services because if I clicked on it, it would instantly move somewhere else. I searched the registry for anything running as a service and finally found this file running from a folder which did not exist under windows folder. I tried un-hiding everything with no luck. Finally I ran cmd and did a "Dir" in the windows directory and found the folder. Inside the folder were three files, one of which was xxxxhide.exe, xxxx being the name of the folder which I don't remember. I had to boot up in command mode to access the folder and, with the assign command, make it non-read only to be able to delete it. After that my problem went away and has not come back.
I just remembered that this worm would create a folder in the root called shopping and would fill it with several files and advertising pictures which it occasionally would pop up on the screen as programs were loading. I found that first, but every time I deleted the folder, within one minute the folder and all the files would re-appear. Obviously by the service host running all time. That drove me nuts for weeks until I found the fix above.
Hope this helps.
Submitted by: Glenn S. of Muscle Shoals, Alabama
One can only speak from experience on this issue. In today's world a 250 watt power supply is somewhat lacking I would suggest nothing less than 350 watt. It really depends on how many drives and fans the computer is equipped with. Next, local power suppliers and utilities around the country are often guilty of 'switching' glitches when changes to the local power grid load for the area are implemented. If the computer BIOS is set to auto-restart following a momentary power glitch, shut down or 'brown-out,' this could very well be what is causing the symptoms described. This is suspect if the events occur around the same general times daily. Loose power plugs, power bars and receptacles should be checked. All internal plugs and connectors should be checked also for a secure connection.
Another possible cause of system instability in my experience servicing hundreds of defective machines over the past 15 years, is the problem of CPU overheating caused by the accumulation of dust and debris in the CPU heatsink, drawn in by the cooling fan. This can accumulate, blocking the flow of air and hence the resultant CPU overheating and instability, careful removal of the fan, and vacuuming away the debris with the aid of a 1" paintbrush will clean up this mess. This problem is by no means confined to just the CPU fan. The same applies to video card fans and 'northbrige' chips. Also, all of these chips usually have a heat transfer paste, compound or tape sandwiched between the chip and its heatsink in order to 'bond' them together thermally. After time, these pastes and tapes tend to dry out. Any force or pressure applied to move or lift the heatsink will break this 'bond' degrading the efficiency of the heatsink to keep the chip cool. This again can cause heat induced instability, resulting in random shutdowns and restarts. Having a knowledgeable technician restore the thermal paste or tape could fix that problem.
The same sort of instability and random shutdowns can occur if attempts are made to overclock a system beyond its limitations. Speed freaks and those attempting to push their systems to the limits, often experience random crashes as a result of 'playing' around and trying to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of a machine. In my opinion not a sensible thing to do. Replacement of parts destroyed by this practice can be very expensive.
The other possibility, based on the incorrect clock needing to be reset constantly, to me would indicate a suspect motherboard or BIOS chip. Neither of these can be readily tested by the user and should be sent to the manufacturer for proper testing and checkout. If still in warranty, an RMA should be requested from the machine's manufacturer.
Another possibility could be a computer used in an extremely humid environment, excess humidity along with dust and debris inside the machine could cause more than just random restarts. I advocate 6 month internal cleanups for all computers exposed to humidity, tobacco smoke, house dust, airborn cooking grease, pet dander and coffee spills.
Last but not least, have your machine examined by a competent electronics technician, don't try to fix something yourself if you don't know what you are doing.
Submitted by: Robert F.
1) Since your friend has (probably) formatted the drive and reloaded the operating system, you won't have the Accessory program which displays your Dell SvcTag and Express Service Code. Also, you won't be able to use the website utility at http://support.dell.com to "Find my Service Tag." So, you should get a flashlight and write those codes on a piece of paper if you haven't already. When you next visit the Dell support site, create a login for yourself and put your computer into "My Systems & Peripherals" so you will always have it handy for future visits (even when using other computers to access the site).
2) Dell PSUs are equipped with fairly quiet fans (newer models, like yours) and I have changed fans only to discover the fan was just "like that." Turn the computer completely off and try to find a quiet time (radios and tvs off, your roommate not practicing on his drums, etc.). Find a way to hold one hand behind the PSU and listen and feel as you turn the power on. Typically, you will hear the fan "rush" as it spins up and you will feel a healthy flow of air almost immediately; then, within a second or two, the sound and the airflow will diminish. That is normal.
1) Try searching for others who have had this problem. I used Google Advanced Search, but you could use your favorite search engine and search for "computer reboots at random" (be sure to include the quotation marks). One rather interesting "hit" I got was http://forums.bioware.com/viewtopic.html?topic=11101&forum=10 where the first answer to the question was a "me too!" from a reader. Both were able to stop the problem by changing settings for their sound cards (which sounds bizarre to me, but Windows is a bit bizarre anyway, most would agree).
2) Try visiting Dell's website and using the "interactive" troubleshooter. http://support.dell.com/support/topics/global.aspx/support/dsn/en/entry?c=us&cs=04&l=en&s=bsd Make sure the system "I need help with my:" shows Dimension 4500 and then click on "Start the Support Wizard" I have had pretty good luck with that on a few occasions, but not every problem can be covered. "Your mileage may vary."
3) I don't know what antivirus (AV) you are using, but I find many strange problems related to failure to maintain AV properly. Whenever I get a "new" (to me) computer, I get rid of the AV software without scanning or updating or doing anything else. Then I install my favorite AV (using a 30-day free trial if necessary) and let it run a full scan (which it does by default during installation). The AV is "e-Trust EZ Antivirus" and I have several reasons for preferring it to all others. You can be spared hearing the reasons. (except for the most important one: e-Trust EZ Antivirus will install on an infected machine and remove problems "on the fly." Others will not do that!)
4) The problem could actually be a failing hard drive, and you might just get a new drive and install it and see what happens. Most likely your Dimension 4500 came with a 5400 rpm drive (since people tend to buy capacity rather than performance when selecting drives from Dell's website), and you'd get a performance kick with a 7200 rpm drive and probably get one for not much moo-lah.
5) The problem could also be failing memory.
6) If you have the Dell Diagnostics CD, or if through some merciful turn of events your friend didn't wipe the Diagnostics Partition during the Windows reinstall, you can run Diagnostics and perhaps let your computer tell you what is wrong. Tap F12 repeatedly during a reboot and select "Boot to Diagnostics partition". If it can't find it, that is tough noogies; you'll need the CD or download the diagnostics from http://support.dell.com for your specific model.
I am sorry you are having the problem, and I'm sorry someone has "reinstalled Windows" on your machine. Despite all the folklore, that is almost never necessary. One of my proudest moments was when my daughter reported that a "tech support agent" for a major manufacturer told her she must reinstall Windows. She said, "My dad would kill me if I did that without talking to him." She was right! She and I did a little troubleshooting over the phone and decided the best thing for her to do was to get whatever was holding her left Ctrl key down out of the keyboard or, failing that, buy a new keyboard.
Even if you use the Dell supplied re-installation CDs to reinstall Windows, it will never be the same as when you saw "Starting your Dell computer for the first time" End User License Agreement, blah, blah, blah.
Submitted by: Chuck M.
I have several possibilities which might cause the problem.
Since Pentium 4 processors cause a lot of heat, you might want to check your processor temperature first. If the processor gets hot, try replacing the CPU fan. This won't be too expensive, but think about putting thermal paste between the CPU and the fan.
Another cause might be a failure of your RAM, even if you don't get blue screen messages. Try to execute a memory test (such as Memtest) to see if you don't get error messages. If this is the case, swap the RAM.
If the problem persists, I am afraid you're encountering a problem with your mainboard. You didn't state if the CMOS clock is still resetting after you changed the CMOS battery. If this is the case, SWAP THE MAINBAORD FIRST !
If you didn't add new extension cards (such as vid card), I don't think the PSU causes the problem. Generally, the system doesn't pass POST routine if this is the case. Moreover, since you experience the problem with the CMOS time setting, I think this is out of the question. However, if you added a videocard (Radeon 95xx, or GeForce FX) you're PSU is definitely insufficient (go for 400W PSU minimum).
Submitted by: Ron H.