Diagnosing beeps

The computer beeps several times

If you hear several beeps from the PC speaker, it means that the computer failed its power-on self test (POST) because a problem was detected. The POST is a procedure that tests several components such as power, BIOS, CPU, memory, and video. Only if all those tests pass, the computer will then allow the operating system to load. But if one or more of these tests fail, beeps indicate a problem and the boot process is halted. These errors are a little more difficult to troubleshoot.

To diagnose the problem, listen to the beeps carefully and write down the sequence. Is it one long beep? Is it several short beeps? How many? Once you have the beep sequence documented, you need to find out what it means. What BIOS do you have? When you first turn on the PC, look at the top of the first screen to find out. Common BIOS types are Award, Phoenix, and AMI.

Award:

1-2-2 Indicates a video error has occurred and the BIOS cannot initialize the video screen to display any additional information
Any other beeps Most likely a RAM problem

You can find more detailed information about Award error messages on Award’s web site.

Phoenix:

1-2-2 Indicates a video error has occurred and the BIOS cannot initialize the video screen to display any additional information
1-2-2-3 BIOS ROM Checksum
1-3-1-1 Test DRAM Refresh
1-3-1-3 Test Keyboard Controller
1-3-4-1 RAM Failure
1-3-4-3 RAM Failure
2-1-2-3 Check ROM Copyright Notice
2-2-3-1 Test for unexpected interrupts
1-3-4-3 RAM Failure

You can find more detailed information about Phoenix error messages on Phoenix’s web site.

AMI:

1 beep Refresh failure
2 beeps Parity error
3 beeps Base 64K memory failure
4 beeps Timer not operational
5 beeps Processor error
6 beeps 8042 – gate A20 failure
7 beeps Processor exception interrupt error
8 beeps Display memory read/write failure
9 beeps ROM checksum error
10 beeps CMOS shutdown register read/write error
11 beeps Cache memory bad

You can find more detailed information about AMI error messages on AMI’s web site.

If you get beep errors, you should try to think what happened right before they started. Did you add a new piece of hardware? If so, it might be faulty or not installed right. Remove it, then try again. If everything is fine without the hardware, try to reinstall and configure the hardware again. If that does not help, try exchanging it and see if that corrects the problem. If the error persists, narrow it down systematically. Remove everything but the CPU, memory, keyboard, and video card, then boot again. Does the error still occur? If not, then add one piece of hardware and try again. Repeat until one new component causes the error and you now know who the culprit is. If yes, then reseat your CPU, memory and video card and try again. If the error still happens, try replacing the CPU, video card and memory one by one to see if one of them is the troublemaker. If that does not help, you could have a bad motherboard. Check the motherboard carefully for any signs of damage. Also check for shorts, a metallic object could have found its way onto the motherboard, or the motherboard is not installed correctly and touches the case somewhere.

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