Desktop computer Forums (Audio, General Hardware, Video)

No boot, blinking cursor

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I have a Dell Precision 380 (desktop).

When I turn on my computer, I get a blinking cursor.  Nothing else.  No beeps.
Can't boot to BIOS.

On the front panel, the lights "1 2 3" are lit, which apparently means "Another failure has occurred."
Which is a totally useless error message.

Everything else seems to be working.  Power, video, fans, hard drive, motherboard LED is lit.

So, I removed my HDD.  Still got the same blinking cursor.
Removed my CMOS battery, and put it back in.  No change.

I even got out my multimeter and tested the CMOS battery.  I can watch it slowly being charged to 3.3V.

All the connections look good.
I don't know what else to do.

If I pull both the HDD and CMOS battery, should my computer still boot to BIOS?
Or at least hear some beeps?  Because I did that , and nothing has changed.

All Replies
  • Are you saying you can still launch BIOS setup? What happens if you press F8, as soon as you power on? Can you get to that menu and select Safe Mode?

    The motherboard LED only means it's getting power, but not necessarily the correct power.

    Did you try disconnecting all peripherals except mouse, monitor and keyboard? Did you perhaps leave a non-bootable disk in one of the drives or a USB memory stick connected? Is there a memory card in a printer or scanner slot?

    When you removed the motherboard battery, was the system unplugged from the wall and did you press/hold the power button on the tower for at least ~30 sec before you reinstalled that battery? And did you reinstall it right-side-up?

    You may need to strip it down to bare essentials. Remove all PCI cards except video, disconnect all drives except boot hard drive, reseat RAM modules in their slots, and see if it boots with only mouse, monitor and keyboard connected.


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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Nope, it doesn't go that far.  BIOS is necessary for loading keyboard interrupts, so, hitting the F8 key won't
    do nothing for you if BIOS isn't loaded first.  And I would hear BIOS beeping if it did go past it.

  • Well, I finally made some progress.  I pulled two memory cards, and I got it booted into BIOS.

    But, now, I got another problem.  It doesn't boot into Windows.  Argh.  I'm getting a blue screen of death with:

    STOP: 0x0000007B

    There's only one hard drive installed, and I know it's working, because I created a CD boot disk,
    and I'm able to browse my HDD files from the boot CD.  But, the darn thing won't boot from the hard drive!

    Scanned and checked the HDD for errors.  All passed.
    Ran Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool.  All passed.

  • That's actually good news! Wink

    7B is usually caused either because BIOS is set incorrectly and/or the SATA drivers got corrupted. When you pulled the motherboard battery, you reset BIOS to factory defaults so I'm betting the SATA Operations setting is now incorrect. I don't see the default setting for SATA Operations on the Dell website for this system, so run BIOS setup and look for the SATA Operations option.

    Assuming you have a SATA boot hard drive and the SATA controllers drivers were installed along with XP, change the SATA Operation setting to RAID/AHCI, if that's an option. If it isn't an option, you'll have to experiment with these settings until you find the one that lets it boot.

    And then you'll need to figure out if you really have a RAM failure or if one of the motherboard RAM slots failed...



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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee

  • Thanks, that's correct.  And I only have one SATA drive.

    My BIOS say "RAID Autodetect / AHCI" is the default factory setting.  Other choices:
    RAID Autodetect / ATA = RAID, otherwise ATA
    RAID On   = SATA for RAID
    Combination   = SATA/PATA combined

    I'm not using RAID, so even if lost my BIOS settings, why would the default factory settings
    cause my HDD to go BSOD?

    I did get one error message from an incorrect BIOS setting:
    "Floppy diskette seek failure"

    My computer never came with a floppy drive.  These days, most computers don't, so I had to
    shut it off in BIOS.  The default floppy setting is set to "Internal".  But, even after fixing that,
    my HDD still goes BSOD.

    It's almost as if losing power to the CMOS battery for modern day computers has
    permanently corrupted my HDD.  This is ridiculous.

  • If BIOS is set to RAID Autodetect/AHCI and it's still giving the 7B error, change BIOS to RAID Autodetect/ATA. And be sure to save the change before exiting BIOS setup.

    If RAID Autodetect/ATA works, it probably means the SATA driver has to be reinstalled. And then you can change BIOS back to RAID/AHCI.

    You had problems before you pulled the battery and before you removed the 2 RAM modules, so it's doubtful removing the battery had any effect on your hard drive.

    There is always the possibility you either got a boot sector virus so it's not being recognized as bootable. Or, the hard drive may have died and no amount of fiddling BIOS settings is going to fix that. In that case you'll need a new hard drive...


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    Forum Member since 2004

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  • Thanks for the help!

    If nothing else works, I'm forced to save important files, format the HDD, and re-install Windows! :)

  • samurle

    Thanks for the help!

    If nothing else works, I'm forced to save important files, format the HDD, and re-install Windows! :)

    Sorry, but if trying all the SATA settings in BIOS doesn't work, you may not be able to reformat and reinstall WIndows on this hard drive. You may need a brand new hard drive. You can then install this old drive as a secondary drive and see if you can rescue your files.

    But before you buy that new drive, there's still one more thing to try:

    Put the Windows XP Reinstallation CD in the drive and close the drawer. Reboot and press F12. Choose the option to boot from the CD drive.

    Press R at the Welcome screen to launch Recovery Console

    At the prompt, type in: chkdsk c: /r

    Press Enter and go take a nice long nap while chkdsk tests and attempts to fix the hard drive.

    When chkdsk is done, and assuming it doesn't report any unfixable errors or return any error codes, at the prompt, type in:

    fixboot c:

    Press Enter

    When that's done, remove the CD and see if it will boot from the hard drive now. And remember, you still may have to fiddle the SATA settings in BIOS to be sure you covered all your bases. And if it still won't boot, ask Santa for a nice new hard drive... Tongue Tied



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    Forum Member since 2004

    I am NOT a Dell employee