Difference between revisions of "Build tips"

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===plays audio cds and files, but not with aplay (basiccheck)===
===plays audio cds and files, but not with aplay (basiccheck)===
Try disabling plug-and-play option in BIOS if it exists.
* Try disabling plug-and-play option in BIOS if it exists.
* If you're using a sound card, you may need to disable an on-board sound option in BIOS if it exists.

Revision as of 17:08, 7 February 2009

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Please edit as seems necessary, removing the {{cleanup}} tag when you are through.

Tips for troubleshooting and repairing common problems that we see in the build workshops.

Diskless Terminal

Dell GX1 fails to boot

Downgrade the bios:

  1. boot by ebmulti
  2. choose 'gx1' from net-grub
  3. currently broken a bit:
    1. hit 4 at the first freedos pause
    2. hit enter
    3. hit 4 again
    4. hit enter
  4. type 'dir' to see the list of files
  5. type 'gx1_a04.exe' and follow the instructions

Hard drives


symptom: The system does not go into grub, but instead chants GRUB GRUB GRUB GRUB ad infinitum.
solution: Go into the BIOS, change the hard drive detection from auto to user, and change LBA to LARGE. Dave says this works 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% might be able to be fixed with a BIOS upgrade but - who's got the time for that? switch the hdd. we have more. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

Hard drive clicks

symptom: cool noises
solution: recycle that drive!

SMART warning

symptom: the SMART utilities say the drive is gonna die solution: replace it. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

fsck errors

see: Bad blocks hard drive

Can't find or boot hard drive

  • Make sure you are jumpered master and are connected to the primary ide port.
  • Make sure BIOS detects it or is set to AUTO.
  • Try another IDE cable.

Floppy Drive

  • Floppy drive will not format the disk. You may have to try many more disks. Luckily, we have dozens.

BIOS problems

Password lock

With the power off: Remove the button battery. Also, look for a jumper on the motherboard that says either clear CMOS or clear password. Move the jumper over, say "Mary had a little lamb" (i.e. wait a few seconds), put the jumper and battery back and power back up. (if you've got a stubborn one, you might have to power cycle the computer with the battery gone and jumper set before putting them back).

Entering BIOS config

symptom: cannot get into BIOS

When trying to enter BIOS, and you can't, try the following:

  • press all of the function keys and the delete key while the computer is POSTing.
  • modify the hardware somehow, changed the memory or disconnect a drive

symptom: cannot get into BIOS and computer beeping

When the computer is beeping, but not posting:

  • Figure out the BIOS manufacturer by looking at the BIOS chip on the motherboard.
  • Check the beep code you are receiving with the list of known beep codes.

won't boot-up


not finding sound card

symptoms: message reading "/dev/dsp can't be found"; onboard sound; IRQ 5 has nothing on it; alsaconf doesn't detect a PCI or PNP soundcard. This happened on two Dell Optiplexes.
solution: Google says they use a Crystal ISA sound card, which was an option in alsaconf. You may be able to find information about the sound chip used for your onboard sound. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

won't play audio CDs

symptoms: the audio test in basiccheck plays sound, but you don't get any sound from an audio CD. solution: make sure the cable from the sound card to the CDROM is plugged in to both; double check if there are multiple places it can plug into the sound card and look for labels that might give you clues; try a different cable if it still doesn't work. --User:ideath

  • You might also want to try right-clicking on the speaker symbol on the top right of the screen and choosing "Preferences". Make sure nothing's muted.
  • Or, open a terminal and type "alsamixer". Make sure everything's turned on and up. Open another terminal and type "man alsamixer" for instructions on how to use this command-line tool.

plays audio cds and files, but not with aplay (basiccheck)

  • Try disabling plug-and-play option in BIOS if it exists.
  • If you're using a sound card, you may need to disable an on-board sound option in BIOS if it exists.


Read Xorg for general information.

X tries to start & fails

symptoms: you get the grey screen as if kdm were starting, but it eventually blinks out and drops you to the text login.keyboard and mouse are PS/2
solution: make sure the mouse is plugged in properly and in the correct port and reboot. X won't start if it doesn't think it has a mouse. --User:ideath 13:06, 12 May 2005 (PDT)

symptoms: you're returned to the console with the message "no screens found" and you're using certain kinds of ATI card (including the Riva128 card)
solution: Change the default color depth to 15, in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 --User:Jeff

X won't start; video driver for onboard chip identified as "unknown"

Video problem with onboard video chip : VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8623 [Apollo CLE266] integrated CastleRock graphics (rev 03).
solution: Change the driver to via in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 Jeff 03:13, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)
second solution: Change the driver to vesa in /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 if via doesn't work. Jeff 03:14, 6 Aug 2005 (PDT)

Resolution is too small

symptoms: 640x480 screen resolution


  • System -> Preferences -> Screen Resolution
  • set resolution to a larger value

symptoms: 640x480 is the only available resolution


  • sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg: choose the defaults for the everything but the last question about monitors "Simple/Medium/Advanced".
  • Choose simple
  • then choose 17 inches
  • Choose defaults until finished
  • Ctl-Alt-Bksp to restart X.

symptoms: trying the above causes the system to lock up


  • Ctl-Alt-F1
  • login as oem
  • sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop
  • permform the same steps as above
  • sudo /etc/init.d/gdm start

Note: In old systems, using a PCI video card may be contributing to the problem. Try an AGP video card if possible.

X overdrives monitor

symptoms: monitor presents high frequency scan lines

solution: turn down the bit depth to 16

symptoms: monitor presents high frequency scan lines and displays squished version of X

solution: check for IRQ conflict and set IRQ 3 only to legacy. Magix identified the chip but chose "unknown" driver. X wouldn't start. When we substituted "via" for "unknown" in the /etc/X11/XF86Config-4 file, x windows would start but the only resolution we could get was 600x480. A bunch of googling later we tried "vesa" for the driver and kdm worked fine. --Roy Marshall

symptoms: everything's fine until you try to go into X; then the monitor says FREQ OUT OF RANGE. it's the first time this previously-configured system has been used with this particular monitor.

solution: run magix to reconfigure X with the proper frequencies.

Onboard VGA does not function

symptom: Upon power-on, system sends nothing to VGA on-board port, connected monitor does not indicate anything is connected. This has occurred with several Dell small form factor systems.

solution: Install VGA card, load system and switch VGA cable to the on-board port at reboot time. Problem solved (sometimes). -- Kerm Jensen


Flaky ethernet card

symptom: the computer can't connect to the network after it's been imaged.

solution: Some ethernet cards will work to install the image, but not to connect from the OS. I generally end up swapping out the NIC and it will work fine. -- MW



CD Drives


CD Drive not being recognized? First, check all of your connections, are they are secure? Is the jumper set to master?* Check the BIOS and make sure there isn't a misconfiguration. Open up a term, and run "dmesg | grep hd"--does anything come up on hdc? Finally, you may have a bad cable, try attaching a new one to the motherboard. If all this fails, grab a new CD drive and start over, going through all these steps. If your result is the same, you may have a bad CD controller, or IDE connection, consult a build instructor.

note: if the jumper is set to slave, you'll probably have trouble even booting up.