Build tips

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

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 Usually a bad 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.

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.

Goes to black screen

symptom: The system goes to a black screen
solution 1: Go into BIOS. Find "AGP Aperture" and set it to 32 MB. Save and exit BIOS.
solution 2: Press Escape after the system POSTs to get into the GRUB menu. Choose the second option (recovery mode). A bunch of scripts will run, then choose "xfix" from the menu. Once xfix has run, choose resume boot to boot normally. solution 2: Hit escape when it says "GRUB loading" to get into the GRUB menu and hit 'e' to edit the first option. Then highlight the second line which stars "kernal /boot/vmlinuz..." and press 'e'. Insert "iommu=memapper=2" after "ro" and before "quiet splash", then press enter. Press 'b' to boot. Once you're in the operating system you will need to go to the terminal (Application > Accessories > Terminal) to save this command. Open up a terminal window and type in "sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst". Scroll down to the first line that starts with "kernal /boot/vmlinuz..." and insert "iommu=memapper=2" after "ro" and before "quiet splash" like before. Save and close the file. Type in "sudo update-grub" and hit enter. After GRUB is done updating, restart the computer to check if the issue has been solved.
solution 3: If all else fails, install a new video card.

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 solution 2: Turn on-board video back on in the bios.

Sign-on Screen Return Problem

symptom: The symptom keeps returning to the sign-in screen after the user has signed in.
solution 1: Look in BIOS to see if the UMA (internal video mode) frame buffer size can be changed, and try changing it to 16 MB. The AGP aperture can be left at 64 MB.
solution 2: Install a new video card!


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 terminal, 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.


Problem: When trying to print the printme, there's no "Build" computer to print to.
Solution: Go to System > Administration > Printing. Select the first box which reads "Show all printers in the network." Give it a minute and all the printers in the network, including the Build printer, will populate.


System won't shut down

symptom: The system is not shutting down completely
solution: The problem is that a sound module fails to unload during shut down, preventing the machine from doing so. To fix this you need to remove the sound module in question in the command line terminal. Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal and type in "sudo gedit /etc/init.d/halt". After the first set of comments (signified by the #) add "rmmod snd_hda_intel". This will remove the troublesome sound module.
solution 2.0: If the above doesn't work, try going to "sudo gedit /etc/modules" and adding "apm power_off=1".

Pin-Out Settings for External Front Panel USB

+ Front Panel USB pin-Out order - VCC 1 Data -1 Data +1 Ground Not Used - 2 (red) 4 (white) 6 (green) 8 (black) 10 - 1 (red) 3 (white) 5 (green) 7 (black) BLANK - VCC 1 Data -1 Data +1 Ground KEY

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