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[SOLVED] Help me troubleshoot a unique problem, possibly related to bad electrical wiring in the house(?)

Ludo_Down

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I have had a recurring issue with my custom build PC for the past couple of years, ever since moving into a new house. The computer shuts off spontaneously and usually (but not always) turns itself back on, taking me the the Windows 10 login screen. Once I log back in, whatever I was doing is perfectly preserved without saving (a game, photoshop, web browsing, you name it). My build is several years old so I at first chalked it up to a memory issue or a failing part. Then, about a year ago, the computer would just not turn back on at all. I took it to a computer repair place and they took a long time with it but eventually just replaced the motherboard and that seemed to fix the issue. My motherboard was one of the newer components so I found this strange, but presumed it was a faulty motherboard and continued using my computer as normal. The sporadic shutoffs continued but seemed more infrequent, so I started to suspect external power issues at this point. It happened again last night and now the computer will not power on again. I strongly suspect this is a power issue, but I don't have enough expertise to know if it is an internal power issue or bad wiring in the house that I moved into. Some evidence that may help a someone more knowledgeable than myself:

1 - This never happened before I moved in to the new place, though the PC has had other issues.

2 - After replacing the motherboard, I got a surge protector with a built-in backup battery. This unit plays an indicator beep whenever there is a surge. I used a vacuum in the same room as the computer (different outlet) just a few weeks ago, and the second I turned it on the beep sounded and my computer shut down. The next time I heard the indicator was this last time that my PC shut itself off, and now it won't turn on anymore. FYI nothing was powered on in the moment it happened this time. I was using my computer but not for anything out of the ordinary.

I can share some details about my PC build but I don't have exact specifics because I would normally get that info from my computer which won't power on. I can read the names of makes and what not from the physical parts if they are needed.

The main reason I want to know what's causing the issue is so that I won't fry a new computer if that's what I end up doing to solve the problem. Any further info needed just let me know.
 
Feb 29, 2020
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I am an electrician. But it could be anything really. I was thinking more along the lines of there might not be enough voltage being delivered. Or perhaps dirty power, or frequent power spikes. I once lived on a street with spiking issues and it took out my computer and also my dishwasher later on.
Knowing the wattage of the appliances doesn't really help unless you know which circuits are running where, even then it wouldn't explain your issue . Besides, if you overloaded the breaker it would have tripped.
If the previous owner or someone who didn't know what they were doing tried to do some electrical they could have easily messed up some circuits and have current back feeding on the neutral or severed a ground or tons of other things.
Checking the proper voltage is pretty simple and could be done with a cheap metre, but if it's dirty power it takes expensive specialized equipment. But like I said it could be anything.
 
What is your PSU and how old is it? If the issue is on your house, the problem should be isolated by your PSU if your PSU is a good unit. However if it isn't a good one even a 100% audiophile approved electricity will break your components anyway.
 

Ludo_Down

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And as far as how old it is, very hard to say. I think I kept it wen I upgraded the CPU and mobo about 2 1/2 years ago (which was around the same time as the move to this place) but it's possible that I replaced an older one out of frustration with this issue. I did used to have an older PSU but I can't say when it was replaced at this point.
 

Ludo_Down

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What were these other issues?
I had a spontaneous hanging/freezing issue that was resolved eventually by getting rid of the original RAM sticks, which were a cheapo brand. With better memory sticks in there that stopped happening. Figured it out through memtest if I recall correctly. No other issues in the past couple of years and anything else that has happened before that would've been of minimal importance, nothing to hang/freeze/reboot the system.
 

Ludo_Down

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Do you have access to a multi meter or a plug tester? Might want to measure the voltage and see if the plug tester is showing any problems
I was able to find a plug tester in my garage today and the wiring does all look correct. I also looked up the wattage of everything running in the room and it is possible I over-stressed the breaker. I have a mini fridge connected and a (small) microwave, plus the aforementioned time I plugged in a vacuum. I didn't have any of those plugged into the same outlet source but I know a bedroom's outlets draw from a common line/breaker/whatever the term is. I never suspected power draw to be the problem because I had all the same stuff plugged in at my last place, which was a studio apartment, and now I have it all plugged in across a similar square footage area but it is a single bedroom in a house, which I imagine is not wired the same as an apartment. I remembered my parents one time mentioning they had to get the wiring redone in their kitchen just so they could run two microwaves in the same room. I know the PSU and the surge protectors are both supposed to protect against this sort of thing, but I'm wondering if the random shutoffs were the safety measure and eventually the strain of the unexpected restarts and power surges could have damaged my parts over time. That could explain why last time my build died it was the motherboard (complete with a popped off capacitor, I had forgotten that detail when I started the thread), but this time it seems to have been the PSU, at least based on the paperclip test. All of this is a total guess, I am no electrician, but it seems to be supported by easy-to-find maximum wattage recommendations for the average US bedroom. Suggested maximum capacity for a room on a single 2a breaker is 2000 or more conservatively 1500. My PSU is capable of 700 watts (though my build probably only draws at most 400) and the microwave runs at 600, mini fridge at least 100 on idle, plus several cell phones and a small laptop charge in here, and more recently a portable air conditioning unit... and the vacuum I used is a 1400 watt vacuum cleaner......so it seems like a decent educated guess. Correct me if I'm out of school here. Also, any suggestions by the community about how to deal with this would be much appreciated. I am dealing with pretty limited space so even if I get my computer up and running, or get a new one, I will need to avoid this happening again. I'm working with the homeowner on getting a look at the plans to the house and I can definitely avoid using the vacuum from the outlets in this bedroom. The PSU I ordered is gold rated. Any other ideas?
 
Feb 29, 2020
175
19
95
3
I am an electrician. But it could be anything really. I was thinking more along the lines of there might not be enough voltage being delivered. Or perhaps dirty power, or frequent power spikes. I once lived on a street with spiking issues and it took out my computer and also my dishwasher later on.
Knowing the wattage of the appliances doesn't really help unless you know which circuits are running where, even then it wouldn't explain your issue . Besides, if you overloaded the breaker it would have tripped.
If the previous owner or someone who didn't know what they were doing tried to do some electrical they could have easily messed up some circuits and have current back feeding on the neutral or severed a ground or tons of other things.
Checking the proper voltage is pretty simple and could be done with a cheap metre, but if it's dirty power it takes expensive specialized equipment. But like I said it could be anything.
 

Ludo_Down

Distinguished
Apr 2, 2012
93
0
18,630
0
I am an electrician. But it could be anything really. I was thinking more along the lines of there might not be enough voltage being delivered. Or perhaps dirty power, or frequent power spikes. I once lived on a street with spiking issues and it took out my computer and also my dishwasher later on.
Knowing the wattage of the appliances doesn't really help unless you know which circuits are running where, even then it wouldn't explain your issue . Besides, if you overloaded the breaker it would have tripped.
If the previous owner or someone who didn't know what they were doing tried to do some electrical they could have easily messed up some circuits and have current back feeding on the neutral or severed a ground or tons of other things.
Checking the proper voltage is pretty simple and could be done with a cheap metre, but if it's dirty power it takes expensive specialized equipment. But like I said it could be anything.
Oh, thanks for this info. Glad to hear it straight from an expert as I feel in over my head about all this. Aside from an outlet tester that I have the landlord also has an AC/DC voltage tester. Would that do the trick? I don't know how to use it but I can look up how if it will provide any useful information or help rule anything out. Like I said, I just don't want to abuse another computer in the future. Thanks again for your input and help!
 
Feb 29, 2020
175
19
95
3
Oh, thanks for this info. Glad to hear it straight from an expert as I feel in over my head about all this. Aside from an outlet tester that I have the landlord also has an AC/DC voltage tester. Would that do the trick? I don't know how to use it but I can look up how if it will provide any useful information or help rule anything out. Like I said, I just don't want to abuse another computer in the future. Thanks again for your input and help!
If it can measure the voltage it should do the trick. If your in North America +/- 5% is considered normal for a 120v circuit, so between 114 or 123 volts from hot to neutral and hot to ground. You should have 0 between neutral and ground but a few stray volts is normal, above 3v could be pointing at issues. You can measure those without taking off a plug, just stab the leads into the holes. Take measurements at different locations to see if the problem is in a certain circuit or the same throughout the house.
Be careful, getting shocked sucks. And good luck.
 

Ludo_Down

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Apr 2, 2012
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It took me a while to get around to this but the voltage tests just fine. I now have the build running again after replacing the PSU and I have it connected in a another room just in case. The problem persists, so I don't think it's electrical and should be addressed in a different thread. If anyone is having electrical issues, GorillaMonsoon's comments here should be a big help.
 

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