Houston, we have a problem.

Things were going too well.

The computer that runs the Z-Cam simply will not turn on.

I shall have to get out the trephine, I’m afraid, and rouse out its brains.

I needed this like a hole in the head.


I can now get the power to turn on.  Every peripheral is unplugged.  The power comes on when I press the power key.  After a couple seconds it goes off and then, by itself, restarts.  It sounds as if the hard drive wants to do something, then.. the rest is silence.

Wondering: should I pull the hard drive and try to put it into another box.   Hmmm….


I just can’t get it to boot.  Power comes on when I press the power button.  Goes off.  Comes back on.  It sounds like it is checking the drives.  Nothing.

Dunno… video card?  No peripherals are plugged in.

Also, to the readers in the know… is there such a thing as a USB enclosure for an internal HDD which I could use to get everything off this drive and onto another ‘puter?

And if no one cares about the Z-Cam I may not bother.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in O'Brian Tags and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. RichardT says:

    Yes. I’ve got one, it works pretty well and it wasn’t expensive. You have to physically remove the harddrive from the computer, but that’s not difficult.

    Give me a minute and I’ll get the details for you.

  2. dirtycopper says:

    While I cannot help you with the more challenging aspects of this problem there is a little “pigtail” for lack of a better term that I use for retrieving date from needed drives. I think this is the one I got from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Adapter-Converter-Optical-External/dp/B002OV1VJW. It works well and has bailed me out on many occasions. Make sure you opt for the Mystic Monk decaf so you have steady hands. Good luck.

  3. dirtycopper says:

    While there are USB enclosures, the pigtail removes the need to mount the drive in the box and deal with all of those troublesome screws.

  4. John V says:

    Fr. Z.
    You can get an enclosure from a number of vendors. Here is a link from a vendor ( http://www.drivesolutions.com/cgi/shop/bstore.cgi?command=listitems&kind=accessory&pos=0&type=itemid&itemid=a8.1 ) I have used them in the past, as well as this particular enclosure.

    The key will be to get an enclosure that will support the drive you have. In the sample here, you will not need the support software. Once the HDD is installed, plug the drive in a USB port and it will load on your OS. You may need to adjust the drive letter assignments in the Disk Manager if you do not see the drive listed after you attach it to your system.

    USB drives are limited to 5V. If your drive needs more that 5V, then you will have to provide a separate power supply to the drive enclosure. Some enclosures come with the power supply, and some do not.

    By the way, it sounds like you may have a power supply issue. Just a thought.

    I hope this helps.

  5. poohbear says:

    And if no one cares about the Z-Cam I may not bother.

    Not to give you more work, but I would miss the Z-cam. Maybe we need a poll?

  6. If I can’t get this computer working again, I will shut it down.

  7. I thought about a power supply problem, but… it does fire up. It just won’t boot. The last time anything like this happened it was a video card problem.

  8. RichardT says:

    Here we are, Father – gizmo for getting data off an old hard drive. Mine was so cheap, it doesn’t even have a manufacturer’s name on the box. But this is the same sort of thing:


    (This is a UK one; since it needs to plug in to a power supply, you’ll need a US version)

    Connect it all up, wait a few minutes (it is slow) and your working PC will just show the old hard disc as an extra drive, letting you read or copy straight off.

    The kit has 2 main bits:
    1) a thingy with some electronics inside – this plugs in to your old hard drive, once you’ve disconnected it from the old computer, and has a USB cable coming out the other end to plug into your working computer; and
    2) a mains power supply to make the old hard drive whirr round.

    There are even cheaper ones without the power supply, in which case you’d presumably have to cannibalise more of the dead PC to get power to the old hard drive.

    I bought mine because it lets me use an old hard drive from a dead PC as a back-up disk. It gave me massive back-up capacity for next to no cost. And if I can work it, with my almost total ignorance of computers, anyone can.

  9. GeekLady says:

    It could be a bad power supply, or memory, or the drive itself is bad. First test the drive in another box both as a secondary drive and as a boot drive. I believe it’s possible for the boot sector to be borked but you can still get data off the drive. If you can boot from the drive on a different computer, I’d look at the power supply and memory next. If you have a working box with compatible components, you can swap bits around to test.

    Power supplies have caused stealthy computer death several times before in my household. The ones that come in a case may not have the oomph to run all of the components and peripherals you install, especially things like scanners which can draw their power from the computer over USB.

    Borked and oomph are technical terms.

  10. RichardT says:

    Sorry, others got there already.

    dirtycopper’s looks like the Yankee version of mine.

    John V’s is the expensive version, with a box to put your old hard drive in. I use a brown paper bag instead.

  11. benedetta says:

    I like the Zcam. I hope you are able to power it up Fr. Z.

  12. frjim4321 says:

    Hate to say it but it sounds like the mother board.

    Are you getting any “beeps” when it tries to boot up?

    Do any of the components/transistors/resistors, etc. on the MB look partially melted?

  13. The motherboard doesn’t look damaged. No beep.

  14. GeekLady says:

    Father, every power supply failure I’ve seen worked similar to what you described. The computer would start, and then turn off, try to restart, etc. It would only refuse to start if the power supply was completely dead. A failing power supply tries to start, but can’t power everything up.

    Does any text show up on the screen at all, or does it stay empty?

  15. Nothing on the display.

  16. Richard says:

    Do the NumLock/CapsLock/ScrollLock lights on your keyboard display anything? Like a blinking CapsLock, or NumLock + ScrollLock on?

  17. wanda says:

    I care about the Z Cam!

  18. fieldsparrow says:

    I love the Z-cam. I was going to ask if you got a post beep, but it sounds like not, and no BIOS to the screen. Do you hear any clicking or fans when you power it on? (It sounds from your OP like you do.) If you have another power supply available, that’s probably the first thing I would test. After that, try taking out one piece of RAM at a time and see if it boots without one of them. I wish I lived closer because I have plenty and I’d just come over and poke at it. It does sound like either the power supply, the RAM, or the mobo.

  19. Sandy says:

    Yes, we like the Z cam!!! Sorry, no geeks here for technical advice :)

  20. fieldsparrow says:

    Other suggestion after the power supply: Try reseating the CPU and make sure it and the heat sink are well in place. Was the box recently subjected to any power surges from a storm or otherwise? What are the specs on the machine (as much as you know)?

    Surely we can get this up and running :) I know I have extra computer bits (get it, ha ha) sitting around waiting for a good use, if nothing else.

  21. cregduff says:

    A Couple of other things to try.
    1.Many times there is a reset button on the motherboard – very small red button. Depress then Try to reboot.
    2.What are you using? What is the size, OS and type of the hard drive you have in this laptop. Maybe I can send you a replacement laptop that can run what you have on your the hard drive. Hmm? It’s not like we’re not replacing the mothership here so, maybe it’s doable.
    3. If you want to go the way of pulling data off – someone above had a good link (although for UK) – Here’s the domestic USA one – something like this that accommodates many sizes and interface types of drives. Link: http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Adapter-Converter-Optical-External/dp/B001OORMVQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1305161141&sr=8-1
    4. You know someone had to say it, right? Get a Mac. I know under pressure that’s not exactly funny.

    Ed Casey

  22. jilly4ski says:

    hmmm, we recently had our monitor go dark while running high intensity graphics. We had to remove the video card and blow out a huge chunk of dust. After that it worked great. Maybe try that.

  23. EWTN Rocks says:

    Aw Fr. Z, don’t close down the Zcam! Maybe call the Geek Squad for help?

  24. Stephen Matthew says:

    Just call the technical help desk at the Vatican, after all that should be a “privilege” of being a priest of the diocese of Rome…

    oh, what’s that you say…

    that wouldn’t be much help…

    even if there was a tech help desk and even if it had an installed telephone line with a correctly listed extension.

  25. Faustina says:

    From your description it is likley the power supply. I have had that happen two or three times over the life of my old desktop. You can test it with a POST card but getting a new power supply might be easier. For the hard drive why don’t you take it out of the troubled computer and add it in as a secondary drive in a good one? You should be able to read all the content. You may have to set it up in BIOS to recognize the additonal drive and not change where the computer looks for the boot partition.

  26. joanofarcfan says:

    Me likie Zcam

  27. introibo says:

    I second (or third or fourth) the SATA/IDE USB thingy. It’s cheap and even a non-techie like myself can use it..I saved lots of stuff off failed hard drives with it…

  28. May I suggest for protection against future crashes, buy some on line storage and back up your computer there. that way if your computer becomes unsalvageable you can still recover all your files from the off site on line storage. Norton offers online back up . It isn’t too bad pricewise. I can’t help you with this , sorry. Prayers to Sts Gabriel and Isidore for you.

  29. joecct77 says:

    Stephen Matthew

    That’s because the Vatican relies on Faith, rather than “good works”. ;)

  30. Haec Dies says:

    Hello Father,

    I had the same problem with my computer and it turned out to be the temperature sensor which is potted to the power supply and or hard drive came loose and the computer would over heat and shut off. I proved my theory by attaching a vacuum cleaner suction to the fan inlet and as long as there was air movement the computer stayed on. It’s a simple fix for some computer geek to recement the sensor if this turns out to be the problem.

  31. Haec Dies: Thanks for that tip, but that isn’t the problem here. Everything is pretty clean.

    Also, I reseated all the cards and checked all the connectors. Nada.

  32. It could be your reader ( Ithink that’s what it’s called ( the thingy that reads the drive) is fried. SOrt of like the arm and needle of a record player ( yes, I’m that old). That’s what happened to my machine. Don’t know how you’d fix that. Don’t know if you can replace just that. Prayers continuing

  33. Now, you know we care about the Z-cam.

  34. s i says:

    We need the z-cam!
    Sounds like power supply failing; could be a failing component like the memory sticks. You could try taking one out, boot, and then the other to see if that helps. Another test would be to boot from a Ubuntu disk and see if you can get it to work. Ubuntu runs from disk, and doesn’t write to the HDD. You could get everything you need off it that way.


    Or, use the USB adapter – I like Cables to Go.


    If the computer isn’t even POST-ing, I’ll bet it’s the power supply.

  35. paglia says:

    I know a couple others have already mentioned the power supply… And I know you really don’t think it’s the power supply… But yeah.. it really does sound like the power supply. :)

    We’ve had this problem so many times here at home that I actually keep a couple extra power supplies on hand. Doing so has saved me many troubleshooting headaches since. (And some cash as well.)

Comments are closed.