Debugging Hardware Problem

Today, I boot the PC. The boot process goes smoothly until the windows trying to load. Suddenly a blue screen appear and the computer restarted.

If you ever have a pc for 3 years or more, you may experience similar situation as well. PC unable to boot, sudden restart in middle of work, or something like that may happen due to hardware failure.

An experienced one already know that hardware problem can be happened in many parts of hardware, such as CPU, RAM, hard disk, VGA, motherboard, power supply, etc. Similar with software debugging, finding a part of hardware which is the root cause can be a trouble. I find the debugging hardware problem is similar with one in software.

During the booting after my PC restarted, I try to run the windows in safe mode. Strangely, it can run well. Some common applications such as office and browser can be run normally, with the minus of good display and network support due to safe mode.

Normally, you cannot even able to boot at all when the CPU or RAM get any trouble. From this point, I believe that the RAM and CPU is still in good shape, eliminating two error possibilities. Troubled power supply normally cannot affort to boot the system too and not causing blue screen error. So, we get another parts eliminated, leaving both motherboard and VGA alone.

Both parts become the "possible root cause" which cause the error. From this forward, I begin to test the "possible root cause" to be proven. This step is meant to prove whether the possibility is actually the real root cause.

Luckily, my possibility is being strengthened by windows error message in safe mode, showing bcc code 116. After simple searching in Google (thanks Google), I can easily found some article mentioning bcc code 116 related to video graphic error. Now only one thing to prove: whether the system will boot up without using the graphic card.

So I start to reach device manager, disabled the display adapter, and begin restarting the PC. The result is, viola! The system successfully loaded. The application runs well, the browser connected to the internet, and nothing has problem except a poor - low resolution display. And a little lag because the rendering are not being done in graphic card anymore.

The suspect left to motherboard or VGA, which I haven't found the cause yet. That is because I do not has spare change for it. But the bigger suspect is VGA, because it is older than the motherboard.


Finding the cause of hardware error is very similar with debugging software. It is started by finding the possible root cause, proving the possibility, and then fixing the problem. Experience and knowledge also help in both cases, to speeding the discovery of possible root causes. And for both cases also, you need to know how the system behave / working, or you will need additional time to find how the system work.
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