Comatose PC

A couple of my PCs occasionally slip into a coma from which I cannot boot them. I know these machines are just “stuck”, and not dead, because they eventually recover and work just fine for months.

It happens to my Linux server at home. On this machine the initial hang seems to be related to a problem with the PCI Wifi card.

It also happens to a Windows XP box at work. On this machine the initial hang seems to be precipitated by Windows automatic updates. (After install, it tries to reboot but only gets half-way.)

Once a system falls into a coma, it’s always the same infuriating crap:

Pressing the power button gives me lights on the case, and I hear disks and fans spinning, but I never get video or hear the “happy beep.” An instantaneous press of the power button at this point does nothing — I need to do the 5-second hold to power down. Reset is similarly useless.

If I hit the power switch on the power supply itself, or physically unplug the power, and wait for what seems like an utterly random time period (occasionally days, I kid you not) this sometimes helps. Eventually I plug it back in and it immediately boots as if nothing ever happened.

Dear internet, please help. I cannot construct a useful set of Google search terms to for this problem. Ideally, I would like a solution but I will also be satisfied with:

  • A reliable way to rouse the machines from their coma
  • An explanation of the cause for this, so I can properly direct my ire

Update 6/18/09: It appears that this problem, in at least one case, was likely caused by the power supply. Still working on the other one. Thanks for the suggestions.

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3 Responses to “Comatose PC”


  1. 1 Azeem Jiva June 15, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Could be a busted powersupply. Sometimes if the power supply is underpowered for the system this can happen. The other thing to check is make sure the motherboard isn’t touching ground. Other than that not really sure.

  2. 2 Alkivar June 15, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    also i’d advise checking for leaky capacitors on the motherboard/in the power supply. Nothing has caused me more headaches than irregular shutdowns/random freezes/refusal to start up caused by 1 lone leaky capacitor on the board.

  3. 3 Julia Thomson June 22, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    The same thing happens with my Toshiba PC. It usually happens if we close it and then try to open it back up too soon.
    We always have to unplug it and let the power drain out completely, and then (like you said) we plug it back in and it works perfectly.

    I haven’t found a solution, but it’s not the power supply.


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