This system suffers from intermittent restarts that occur for no apparent reason. Examine the figure (click to enlarge).
Question: What is the most likely reason that the system is intermittently restarting?
Bonus: How can we fix the problem?
(See the answer and video response below.)
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This is an HTPC that I built several years back. When I first built it there were indeed intermittent restarts. The cause was a wire that was brushing against the back of the case resulting in a short which happened randomly and ended up causing the system to restart.
The solution was better cable management. By tying up all the cables – as shown in the figure below – and making sure that no wires or connectors touch any metal of the case or any circuit boards. After doing this, the system ran fine for a test period of 48 hours. Then, I added some rubber standoffs under the motherboard and the power supply and made sure everything was well insulated. The system ran strong as an HTPC and media server for 5 years. I don’t have much of a need for an HTPC anymore so I’m recycling it into a secondary Windows server.
See the video solution for the actual problem in this case and the followup video for more about other potential culprits.
Answer at 0:36
So, the question asked for “most likely” making the question more of a hypothetical one. Now, if we are simply talking about the most likely cause for any intermittent restarts my troubleshooting list would be as follows:
- Overheating CPU due to disconnected CPU fan or disconnected case fan (or possibly overclocking or failed thermal compound though I put those farther down the list usually).
- PSU is underpowered
- PSU is faulty
- Short somewhere in the system
- Capacitor issue or other motherboard damage
And that’s just on the hardware side of things (and not a finite list mind you). Restarts can happen for lots of reasons on the software side too: malware, OS issues, driver problem, and so on. Troubleshoot!