I do much less with hardware nowadays, than when I was younger.  I no longer build entire custom systems from scratch. Still, the occasional simple maintenance task, like changing out a hard drive, is something that I enjoy doing.  And in fact, have done for years. But today, I was fearing that the worst thing that can happen had come to pass: killing something on your system by mis-installing a cable, or zapping the box.

After replacing the dying hard drive on my HP Pavilion p6230y, I turned on the power and got … nothing.  No screen display, no keyboard lights resetting, nothing.

Now I have had this happen before, but it is usually a misseated power cable.  So I powered down the computer and checked the power and data cable seating. This time when I powered up, I saw the hard drive light come on about 1 second after the power-on light, I heard the hard drive heads move around a bit, and then the hard drive light went out.  Still, no keyboard reset, no light on the optical mouse, a blank screen.

This worried me a little.  It’s easy to re-seat a cable and get the hard drive to work.  That behavior can happen even when the motherboard is not starting properly: its a normal startup sequence for a hard drive being powered up.

So now, what’s different?  I don’t see anything.  The keyboard lights not resetting and the mouse light not coming on worry me.  This is usually a bad sign.  Still, just one more check before I decide to involve others, who I worry, may confirm my worst fear.

And then, I see something a little different.  I had the DVI cable for the monitor plugged into the video card (not the main onboard video card).  That shouldn’t make a difference.  I should have at least seen the keyboard lights reset and the mouse light come on if the video was not working.

But I give in… I change the cable connection to the onboard video.  I’ve got nothing to lose at this point.  So I power on the computer, and …

The keyboard lights all flash on and off, the mouse’s optical light comes on, and I’ve got a BIOS display on the screen.  A great relief indeed, but … strange. Having the wrong video port connected was actually causing the BIOS to not start the boot sequence.  That is a first.  Every other desktop I have worked with would always reset the keyboard and start up, regardless of whether the display was connected.  All the BIOS cared about was that a video adapter was installed and working, not whether the operator was bothering to look at.

So if you are changing out the hardware in your desktop, remember this story.  The BIOS is more picky about connected hardware than it used to be.  At least, on this particular HP Pavilion model.