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Interpretation of Computer Error Beep Codes

Interpretation of Computer Error Beep Codes

You switch on your computer as usual and wait patiently as it goes through its startup routine. However, to your dismay, instead of the operating system booting in neatly, what you hear are mysterious beeps at startup. The computer beeps and fails to boot. Reminiscent of R2-D2’s beeps and whistles language in ‘Star Wars’, your computer is trying to tell you what’s wrong with it, in a coded, Morse code type language! By correctly interpreting the beeps, you can actually find out what’s causing the booting process to fail. In this Buzzle article, I specifically interpret what error beeps at startup mean for different types of BIOS (Basic Input Output System) setups.

About Computer Error Beep Codes Displayed During POST
BIOS is the internal stabilization and control system of the computer, which oversees the working of all the constituent parts. It loads or boots the operating system and implements a complete status check before that. This Power-on Self Test or POST process detects errors within the computer system and relays them to the user, through a cryptic ‘beep’ language. Every BIOS brand has its own beep code, which you will need access to, if you want to know what ails your computer. In the following lines, I help you in figuring out how to interpret computer error beep codes for various BIOS types, ranging from American Megatrends to Compaq and Award. Hear the number of beeps carefully and then interpret the error message accordingly.

Interpreting the Beep Codes
To figure out what do 3 beeps mean on startup of a computer, you will have to first figure out the BIOS type of the computer. It appears on the screen during startup. If you can’t see the startup screen, you can find the BIOS type, from the knowledge of the motherboard type. In the rest of this article, you will find a decoding table for most of the commonly used BIOS firmware, installed on computer motherboards.

Deciphering AMI BIOS Beep Error Code

Beep Signal
Error Interpretation
1 Long Beep
No Error, Completion of POST Routine
1 Long, 2 Short Beeps
Video BIOS ROM failure
1 Long, 3 Short Beeps
Memory test has detected an error
1 Long, 8 Short Beeps
Video Adapter Error
2 Short Beeps
Hardware Test Failure During POST routine
1 Short Beep
Refresh failure in DRAM due to malfunctioning programmable interrupt timer

2 Short Beeps
RAM IC malfunction due to parity error in first 64 K memory
3 Short Beeps
Base memory failure in first 64 K of random access memory IC
4 Short Beeps
System timer IC failure
5 Short Beeps
CPU failure
6 Short Beeps
Keyboard controller IC failure, preventing gate A20 controlled processor switching to protected mode
7 Short Beeps
Exception error in CPU, due to faulty motherboard circuitry
8 Short Beeps
Defective system video adapter
9 Short Beeps
Defective BIOS ROM, check sum error
10 Short Beeps
CMOS shutdown failure
11 Short Beeps
Faulty L2 cache

Deciphering AST BIOS Beep Error Code

Beep Signal
Error Interpretation
1 Long Beep
Failure of Channel 0 DMAI controller IC
1 Long Beep, 1 Short Beep
Failure of Channe; 1 DMAI controller IC
1 Long Beep, 2 Short Beeps
Failed video vertical retrace, due to video adapter failure
1 Long Beep, 3 Short Beeps
Video adapter memory failure
1 Long Beep, 4 Short Beeps
Complete video adapter failure
1 Long Beep, 5 Short Beeps
Base 64 KB memory failure in RAM IC
1 Long Beep, 6 Short Beeps
Inability of BIOS to load vertical vectors into memory
1 Long Beep, 7 Short Beeps
Video initialization failure due to faulty video adapters or motherboard
1 Long Beep, 8 Short Beeps
Complete video memory failure, due to faulty adapter or motherboard
1 Short Beep
Indicates failure of CPU register
2 Short Beeps
Failure of keyboard controller
3 Short Beeps
Motherboard circuitry error
4 Short Beeps
Communication failure with keyboard, due to faulty keyboard controller IC or a faulty keyboard
5 Short Beeps
Keyboard input malfunction, due to keyboard controller IC failure
6 Short Beeps
Motherboard chipset failure
9 Short Beeps
BIOS ROM Failure
10 Short Beeps
System timer IC failure
11 Short Beeps
Motherboard Failure
12 Short Beeps
CMOS IC/Real time clock failure

Deciphering Award BIOS Beep Error Code

Award BIOS POST Error Codes
Beep Signal
Error Interpretation
1 Long, 2 Short Beeps
Error in video adapter or loose monitor cable
1 Long, 3 Short Beeps
Absent or Loosely Inserted Video Card
Repeated Beeps
Missing or loosely inserted memory IC
Rapid Beeping During Operation
CPU Overheating
Repeated High or Low Beeps
Damaged, overheated or loosely inserted CPU

Deciphering Compaq BIOS Beep Error Code

Compaq BIOS POST Error Codes
Beep Signal
Error Interpretation
1 Short Beep
Not an error, system booting smoothly
1 Long, 1 Short Beep
Checksum Error in BIOS ROM
1 Long, 2 Short Beeps
Improperly connected or faulty video adapter
7 Beeps (Only for Compaq Deskpro)
Faulty AGP video card
Continuous Beep
RAM error/Faulty RAM
1 Short, 2 Long Beeps
Improperly connected RAM or Faulty RAM

Deciphering Phoenix BIOS Beep Error Code
(Phoenix BIOS error codes are a combination of beeps with pauses in between. Here 2-1-2 means, 2 beeps, pause, 1 beep, pause, 2 beeps)

Phoenix BIOS POST Error Codes
Beep Signal Sequence
Error Interpretation
CPU malfunction, may need replacement
1-1-2 (Low volume beeps)
Motherboard Fault
Real time clock error or faulty CMOS, in need of replacement
1-1-3 (Low volume beeps)
Failure of extended CMOS RAM
Checksum error in BIOS ROM
Failure of programmable input timer (PIT)
Failure of DMA controller IC
Failure of DMA controller
Failure of RAM refresh controller
RAM (64 KB) failure
Dysfunctional first RAM IC
Failure of RAM control logic
Failure of address line to first 64 KB RAM
RAM parity failure, indicating RAM IC malfunctioning
Motherboard Failure detected by EISA fail-safe timer test
Motherboard Failure detected by EISA NMI port 462 test
Failure of Bit 0 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 1 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 2 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 3 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 4 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 5 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 6 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 7 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 8 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 9 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 10 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 11 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 12 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 13 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 14 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of Bit 15 on first (64 KB) RAM IC
Failure of slave DMA register, leading to DMA controller malfunction
DMA controller failure due to faulty master DMA register
Faulty interrupt controller IC
Failure of Interrupt controller IC
BIOS failure in loading interrupt vectors, motherboard may need replacement
Faulty keyboard controller IC
CMOS RAM or CMOS battery failure
CMOS configuration failure
Video memory or video adapter failure
Video adapter failure leading to video initialization problems
System timer IC failure
CMOS IC failure
Keyboard controller failure
Unexpected Interrupt caused due to a CPU problem
Faulty RAM addressing circuitry
System timer IC failure
CMOS internal real time clock failure
Faulty serial port circuitry
Faulty parallel port circuitry
Math coprocessor failure

So you need a good ear to interpret what the code says. Once you know the beep sequence, you can figure out what’s wrong with your computer, to take appropriate action. Using the tables above, you can easily interpret what your computer is conveying to you. The beauty of the beep code lies in the fact that you can interpret what’s wrong, even when the monitor is not working and nothing is being displayed. Listen to the beeps, decipher them correctly from the diagnostic tables provided above and fix up your computer problem!


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