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Interpretation of Computer Error Beep Codes

Interpretation of Computer Error Beep Codes

If you are clueless about what that mysterious computer beeping, accompanied with startup issues is all about, this article will be a revelation. Here, I specifically discuss what different beep signals mean on startup of a computer, for various BIOS brands.
Omkar Phatak
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 Techspirited 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 SignalError Interpretation
1 Long BeepNo Error, Completion of POST Routine
1 Long, 2 Short BeepsVideo BIOS ROM failure
1 Long, 3 Short BeepsMemory test has detected an error
1 Long, 8 Short BeepsVideo Adapter Error
2 Short BeepsHardware Test Failure During POST routine
1 Short BeepRefresh failure in DRAM due to malfunctioning programmable interrupt timer
2 Short BeepsRAM IC malfunction due to parity error in first 64 K memory
3 Short BeepsBase memory failure in first 64 K of random access memory IC
4 Short BeepsSystem timer IC failure
5 Short BeepsCPU failure
6 Short BeepsKeyboard controller IC failure, preventing gate A20 controlled processor switching to protected mode
7 Short BeepsException error in CPU, due to faulty motherboard circuitry
8 Short BeepsDefective system video adapter
9 Short BeepsDefective BIOS ROM, check sum error
10 Short BeepsCMOS shutdown failure
11 Short BeepsFaulty L2 cache

Deciphering AST BIOS Beep Error Code

Beep SignalError Interpretation
1 Long BeepFailure of Channel 0 DMAI controller IC
1 Long Beep, 1 Short BeepFailure of Channe; 1 DMAI controller IC
1 Long Beep, 2 Short BeepsFailed video vertical retrace, due to video adapter failure
1 Long Beep, 3 Short BeepsVideo adapter memory failure
1 Long Beep, 4 Short BeepsComplete video adapter failure
1 Long Beep, 5 Short BeepsBase 64 KB memory failure in RAM IC
1 Long Beep, 6 Short BeepsInability of BIOS to load vertical vectors into memory
1 Long Beep, 7 Short BeepsVideo initialization failure due to faulty video adapters or motherboard
1 Long Beep, 8 Short BeepsComplete video memory failure, due to faulty adapter or motherboard
1 Short BeepIndicates failure of CPU register
2 Short BeepsFailure of keyboard controller
3 Short BeepsMotherboard circuitry error
4 Short BeepsCommunication failure with keyboard, due to faulty keyboard controller IC or a faulty keyboard
5 Short BeepsKeyboard input malfunction, due to keyboard controller IC failure
6 Short BeepsMotherboard chipset failure
9 Short BeepsBIOS ROM Failure
10 Short BeepsSystem timer IC failure
11 Short BeepsMotherboard Failure
12 Short BeepsCMOS IC/Real time clock failure

Deciphering Award BIOS Beep Error Code

Award BIOS POST Error Codes
Beep SignalError Interpretation
1 Long, 2 Short BeepsError in video adapter or loose monitor cable
1 Long, 3 Short BeepsAbsent or Loosely Inserted Video Card
Repeated BeepsMissing or loosely inserted memory IC
Rapid Beeping During OperationCPU Overheating
Repeated High or Low BeepsDamaged, overheated or loosely inserted CPU

Deciphering Compaq BIOS Beep Error Code

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