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1. First diagnostic step is to remove and reseat all connectors and components (not the CPU). That fixes most problems. The heat/cool cycle of operating a PC can lead to “thermal creep” where components work themselves loose.
2. In my experience, “sudden shutdowns” are usually heat-related – typically, the CPU. Next step would be to remove everything removable (hard drives, large flat cables, expansion cards) and blow the chassis/mother board out with high-pressure air. At work, I have a small compressor. Canned air won’t do it. Really get in and under everything you can. Pay attention to the insides of the power supply (through the slots) and the heat sink on the CPU. Put only the minimum memory back in and anything you need to get to the BIOS setup.
3. Boot to the BIOS setup screen and let it sit. If it shutdown there, you have eliminated all the components still not connected. At that point, I would remove and re-seat the CPU. Download the Dell manual. Remove the CPU with a static strap. Clean the surfaces and apply the correct amount of new thermal paste. Paste can dry out or flow over time. If that creates a hotspot on the chip, it could make it shutdown. Repeat the BIOS test.
4. If the PC still shuts down after step 3, then it’s likely a component is changing value over time. This is typical of electrolytic capacitors that have dried out. The paste-like electrolyte inside them contains water. After time or in high temps, they will out-gas; eventually, they dry out and lose their value. This throws whatever circuit they were part of out of spec. In a power supply, for example, they might lose the ability to regulate the voltage, causing it to drop below spec and cause the machine to reset or shutdown. On the circuit board, they are part of bus voltage regulation, clock timing circuits, and so on. You can try replacing the PS, but it’s more likely that the issue is on the MB.
5. If the PC does not shut down after step 3, then you can start adding components back to the PC – one at a time. Don’t try to boot, but let it sit at the BIOS screen each time. The idea is to see if an increased load on the power supply or MB is causing the issue. If it beings to shut down at some point, after adding components, you have about a 25% chance of it being the power supply, 75% chance MB.
6. If all is reconnected and still no shutdown, then boot to a USB drive or DVD. Let it sit at that screen. If it shuts down then, which would be strange, I’d suspect an intermittent failure of RAM or the RAM bus circuitry. At that point, it’s the MB.
The Dell Precision T3600 workstation is a versatile entry level mini-tower workstation that’s perfect for engineers, developers and anybody needing support for graphically intensive applications. The Precision T3600 workstation packs powerful performance and streamlined manageability into a compact chassis. The redesigned chassis includes features for easier access to components due to a clutter-free interior, front and rear handles for easy movement, and a top tray for external drive or camera storage. The single socket T3600 supports Intel Xeon E5-1600 and E5-2600 product family processors for up to 3.6GHz Eight-Core processing power. These systems will support up to 64GB of PC3-12800 1600MHz DDR3 memory across four DIMM slots. Aventis Systems carries the Precision T3600 with two 3.5” SATA hard disk drives, solid state drives, or hybrid drive options for a max capacity of 8TB. These workstations offer two internal 3.5” hard drive bays, one external 5.25” bay, and one external slimline optical bay for expansion.
While Sandy Bridge-E didn’t exactly set the enthusiast world on fire, in the workstation space it has a much more tangible impact. The Intel Xeon E5-2667 is a hex-core processor with 15MB of L3 cache, running at a nominal 2.9GHz but able to turbo up to 3.2GHz on all six cores or 3.5GHz on a single core. Attached to its integrated quad-channel memory controller are four sticks of 2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 ECC RAM for a total of 8GB, but this is one of the places where Dell leverages a feature unique to them called RMT, or Reliable Memory Technology.
Dell’s RMT is impressive in that it works on top of the built-in error correction mechanisms inherent to ECC memory. Whenever there’s a page fault, RMT will basically map where the bad page in the memory is and when the computer reboots it will prevent the system from using that page. As a result, the system maintains its uptime by working around the bad memory. Once there are seven or more faults in a single DIMM, the system will then suggest you replace that stick. Useful!
While our review system didn’t come configured with SSDs, we did get a pair of Samsung 10,000-RPM hard drives running off of a SAS connection and configured in RAID 0. Dell offers a nice spread of storage options, starting at basic 7,200-RPM SATA hard drives and moving up to SSDs and 15K-RPM SAS drives.