I tried shuffling around my memory cards and pulling them out one at a time, but no matter what configuration I tried, 4 memory cards caused BIOS to register 4GB but XP to register only 3.25GB, and 3 memory cards in any combination caused both to register 3GB.
I was going to try messing around with the graphics card next, but while I was putting the memory cards back, my 4 year old little brother decided to "help" and turned my system on while it was on its side.
I always assumed it was a bad idea to do that, but I had no idea how bad it was. Now, my system won't even start up. The CPU beeps loudly 3 times and the fan cranks up to full blast. It doesn't even display the Gateway logo or anything else on the monitor. I called Gateway, but all they could tell me was that my warranty expired in June.
I imagine I crashed the hard drive or something equally catastrophic, so thanks for your help, but I think it's a moot point now. Forunately, I still have an old clunker laying around, so I can still connect to the internet. I expect I'll have to take my computer in for repairs, but I'll keep checking this thread if you have any further advice. I would be forever grateful, but I'm expecting the worst.
Turning on a system while on its side - with everything else as it should be - will not damage anything. In fact, that's how I work on my own machines (including powering up), i.e., with cases open and on their sides, and I've never had a problem doing so in 25 years.
Three short beeps is usually the error code for bad memory. That makes sense if you had a memory stick partially plugged into its slot when little brother did his thing. If that's all you were doing at the time, and everything else was in good order, you may only have a blown memory stick.
If you know which memory stick it was, try taking it out and booting up. Or take out all of the sticks except for one, place that stick in the primary or #1 memory slot (usually the one closest to the CPU), and try booting up. Hopefully, the one you choose won't be the one that you were working on when....
When my little brother did his thing, I had three sticks in slots 1, 3, and 4 and one in my hand but not partially in the slot. I pulled out all the sticks in all but the #1 slot and my computer started up, but now slots 2-4 won't acknowledge any memory sticks I put in them. I even tried putting in the old 512MB sticks that came with the system. When I first tried putting memory sticks back in slot 2, it would cause the CPU to beep at me again instead of starting up, but it doesn't seem care now.
I realize this is probably beyond your mandate, but I'll be more than happy with jitters if I can just get my system to run normally again. Thanks again for your help.
<Ahem> I'm a volunteer who doesn't work for Ubisoft, so my mandate is essentially whatever I want it to be. So long as I don't attract the attention of the Ubi Forum Admins or Ubi lawyers, of course. (Said lawyers are reputed to eat their own young....)
With some motherboards, turning off the power supply switch doesn't kill standby power. (To me, that's just plain stupid!) There's a standby power LED on your motherboard which, if lit, indicates that it is NOT safe to install or remove memory sticks. Nasty things are likely to happen if you mess with memory while that LED is lit. See Standby Power Indicator LED.
Enter your system BIOS Setup Utility by pressing the F2 key as the computer is starting up, then load the BIOS defaults (not optimized defaults, if an option). Save what you've done, exit the BIOS, and continue booting up.
When bootup is complete, power down your PC, lock little brother in a closet and put a memory stick in each of the two slots with white release tabs. These are slots #1 (closest to the CPU) and #3. Power up. If the system boots properly, shut down and put a memory stick in each of the remaining gray (black) tab slots, which are #2 and #4. Cross fingers/toes/eyes, and power up.
Update: I decided to test my other memory sticks in slot 1 since it was the only port that I was sure worked, or so I thought. I found that none of my other sticks worked in that slot, so I put the original, which was the only stick I was sure worked, back in and found that it didn't work either. After taking some deep calming breaths, I began methodically testing that stick in each port one at a time and found that the original stick now only works in slot 2, which was the one I was sure didn't work. Now, slots 1, 3, and 4 are the ones that don't work. I'm more than a little confused at this point, so I'm not going to mess around with it anymore until I have a better idea of what I'm doing.
By the way, I'm numbering the slots as 1 being vertically highest and 4 being the vertically lowest, in case that clarifies anything.