Marvinudy's World

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Computer screw-ups

Written By: marvinudy

Article originally submitted to Maximum PC as part of the “Upgrades gone Bad” contest in which I finished fourth.

#Punishment From the Computer Gods

Well, it only took three days and one unnecessary trip to MicroCenter to finish the job.
I replaced my Core2 duo processor with a new quad core Intel Q-9400 processor. Sounds like a simple
operation but I almost snatched default from the jaws of victory.

The first attempt at a direct replacement of processor for processor netted a computer that would not even turn on the monitor and just run the computer fans. Bad omen. Deranged thoughts of a DOA processor jumped to the forefront. Reinstalled the old processor and everything worked fine. This entailed completely un-installing the motherboard with a ‘gazillion’ wires for all the attached ‘stuff’. Fingers are bloody and sore by now.

After reflection and a few “adult” beverages, it dawned on me that the new processor might require a BIOS update to support a quad core processor. A visit to the Gigabyte web site supporting my motherboard added credence to my suspicion. Three new BIOS update were available including one with a ‘microprocessor code’update. Off to bed for refurbishing.

Ok, simple enough if you have a functional Windows system installed which I did not have. Been there done that. However the Windows reinstall on the selected drive refused to load the Windows XP installation. Lots of checking and the problem turned out to be a primary partition and an extended partition on the selected drive both marked as “boot” partitions confused the hell out of the Windows XP installer.

Now I have a functional XP system after loading drivers galore to support the wireless mouse and other ‘stuff’. My original Gigabyte setup disk installed a BIOS update program that simplified the BIOS update from F-11 to F-14. Hot dog, I’m on my way to computer Nirvana. Now I reinstall the new processor with all the attended wires and connections and gather new puncture wounds on the fingers. By now my Bride thinks she is married to a ‘crazy’ man. All is hooked up properly and the ‘start’ button is pushed and we have “lift off”. The moment is celebrated with a big sigh of relief. After hooking up all the peripherals and standing the computer upright I’m ready to go again. A
gentle push on the front panel ‘start’ button causes nothing to happen. The computer sits there like a door stop. Blood pressure rising. After considerable experimenting, I find that the computer will start if it’s in a prone position verses the standard vertical position. Real fear sets in. Did I damage the motherboard with all the installations of the processor and required heat sinks? Maybe the power supply unit is toast. Good thing it was raining today because I spent the entire day and accomplished nothing with my computer upgrade. Just in case, I researched the price and availability of a replacement motherboard. Not to much available that uses my existing memory and ‘new’ processor combination. Off to bed mad as hell at myself and the computer gods.

A new day and I un-install the old power supply and use my ‘power supply test unit’ to test the power supply. And the unit ‘fails’ big time. Ok, problem solved. Off to MicroCenter to buy a new power supply. Replacement unit is on ‘sale’ but not cheap but is comes with a ‘mail-in-rebate. Much cheaper option than a new motherboard. Back to the house to install the power supply and reconnect all the little tiny wires onto the little tiny pins on the mother board. More cuts and finger puncture wounds.
Pushing the ‘start’ button rewards me with a ‘standard’ boot screen. Changes in the BIOS were required to optimize everything for all my drives and attached ‘stuff’. Finally I’m done.

Not so quick! The computer is still lying on its side. Restoring it to the vertical position and pushing the start button put me back to square one. Shit, shit, shit. Now I’m glassy eyed and dazed. Time for some simple experiments. Slowly raising the computer while it’s running from a horizontal position to vertical position reveals that is shuts down at about 30 degrees from
vertical. Thoughts go back to motherboard failure. Not so fast! For no particular reason I wiggle the power cord that is fully inserted into the power supply plug receptacle and the computer ‘flashes’ on and ‘off’. Have I been tormented by something as simple as a bad power cord? A different power cord confirmed that a bad power cord was the root problem all along. I used the same cord for all the power supply testing. This was the computer gods punishment for my not thinking in an orderly fashion
about a problem and eliminating the most basic root causes first.

The mother board and new quad core processor are happily functioning as they should be with the old power supply unit. The processor is now over clocked up to 3.2Ghz and running with blazing speed. Core and processor temperatures are holding under load at about 40 degrees C which is at the low end of their operating range.

Life is good in computer land. The recently purchased power supply will be returned to MicroCenter on Monday for a refund. I’ll have to think of a good reason for the return other than ‘stupidity’ on my part.

#No good deed goes unpunished

My good friend Tom decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and build a new ‘deluxe’ computer from scratch. Being rather new to selecting components for a computer build, Tom asked me for help. I spent three months while in Florida for the winter reviewing, reading, pricing and comparing components. Recommendations with pros and cons were given to Tom for consideration. He finally established a budget of $1,000.00 for the project.

Needless to say, he was anxious to get the project under way shortly after I got back from Florida. Fully armed with reviews, pricing, pros and cons, we had a final, last meeting to lock in the choices for each component. Taking into consideration shipping cost, availability, ease of return and return policies, we decided to order everything except the case and power supply from Newegg.com.

Fortunately, we have access to a MicroCenter computer store. D-day arrived and we went to the ‘big box’ computer store for a case and power supply. Both items were available and some rebates were involved but they played no part in the decision process but were nice ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak. Our sales person quired us regarding the ‘other’ parts involved in the build to which we responded with type, model and price. Lo and behold, prices were competitive on most of the remaining components.

Away we went with all the pieces-parts, a bounce in our step and geek joy in our hearts.

An operating table of sorts was set up for assembly with lots of room to maneuver. Assembly of motherboard components went reasonably smooth. The after market heat sink and fan were difficult to mount on the motherboard. Having learned for past experience, see above article, we ‘dry bed’ tested the motherboard prior to case installation.

Power up rewarded us with repetitive boot cycling. Not a good sign. Multiple tests ensued which proved that we had a ‘bummer’ motherboard. Back to ‘big box’ for an exchange. We got the last replacement board in inventory. Another assembly and we’re ready to go again and this time we got into the BIOS and started making some basic setting changes for optimization which included over clocking of the processor. By now the day is over and final gratification will have to wait until tomorrow.

Installation of the mother board, power supply, hard drives and optical drives went smoothly. The modular power supply cables helped ease the cable routing for a nice uncluttered look. After connecting power cables, case connections and SATA connectors, the big moment had arrived. Power on was short but not sweet. Everything went deader than a door nail. An atmosphere of utter dejection and supreme unhappiness permeated the room. Leaving nothing to chance it was back to the basics. Out came the power supply tester to check the power supply. Yep, barely a blip on the 12v rail. So much for all the great reviews on a $200.00 power supply. Another trip to ‘big box’ for an exchange of the power supply. Just like an old time reunion at the return desk akin to typhoid Mary doing an encore.

Another case reinstall, cable routing and connector session and we’re ready to go again hopefully. Power up and the motherboard cycles all good and off we go. Next we installed the Win-7 operating system and marveled at the fruits of our efforts. A thing of beauty.. An Intel I-5-2500k running at 4.0GHz with 8Gb of DDR-3 memory. Once the case was ‘buttoned up’ all was quiet and peaceful.

After the ‘Dream Machine’ was safely positioned at its new home, we installed Linux Ultimate Edition 2.9 in a dual boot configuration. Other than a few minor issues with a balky Ethernet cable plug and some minor software adjustments all is well in the “Man Room” at Tom’s house as of the latest report.

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