Fixing My PC

It’s been nearly a week since my main computer died a horrible death. Upon close inspection, it was easy to see a diode had popped. Now, with a second motherboard on the kitchen table, it’s easy to do an a/b comparison.

That’s a pretty substantial diode that bought the farm (top left is the dead diode photo, next down is the diode on the new motherboard). The ceramic casing totally flew off, meaning the temperature got very hot in a very short period of time. Hopefully, whatever drove the diode to its demise was on the motherboard and not in some peripheral component which is still in the system.

I made a conscious decision to get the very same motherboard, and preserve the CPU, even though they are well below state of the art. My main concern was to get this PC up and running as soon as was possible and as close to its original configuration as I could.

I was surprised that, while this machine was down, I could do nearly everything I wanted to do on my Linux machine. One notable exception was the ability to spellcheck these blog entries. And, as soon as I’m done with this, I’m going back over the last few entries to see how poorly I’ve spelled.

This afternoon, as 2 turned to 3 and then 4, Helaine asked if I was worried about repairing the PC. She could see I was avoiding it. She was, as always, right. But, no matter what the outcome, it couldn’t be any deader than it was, so I began the surgery.

There’s not enough space upstairs in my office, so I carried the computer down to the kitchen table. I reached in the cupboard and pulled out two coffee cups. They would be used for screw storage, as I removed and then reinstalled motherboards. There’s nothing worse than not finding the screws you just removed – and still need.

As I removed the flat disk drive cables, I marked their assignment. Good move because there were four of them to go into four separate slots.

I cut some cable ties I had used to keep wires from flopping around inside the case. Steffie had graciously gone to Sears Hardware (a very sad store) to pick up some more, and had returned with a psychedelic assortment.

The fried motherboard itself was screwed into brass standoffs attached to the case. I removed the screws and pulled the board out. Other than the diode, I saw no obvious problems. There is the possibility I could have soldered another diode in place, saving the cost of the motherboard – but that just seemed too risky a proposition.

The new motherboard slid in perfectly. Most of the screw holes lined up… and the one that didn’t did after a little coercion.

I inserted the CPU from the first machine and fastened the Zalman heatsink. Then I attached all the cables. There were the 4 – hard drive cables, a floppy drive cable, power, fans, USB connectors and a half dozen small attachments for controls, like the panel lights, internal speaker and power switch.

When I pushed the power button, the computer sprang to life. It beeped – properly this time – and went though its boot process. I hit the “DEL” key to make some minor changes in the BIOS and then watched as Windows XP came up – silently.

In fact, there were a few problems on the first boot. They were simple, like audio cables in the wrong port plus backward USB and high drive light connectors. I fixed them all in an instant.

Then, I set about the process which brought the machine to its knees in the first place. I installed the cooling fan and a resistor to slow (and quiet) it down. The computer didn’t like the lower rate of spin, but I bypassed the protective circuitry and continued.

As far as I can tell, the computer is working like a champ. The CPU is running a little warmer than before – about 141&#176 versus 123&#176. But, those numbers are still world’s away from the ‘redline’.

And, though not silent, the computer is much more quiet. The noisiest component is now the fan on the power supply. Hmmm – I wonder if I can replace that?

Blogger’s note: This is the 500th entry in my blog.

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