Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Series of Avoidable Failures

A few weeks ago, during a heatwave so bad even Satan would have made his way to the beach, a handful of capacitors on my motherboard decided to pursue a future in Libya in the respectable field of exploding in peoples' faces. After finding a supplier who still stocks vintage replacement parts and the order to finally arrive, I set to work fixing my PC.

1. The Heatsink

After neatly removing all screws, cables, fittings and appurtenances, I found myself removing the CPU fan/heatsink. Or trying to anyway. The first lovely disaster to take place was after much poking and tugging, the heatsink finally came out. With CPU firmly attached.

"No problem" I thought to myself. Now I don't have to hassle with removing and reapplying thermal paste. I turned to the new motherboard, lifted up the lever, positioned the CPU over the slot... and realised there was no way I was going to get the whole lot on with the CPU lever in the way of the heatsink. And to quell any silly thoughts of removing the lever from the equation, the heatsink needed to be rotated 90° to anchor on the new motherboard.

Perplexed, I turned to Beloved Leader Google for sagely advice to my dilemma. Suggestions ranged from letting it run in the old PC to warm it up first, to razor blades dipped in isopropyl-alcohol, to people who have no idea what they're talking about but feel the urge to "contribute" none-the-less with cute nuggets such as "twist the heatsink with the CPU still in the slot". I went with letting it warm up.

2. The Pins

Unfortunately, this didn't go as planned, since I couldn't insert the CPU with the slot raised on the old motherboard either. In the process of discovering this I accidentally, and understand this was totally not my fault at all, bent 3 or 4 pins on the motherboard.

Luckily I was able to straighten them with the help of a sewing needle, after nearly lopping them off with a small jeweler's screwdriver.

After much vaunting of my muscular prowess I somehow managed to pry the CPU off the heatsink. I diligently inserted the CPU into the new motherboard following the proper procedure, followed by the heatsink. Cautiously RAM was added, and I then mounted the motherboard to the chassis.

At some point, lost to the annals of time, my memory brought it to my attention that after all the drama in parting CPU and heatsink, I had forgotten to apply new thermal paste. More backtracking ensued.

3. The Front Panel

Connecting the switches and LEDs from the front panel involved some deft maneuvering of limbs that would turn a Russian gymnast green with envy, but in the end I prevailed. I then proceeded to fit a fan to the front of the case, only to realise I needed to remove the front panel.

With the front panel dangling on the thread of lilliputian gauged wires, I somehow found the resolve to screw the fan in. As I finished this, I noticed the grill I screwed the fan onto was easily removable.

Undaunted by these challenges, I slotted in the hard drives, and proceeded to my next opponent.

4. The Power Supply

I decided to replace the questionable no-name brand power supply with a more respectable Corsair unit. I angled the new PSU in, and attempted to slide it into position to screw it in... but met with unyielding resistance. I tried again, and was denied. And again. After trying to get the PSU into the case in every manner possible much akin to a monkey trying to get a square block into a round hole, I decided to remove the top of the chassis. With a sigh of relief the PSU politely took position and was firmly fixed into place.

5. Missing a few screws

Roof of chassis was returned, second case fan put in place, graphics card went in without a hitch, SATA cables were deployed, and all was ready to go. After managing to attain some sort of neatness with all the cables, I closed up the whole case. Tightening the last screw, I noticed there was one left.

Then realisation hit me. I forgot the middle screws in putting the roof back. OCD held me tight, and I despite the end being so near, I had no choice but to go back and unscrew the side panels.

After 3 hours of gruelling work and Olympian challenges, I plugged everything into the back, and it booted up on the first try. And then there was all the software to reinstall...


Perhaps, somewhere in an alternate universe, I might had undertaken it upon myself to do the manly thing and repair the foul beast myself. However this path was littered with crisis and peril. For even the first attempt at desoldering a capacitor resulted in a torrential blizzard of molten solder that scorched my eyes and tore the heavens asunder in all it's infernal rage.

Leaking capacitors spewed toxic venom which tore down through the Earth in search of the Underworld. Blinded, I dropped the soldering iron. This potent accumulation of failure solidified and took upon a radioactive form which attained recriticality, and resulted in a nuclear apocalypse, one whose only respite was having wiped the face of the Earth clean from the scourge of factories still producing bad capacitors.

In my final moments, my last thoughts were, "I told you so."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

This will not end well

Well thanks to the lovely heatwave, my PC started hanging and getting BSODs. Upon further inspection:

Just great. So much for this month's budget...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011