Jan. 29th, 2011

hellfire99x: (Default)
Bloody damn things.

For the last couple of weeks, my main computer has been acting up. Some kind of hardware problem, not quite sure exactly what, but I've been troubleshooting what I can. At first, I thought it was my power supply... now I'm not so sure.

Mid-last year, my computer was showing the same basic signs. Randomly, the video would just lock up for like 10 seconds... then both monitors would go dark. Whatever I was doing continues to go on in the background -- Winamp keeps playing, EverQuest/Guild Wars/etc. would still be going, and all that. Hell, if I didn't need to see what I was doing, I could just continue on like nothing happened!

A couple months into this period, my power supply died. "Aha!" I proclaimed, "Problem solved!" Swapped out the power supply with an old one, RMA'd the dead power supply, and all was fairly well.

A few weeks ago, the problem returned. Video card dropped out. "Oh shit, not this again..." The first time this happened, I automatically swapped in the older power supply once again... and for a week, everything was OK. Then it started happening some more. Ugh. So I started monitoring the motherboard data... or at least, what I could, since AOpen's BIOS is written in such a way that most voltage-monitoring programs can't properly read the data. Worse yet, AOpen proudly claimed on the retail box that their own software on the included CD can read the voltage levels -- it doesn't.

Some things I noticed... the +3.3v and +5v rails look generally okay. They're pretty stable. The +12v rail varies a little more wildly -- between 11.71 and 12.29 volts. It's still within spec, though. However, the CPU voltage varies a lot more than I'm comfortable with -- should be 1.35v stable, but it goes between 1.29 and 1.41. This is without any overclocking, auto-overclocking, or auto-powersaving features enabled -- if Cool'n'Quiet were enabled, the voltage would go as low as 1.1v as the motherboard safely underclocks the CPU to save power.

Now, I'm not an A+ Certified technician or anything, but that level of variation sounds really bad to me. My semi-educated guess (and Google searches seem to agree with me) is that the motherboard may be the problem -- the voltage regulators could be damaged or dying. What that has to do with the videocard, I'm not entirely sure... but either way, I'm not too thrilled at the possibility of this board damaging my FX-60 chip.

Thankfully, I happen to have a compatible motherboard lying around, too! (An unfinished project.)

The computer's been stable since I did some other troubleshooting, knocking out some other possibilities earlier this week. (Harddrives, individual power cables/plugs, etc.) But alas, today the video dropped out again... so, I finally pulled apart the computer, dropped the FX-60 into the alternate board and the board into the computer, and am testing the "new" computer's stability.

The BIOS indicates that all the voltages are stable, and almost all of them are where they should be. Almost. The BIOS reports +12v rail at a staggeringly low 11.23v... below spec, which seems ludicrous. Man, I sure know how to choose 'em, don't I? MemTest seems to be stable so far. If it passes all the tests, I'll boot Windows and see what Speedfan and other utilities read them at.

Fun times.

On a related note, I've been looking at hardware on Newegg lately. Phenom II chips and boards seem to be reasonably priced, what with Intel being on the "bleeding edge" right now. Nice new power supplies, too. If things don't work out to my liking, perhaps it will be time to upgrade...

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