Saturday, March 28, 2015

REPAIRING my busted computer (2/2)

I've already DIAGNOSED (1/2) the machine and SHOPPED (1.5/2) for replacement parts.
Now for the gut-grinding conclusion!

Follow these numbingly simple, yet intricately detailed steps to repair your own computer, in the case that your situation directly mirrors mine. (ie, you are me in a parallel dimension)

First, flank yourself tightly with boyo and doggie, on the west and east respectively.

But for real.

old yeller
Here's my old PC. Besides weighing 800 kilopounds and being uglier than Mr. Tumnus' taint, it actually was a decent machine. Until it died.

I went ahead and stripped all parts from it - RAM, CPU, vid card, all cables and finally mobo. The case alone weighs as much as a car door so it should fetch a solid chunk of change at the Junk Monkey considering it's cast iron.

**I recommend not shuffling about too much when playing with computer guts. Static electricity is the silent killer**

From the old PC, I'm salvaging the following - Vid card, HDD, and power supply (notably NOT modular)
objects not to scale
From the old PC, I'm damning to Sheol the following - disc drive (because it's IDE, not SATA), proc, RAM and motherboard.
not pictured: stuff besides what's pictured

The new case! ATX is its size/shape (although I accidentally ordered a micro ATX mobo). The image on the right shows the installed pegs. The holes where pegs should be inserted are labelled according to the size of the motherboard you're installing. I had a bunch of pegs left over from various projects so I just filled in all the holes. That will assist with support eventually. If you've ever installed RAM, you'll understand the need.
much sleeker than the old
Left is the mobo sans case. Middle is the mobo installed. Now the size discrepancy between case and motherboard becomes obvious. The rightmost image is the plate that pops into the back of the case to accommodate the ports on the motherboard.
In that middle pic, you'll notice the (original) power supply is back in place.

**I didn't specifically say this because it's pretty obvious. But let's get it said now. You should be really careful during each step. Be in a low-dust, low-dirt, low-humidity situation. Make sure you aren't scooting across a trampoline or other fabric that generates static electricity.**

Now. Shall we proceed?

Do this part with clean hands. The CPU fits into its home on the motherboard in only one way. Just eyeball it and figure out what way that is before touching down. On the system board is forest of little pins that each need to make contact with a corresponding micro-sized square on the processor itself. I apologize for the barrage of technical jargon. 
I'm using the heatsink and fan that came in the box with the new Intel processor. The only reason I'd upgrade to an aftermarket heatsink is if this fan proves to be too noisy or if it doesn't cool enough. As I've mentioned, I'm not extreme gaming or OCing the proc so I get the feeling this one will suffice.

Pic 2 is application of thermal paste. It's mandatory. And it's inexpensive. Far right - Fan installation. This can be tricky.
Almost home. Notice the below images. On the left you'll see the cables from the case. Those need to be inserted in specific ports on the motherboard and it's not always obvious as to where. For this reason, keep the motherboard booklet handy. Or get a magnifying glass and try to decipher the cryptic labels written onto the board itself.
Middle picture. The power supply will need to plug into most everything inside the case. If your power supply is modular, you can attach only the necessary amount of cables. If it's not modular, then it looks like Medusa. Good luck stuffing all those unneeded cables into the case in a way that doesn't block fans.
Right pic shows my installed video card. Pretty straight forward. Stick it in the slot. You'll have to remove a plate or two from the back of the case for the card to fit. It'll need some juice from the power supply, too.

Among the steps not pictured include installing RAM and plugging in the various SATA devices. For my purposes, that includes only the HDD. No, I don't have a disc drive. Poor forethought. Then a realization that, for the most part, I don't need one.

RAM shot
G Skill? G's Kill? GSK Ill?
At last, place the cover on the case and reconnect USBs, video, audio, network, and finally AC!
Yes, that is a Sky Island Publishing mug. Be jealous.
Press the power button and viola!


to die!
Boot up failure.

Perhaps I'll discuss software failure in a future blog. Meanwhile, be comforted. That you're reading this indicates that it all worked out.

Thanks for hangin' with.

Here's part 1 - Diagnosing
Here's part 2 - Shopping

Sunday, March 8, 2015

SHOPPING to fix my busted computer (1.5/2)

Step 1 - Diagnosis is here
Step 3 - Repairing is here

Again, this is written by a semi-pro, for semi-n00bs. If you find erroneousity and are feeling generous, let me know in the comments or on Google+ and I might not go "pshhht. jog on." 


So my PC had a bad system board. I went on, searched "desktop motherboard" and got one billion results. Let's narrow that down. On the left most column, I checked "New" and "4 eggs" and "5 eggs."
Our choices are significantly narrowed. What else is important? I checked form factor ATX and Micro ATX. This, basically, is the size of your mobo and determines what case will work. ATX is pretty standard and Micro ATX can fit in an ATX case (is that preferred? idk and idc).
Down to less than 200 results. Cool. But still too many. What else to check? How about socket type? This will determine what sort of processor you get (so if you already have a processor in mind, you might want to check this one first).
For my needs, I checked LGA 1155. I'm now down to 18 results. Still too many.
I'm not going to trust a motherboard that costs $30. I don't care how many stars it has. So the final qualifier I established was price. Nothing less than $50. Nothing more than $100.
10 results. This, I can manage. And once I found the perfect board, I copied the model number to Google and to Amazon. Just seeing if there are better prices or red flags.
I think ended up spending around $75.

Okay! What's next? This is a different socket type than my old mobo. So I'll need a new proc.
Search "CPU." Click Workstation - Processor. Narrow choices by socket type LGA 1155. Down to 13 choices? Perfect.
This purchase, unlike your mobo, will better determine the strength of your PC. Don't skimp on it. If you can spend $200 here, by all means, you'll do well.  My recommendations? No less than quad-core. I don't care what your uses are. You can process word docs, browse the web and play modern games with this. You will be able to for several years to come. Anyone who says otherwise is a huge mouth-breathing nerd that drinks obscure, flavored Mt Dew. With a rebel yell, give that person a wedgie and plant your toe in their vertex. Then find a proc model number and search it on Amazon and Google.

*you have a decision to make here. After market CPU cooler / heat sink or not. To simplify- Are you overclocking your proc? If yes, might want to get an after market. If you don't even know what that means, you're all good.*

Case. This was simple for me. I don't care at all what it looks like. Gimme cheap ATX w a 5 eggs rating.
I ended up spending $30. When you see pics of my old case, you'll understand how little appearance matters to me.

Next. Memory. My old board supported DDR2 (aka, it was dated). My replacement mobo supports DDR3. Search newegg for Desktop Memory. Check "New" and "5 eggs". At this point you'll need to know your budget and your aim. Don't go less than 4GB or your new baby will be born obsolete. I'd suggest looking down the left column for "capacity" and making a selection between 4GB and 16GB.
*If you need more than 16GB of memory, you're reading the wrong blog. You should be writing your own.  Also, your nose is for breathing.*
Again, this is the 'hands' of your PC. How much it can handle. How big a job it can run with. Don't skimp here either. You can probably get by spending less than $150. Amazon, Google, and might have better prices on the model you find.

Video Card. Okay, here our paths might part. I am keeping my old card. It suffices. I'm not going for cutting edge. If you are, you might want to research elsewhere. Find the most expensive desktop video card / graphics card on Newegg and see what makes it amazing. Quintuple monitor support. 8 GB GDDR5 memory. Now scale that back until you can afford it. Things to keep in mind are form factor (The mobo we picked out is ATX / Micro ATX) and wattage requirements. That will determine what sort of PSU you need.

Speaking of PSU's!
Power Supply Unit. I'm keeping my old one here. But standard search applies (desktop PSU) if you're replacing. How much juice does your vid card need? 600 watts? That's how you'll narrow your choices. It doesn't have to be exactly 600, but it can't be less. If you can find a power supply that's modular, GET IT! This will simplify things later. Just trust me.

I kept my old hard drive. Although it's HDD (rather than SSD) it's 640 GB and still kicking. Plenty of space for me. If you're shopping, I'd suggest SSD. I go into why a bit more on the previous post.

*This doesn't include peripherals, disc drives, etc. You want a Blu ray player/burner? Want card reader for your Micro SD, etc? Standard search. These devices will communicate w your mobo via SATA cables. Therefore search SATA Blu Ray drive, SATA card reader. Make sure it has 5 eggs. Because why the hell would you settle for less?


I replaced mobo, cpu, RAM and my case. Spent less than $300. The cool thing about shopping from Newegg is that they throw the occasional odd gift in the box with your purchase. Sometimes it's useless. Sometimes it's cool.

Stay tuned for the soul quenching finally! In 2/2 I'll finale wrap up this grandiose adventure of PC replacement and, at last, reveal all those pictures I promised!


PS Next go round I'll spell everythign write!

PBSS I pormise!