A learned lesson in PC hardware: recently had a problem with my personal desktop computer (12 month build) powering on but no video signal and no BIOS. The typical solutions were run through, I pulled the HDMI cable from the dedicated video card and plugged it into the on-board video of the motherboard. I opened the case to find heavy dust accumulation – the case has many fan openings and is well ventilated. I compress air dusted the components and fans, swapped the RAM and used one chip at a time, checked the CPU processor seating, replaced the motherboard CMOS battery (a CR 2032 type) with a power-down reset. The symptoms changed for the worse: the computer would start, power off, reboot and start, power off, and cycle constantly non-stop until the on/off switch was flipped on the power supply.
Online research with keywords, “computer restarting before post seconds constant” and asking hardware ninja colleagues narrowed the symptoms down to two diagnoses: 1) bad power supply and 2) bad motherboard. The easy fix would be the power supply but a motherboard replacement requires a disassemble of the complete computer because all components are connected to the mobo and it is also bolted to the case frame.
I planned a trip to Fry’s Electronics and picked up a new 430w power supply, motherboard and thermal compound. Turns out the replacement power supply didn’t have enough SATA connectors for the SSD, HD and DVDRW drives, so in lieu of returning to Fry’s for another power supply with at least three SATA connectors, I was hoping the solution was in the motherboard.
The CPU is essentially the heart of your system. You do not want it to get too hot or it will become unstable. CPU’s look fragile but are quite robust. Enter thermal compound, required for the heat sink fan to interface with the processor chip CPU before seating into the motherboard socket. Applying the compound is like masonry work by rubbing alcohol to remove the stock thermal compound, then tinting the interface and applying a fresh layer of thermal compound, thin and even, with a flat edge of a plastic credit card.
Due to static electricity, one should use care when handling delicate components. My thoughts on this topic changed when I saw how desktop computers were assembled in the huge computer markets in China. The tech’s assemble them with the care of a child playing with Lego blocks, yet the computer build’s come out fine.
With that said, accidents happen! Unlatching the CPU heatsink fan, I gave it a gentle tug upwards, ripping the CPU right out of the motherboard socket because the stock thermal compound had cured the heatsink fan to the CPU. Worse case scenario! The locking lever of the CPU was still engaged, how did the CPU release? Inspection of the CPU pins showed one pin that was slightly bent from coming out of the socket with brute force. The thoughts that went through my head were “F!” because not only will the CPU not seat into the replacement motherboard with a bent pin, but the pin could be broken off after re-alignment. I took needle nose pliers and bent the tiny pin as straight as possible with a steady hand.
With a deep breath, I bolted the replacement motherboard providing a clear ground and connected the components and case function wires. Then, I went for a power on test. A quick beep signaled BIOS recognition followed by immediate OS start up! Powering on but no video signal and no BIOS? The solution is found by replacing your motherboard (in my example, a new 880GM-E43 by MSI).
This concludes another lesson learned from two decades of computing: a hard drive failure and losing 13.5GB of personally CD-ripped and Napster networked mp3′s (lesson: back up regularly!), a video card failure (lesson: fan-free video card’s!), and two AMD motherboard failures (lesson: AMD mobo’s fail more than Intel mobo’s).
PC Build specs: Phenom II 955 3.2ghz AM3 Black, 8GB DDR3 240pin PC3 12800 RAM, 40GB SSD primary, 1TB HD secondary, W7 Pro 64-bit. DDR3 1GB PCI-E ATI video.
The term “Ninja”: Ninja is a noun to describe information technology IT specialists, who are able to solve any online, networking, software and hardware based computer problems. Although some are certified or licensed, the majority are self-learned through experience. Certification and licensing, although of benefit, are not suitable replacements for experience. Ninja has been a popular trending keyword, used boldly even in resume title’s, and was mentioned in the film, Wall Street Money Never Sleeps (2010, Oliver Stone). The character of Gordon Gekko speaks to an audience of university students and uses ninja as an acronym to describe the current generation of the college educated jobless living at home with parents, “…you are part of the NINJA generation: no income, no jobs, no assets.”