Saturday, March 16, 2013

PC Down

I came home Tuesday to a sorry tale of a beeping PC preventing Cam from enjoying the afternoon. It managed to start immediately for me, but after about an hour it blue screened and rebooted. One long continuous beep, several flashing HDD lights, then another long beep. Thinking it might be heat related I left it until after tea, but was still met by the death beep.

Tried the usual trick of reseating RAM & graphics card, but still the long beep kept coming up. Finally it looked like I found the culprit; the upgraded CPU cooling fan was no longer turning. It would make sense that the lack of RPMs reported by the CPU fan would give an alarm, but I thought it was a little drastic to disallow POST.

Over the next few days I tried to pin down a local replacement. Apparently 90mm fans are a little hard to come by compared to 80 or 120, but eventually I got one home today (5 days after it went down). A quick change of the latches to lock it to the Cooler Master Hyper TX3 radiator and I was good to go.

Still beeping? Visions of a cooked CPU flooded my mind, along with the ramifications of being without a PC for an even longer period. I went back into diagnosis mode and hoped that memory or GPU had gone out in sympathy with the HSF. Changed out the memory and finally got the machine to POST to another beep code. Cool, memory it is.

Cleaned the contacts and inserted one of the G-Skill 4Gb memory sticks back in.
Success! No more POST errors.
Cleaned the other and replaced it too.
Looks like it was just a corroded contact, a popular outcome from living 50m from the beach. I'd thought I'd tested for that at the start, but it might have needed a good scrub and slot swap to kick it back into gear.

My suspicionss were also confirmed about the HSF not stopping the POST all on its own. I would expect a CPU heat sensor to finally halt progress after it had a chance to do work on boot, but not stop an attempt to start. How would they know that you weren't using a passive block, or water cooling with its own power system? Other pieces of the puzzle now fit too. The radiator was very hot to touch when the PC finally succumbed on Tuesday, and there had been a fan rattle for the past month or so that definitely sounded like the manual spinning of the defunct coolermaster fan. It would seem that the heat pump and radiator were enough to keep my PC going without the fan? Good news indeed. With the new fan it might even be worth overclocking before something else falls off.

Of more concern than the PC itself was the agitation that it caused me to not have a primary PC. Even though I had a sufficient laptop to do 90% of the games I'd likely play, that I have an iPhone and iPad for more casual retreats, that the game I've been waiting for still hasn't been delivered, and would have just as likely lounged in front of the TV for the same amount of time as I did, it still irks me when it's out of action.

This isn't the first time. There have been other occasions like this and it's the same feeling. Like something is missing, or wrong with the world, and I can't settle down and enjoy other pursuits. Typically this ends in a rather expensive bill and shipment of a shiny new PC. Thinking back it's not usually driven by an urgent need to play newly released game X, but to fill that PC shaped hole in my life and make the world right.

I lasted 5 days this time. Maybe I'm not as addicted as I have been ...