Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seems Promising

This is all about fixing a computer. Skip it if that isn't your thing (I now expect about 4 people to actually read this).

About a month ago, my computer up and died. Lucky for me, we live in a world where I have access to 3 more. Still, this is my main machine, one I've built, upgraded, reformated, rebuilt, pulled from the brink, and generally treated like every other machine I've owned.

This was a new one for me - no POST. For those who are lost already - no starting beep. No memory test, no "press DEL to setup BIOS", no anything. Blank screen. Little monitor message box letting me know it's going into powersave because the video card ain't sending a signal.

Harder to diagnose the problem when you lose the visual interface.

I spent a couple days on it. I disassembled the beast, removed everything but the CPU, and still wasn't sure what the problem was. As usual, the Internet was mostly useless, with plenty of people having an IDENTICAL setup to mine, and the same problem, but nobody having a solution.

Then I threw out my back and decided being hunched over a computer wasn't the best idea. Back's mostly better now, and I revisted my aluminum friend the other night.

The CPU came out this time too, but this had little effect. It was time to play with component combinations. The RAM came out and the wee PC speaker started beeping maniacally. Okay, so it knows if the RAM is there or not. The RAM was replaced and the video card was removed - nothing. The video card was replaced - nothing.

This tells me the hangup is in the RAM. It knows when it's missing, but can't get past it to the video card test. Since the PCI-E LEDs still light up when the card isn't seated properly, I doubt it's a port issue.

RAM comes out. I have no other boxes that take DDR2. I don't have any spare DDR2 around. I call my brother, who I long ago taught everything I know when it comes to fixing these beasties. He does it for a living now, and still hasn't learned the cardinal rule of saying "no" to your friends when they ask you to fix their machine. At least he charges them a nominal fee these days. This all means he has spare parts and access to tests I don't... at least without a viable machine handy. I dropped off the RAM yesterday, and he couldn't get the closest machine to boot with it. Of course, there are other possible reasons - my RAM is 1066, the motherboard he was testing on is 533, so it might not downscale the RAM automatically. He took it home to test in my other brother's machine - no boot.

Sooooo... 3 machines that don't like my memory. Seems promising for my "must be the RAM" hypothesis. Which is waaaay better than my original "must be the motherboard" one. Why? RAM is $60. Motherboards are $200.

So now, he'll bring me another stick of RAM to test on my machine. If it comes alive, then the problem is solved and I just have to drop 3 score on some new RAM and the my baby can come back to life.

Because although my little Macbook is fine for web surfing and playing two tables of poker, it really blows when it comes to screen real estate for multitasking, and the processor just doesn't have the juice for CS4 to do it's thing. Which means my little photography hobby has slowed down in the interim. Not to mention the lack of games.

I, of course, fully expect that once it's back up and running, my RAID array will have been borked by my fiddling and I'll have the fun task of recovering the data I didn't have backed up (lucky for me - that's only a couple weeks worth of pictures and downloads). If this isn't the case? Double win for me.

Now let's see if there's any way I can get this done before I head southeast this weekend.


Mike Maloney said...

Just out of curiosity, what kind of RAM is in your other machines? Just plain old DDR, or do you have any with DDR3?

Astin said...

Not sure, there are two other machines gathering dust in my place. I think one has 168-pin SDRAM, and the other is 184-pin DDR. I could be wrong on the 184 - it could be older, as it's on an AthlonXP 1800+ machine that I haven't looked at in a while.

BWoP said...

I didn't understand any of that.

Unknown said...

I got nothing.