Doug's Sounding Board


I have a working computer again!

I was out for a week and a half and I feel like a feel red-neck with the old motherboard and power supply sitting out in the front yard, but I’m back! The hard drive getting corrupted wasn’t the problem, just a symptom of a failing motherboard. I pulled off the power connector from the motherboard in an attempt to try another power supply but instead I found four burnt out pins and a small bit of melted plastic. That explained the not-quite burning plastic/not-quite ozone smell I was getting for the few minutes my computer would stay on.

I found on some random hardware message board with messages from a few years ago discussing motherboards with similar failures. They were from about when I got mine (6 years ago) and the failure apparently was drawing too much current from the power supply, making sure to take the pwoer supply with it.

I was planning to do the computer upgrade next year and wasn’t really prepared for this, but I kept in mind my goals for the new machine: to be quiet, to be energy efficient, to be relatively inexpensive, and to be upgradable. I picked up a low-end motherboard sporting AMD’s most recent CPU socket since they change sockets less often than Intel and upcoming processors will be backwards compatible. The CPU is an AMD X2 4600; I’m coming from a dual AMD 1900 world so the speed bump isn’t as huge as it might be coming from a single processor, but the tripling of the RAM speed makes the difference quite noticable. An extra bonus, my old CPUs were about 70-75W each, but the new dual core processor is just 65W by itself and it can be clocked more slowly when not in heavy use for even more power savings. The motherboard has pretty much everything built into it so I have no extra cards installed right now which also helps with cooling and air-flow though if I can’t get the on-board graphics to start driving two monitors I may have to resort to buying a video card.

The RAM was a good brand and on sale so I picked up 4GB. The only thing that kept the previous set of hardware from feeling old and slow after 6 years was the 3GB of RAM in it so I knew I didn’t want less than that.

I wanted to keep my hard drives since they have plenty of life in them. The only problem is that modern motherboards are all Serial ATA and I have old-school drive interfaces. So I picked up some adapters for them that I had only heard would exist when Serial ATA came on the scene. Despite seeming a little sketchy with not even a sheet showing what to hook up and just being a bare circuit board they work perfectly!

The new power supply is an Antec NEO HE (high efficiency) power supply. It’s definitely the heaviest PC power supply I’ve used. It is part of the new wave of pwoer supplies that is about 20% more energy efficient, which means it hovers around 80% efficiency. It controls its fan based on temperature, but with not enough noise that I can hear so far. Another nice feature is that you only plug in the cables you will be using in the system so there is no need to find a place to stash all those loose ends; yet another bonus for air flow!

The result? Something much faster, much quieter, much more energy efficient, and hopefully a platform that will last awhile. Oh yeah, a most of the components are RoHS compliant which means they don’t have the usual nasty stuff used for building electronics.

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