Experimental music, photography, and adventures

More computer woes

Friday, March 28th, 2008

At Noah‘s suggestion, I ran some tests on my power supply last night. I tried what I’ve dubbed the “paperclip test,” which he described to me as follows:

Take the old power supply, unhook it completely from your computer
(including the 4-pin plug if it has one) and then plug it into the wall.  Hook up a jumper (bent paper clip) between the green wire (there should be only one on the main plug) and any of the black wires.  The power supply fan should fire up.  If it does not, the PS is toast.

The fan did spin up, much to my surprise. Noah also suggested testing the voltage in the wires, but I couldn’t find my multimeter (terrible, I know, I’m turning in my geek card today). Still, it’s a good technique so I’m posting it here.

If it does fire up, use a multi-tester (I know you have one,  you of all people I know must have one) and check the voltage from any of the black wires to all the colored ones.

From ground to any of the yellow wires, you should get about +12VDC.
Ground to red: +5VDC.
White: -5VDC.
Orange: +3.3VDC.

IIRC, ground to purple should be +5VDC even when the green-to-black jumper is unplugged.

I double-checked the voltages on Wikipedia and they’re correct.

I had an extra power supply on hand, but it failed the paperclip test, so I knew it was dead. I bought a new power supply, hoping that would fix it. It didn’t. I disconnected everything from the outside of my computer, took out all the expansion cards, and disconnected all unnecessary cables inside. I tried reseating my RAM, and tried each DIMM independently. Still no go. I figure my motherboard and/or CPU must be shot. Great!

So, I started using my older computer, which I’ve dubbed “Maddog.” Maddog is an older computer I built that runs FreeBSD. It used to be a server appliance prototype, in a small form factor, but over the years most or all of the components have been replaced. But it’ll always be Maddog to me. I digress …

Maddog worked pretty well last night, as always. Maddog has always been rock solid — not fast, but uber-reliable. However, this morning I went to check my e-mail, and I saw that Maddog had rebooted overnight. I logged in and started X.org. After about 20-30 seconds, Maddog spontaneously rebooted. Later, I tried logging in again and the same thing happened.

So now, both of my computers are unusable. I need to act fast, as I have a lot of work I need to do and data I need to get to. Fortunately there’s nothing I need for my job on there, so in that sense I’m OK, but … this aggression will not stand!

I’m starting to suspect a power surge or two may be responsible for these problems, especially since we have had some storms in the past couple of days, but I have both systems plugged into different outlets/surge protectors. And Sarah’s computer is in the same room and appears to be fine, so I’m not sure I’m sold on that explanation. Unfortunately I won’t be able to do any troubleshooting until Sunday at the soonest, as we’ll be in Fort Wayne most of the weekend.

2 Responses to “More computer woes”

  1. Marty Says:

    There’s nothing worse than knowing a drive (or a computer) is dying and that you haven’t backed up your stuff like you promised you would. I had that recently when I backed up one of my drives thinking it was failing. Now, it’s still going – and I think that the real culprit is my MAIN drive – which I never backed up! Guess what my project for next week is…?

  2. Apertome Says:

    It’s funny you say that, Marty, because it looks like that’s exactly what’s going on here. I took the afternoon off (yes, I took the afternoon off to work on my ailing computers. What’s wrong with that?) and it didn’t take long before it started looking like one of the hard drives is dying. I just backed up a lot of stuff last week, from my other machine. It figures! Fortunately I think I caught it early enough that I should be able to salvage most of the data before the drive kicks the bucket entirely.

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