Lifting A Curse

I’ve had a computer sitting around in the closet for nearly two years now.  I originally bought it as a fairly inexpensive barebones kit that I was going to build out to give to my Mother for her birthday.  But after I built it I decided that it wasn’t quite what I wanted and so I shelved it and I ended up giving her a new HP for Christmas later that year.  So into the closet it went, only being pulled out long enough for me to scavenge the video card and memory for some other systems that needed them. 

About six months ago I decided to revive it.  It was pretty lagging edge, but still useful for a basic computer for someone who just writes a few documents and checks email/surfs the web.  I had found a video card that I’d forgotten that I had while searching for something else in my office, so all I needed was memory, which I found for $20 or so on eBay.  As I was putting it together I noticed that the tab at the bottom of the metal bracket on the video card wouldn’t seat correctly in the hole, so I took a screwdriver (do you see where this is going?) to try to “guide” it into position.  Unfortunately, the screwdriver slipped, and when it did it hit one of the tiny surface mount resistors on the motherboard, completely annihilating it and ruining the motherboard in the process. 

Now I was at a decision point:  abandon the system or replace the motherboard?  I almost abandoned it when I started pricing replacement motherboards.  The system was so far behind the curve that no one was making new ones for this socket configuration anymore, and all of the online retailers were asking ridiculous prices for such old technology.  But eBay came to the rescue with a lightly used motherboard of similar configuration. 

So… I replaced the motherboard but realized that I didn’t have the proper ATX plate insert for all of the motherboard connectors.  I went ahead without one, but it was nagging at me that it could cause problems.  But, it didn’t appear to have any adverse impact as the system booted right up the first time and loaded the OS without any problems.  Or so I thought.  Once I shut it down it wouldn’t come back on until I’d unplugged the power supply for a few minutes.  If I didn’t all that would happen is that the front panel power light would come on but nothing else would happen (no fans, no HD spinup, etc; like it was in hibernate mode).  I tested the power supply with my ATX PS tester, and it showed all green lights for all of the supply lines on the MB connector as well as all of the molex connectors.

I thought maybe I had some weird grounding issue, so I went back to eBay and managed to find what seemed to be the one remaining ATX insert for this motherboard on planet Earth (only $6.00!).  grin  Once I had it in hand I proceeded to remove the motherboard (which is always a royal pain), install the new plate, and check all grounding points to make sure they were in contact.  So I plugged it in, booted it up, and then shut it down.  Then I pressed the power button again.  No joy.  Same problem. 

At this point I’m convinced that this system is cursed and I decided to cannibalize it for parts.  But when I started my latest build I had two older-style ATX power supplies (including the Enermax) that I could not use in newer systems.  As a last-ditch effort to revive the system I swapped the original power supply for the Enermax.  And the system now works perfectly!  So the problem had been the power supply all along, despite the fact that my power supply tester showed no problems.  Either the PS was marginal for the new motherboard or it had gone bad while it was in storage. 

I guess the lesson learned is that if you suspect a power supply is bad to try another one even if the original tests OK (provided you have another PS on hand, of course). 

Now I have no idea what I’m going to do with this system; it was just sheer cussedness on my part that made me want to get it running again.  If someone is in desperate need of a new PC I’d be willing to give it away (it’d have to be someone local since the shipping would be prohibitive).  If memory serves, it’s an Athlon XP 2200+ with 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a 16X DVD-RW drive, and it’s running openSUSE (11.0 I think).  No tech support or exorcist included.  grin

1 Comment

  1. Bob S. says:


    Check with any local churches for single parents that might need a good basic system.

    I work with the Single Parent Family Ministry at Richland Hills Church of Christ, there are always single parents that have had to sell everything for one reason or another but want to be able to get online or help their kids with home work.

    Great post on the ‘joys’ of working on older systems.