Saturday, December 9th, 2006
12:45 pm - A Makeover for Suzily...  
As I've mentioned, I've been buying stuff lately. Some of it is for Christmas presents (I'm actually way ahead of where I usually am this time of year), but most has been for me. One thing was an ABit IC7-G motherboard I won on eBay. Attentive readers of this space will remember that this is the very same motherboard I installed when I built Suzily last year.

Suzily has been giving me trouble for several months now. It started this summer when the little fan on the heatsink that cools the Northbridge chip on the motherboard sputtered and died. This turns out to be a common problem with this board, which is otherwise first rate. (Its first-rateness is demonstrated by the fact that the boards now appear to be collectors' items since ABit stopped making them. Usually, discontinued motherboards are pretty cheap, but I wound up paying more for this used one than I did for the new board originally, and some of the boards I bid on ultimately went for a LOT more than I paid.) I tried lubricating the fan with increasingly slippery substances to get it unstuck, finally giving up after trying some finely powdered graphite, which the fan on the CPU promptly blew all through the interior machine, depositing the electrically conductive material all over the motherboard. What the hell was I thinking about?!? Fortunately, it didn't seem to do any permanent damage, and I cleaned it up the best I could.

Poking around on-line a bit, it seemed that most who had a similar problem just disconnected the fan and left well enough alone, or else replaced the fan/heatsink with a beefier aftermarket heatsink. To my regret, I decided to go the latter route, and picked a new heatsink up at CompUSA. Now, there are two ways one can attach a heatsink to a chip. The first is by spreading a little thermal grease on the chip, and then clamping the heatsink down on top of it. The other is to use thermal tape to stick the heatsink directly to the top of the chip. The one I purchased allowed both options, but the clamping device provided didn't fit the motherboard, so I went with the tape. Bad mistake. I put the tape on the heatsink, and pressed the contraption down on the chip, and it seemed to adhere all right. Problem fixed, I cleaned up, closed the tower, stood it up on its feet, and pressed on with the computing.

About a week later, I heard a lot of noise coming from one of the slot fans I have venting out the back of the case, so I opened up the case, and low and behold, the heatsink had come unstuck from the chip, and was now sitting atop the fan, which was making the noise in protest. I don't know how long it was sitting there, but I'm pretty sure it didn't do the chip any good. I removed the useless thermal tape, recleaned everything, and reinstalled the heatsink, this time using thermal grease and clamping it down with the jury-rigged clamp from the original heatsink. That seems to have worked, but the performance of the machine was noticeably worse, especially the audio, which was suddenly full of pops, clicks, and hesitations. Bozhe moi.

(As it turns out, I probably should have just left well enough alone, because the stock heatsink does an adequate job of cooling the chip even without the fan. Too much overthinking.)

Anyway, I decided to replace the board, and since they don't make them anymore, it was off to eBay, where as noted above, the prices for the board have skyrocketed. I bid on a few but never managed to win. I finally found one with a "Buy it now" price of $150, not that much more than I'd paid for mine new, and snapped it up. I got lucky, because it had been well taken care of and in great shape. Since I was also going to do a reinstall of XP as part of the job, along with reorganizing the logical drives on the machine, I needed someplace to transfer the files I had on various drive, so I picked up a 500 GB Maxtor SATA drive from for $189, amazingly cheap.

I spent last Saturday installing the new drive, and copying files over from the C: drive. Sunday I installed the replacement motherboard. The only difficulty there was that the BIOS had to be flashed to the most recent version in order to work with my CPU, but that only took a couple of minutes accomplish, and after that it worked great. The audio was better, but still not perfect, but I expect a clean XP install along with updated drivers will help things along there. That's the agenda for today and tomorrow.