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My Computer Got An Unexpected Upgrade, A Really Fast One!

Loyal readers have probably noticed there haven’t been any new posts the last few days. There was a good reason, my main computer was dead. So today I’m going to share the story of the dead computer and how I got it going again with a lot more speed.

Over the past few months I’d had an intermittent issue where my screen would just go black. The only way to resolve it was to reboot the machine. No, it hadn’t “crashed”, I just wasn’t able to see anything. I tried a few things but I feared the answer was to replace the video card. Since this only happened about once a week, I just put up with the annoying blackouts. Earlier last week, I’d finally had enough and I ordered a new video card.

The new card arrived late last Wednesday and I figured it would take about 15 minutes to remove the old card and replace it with the new card. Oh boy was I wrong. When the old card was removed, a capacitor fell off the motherboard (you can see the fallen capacitor in the photo above right). I’m sure some of this was user error (ie, my fault), but I’m thinking the capacitor may have already been a little loose and it was truly the cause of the screen blackouts. I tried the new card, but all I got was a black screen.

By the time this happened on Wednesday evening, it was too late to do anything. I wasn’t concerned about my data as I knew it was all backed up and the hard drive in the computer was just fine. The problem was that I couldn’t use my main computer at all until it got fixed. I could have purchased the same motherboard, but it was five years old and replacements were hard to find. Due to the rarity of the old motherboards, they were also more expensive than when I first bought it.

Instead I turned to some of the blog posts I’ve written in the last few months about our “dream computer.” Sure I write these posts to tell you about great hardware, but I also treat them as research for myself should I ever need to replace something. I purchased the exact parts I told you about in the posts listed below.

There were a couple of other items I hadn’t covered in those posts. While a new CPU typically comes with a fan to keep it cool, the supplied cooler is average at best. Since heat is a bad thing for a computer, I purchased the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO to make sure my fast new CPU kept really cool. It is also important to put thermal paste between the cooler and the CPU. Again, thermal paste is supplied but it isn’t the best. So I got the Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound 3.5 Grams as another way to keep my CPU extra cool.

Normally I wouldn’t pay extra for fast shipping, but I really wanted to get the parts on Friday so I could make sure everything was working again before the end of the weekend. A stack of boxes arrived around 5pm on Friday. By 9pm I had everything replaced and I had even taken the time to eat dinner as a break from computer building.

I kept the case and drives I’d been using so the plan was to boot up the machine and everything would be as it was on Wednesday, just faster. Unfortunately the plan didn’t turn out as smooth as I had hoped since Windows wouldn’t boot. After a little head scratching, I changed some settings in the BIOS and it booted just fine. There were still a few things to configure such as drivers for the new Ethernet ports on the motherboard. By midnight on Friday, the transformation was done and the computer was as good as new. While I hated having to spend money on new parts when it wasn’t planned, the result was a much faster computer that should last me at least 3-4 more years!

About Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is the author of thirteen books on CorelDRAW, the latest being CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed. He has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site and many more, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics and Web conferences.

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One comment

  1. Boy does this bring back some memories! My mother’s computer wouldn’t boot and kept making a popping noise. When I opened the case, I found several capacitors leaning at a 45 degree angle to the motherboard. They would fall off if you touched them. Obviously, that motherboard was toast but so was the power supply. It was an OLD machine, not worth fixing, so I put together a replacement that, like your situation, was much faster.

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