The great PC rebuild

You can’t claim real geek cred until you’ve actually built a PC, can you? So that’s what I, with a lot of help from a friend who’s very good and patient with hardware, JB, have been doing.

The specs are awesome: a shiny new Intel processor, the i7 2600K, on an Intel DP67BG; an Nvidia GTX580; 16GB of DDR3 SDRAM from Kingston; and two SSDs (one from Intel, one from Kingston). All going into my old case from Voodoo, which housed the then-shit-hot PC I bought in May 2005, cos it’s a nice case with lots of airflow, LEDs and a clear side-panel. We also decided that the PSU from that build was more than adequate to re-use – it’s a 700W one from OCZ that I think is about three years old.

So last weekend we stripped out the old components, a long job in itself as they were watercooled, and assembled the new build. And then hit a roadblock: the PSU didn’t have a connector for the shiny new vapour-cooled GPU, so that was duly sourced.

Daphne PC rebuild

All your CPUz are belong to me

Finally we were ready for The Big Switch On. Everything lit up and the fans started to whirr – but no POST beep. After some lengthy headscratching and faffing about, it seems there’s some kind of problem with the power.

When everything is plugged in and it powers up, the lights flicker frantically – including all the lights on the motherboard, SSDs etc – and there’s a staticky sound from the PSU itself. It does that when the GPU is unplugged, so we are pretty sure it’s not inadequate power.

When tested with the multimeter, the voltage is all over the place. When we try to jumpstart the PSU by shorting it, it’s deader than a dead thing. But plug it in to the motherboard again and we get the flickering lights/staticky sound. Rinse and repeat!

It’s possible that the PSU is just on its last legs, but it was totally stable in the old configuration, which was quite power-hungry: I had a couple of GPUs in SLI on that.

The other thing is that we don’t know of course is if the PSU is cause or effect – ie if it’s the source of the problem, or if there’s something in the new configuration that’s causing the PSU to behave like that.

A diagnostic light comes on on the motherboard which the manual says is excess temperature on the voltage regulator. And there’s lots of flashing of the lights on the motherboard.

We have tried it without the RAM and everything unplugged – same result.

The question is, is it the PSU or the motherboard? I’m leaning towards the latter, though it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the PSU has picked this moment to go into its death throes. I’d be really grateful for thoughts, either comments here or an email to kate dot bevan at guardian dot co dot uk.