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.

9 thoughts on “The great PC rebuild

  1. liam106 says:

    Hi Kate (this is @ciaranjkenny) we talked on twitter/MSDN a while back about your Exchange configuration.

    Reading your post above – one thought – what happens if you completely remove the CPU and run through a power on. I have seen the behaviour you describe when either the CPU is not fully seated or, more commonly, when the heatsink is not properly attached to the CPU. I’m not familiar with your cooling system but it does strike me as a possibility that the CPU is instantly overheating. I’ll be logged into Twitter for 1/2 an hour or so now.

  2. Jules says:

    Heya there Kate,

    Asked on Twitter too – Don’t blame you for not wanting to take the CPU out –
    Assuming the system speaker is plugged in right… Does it beep with the memory out ?- It should make with the beeps…

    Could be dead motherboard TBH… Not great news either way.

    Only other thing to make sure the BIOS hasn’t gone wonky perhaps, take the BIOS battery out, unplug the mains and hold down the power for a few seconds to clear it, put power back in and see what happens there…

    Good luck!
    (and imagine the geek kudos after this epic? LOL)

  3. Kate says:

    hi Jules! No beep at all from the mobo, not even with all the RAM out. There’s a BIOS reset button on this mobo, which we’ve tried – nada. Haven’t actually done the old-skool take-battery-out test; I will add it to the list for when JB is next here. It’s either the PSU or the motherboard, I reckon. And given that the PSU was behaving a bit erratically, I’m leaning towards that.

  4. Jules says:

    I would give the professional diagnosis that it’s the dead motherboard… Seems to be the day for it – at least yours is in warranty where I am scouring the Net for spares…

    (However, I can confirm you can transplant the guts of a Dell Poweredge 830 in to the empty innards of Poweredge 840… And you have a neat enough frankenserver… LOL).

  5. Kate says:

    @Jules – I guess it’s possible. The lovely Perveen, Intel’s PR in the UK, has offered me the use of an Intel geek, so I’m waiting to hear from her. You may well be right. And wooohoo for the transplant! Congrats!

  6. Pete Biggs says:

    Kate – Do you still have the old M/B? Can you try the PSU on that to check if it is still OK there?

    P. (@pbiggs)

  7. Kate says:

    @Pete – yes. Couple of people have suggested that, that’s definitely worth a go, thank you

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kate Bevan, MerseyM. MerseyM said: RT @katebevan: Detailed blogpost about what's going wrong with my #pcrebuild I'd be very grateful for your thoughts […]

  9. Jules says:

    Kate, that’s just not fair having that kind of tech support artillery at your disposal 😛

    Good luck snagging your Intel Geek (or a very fast RMA turnaround!)

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