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Disaster In-Progress: Main Rig Down

Despite it being entirely recorded, edited, mixed, and otherwise fully completed well ahead of schedule this weekend, Episode #0161 of the podcast for Daizenshuu EX is not online. Nor have I been able to help coordinate the forum transfer over to the new server. Nor have I been chilling in the IRC channel like I normally am.

Yesterday early afternoon I was unplugging my laptop’s power cord from the surge protector which the main rig is also plugged into. I accidentally flipped the switch on it, effectively cutting power to everything there. No biggie. Nothing that hasn’t happened before. Flipped the switch, and everything immediately came back on (monitor, computer, stereo, scanner, wireless headphones, etc.). I headed out into the dining room where I was working on hooking up the new HD digital camera to my laptop (sorry; that’s all work-work related, and not play-work related!) and installed a few things.

When I wandered back out to the main rig, it was sitting on this screen:

cpu_dead_01

Very strange. I figured it perhaps just got itself hung up, and I would reboot and go into Safe Mode if I had to. Manually turned it off, let it sit for a minute, turned it back on… same thing. OK, now this is getting bad. I completely unplugged everything and let it sit for a long while, in the meantime consulting some friends online for opinions.

The opinions started pouring in that perhaps the power supply fried itself (or something along those lines). I found it very sad that such a simple little thing would cause such a drastic effect, but I suppose it’s not unheard of. This is also one of the aspects of computer hardware I know very little about; I can install a new optical drive or a hard drive or even a stick of RAM, but that’s about the extent of my internal-computer-knowledge.

(NOTE: Yes, everything whirled-up and sounded pretty normal when I rebooted it. The green lights on the front USB ports indicated they had power. The monitor definitely isn’t “frozen” with a burned-in screen, or anything, because I can cycle through inputs and it changes to show that it has no connected source.)

I ended up at Best Buy and picked up a 700 watt power supply, which was a contrast to the 1000 watt power supply inside my Dell XPS 710 (but all opinions seemed to be that 1000 watt was pretty ridiculous, especially considering I wasn’t exactly launching any spaceships with this computer). I had to spend some time at the in-laws’ after picking it up, but jumped right into potential repairs upon returning home. I eventually figured out that I needed to remove all three of my hard drives in order to get access to pulling out the pre-existing power supply, and it was around then that Jeff was able to run over and help me pull it apart.

cpu_dead_02

Holy Hell.

Long story short, the power supply that came with it is a proprietary 1000 watt monster. I know very little about what I’m about to mention, but it had both a 24-pin and a 20-pin connector (yes, two of them) that went directly into the motherboard, which seemed very different from not only the new 700 watt power supply I picked up, but anything Jeff had seen before. As opposed to the new power supply, The Beast had all of its wires coming directly from one spot (which you unfortunately can’t see off-screen to the left in the above picture), all filtering and twisting and winding throughout the system. We eventually managed to feel them out and get every single last bit unplugged from devices, but now I’m pretty much left with a system that has no power supply.

This is all assuming the power supply was even in the issue in the first place, which I never really got full confirmation on (not that I’d ever be able to). I called Dell customer support out of morbid curiosity (warranty expired exactly a year ago), and after being potentially up-sold to “North American-based premium customer support”, I spoke with someone I could barely comprehend and ultimately had to say goodbye to without any real help.

So now I’m out in the cold all by myself. If it is indeed the power supply, Dell does not directly sell a replacement, so I’m potentially buying a new or refurbished one off of eBay ($50-150). If that’s not the problem… well… what is? And how do I even tell?

I’ve got a GeForce 9800 GT showing up this week, too… I was planning on finishing up Portal with it and running a bunch of other stuff all silky-smooth…

Didn’t sleep much last night due to my frustration. This is on top of a 360 whose graphics card fried itself alive (not covered by Microsoft’s extended warranty, though I’ve since paid the $100 to have it replaced), and a spontaneously-bricked PSP whose current status is theorized to be a fried motherboard (which cannot be brought back from the dead with a Pandora’s Battery, which I’ve already tried courtesy of Corey, and I will thus have to pay $100 to get it replaced or just buy a new one), and a Rock Band drum whose blue pad snapped a wire inside.

(To answer a couple quick questions, yes, if I get it back up and running or can hook up the SATA hard drive with Episode #0161 on it somewhere else, I’ll go ahead and post that show. If not right away, it will be retroactively posted in the future. Yes, I should be able to record another show on-schedule next week if we feel up to it… I can record on the laptop, and do all the mixing on the Shuttle which has all the project files and bumper music masters. Knock-on-wood, but here’s hoping that main C:/-drive isn’t farked… should be completely fine, though…)

18 Comments

  1. Shit balls, man. Bad luck. The Dell mobo needs *both* a 20 and 24 pin connector? That’s friggin’ crazy. Proprietary Dell hardware? Good luck.

    • Just out of curiosity, what’s your recommendation? Something I’m considering is just stealing all the working parts from the XPS and having something new built from its ashes. If it was indeed the power supply that died, Hell… mostly everything else should be fine. Steal the RAM, got the new video card coming in… plop it all together onto a new motherboard… thoughts?

  2. Seems like you have a decent plan, but if it comes down to getting a new computer don’t get a Dell again. They are cheaper sure, but from experience they have crap quality and their PCs always have some sort of failure, as you have now experienced.
    That’s my piece of advice.

  3. So there was frigging on the rigging?

    ….

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  4. It doesn’t sound like your power supply is dead. Does the motherboard have any power led indicator, showing that the motherboard has power? If everything “whirls” when you boot up the machine, then I’m assuming all of your fans have power. I hate to say it, but it sounds more likely that your C: Drive is dead (or wherever your OS is located), possibly through a voltage surge, ironically, from accidentally switching off your surge protector. Your drive could have also been dying anyway, and this just put it over the edge… who knows.

    My power supply has died on me twice since I built my computer a year ago, and when that happened, you could hear a pin drop in my office it was so quiet. I also agree with Jeff, I’ve never seen a motherboard requiring both 20-pin and 24-pin connectors. Does it also have a 4pin connector for the CPU?

    Anyway, I use Dell for their monitors, not their computers. This is why I now keep a back-up of anything I’m working on on an external USB hard drive, so I can still work on things while my main computer is down. I hope you can get this resolved shortly and as painlessly as possible. Good luck!

  5. It does not sound like the power supply,

    I’ve had something simillar happen to me and it was the c drive.
    I used spinrite to sove my issue.

  6. Damn, that sucks. I’ve had many bad experiences with Dell, like someone else said I would only use them for their monitors and not their computers. I recommend a Mac 😉

    And it does sound like a hard drive problem.

  7. I did the exact thing before, and the same problem arose. I never figured out the exact cause, but I did find a not so ideal fix. I had to reinstall my OS and return everything to factory settings at the boot screen. Hope you can come up with something better.

  8. Not to detract from the gravity of your computer problem, but will there be any changes to the forum once this “transfer over to the new server” is finished? Less running out of bandwidth, perhaps?

    Anyway, sorry about your computer problem, I’ll see if I can find out anything that might help you fix the problem later.

  9. Hey man…I happen to work at the Geek Squad in my local Best Buy. I’m not positive off hand if it would have both connection types, but you should go back to Best Buy and see if they have “The Black Widow” power supply in stock. It’s one we use all often and it’s nice for cable management because all of the cables will actually detach from the unit, so you don’t have a bunch of unplugged cables just bunched up in the CPU. You might take a look at it and give it a shot; it might be the one that would work.

  10. It certainly seems like your main hard drive. Quick way to test: Pop an older hard drive (that is if you have one lying around at your convenience) inside in place of your current master and attempt to install an O/S or distro. If it works with no issues… well, you’ll know what to do.

    (Y’know, the fact that your PC froze at exactly the same place during the boot sequence would suggest the problem is the hard drive and not the PSU!)

  11. Can’t help but add to the gloom, but I had that issue too. And it was in fact my hard drive.

  12. I had a similar problem just last week, Just not to this extent thankfully maybe due to just having your bog standard pc. Mine was caused through the pc crashing so i had a vegeta-like temper tantrum and ripped the plugs out the wall. Windows wouldn’t start then it just went onto a black screen.

    I will ask me dad when he comes in what he did, but I do know the whole thing had to be formatted and windows had to be manually put back on after lots of difficulty because the C: drive and the disc drives couldnt detect anything.

    I’ll have a word when he comes in from work, but i doubt it will be of any help. Just watch in case it is some horrid virus going about and not down to the ripping-plugs incident.

    Good luck! May the Saiyans be with you!

  13. If you can’t get it up an working, salvage what you can – but I’d try and use what you’ve got laying around before buying anything else.

    First off – were *both* the 20 and 24 pin PSU connectors plugged into the mobo? I’ve never seen *both* plugged in (I’ve seen PSUs with a 20 pin, or a 24 pin, or both a 20 and a 24, and some with 20 pin with an extra 4 pin bit that can be attached if needed; but never a mobo that needed *two* separate 20+ pin connectors). I’ve seen stranger things, but not this specifically.

    Secondly, it doesn’t sound like the PSU. Listen for any POST beeps – that’ll tell you what’s wrong. If you’ve got power, and no POST errors, it’s probably not your PSU (I’ve had that happen once, but it’s not as likely as other causes). First I’d try swapping out the hard drive for a known working one (the hard disk with Ubuntu on it would work fine) just to see if it’ll get any farther. Next I’d try RAM, and failing that, I’d rip everything out and build it from the ground up testing each part as I went.

  14. Any possibility you could upload this week’s podcast on megaupload or sendspace temporarily so you don’t leave the listeners lingering?

    • I don’t think you understand. Last week’s podcast is on a hard drive in a computer that doesn’t work right now. I have zero access to the file. (It’s a SATA hard drive and no other computers in the house have anything other than IDE connectors.)

  15. I read every advice and they sounds about right and I even ask my fiancé about your conduction being that he works as a Crucit City Tech (sigh).
    He said bluntly “Don’t get a dell”.

  16. Unplug the usb mouse and keybord and start it up, see if that works.

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