Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Is do-it-yourself PC upgrade painless these days?

Everything started 10 days ago when PSU (powersupply) of my desktop went belly up. I tested that it was definitely PSU - I checked with the tester that standby +5V was there but shortening contacts 14 and 15 didn't start it (these are the contacts that are used in ATX to turn it on). I didn't have time until last Saturday to go and get a new one. Actually, I thought to go for an upgrade but I decided that my old Athlon 1400 MHz is enough for word processing, emails, internet and even simple photo processing. My kid was happy with his games either so I thought to keep it. Old friend is better that ten new ones as we say in Russia.

So I got one of the cheapest PSU's LC6350 - 350W from LC-Power somewhat silent with 12 cm fan. Surprises started there - it turned out that my old PSU had actually the reason to die. I figured it when my system didn't stay on longer than 2-3 seconds with new PSU. I couldn't really check which component killed my power supply but it looks like either CPU or motherboard. So... now it was definitely an upgrade time.

I am an Athlon fan so... Intel - "just say no". I hope Intel fans forgive me.



I decided to go modest - Athlon64 3200+ Venice as it was relatively cheap - only 112 Euro and further MHz increases and especially next generation dual-cores were priced much higher. But it's quite a step from my old one. Of course, I needed a new graphic card and Nvidia is the same as AMD for me ;-). Again going relatively modest from the latest line of their cards - LEADTEK WinFast PX7600GT.

Nvidia resurrected quite nice SLI technology - pairing two video cards. I remeber this idea died when I had my 3dfx Voodoo card. As any good idea SLI was ahead of time in 3dfx days. So to have some reserve I needed a mobo that can easilly support next generation Athlon64 X2 dual core and support SLI mode. Obviously chipset Nforce4 SLI would do. After looking at some reviews I decided to go for Gigabyte K8N-SLI. All I need for about 80+ Euro - good deal. An it also can make RAID 1, 0, 1+0 and 5 (well, who needs that 5 anyway???).

And of course, 2 GB of memory just in case I need to run Oracle on this machine. :-) Also important that I can get it up to 4 GB which is probably enough for half-splitted single head box.

After deciding on my config still on Saturday I went to our local computer shop. Ah.... forgot the cooler - realy nice and quite Freezer 64 PRO. Also I had to swap my PSU on a more powerfull one - I took 550W LC6550G from the same company. This one is even better - has a 14 cm fan!

At this point the story takes another direction and becomes 2+ days/nights nightmare. Apparently, new technology ACPI has not proven to be very stable and due to that as figured out later I was strugling during windows installation time and running any other existing versions on my hard drives. Installer kept rebooting when status bar turned into "Starting Windows..." (some say "big surprise"). I was getting mad! Internet proved that I wasn't the only one and people were spending weeks to resolve it. Somehow, I managed to install windows on couple partitions but both times it determined the system not as ACPI compliant but as MPS Uniprocesson ar Standard PC. In both cases it was rebooting every now and again, finding duplicate IDE controllers all the time and hardly working.

After sleepless weekend I decided (Sunday night) that it was mobo/BIOS problems (upgrde didn't help of course). Monday evening after work I happily swapped it to ASUS A8N-SLI SE (a bit more expensive but still under 100 Euro) and was looking forward to finally play "new" Need For Speed: Most Wanted. Boy, how mistaken I was. The same problem was waiting for me... I couldn't solve it again!

The final resolution was... You'd be surprised... my darling, Olga. She said that if I can't fix it than we need to call professionals. SHE DID SAY IT TO ME!!! Did I deserve so much shame on me!? Boy, that was it... I wasn't going anywhere next day/night whatever it takes until I fix it... so after sleepless night my new PC was up and running by 5am. Boy was I happy! The fact that I am going to bed for 90 minutes before going to work didn't bother me at all - AMD rocks. M$ - s... damn Windows.

I still can't be 100% sure what was the issue but I believe that Windows/mobo/BIOS were confised by the fact that I had the second hard disk in the second IDE channel along with my DVD burner there. Nevertheless, I was able to install it twice to prove that it just my luck and professionals are still "in-house".

So now instead of taking "my" Porshe for a spin I am burning CPU cycles on my new hardware writing this blog... is that really me? Please, don't tell anyone who knows me - they won't believe. 8-)

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