My motherboard died

Nothing’s free. Ain’t it true. A while back I wrote that I had received a free Epox 8KDA3+ mobo and Athlon 3700+ CPU and that I was building a new workstation at home around it.

Well I built it, and it was working fine. Mostly. I had a few weird crashes that I thought I had resolved by going to the latest GeForce video drivers. Some problems were resolved, but I still had some odd behaviour that would cause the machine to sometimes just hard hang.

On Saturday night I was futzing around with my Rio Cali portable WMA player and I couldn’t get my system to recognize it as a hard drive (turns out it had the old flash on it and wouldn’t work that way anyway). At one point I decided a reboot of my machine might be a good idea. So I shut it down, waited 5 seconds, and then pressed the power button…. Nothing. Dead silence.

Huh? Or more precisely, WTF!?!

I opened the case, re-seated all the power connectors, the video card, and tried again. Nothing. I assumed the Ultra X-Connect power supply had died. By this time it was late Saturday night so I went upstairs and played Halo 2 (for way too long) and then went to bed.

Sunday morning we went to the Seahawks game (Wow! What a great ending to a horrible game). I then convinced my family to go to Fry’s with me after the game to buy a new power supply. They didn’t have any Ultra’s so I got an Enermax EG565 550W unit. When I got home I wired it up and… Nothing. Damn.

I mean nothing. No LEDs, no beep, no fans, nothing. Could only be the motherboard. I don’t normally keep spare nForce3 250Gb motherboards around and it was too late for any stores to be open so all I could do was go upstairs and play Halo 2 some more.

Today I went to Computerstop which is not too far from Microsoft’s headquarters and bought an Asus K8N-E Deluxe. Computerstop doesn’t carry Epox boards (sales guy claims they have too many returns…uh, oh). The K8N-E is also an nForce3 250Gb motherboard with an almost identical configuration to the Epox. The only big difference is the Asus has onboard 1394.

It was important to get an nForce3 mobo because my system disks are setup as a RAID 1 array using the nForce3 SATA RAID controller and I knew that different SATA RAID controllers use different on-disk formats and my system likely wouldn’t work with another controller.

Tonight my kids helped me install the new motherboard. At 8 and 11 they are very helpful in pointing a flashlight and holding the manual open so I could see which jumper went where. Christine even plugged in all the connectors for the front panel.

Now for the moment of truth. Was I right that it was the mobo? We all crossed our fingers and I hit the power button…. Victory! It came right up into Windows.

I had to uninstall the Epox motherboard monitor (a POS compared to the Asus PC Probe which is no great work of art either) and just to be sure I re-installed all the mobo drivers from the Asus CD.

I’ve always liked ASUS motherboards. I now have 5 of them in the house. After installing and using this K8N-E I am even more convinced that Asus makes a great product. Their software is better. Their manuals are better. And (apparently) their quality is better.

A few bonuses:

  • I complained before that the EVGA gForce 6800 Ultra video board was a tight fit in the Antec P-160 case. Well the Asus board’s AGP slot aligns with the 2nd slot in the Antec case completely resolving this issue.
  • The Epox board did not have 1394 onboard. This meant 2 things. First, I had to add in a 1394 PCI board to get 1394. Second, the Antec case has a front-panel 1394 connector which can only connect to a header on a motherboard. The K8N-E has 1394 onboard and a 1394 header. Now my front panel 1394 connector works.
  • The K8N-E supports AMD’s Cool & Quiet technology. In addition the Enermax PSU has a 3 prong fan plug (the Ultra does has none) so now the PSU is monitored (and controlled!) by the mobo. Because of all this my machine is now noticeably quieter than it was before and it is running cooler. The CPU is down to 30 degrees Celsius and the chassis is down to 40 in steady state (from 34 and 45). While running Prime95 my system is now at a reasonable 35/53 where before I had to open the cabinet my PC sits in all the time.

I don’t want to knock Epox too badly. After all I didn’t have to pay for the motherboard that failed. It may have been previously used and abused, I don’t know.

Oh, and I now have a perfectly good Ultra X-Connect power supply that I’m not using. Wanna buy it off me? 

© Charlie Kindel. All Rights Reserved.

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