General Hardware Tips

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General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Fri Oct 24, 2003 12:10 am

I figure I'll go Jeopardy style and give out some answers to common problems before I get the questions. Some of these can probably go in other forums, but what the heck! I'll update it frequently, so PM me if you have additions.

General Tips
+Check your cables
-Check to see that cables and cards are plugged in properly.
-Always try unplugging and plugging it back in, to ensure proper seating.
-Look for dust contamination. When unplugging a card, inspect for dust that can lodge in slots [frequent with PCI/AGP cards].

+Check your jumpers
-Sometimes when swapping devices or doing major overhauls, jumpers can be neglected, either from being temporarily removed or from not being repositioned correctly [e.g. master to slave].
-Some motherboards have jumper settings that you haven't encountered before [such as +5v USB or PS/2 standbys].

+Check your manual
-Yes, it's always worth a shot.

+Check for grounding problems
+Motherboards
-Some solder jobs leave longer leads than others. Take some electrical tape and put it a) Between the standoffs of your case and your motherboard and/or b) on the backplate of your case [NOT on back of the motherboard, as it can insulate heat].

+Boards and Cards
-Make sure no wire leads are touching your circuitboard [this goes to you modders that forget to connect or insulate your wire leads].
-Make sure they are seated correctly. This is especially true of RAM and PCI cards, where one side can be slightly off, either not contacting at all or contacting the wrong contacts on the board, leading to shorts.

+Drives
-Hard drives in particular, which aren't electrically insulated on the bottom, can occasionally short against the bottom of the case, bottom of the drive cage, or top of another drive. This also holds true for rheostats, system monitors, and fan controllers.

Floppy Drives-The most common issue is the little metal slider snapping off. Using a standard 12-piece toolkit, use the small screwdriver to prop the door open. Depending on ambient light, use a flashlight to find the offender. Use tweezers to gently remove the metal scrap from the drive.

Optical Drives
-Most problems stem from dust contamination. Don't use compressed air, as it can push the dust further INTO the drive. Try to get a mini vacuum cleaner, it will come in handy with the rest of your system as well.

More to come on other hardware.
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Postposted on Thu Aug 11, 2005 11:53 pm

I think this just has to be mentioned but:

WEAR AN ESD WRIST STRAP!
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Postposted on Fri Aug 12, 2005 12:11 am

Hoodieboy711 wrote:I think this just has to be mentioned but:

WEAR AN ESD WRIST STRAP!


Yeah, and be sure to put your Depends on when you go to bed. :wink:
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Postposted on Sun Apr 23, 2006 2:16 am

have band aids handy, now it my just be me... but i ALWAYS end up cutting myself somewhere durring the installation of some peice of hardware on some part of the case...? anyone else see a pattern?....

but on a serious note, rushing a computer build is always a bad idea. im not going to lie, i am guilty of it... and because i was rushing and not paying attention ive killed a poor old AMD Skt754 3700+ (clawhammer) and that was back when they were not as cheep as they are now. building a computer may feel as though its like your 10 and playing with legos but just remeber.... that little lego you are playing with now is alittle more valuble....

now if i could just listen to my own advice....

botttom line... use your head, use a static band, dont eat while building, no pets allowed.... you get the idea, its always a bad day when you lose a proc.
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Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:28 am

icto0389 wrote:have band aids handy, now it my just be me... but i ALWAYS end up cutting myself somewhere durring the installation of some peice of hardware on some part of the case...? anyone else see a pattern?....


It's not a REAL build if you don't bleed for it.

[I always get myself somehow. Usually the bottom of the motherboard or some part of the case is the reason. When i moved from my old pos case to my new one i managed to get cut on my motherboard AND my old case]
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:05 am

mac_h8r1 wrote:Some solder jobs leave longer leads than others. Take some electrical tape and put it a) Between the standoffs of your case and your motherboard and/or b) on the backplate of your case [NOT on back of the motherboard, as it can insulate heat].


Though it would be worth doing in specific areas if you have problems with solder as in this tip, the standoffs are designed to earth the motherboard and probably shouldn't generally be insulated? That's not to say that lacking the earth ground will prevent the board working, but it's not the optimum situation.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Fri May 02, 2008 12:49 pm

Mithent wrote:
mac_h8r1 wrote:Some solder jobs leave longer leads than others. Take some electrical tape and put it a) Between the standoffs of your case and your motherboard and/or b) on the backplate of your case [NOT on back of the motherboard, as it can insulate heat].


Though it would be worth doing in specific areas if you have problems with solder as in this tip, the standoffs are designed to earth the motherboard and probably shouldn't generally be insulated? That's not to say that lacking the earth ground will prevent the board working, but it's not the optimum situation.

Yah, putting yape between the standoff and the motherboard is not only misguided, it's pointless. The screw that anchors the motherboard to the standoff and the standoff's threads into case the provide a solid current path - just as they were intended to do.

Notice the copious ground pads surrounding the screw holes on the top side of the motherboard? They're there for a reason. The flanges on the screw heads dig into those solder pads when you fasten the board to the case. These distributed grounds reduce ground bounce in the various circuits on the mobo.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:59 pm

I think ESD wrist bands are overrated - unless you're wearing a polyster jumpsuit and moonwalking your way across the carpet just touching the chassi every now and then is perfectly fine IMHO.

My best and favorite troubleshooting technique for hardware is to always go back to the basics.

If you're having problems getting something to work always go back to the minium working configuration (motherboard, cpu, ram) and make sure it posts and complains about missing harddrive and so on. While you're at it you might want to replace the CMOS battery if it's an old computer and also scan the motherboard and mounting points for damages and/or short circuits. Also check the PSU and make sure it looks in fighting order. Sometimes if it's an old computer it's not a bad idea to re-seat the RAM and CPU and re-plug all the connectors. Make sure there is no dust anywhere.

Then add harddrive / keyboard / mouse load up windows/linux and run memtest and prime95 (or similar) to make sure everything is as it should.

If you have that working you know have a stable base system! Congratulations!

Feel free to add soundcards / GPUs / CD-drives / more hard drives / NAS / Networking etc etc and you'll be able to see when the problems start.

Sometimes strange hardware problems can also come from insufficient power or inadequate cooling. You may think you have a mega-PSU but one rail on it might be working at it's maximum if you have several things connected to it.

And sometimes your cpu and motherboard will report low temperatures but some part of the motherboard that isn't being monitered is still overheating - I've seen it happen.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:34 am

The main tip should be:

Just because it says "Compatible" on the box does not mean that it will work.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:47 am

Most useful tip you can give anyone:
Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Also, I had a little giggle when I saw:
mac_h8r1 wrote:Floppy Drives-The most common issue is the little metal slider snapping off. Using a standard 12-piece toolkit, use the small screwdriver to prop the door open. Depending on ambient light, use a flashlight to find the offender. Use tweezers to gently remove the metal scrap from the drive.

The most common issue with floppy drives is that they went obsolete over a decade ago!

I have a Fujistu ten-year-old (well, May 2006 actually, but I'm rounding up) USB floppy drive at work, which I bought when our last PC with a floppy disk drive was retired just in case we found a machine that wouldn't USB boot, or in the unlikely event we found a floppy disk down the back of a desk, just to see what was on it.
Do you know how many times I've used it in the last ten years?

Like, seriously - I haven't even opened the box it came in yet and I probably never will :\ <--- mouseover for the answer
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Sat Nov 08, 2014 7:19 am

Here's a good general hardware tip: When your hardware goes completely obsolete, get rid of it instead of keeping it around "just in case". Still-working but thoroughly obsolete things that I've thrown out this year included a 5¼"+3½" dual floppy drive (in a single 5¼" bay) from Gateway, a SyQuest SyJet 1.5 GB removable SCSI drive with a stack of cartridges and an STB RIVA TNT graphics card. When it doesn't serve any purpose any more, get it out of the house!
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:59 pm

I'd have to find it first before I could throw it out :wink:
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Sun Nov 09, 2014 6:46 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:Here's a good general hardware tip: When your hardware goes completely obsolete, get rid of it instead of keeping it around "just in case". Still-working but thoroughly obsolete things that I've thrown out this year included a 5¼"+3½" dual floppy drive (in a single 5¼" bay) from Gateway, a SyQuest SyJet 1.5 GB removable SCSI drive with a stack of cartridges and an STB RIVA TNT graphics card. When it doesn't serve any purpose any more, get it out of the house!


Now is the time to also throw away those old small IDE HHD's that you do not have anywhere to plug them into unless you buy a adapter. Worried about data theft? Nothing a hammer hitting the drive on the sidewalk won't fix. Don't use your driveway if it is asphault you might miss the drive and dent your driveway. I just coated mine for a second year in a row,this last winter was tough on it.....so many snow days and colder then normal weather last year. Usually when I coat my driveway it will last 2 years.....but not after the snow blower and shovels scratching on it last winter. I hope it is not bad again this year. Love snow just not every other day it seemed like.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Mon Nov 10, 2014 10:23 am

TwoEars wrote:I think ESD wrist bands are overrated - unless you're wearing a polyster jumpsuit and moonwalking your way across the carpet just touching the chassi every now and then is perfectly fine IMHO.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the system has to be plugged in for it to be grounded, otherwise you're not really accomplishing anything by touching it.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Mon Nov 10, 2014 1:34 pm

absurdity wrote:
TwoEars wrote:I think ESD wrist bands are overrated - unless you're wearing a polyster jumpsuit and moonwalking your way across the carpet just touching the chassi every now and then is perfectly fine IMHO.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the system has to be plugged in for it to be grounded, otherwise you're not really accomplishing anything by touching it.

This is why I hate cheap power supplies that don't have an on/off switch on them. I try to keep the power supply plugged in (with the switch off, of course) to make sure the machine is properly grounded at all times.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:24 pm

SuperSpy wrote:
absurdity wrote:
TwoEars wrote:I think ESD wrist bands are overrated - unless you're wearing a polyster jumpsuit and moonwalking your way across the carpet just touching the chassi every now and then is perfectly fine IMHO.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the system has to be plugged in for it to be grounded, otherwise you're not really accomplishing anything by touching it.

This is why I hate cheap power supplies that don't have an on/off switch on them. I try to keep the power supply plugged in (with the switch off, of course) to make sure the machine is properly grounded at all times.

For PSUs without a mains switch just keep an extra switched outlet strip handy to plug it into.

That said, touching even the ungrounded metal chassis of the system you are working on is better than nothing, since it at least ensures that you are at the same electrical potential as the chassis (even if you and the chassis are not at zero potential relative to earth ground).
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:31 pm

just brew it! wrote:That said, touching even the ungrounded metal chassis of the system you are working on is better than nothing, since it at least ensures that you are at the same electrical potential as the chassis (even if you and the chassis are not at zero potential relative to earth ground).


Oh god, this is so true.
This is why I hate antistatic straps. If you are working on hardware inside your PC, just touch the case so that you're matching the potential of the electronics you're working on. That is actually far more reliable that being grounded at preventing ESD damage.

For what it's worth though, I have loads of kit that is, according to ESD precautions, abused horrifically. RAM modules lying in a draw full of plastic-wrapped stuff, graphics cards and procesors just sitting out on a desk for weeks. Me picking this stuff up to work on PC's after just walking across a carpetted room with rubber-soled shoes without even grounding myself on something first.

To date, I can't think of a single instance where I've killed something. It's all scaremongering by component manufacturers to minimise their risk of damage and RMA rates. The actual hardware is pretty robust against static - let's face it, there are diodes capable of blocking ESD voltages all over the board before you get to sensitive electronics, and almost everything is covered in heatsink/heatspreader these days anyway.
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Re: General Hardware Tips

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2014 8:31 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Oh god, this is so true.
This is why I hate antistatic straps. If you are working on hardware inside your PC, just touch the case so that you're matching the potential of the electronics you're working on. That is actually far more reliable that being grounded at preventing ESD damage.

Well... yes and no. In low humidity conditions static charge can build up quite rapidly, from something as simple as shifting around in your chair. So unless you're touching the chassis pretty darned near constantly, there's still the potential for ESD damage.

Chrispy_ wrote:For what it's worth though, I have loads of kit that is, according to ESD precautions, abused horrifically. RAM modules lying in a draw full of plastic-wrapped stuff, graphics cards and procesors just sitting out on a desk for weeks. Me picking this stuff up to work on PC's after just walking across a carpetted room with rubber-soled shoes without even grounding myself on something first.

To date, I can't think of a single instance where I've killed something. It's all scaremongering by component manufacturers to minimise their risk of damage and RMA rates. The actual hardware is pretty robust against static - let's face it, there are diodes capable of blocking ESD voltages all over the board before you get to sensitive electronics,

Not all ESD damage is immediately apparent. CMOS gates can sustain partial damage that doesn't kill the chip outright, but causes it to no longer meet spec and/or die prematurely at a later date. Yes, there are protection diodes on most PCBs; but these are typically only used on external signal pins. Individual chips have internal protection diodes too, but these provide only partial protection.

Chrispy_ wrote:and almost everything is covered in heatsink/heatspreader these days anyway.

Only if you're talking high-end GPUs with heatsinks on both sides of the PCB. Most other expansion cards, motherboards, HDDs/SDDs, etc. still have a lot of exposed components and traces.

***

Last winter, I killed a mechanical keyboard simply by sitting down in my chair and reaching for the keyboard. Just as my fingers were about to touch the keys, I felt a spark arc from my finger into the keyboard, somewhere near the Enter key. The discharge killed both of the Shift keys, and the USB port the keyboard was connected to. (It turns out the RK-9000 has a dedicated row in the switch matrix which is used just for the Shift keys, and the sense line for that row got fried...)
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