Log in

No account? Create an account
16 June 2011 @ 10:14 am
I Solder On...  
No, not a typo.

The Saga of the Great Windows 7 Migration, and consequent troubleshooting of the irritating hangs in World of Warcraft (a vital application, of course), led me to the conclusion I needed better cooling, especially once I discovered the fan in the power supply was, well, NOT TURNING.

So, it was off to Fry's and home I came with a new power supply and a new Really Cool Case (IN WIN BUC), with many fans, screwless access to panels and 5-1/4" drive bays and (coolness of coolnesses) hot swap sideways mounted 3-1/2" ATA bays for hard drives.

The system shut down, the migration of components commenced. Everything went smoothly except for one little thing - the dang board wouldn't stay powered up when everything was in. Up until 4 am, trying everything I could think of (including trying to bring up my music recording PC to see if there were swappable parts and having it fail as well), I finally gave in and headed for bed - and, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I realized I had been stupidly trying to plug the 4-pin connector from the ATX 20+4 into the 12V socket. I almost got up to make the change right away but figured snoozing was the better part of valor and waited until morning later.

With the sun up and shining (well, the rainclouds up and the lights on, but that sounds so gloomy), I plugged in the correct cables and finally got things to boot.

But then ...

The data drive, she would not be recognized by the BIOS.

See, I have 2 hard drives. I keep programs on one and data on the other. This is so that any OS messing about (which is on the main partition of the first drive), which will likely entail re-installing apps anyway, won't have any risk of blowing away data. The worst that will happen is I have to do a complete app install.

Unfortunately, it was the second drive - a 1-TB Seagate - that seemed to have sunk in the bay, dead in the water (so to speak).

Much research ensued, followed by a surgical removal of the controller card and discovery of the exact spot where the magic smoke had leaked out. Poking about on line I found that it is POSSIBLE to recover the drive through swapping the controller card, but you not only need the EXACT components, you also need to swap out the EEPROM from the original card because the drive is inaccessible without very specific calibration info. Gaah.

I had a backup, albeit 2 weeks old, so I headed to Best Buy (Fry's being just too far for the needed expedience) and picked up another Seagate 1Tb drive. Installed, formatted, reloaded, and at least I could get to the important stuff. However, due to some problems with writing dual layer DVDs, while I had backed up my full application data after a scare at the end of May, I never quite got around to backing up the 40 GB of music I had ripped/purchased and were sitting on a separate partition.

That, and knowing I had just finished moving about 4 months of emails from the email server to local files, meant I really wanted to try to save the data on the original drive if possible.

Back to the web, and the Seagate community forum, where technicians will look at uploaded pictures of your damage and tell you what you can do (if anything) to fix it. OK, just that concept boggles my mind, but lo and behold with my pictures they were able to tell me what happened (overvolted the +5 volt input), what burned out (an inductor and probably the voltage regulator diode), and how to fix it (clean away the charred remains of the inductor, bypass the spot by soldering a wire across, and clip out the diode which isn't needed if the power supply is reliable). They provided pictures plus answered my questions about where the EEPROM was located (there were 2 on the card) just in case I needed to actually replace the controller.

Now, I am lousy at soldering. Through this experience I have finally figured out why - I don't use flux in the right places, I use too much or too little heat, and my hands tend to shake too much for tiny (and I am talking TINY) wires. However, with perseverance (and much cursing and swearing) and the help of some silver-and-flux soldering paste, I got the wire affixed and not shorting to any of its neighbors. Clipping out the diode was simple. Put everything together, set up the smoke test (man, I love those side hot-swap bays even if I power off first - no screws to mess with, pop out, pop in, et voilà!) --

No smoke. Good sign.
Recognized by the BIOS. Better sign.
All data intact under windows. My Ghod, I DID it.

Cue Engineer's Victory Dance.

One thing - this kind of service, so far above and beyond the "let's treat you as an idiot and walk you through the simple stuff, then give up and charge you money" level as to be almost unheard of in the 21st century, has wedded me to Seagate disks for life. Unless impossible to do so I will buy Seagate hard drives from now on.

But wait - there's MORE.

While piddling around trying to reload the data on the new drive before repairing the old one, I had major problems with my Plextor 870A DL DVD drive. It simply would not reliably read disks that were read perfectly well on my work laptop and by my Memorex USB drive. No changes of frimware would do the trick, and Plextor's own internal tools showed the disks weren't recognized so it wasn't a driver problem. That meant the drive also was probably kaput, especially since I replaced the (notoriously fragile) 80-pin IDE cable with no change in operation.

Off to Best Buy again (are you getting the feeling I could almost have just bought a new motherboard/processor/memory/graphics card and built a new PC at this point? I am.) Got a new LG IDE drive (along with an external connection for the SATA HD so I could put the (likely more reliable) new drive into the system, get the data from the old drive, and save the old drive as a sparsely used backup device or spare).

The screwless connectors and hot-swap bays meant I was in and out of the system in less than 10 minutes replacing TWO major drives, and up we came.

The bottom line - I have a fully working Dual Layer DVD drive, with new case, new power supply new hard drive and data rescued from the old drive. I should be able to eke out another year on my creaky AGP, non-PCIe, 4 GB memory motherboard, and this case and other components should transfer just fine to the new one when it happens.

But I haven't tested WoW yet...
Current Mood: excitedjazzed
Arthurkingofthewho on June 16th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Hey, what realms are you on in WOW?
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on June 16th, 2011 02:38 pm (UTC)
Still have a character on The Venture Co, my active solo characters are on Earthen Ring (under the influence of singedcat)
Eternal Novicephillip2637 on June 16th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
You're reinforcing my belief that hardware is just stuff that interferes with computing. :)
sffilksffilk on June 16th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
I completely empathize with what you're going through. When I finally got my brother-in-law to put the new processor chip I'd bought on sale several months prior into the computer, it started a saga where first I had to buy a new fan, then a new case because the new fan wouldn't fit into the case. The system hiccups now and then, but at least for now I'm operational. It'll probably be another 2 years before I do a full upgrade, I think, just about the time Windows 9 comes out (and I'll upgrade to Windows 7 at that point).
Keriskeristor on June 16th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Wow! indeed. And many thanks for that information on Seagate, I like them as drives but had no idea that they did that sort of service.

(I'm fine at soldering -- radio tubes and components of that vintage, where you just need as much heat as possible (gas heated irons FTW!) and have sensible fractions of an inch between wires and components. And where I could actually see the stupid things, unlike the surface mount specks.)
Bill Roperbillroper on June 16th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
I sympathize with your hardware problems. A lot. :)
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on June 16th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
Heh. Bedlam House almost has enough money for a fully upgraded music recording PC (I had to wait to afford the new PCIe RME card for the ADAT transfers), so there should be a Whole Lot of Interesting going on at that point.

Luckily, the problem that distracted me for a while from the household PC is just a memory chip issue, and I have spares on hand, so at least the current incarnation is OK.
Marion: iSnape handaunty_marion on June 16th, 2011 10:22 pm (UTC)
Damn, I didn't win the lottery last night, so I can't pay for you to come over and Do Things to my ancient and cranky and unreliable computer...

Congratulations on persevering through flux and solder!
msminlrmsminlr on June 16th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
OT but...
Did you get my email of yesterday evening about where to send HP printers for getting them worked on?

msminlrmsminlr on June 17th, 2011 12:08 am (UTC)
Re: OT but...
Or is it waiting patiently for the computer to get back to where it can FIND the email?