[Techtalk] Build it! redux, and AMD woes

Wendy Galovich wendy at scottishmusician.com
Sat Nov 10 07:56:22 EST 2001

I'd definitely second Almut's comments about checking the power supply. 
Here's why..

Last winter I upgraded my mother's PC from a 486. The original machine was an 
AT, and naturally I wanted as much of an upgrade as possible within that form 
factor, I chose Soyo's 5EH5 mainboard and a 500 MHz processor. The board also 
happened to have both AT and ATX power supply sockets, which turned out to be 
a very good thing, though I didn't pick it for that. 

Anyway, replaced the board, processor and memory, and initially everything 
was running great... and then peripheral components mysteriously started to 
"die". First it was the floppy drive, which worked for about three days, then 
ceased to be recognized in the BIOS segment of the boot-up, and the light on 
the front of the drive would stay on all the time (and no, I didn't have the 
floppy cable connected wrong.) So I replaced the floppy drive, and the new 
one worked for about the same length of time before the same thing happened. 

Next it was the CD-ROM drive... same routine. Also, I have to mention here 
that I'd already replaced the CD-ROM drive about two months before upgrading 
the motherboard and processor, because the original had mysteriously died in 
the same way.

At that point I was starting to ask myself whether these hardware failures 
were mere coincidences, or if there was a common physical component, 
connected to all of the failed devices, causing them - and the only two I 
could think of were the motherboard and the power supply. I took a guess at 
the power supply partly because the drives that failed were actually damaged 
to the point where they wouldn't work in another system either (tried that!) 
Also, several years ago we had one computer damaged by power fluctuations in 
our home (we replaced the surge protectors with UPS devices after that), and 
the damaged drives were beginning to look like a similar situation. Last, it 
simply cost less to replace the power supply, and *know* that I had a good 
one, than to continue replacing other parts as they randomly failed. 

It worked - the PC in question hasn't fried anything else since. In the 
process I did also switch from an AT power supply to an ATX, since the board 
allowed me to do that... at my level of technical competence it was *much* 
easier to do that, and replace the AT switch with an ATX than to try to 
figure out how to wire an AT and hope I got it right. 


On Saturday 10 November 2001 09:01, Almut Behrens wrote:
> On Sat, Nov 10, 2001 at 08:05:07PM +1100, jenn at simegen.com wrote:
> It could be the power supply, too, in case you have many components in
> your system. Especially with Athlon systems this in an often overlooked
> source of various diverse kind of problems. The processor itself already
> pulls a fairly high current, so if there are also enough other power
> consuming parts in the system (like HDs, CD-burner, a video card with
> the latest gee-whiz graphics engine, several NICs, soundcard, TV-tuner,
> and who knows what...) then there's a chance that this is just too much
> for the power supply.  It usually is a bit difficult to correctly
> estimate the required total power, so it's always a good idea to have a
> bit more available. As a general rule of thumb, anything that gets
> warm/hot consumes noticeable power -- so your HD probably is one such
> candidate. For a typical Athlon system, I wouldn't go below a 300W
> power supply, though that pure number isn't the whole truth -- as you
> might expect there are differences in quality. Before actually failing
> completely, some of them tend to exhibit less desirable properties,
> like voltages dropping below the tolerances, spikes/ripples in the
> output, etc... (unfortunately, I can't recommend a specific model or
> manufacturer, and availability changes quickly, anyway -- hopefully you
> know someone in a computer shop you can trust to give proper advice).
> Personally, I'd get out my oscilloscope and check the level/smoothness
> of the power supply's output lines... yet I understand that not
> everyone is an ex electronics junkie, and thus may not have one of
> those devices in the attic ;)  But maybe you have a friend who knows
> someone who owns such equipment... For the less tricky problems of this
> kind a simple multimeter (around $10) will do as well, though it will
> not detect spikes an such...  Many modern BIOSes provide a similar
> voltage monitoring functionality, but the problem with this is that you
> can't watch it in vivo, while compiling...
> Does the problem actually always (reproducibly) occur only *after* a
> while of compiling activity, or does it also occasionally happen at
> random without a 'power consuming history' preceding it?  This minor
> distinction might help to tear apart whether it's a temperature-related
> or a more static 'just-a-bad-RAM' problem.
> Okay, I think I've rambled enough again, so just one last remark on the
> temperature of your hard disk:  I'm not so sure about the very latest
> WD models, but other WD hard disks I've come across (which are
> beginning to gather dust by now), also do get quite warm, but are
> working fine otherwise. In short, I don't assume that this is the
> problem.
> Good luck,
> - Almut
> PS: which kernel are you using?  I've heard faint rumours that with the
> most recent kernel(s) there may be a subtle bug in memory management
> which could strike the innocent user, who got used to not expecting
> such troubles with linux. Not sure, though... so don't nail me down on
> that...  Anyway, to rule out software-side issues, have you tried
> running a different kernel version for testing purposes?
> (Or is that what you are trying to do at the moment, but can't complete
> as a result of that very problem...? ;)
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