January 2009 - From the Trenches

Dell Dimension 3000 mobo just before removal

UltraX PCI Post Card Boot Results

Dead Dell Desktop

A customer gave me their old Dell Dimension 3000.  There is no boot, nothing on screen, the four diagnostic lights are simply out.  According to the Dell Service Manual, this indicates a pre-bios boot failure.  In essence, when you power up your PC, the blue Dell Logo you normally see is the Bios (Basic Input-Output System) which performs basic diagnostics, including testing the memory, hard drive, video, and other components, then booting Windows.  This failure is coming on even before the bios has a chance to instantiate.  The power light is a solid yellow.  The Intel chipset chip the FW82801EB after 60 seconds gets so hot you can't touch it.   The customer had a wireless card in one of the PCI slots, and I noticed the card was flopping loose inside the case because the backplate retaining screw was missing.  Did this card come out while the PC was operating and did it short out the system board?   The Ultra-X PCI diagnostics board does not reveal any information - the diagnostic codes are all Zeros (0000).  So after the usual diagnosis:

--Reset the board with the CMOS jumper (this is actually a password reset jumper)
--Pull the CMOS battery and leave it out, along with the main ATX Power connector overnight
--Replace the CR2032 battery
--Install a known good power supply
--Replace the processor with a known good CPU

The Intel fw82801eb chip which gets so hot it will burn the fingers

A photo of the Dimension 3000's Intel Chipset fw82801eb which is getting red hot.

So either we have a catastrophic failure of the system board, failure of an oscillator, or perhaps the PCI wireless card shorted some electronics on the main board. In any event, it's best to replace the systemboard.

For replacing the mainboard, I am going to Discount Electronics of Austin, where they have used and refurbished motherboards.  A new motherboard from Dell costs too much.  Based on research from Dell's user Forums (and yes, granted sometimes you have to take some advice with a grain of salt) it is possible to install a Dell Dimension 3000 (the original) a Dimension 4600, or an Optiplex 170L motherboard back into the case.

I decided on the Optiplex Motherboard because it has a SATA port, plus I believe the Optiplex motherboards have slightly better quality and service life than Dimension motherboards.  Note that the Optiplex 170L motherboard has fewer PCI slots.  Now it remains to be seen if I can use the same Windows XP Home Edition Product Key which came with the unit.  I'll know more when the board arrives.  I'll add a followup paragraph when the new system board arrives.

Pny 9600GT installed in HP Pavilion a6110n

Video Card Replacement in HP Pavilion A6110N

Just a few photos here, the original video card included with the HP Pavilion A6110N (AMD Athlon 64 x2 4400 based, with Windows 32bit Vista Home Premium) which shipped with the PC - an Nvidia GeForce 6150SE had developed problems with some of its onboard ram.  Since the HP warranty had ran out, PCNS installed a PNY 9600 Series Verto card.  In case any other readers decide to do this, installation was straightforward.  I first downloaded new Vista 32 bit drivers for the card from Nvidia's website.  This is a good idea because often times the drivers which ship in the box are out of date.  Then I uninstalled the Nvidia card drivers which came with the HP computer. Powered down and removed the old card and installed the new card.  The PNY 9600GT is a rather long card, and as you can see in the picture (sorry it's a little fuzzy) you will lose the use of some IDE and SATA ports. Pny 9600GT card overhangs IDE and SATA Sockets in HP Pavilion a6110n

Vista Home Premium - Mouse Arrow, black background, nothing more

Another weird one with Vista.  Customer complained when they turned on the PC it come up to a mouse arrow with a black screen.  The Windows Vista startup logo would work, but once where you expect the login screen to appear, the screen went black.  In a Microsoft Technet "Ask the Core Team" a senior Microsoft Techy says this is due to the Remote Procedure Call Service running under the LocalSystem account instead of the NT Authority\NetworkService account. Technet Article

The author cites certain "third party" remote control software improperly modifies this registry entry.   I was able to confirm the incorrect registry entry, and corrected it by using the BartPE boot CDRom boot disk, and running Registry Edit through BartPE (which is much more simple than the suggested method). Problem solved.  A closer look in the customer's Program Files revealed a program folder "LogMeIn."