Adventures in Troubleshooting

FrustratedIt’s been an interesting week, to say the least.  Last weekend was spent in Atlanta, Georgia with my lovely wife, but before I went I gave the house a good cleaning.  Kitchen, living room, bedroom, did some laundry, and of course…my office…

Now, I don’t REALLY clean my office like I should more than once a year.  I’m the type of person that likes to set things and not worry about it for a long time, so aside from taking out the trash, clearing my desk, and blowing out my tower from time-to-time, it develops a “natural state”.  Which is fine, until I decide to mess with it and everything goes to pot.

So, before I left for ATL, I cleaned the office really well.  Moved my tower out of the way, swept the entire floor, got rid of some boxes, you know the drill.I thought everything was hunky-dory when I loaded up the truck and left.  My first inkling that there was a problem struck that night when I attempted to remote in to my tower to do some work on GraffitiSuite.  It wasn’t there.  I know I’d left my tower on just so I could take care of some bugs that needed to be worked out and update documentation…but it just wasn’t there.

After freaking out a little more than I should (and perhaps a little more than would be considered “manly”), we called my mother-in-law who was staying here while we were away.  According to her the lights on the tower were on and she could hear the fans.  I knew something was wrong, but there was no way I was going to walk her through troubleshooting on my pride and joy of a workstation.

I didn’t get any work done over the weekend.  Every time I tried to do something, I just came back to wondering what had happened to my beloved tower.  A thoroughly unproductive few days, but I thought “hey, I’m in Atlanta with my wife, I can’t do any REAL work, so I’ll enjoy it!”  And enjoy we did.  We walked down to an amazing little place off Briarcliff called Pizza Bella, went on a Walking Dead zombie tour that took us through Woodbury (which is a small town called Sanoia — pronounced “Suh-noy” by the locals), and spent a good deal of time just wandering around Atlanta looking at all the beautiful buildings.

Now, I’m not going to cover the other issues that have plagued me over the last few weeks in great detail, but it hasn’t been one of my best times.  Contracts falling through, an expensive PC headset from TurtleBeach literally falling apart while I was wearing it, my truck refusing to run when we were ready to leave Atlanta, and so on.  It’s been a trying month, truly.  What I will continue with, however, is silly little things that can drive you to pull out your hair.

When we arrived one of the first things I did after unloading our vehicles was check my tower.  It had rebooted at some point and was hung at the OS selection screen just waiting for me to choose which operating system suited my needs then.  I selected Windows 8 and went to the kitchen where my wife and mother-in-law were discussing the trip…then I heard a reboot beep.  I hate that beep 95% of the time, because I so rarely reboot my tower.  But there it was, ringing in my ears, clearly audible in the kitchen.

I reentered the office and stared at my monitors, which once again teased me with the OS selection screen.  This time, however, I thought I’d try Ubuntu.  Surely it was just some Windows ridiculousness that I could easily workaround later, once I’d proven that my computer was fine.  I hit enter to bring up Linux and turned to leave the room again, and there was that damned beep.  I continue to swear that it seemed louder and more menacing this time.  Taunting me.  Slowly draining the life from me with each beep.

To the BIOS we go, where I check temperatures.  Everything was fine.  CPU was showing 32°C, a little high, but nothing to be overly worried about.  I turned off the tower, removed the side cover, and decided to remove one of my ATI Radeon 5770s which I’d noticed had run hot before I left.  I slid the cover back in to place and pressed the power button.  It seemed to take days before the OS selection screen appeared, but it relented.  I once again selected Windows 8 and waited, staring at the screen for any hint of a problem.

Windows came up!  So, I thought, that old graphics card had finally bit the dust.  I then stood from the uncomfortable mockery of furniture I call an office chair and left the room.  I’d been elsewhere in the house for about an hour when it boomed through the house, bouncing off walls, family photos, mirrors, and hardwood floors as it made its way to my ears.  Like the oratory assemblage of every movie villain’s laughter all condensed in to a single beep.  The madness!

I decided, at this point, that it had to temperature related.  Temperature, or something I could do nothing about like the motherboard or PSU.  I was praying for temperature, and I was wrong.  I pulled up Open Hardware Monitor and installed some system info skins to give me the info on my desktop for Rainmeter.  Everything was fine at idle, while installing OHM and the Rainmeter skins, so I decided to fire up a game and see what the temps reported.  I went in to Dead Space 3 expecting smoke to rise ever-so-slowly from my exhaust vents, but none came.  I played for about 30 minutes while monitoring the temperatures of my northbridge, 4 different cores, my GPU and all three active HDDs.   None was high enough to trigger a shutdown.  Granted, my CPU reached the staggering height of 71°C, but I knew that wasn’t too far outside the realm of responsible use (the CPU is rated for 69.7, if I remember correctly).  I closed the game, defeated.

The system must have sensed my frustration, because it hadn’t been too long since I closed the game that the tower stuttered and stalled.  I heard it attempt to reboot, the fans kick on, the beep, then down again it went.  At this point, I was dumbfounded.  It’s acting like a heat issue, but it’s not a heat issue.

At this point, I decided to just leave the tower off for a few days and focus on it after I got some work done from my 2007 model MacBook Pro.

I went back to my sickly tower tonight.  I unhooked it, placed it lovingly on my workspace, removed the side panel, and began unhooking the power supply.  Then, I saw it.  It was right there all along.  The reason I’d been having so much trouble couldn’t be so simple, could it?  Yeah, it could.  Just to mess with me.  Just to make this month a bit worse, one of the wires had apparently become dislodged from the PSU to CPU cable for my modular 1250W PSU when I moved my tower before my little road trip.  It was just slightly exposed.  I used a tool, punched it back down in to the plug, and added some electrical tape to bundle the wires tightly (I was going to go the hot glue route, but couldn’t find my hot glue gun).  One…little…wire.

While I had the tower open, I decided to give it a good once-over.  I removed the PSU entirely, took out the CPU cooler, removed all of my SATA connectors, and went to town with a can of compressed air.  I won’t say that I’m proud of the amount of dust that spewed forth from every part of my computer, but it’s far from the worst I’ve dealt with.

I replaced the PSU, cleaned the thermal compound from my CPU and cooler, and applied a new layer.  I pieced everything back together and hooked my tower back up for a test run.  As I write this, my beloved piece of computing equipment has run for three hours straight.  I’ve played several video games with the temperatures remaining below 50°C.  While I write this, in fact, my CPU cores are idling between 35 and 38°C.

TLDR: My 1250W OCZ Modular PSU decided to throw a wire.

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Troubleshooting

    1. Wow, good to hear from you, my friend. Yeah, it was such a simple fix that I keep expecting it to start acting up again. So rarely do the simple fixes fully address the problem…

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