Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bizzare PC hardware problem

Yesterday one of my Media Center PCs started turning itself off. Not spontaneously, no, but every time I would copy a bunch of data from the network, or generate a lot of disk activity, the lights were going out as if it were a power outage.

I experimented with it a bit. Doing things with CPU or video did not seem to be affecting anything. I ran this batch script alongside playing an HD movie:

@echo off
goto start:

This caused CPU (both cores) to go to 80% utilization. Nothing. But the moment I copied the data, the power would go off.

So today I went to Fry's and bought a new motherboard, a thermal compound, and a Cooler Master Real Power Pro 750W power supply.

The power supply I bought mostly because it was unbelievably cheap - $125 - $50 rebate = $75. Deals like these do not happen very often, even at Fry's. [The deal is not on the web site by the way - boo!]

I did not actually expect that it was a power supply that was going bad because my CPU/video test was working.

However, because changing the power supply is much-much-much easier than changing the motherboard (I was really not looking forward to poring through my records trying to match Windows key to the hardware which was using it), I decided to try that first.

So I did that, and no more shutdowns. The old one was 450W, but it is not a very power-hungry system - 65W CPU, only one hard drive, and the video is a mid-range 7600GS Nvidia card. Be it as it may, the problem seems to be solved.

But why maxing out video card and the CPU was working, whereas disk/network was not - beats me. I'd love to know the answer though.


Alex Efros said...

Chances are this issue related to HDD (less likely - to network card/motherboard), not to power supply. New, and more powerful power supply may compensate issue with HDD, so it looks ok now, but this doesn't mean it's 100% issue with your old power supply (this is like trying to fix memory leak by adding more RAM - will work for some time :-)).

So, it may have sense to send your old power supply for testing... and backup your Media Center PCs HDD.

Dzembu Gaijin said...

Dude ! You should be getting Mac !