House poor...

Kshipper

Posts: 830   +202
TechSpot Elite
You hear the term "House Poor" which means someone buys a house they can barely afford and than they have no extra $$ to furnish their house, do repairs or any upgrades. They can barely afford the mortgage.

I am seeing that with gaming computers. My little computer shop is always full of do-it-yourself gaming computer builds that don't work, boot or POST. Last night I had one in here where the young man screwed the M.2 drive in by putting the stand off on top of the M.2 (instead of underneath). This meant the M.2 was at a very odd angle to the slot. On the phone the young man said he could not remove the screw it was too tight. I said it should come out no problem ..."Righty tighty, lefty loosey" ...but he didn't want to risk it, so he came over and I helped him out quickly.

The young man before that had quite the disaster ....a non-posting gaming build with tons of premium parts literally thrown together. Where ever I looked I saw mistakes. The 2.5" SATA SSD and the HDD not screwed in, just floating in the bottom of the case where the PSU wiring was. CPU cooler arm not tensioned (the CPU would have run hot with a cooler just lightly sitting on the CPU without pressure on it). All the case cooling fans were disconnected and 3 of the fans were just loose in a bag of spare parts. Main 24 pin power connector not down all the way and of course, not clipped. PSU upside down in the case (it should be mounted to pull fresh air from the bottom). All in One water cooler pump attached to the wrong header (why don't people read the manual?). I felt bad for the guy since my labour was much higher finding the mistakes then it would have been just assembling for him from new parts. I guess that is what this post is about. A general appeal to the learning crowd. I know you have to start somewhere, but do yourself a favor and start with less premium parts and of course do your research and for love or Pete start your builds outside the case where it is easy to get at and test. I do that .....still ! =)

Uh Oh cropped.jpg
 

Kshipper

Posts: 830   +202
TechSpot Elite
It just happened again yesterday. A guy purchased a whole bunch of parts new> Asus X570 motherboard, Ryzen 7 5800x, 64GB Corsair ram, NVMe SSD but he got a used 360mm AiO Corsair cooler off Facebook and a bunch of 5v fans with a 12v converter. Once he hooked it all up the magic smoke escaped from the fans and he shut the computer off within 10 seconds to prevent damage.

My job: To check it all over to make sure no mistakes were made. The AIO cooler was non functioning. The pump doesn't even power up. The CPU ran 86c in BIOS and after a short delay hits 101c. I had to put a new cooler in and I only had a Corsair 240mm. It would not mount in the top of the case (best airflow) because the darn ram sticks were in the way (the sticks have some kind of wide top fancy design on them).

I put the rad in the front and everything was going good until I closed the cover (the front panel is glass). That glass front panel restricts airflow too much and the AIO cooler can't cool and the temps hit 91c when stress testing (Prime95 or CinebenchR23).

Here is the case:


He is going to have to run it with no front cover
 
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Kshipper

Posts: 830   +202
TechSpot Elite
OK I have had quite few more jobs this week and this next one is not solved yet. Come on the adventure with me!

This customer has a desktop built by me about 6 months old. Asus Prime B450M-A CSM Mainboard - Ryzen 3 3300x CPU - Kingston 8GB 2666mhz RAM kit - Samsung 870 EVO SATA SSD - Seasonic SI2II 500w PSU 80+bronze Geforce GT710 video card (fanless). It's all in a Fractal Focus G mid-sized case (big plastic viewing window on the one side).

There have been no issues until 2 weeks ago. The customer invited me over to see and hear her computer crackling. She turned it on for me and I could see (and hear) the crackling sound. No smoke just ...shorting out? Hard to say. I shut it down and tell her I will take it to the bench and test it. I'm thinking all kinds of nightmare scenarios that will cost me big to fix.

Once I get it on the bench it is as good as gold. No issues what-so-ever! There is no burnt smell and there is nothing to see. I can't see any issues anywhere. Then it hits me...that sound ....it sounds so familiar like when the power plug is not plugged into the PSU all the way--that crackling sound that they can make. Yes! That's the sound! I think I have it all figured out and I tell her that I am going to change out the PSU cord and that she should be "Good to go". She is not so sure I am right but she agrees. Well that didn't last long. Within a few days she says "the crackling sound is back".

I go over there with a PSU tester and a extra brand new PSU (same model). This is the tester I use..just a cheapo one:

1645775334218.png

She right away powers it up and shows me the crackling thing is still there. As soon as it boots up and makes some noises she goes into the next room to get her cell phone (I guess she heard a message ding). I thought she threw the breaker because the PC powered off and so did the monitor and even the printer nearby did a power cycle. I was like "Whoaa, did you cut the power?". She said "No".

Now I'm thinking she has power problems in her house. She says she has had a computer in this spot for the last 20 years and never had a problem. Her husband overhears and fetches an extension cord and brings me power from the other side of the room (I don't know if it is from the same circuit). I say "Thank you" and I proceed to disconnect her PSU in the case and connect it to my tester. When I connect the PSU power cord to the extension cord and I flip the power on, the tester briefly flickers and it is dead. It does that if the PSU is dead. This is normal. So now I am thinking..."Wow, I have a dead or iffy PSU here" I open the new PSU and test that and it does the same darn thing. The tester flickers briefly and is "Dead" too. Or is it?

I tell the customer I have no choice here but I have to take the machine again and re-test the PSUs on the bench. I even guess that maybe my tester is no good all of the sudden. Once I get the rig to the bench. What do you think happened? The tester works fine on both PSU and the PSUs test fine. The computer boots up like a boss, no problemo at all.

I called the customer to tell her what I found and all I can think of is that there is a problem with the power at her place. But what the specific problem is ...I don't know. I am going to go back over there with a APC 1000w UPS with AVR and a brand new battery in it (fully charged). I can run some monitoring software that comes with that APC unit and it will report how often it has to intervene and prop up the voltage if we don't have 115-120v AC.

Anyone want to hazard a guess.....?
 
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Kshipper

Posts: 830   +202
TechSpot Elite
Update: Yes, it is a problem with the circuit in that room. The voltage sinks to zero at random times. I can see it happen in real-time on the UPS. The customer is going to have to hire an electrician or buy her own UPS to power the computer. I should bill her for this since this was ultimately not my problem, but I solved it.
 

Kshipper

Posts: 830   +202
TechSpot Elite
Another gaming computer showed up today. The customer said the PC was shutting itself off in 20 seconds. I was thinking: Heat issue? PSU? This one was an MSI prebuilt gaming computer with an Nvidia GTX graphics card (It looked 1660-ish). It was powering up, but it wouldn't load Windows 11, it just showed a black screen. I gave it a good cleaning and then tested the PSU (it tested good). On one of my boot attempts I briefly saw "Installing updates, do not shut off your computer". That got me thinking "Ahh this is one of those stuck-update-black-screen-things I have been seeing here and there" on other machines. I guess I was wrong because I never saw it again however I did get to the login screen. I didn't know the pin# or the password so I decided I will enter the UEFI/BIOS settings by holding down the shift key and rebooting.

Well, that didn't work it went to the login screen again. I did a shutdown and pounded the delete key to get into BIOS. Nope, that didn't work. On the next attempt, I tried pounding on F2. I still couldn't get into the BIOS. I hooked up a BIOS speaker and now I could hear 3 long tones. Hmm, that is probably memory. I power off and move the RAM stick closer to the CPU. I am thinking it is supposed to be closer to the CPU anyways. That didn't make a difference. Each boot has the 3 long POST beeps but half the time it loads to the login screen and half the time it's "Black Screen City - Population 1".

I decided I was going to reset the BIOS since that will force memory training and it should stop the boot process and let me use F1 to get into the BIOS. That worked! I reset the clock, turned off 'Fast Boot' and I see the RAM is running at 2666MHz, the fastest speed his Intel I5-9400F will run ram at. Satisfied we are good now I see a proper POST with an MSI splash screen, no POST beeps and Windows loads 100% now. The cause? We had a power outage just the other day city-wide I bet this machine took a jolt of extra juice the corrupted the BIOS.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,739   +7,680
The 2.5" SATA SSD and the HDD not screwed in, just floating in the bottom of the case where the PSU wiring was.
I do this sometimes myself, leave HDDs loose in the bottom of the case, in instances such as with Matx cases, where there are only provisions for two drives. However, I do cut out a piece of cardboard to act as an insulator between the drive electronics, and the case bottom.

Yeah, admittedly it's nothing a tech could get away with, but I've run machines for months like that without any problems.

Hell, for a simple file transfer or copy operation, (copy and paste/ backup), I'll leave the destination drive lay on the desk, with the SATA and PSU cable supplied from the machine.. This preempts running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to find an external enclosure


Main 24 pin power connector not down all the way and of course, not clipped. PSU upside down in the case (it should be mounted to pull fresh air from the bottom).
This doesn't hold true in some cases.< (Pun maybe intended), I replaced an old Antec "breath from the back", 380 w PSU with a later EVGA bottom fan unit. My Antec 900 doesn't have bottom vent holes, so you must mount the PSU "upside down", in order for it to breath. Luckily, Antec does offer the proper screw holes to allow for this. (I think this mounting solution is even part of the ATX specs.(not really sure though).