April 3, 2010

Son-of-a-Bitch: The PC Edition

I call this: computers,gaming,pc,tech — Posted by KP @ 5:40 am

So you know, I’m home on vacation for five lovely days.

What’s the one thing I want to do on the rare occasions that I’m home? Why, play on my gaming PC, of course. It’s big and heavy and can’t go anywhere, but I’ve put a lot of money into it over the years, and sometimes I’d like to play it a little before it’s obsolete.

Well when I got home, I noticed that it was making a strange sound. It sounded to me like there was something wrong with one of the fans in the back. Upon further investigation, I realized the noise was coming out of the power supply. This got me nervous.

First of all, the PSU is one of the only original parts from when I first built it in January of 2005. I was going to replace it at the same time as the motherboard, CPU, video card, and RAM, back in 2008, but I ran out of money. It’s a 600W, which was really good at the time it was new, and when I discovered it could just barely run the more power-hungry components I was adding, I decided to stick with it until I had more time and money for an upgrade.

Sometimes it does weird things. Sometimes when the computer is off, the lights on my joystick and headset flicker. Sometimes all the case lights don’t come on. A lot of times, the light on the power button doesn’t come on. Sometimes peripherals would light up when the computer was off when they never have before. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it.

My basic assessment of it has been, “yeah it’s sketchy, and I’d feel better with a PSU that’s really designed to handle newer parts.” But I’ve been on the road ever since the upgrade in 2008, and naturally I haven’t felt it was wise to invest in any upgrades since then, since computer parts lose their value so quickly.

So today I started to really worry about the noise. It rises and falls with the activity level of the PC (i.e. it starts or gets louder when opening or saving large files). I did some research online, and it seems like it’s fairly common in old or cheap PSUs. Something to do with the transistors getting loose. Apparently it’s not a sign that your PSU is going to explode, although the general consensus seems to be that it’s a good sign you should get a new one.

There’s also the strange fact that my TrackIR receiver for some reason stopped working while I was gone (like has no reaction at all to being plugged in, like it’s totally dead). It was one of the things that would light up for no reason when the PC was off. The other strange new behavior is that the computer will not turn on right after the switch on the back of the PSU is turned on. Based on the flickering of the lights on my peripherals (which luckily pretty much all have lights), I can see that it’s as if it’s summoning up the power to turn on over the course of a minute or so. First my headphones will flicker, then get stronger, and finally light up fully, then one side of my X52 joystick, then the other, then once both of those are lit, or at least starting to flicker, then the power button will actually succeed in turning on the computer. Scaaaary!

Oh, and also when saving the BIOS settings, instead of a restart, the computer suddenly shuts down, and again has to go through this building up of power before it will turn on.

I am beginning to seriously worry about what this unstable power might be doing to my peripherals, and if it has indeed killed my TrackIR, I don’t want to lose anything else!

While the expense of a new PSU is an inconvenience, if the damn thing does blow up in the next day-and-a-half, I can’t replace the whole computer. So as much as I want to play while I’m home, the fact is, ordering a $100 part from Newegg after the tour is over is the smarter thing to do, rather than trying to squeeze a few hours of fun out of it and frying $2000 worth of parts that I wouldn’t be able to replace for years. It would all be over — that’s it, kaput — gaming on a Macbook Pro till the end of time.

Speaking of which, those new Macbook Pros rumored to have the i7 chips still aren’t out yet. Mine is behaving lately, so I’m actually OK with the delay. I really still love this machine, although on this last leg of the tour I had some more time for gaming, and couldn’t help thinking how much better it would be with a faster CPU and more video memory.

Anyway, perhaps this unfortunate situation will cause me to spend a little less time gaming, and more time doing productive projects, like working on the database, and some expansions of the site that I’ve had in mind.

1 Comment »

  1. It sounds like one of the capacitors in the power supply blew.


    Comment by Tom Kiley — April 3, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

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