Preventing “Oh Crap!” moments

Preventing “Oh Crap!” moments

I call them the “oh crap” moments. They usually occur at 1 a.m. or 6:45 p.m. That’s just enough time to make you think about running to the store for the part you need but not actually enough time to do it.

Instead, I usually find myself staring into a pile of PC parts and a half-assembled machine that I promised would be ready for him in the morning. Yup, in this case, it’s time to say “oh crap!”

It’s also the time to play the blame game. Usually the first target is the manufacturer.

“How could the frakking motherboard maker forget that doohickey!” There’s also “Why would they make it this way, it makes no sense!” and “Since this part isn’t working, the entire line of hardware and software this multi-million dollar corporation must be crap!”

Ah, but then the retailer is the next target as the despair sinks in. “Stupid CompuBin, they must have shipped me a motherboard that was returned to them!” or “No wonder it was on sale, it’s missing parts!”

From there the blame shifts to the manufacturer and the board of directors as I curse their ancestors for making such an inferior product.

Now here’s my advice. Relax and a take a deep breath. After years of dealing with “oh crap!” moments in our lab and at home, I’ve realized that they're usually smarter than you think. And sadly, most of the problems are of my own making. So before you begin howling at the moon, I recommend that you go through this check list to prevent spikes in blood pressure:

1. Look in the box dummy. There’s no need to waste 10 minutes fuming. Just open the box up and look under the cardboard and in the corners of the box. I recently wasted 20 minutes in a panic because a motherboard “didn’t come” with a Nocona adapter plate.

2. Read the manual dummy. And I mean read it. Don’t just flip through it looking for the front-panel layout. If you had just taken time to read the manual you would have seen the 4-point type (why the most important thing is always in the smallest type face I don’t know) that warned you to run the RAM in slots 1 and 2 otherwise the system would not be stable.

3. Even after all these years and hundreds of times of building systems, I still forget to connect the ATX12V/EPS12V power connector on the motherboard on occasion. This leads to a no post condition which leads most people to start jiggling the heatsink, RAM and GPU in place hoping that it will boot. Hey stupid, just plug in the aux power connector!

4. “I can’t believe they didn’t include the serial number with my software!” Hey dummy, did you look inside the flap of the manual or in the box for another piece of paper? Oh.

5. Me on phone to tech support: “I can’t believe you guys would issue a serial number that doesn’t work!” Them: “Sir, that’s 1010, not LOLO.” Me: “Oh, umm, never mind.”

6. Did you plug it in? Really. I’m serious, is it really plugged in? A motherboard I was reviewing recently would not post no matter what. The problem? During install, the PSU AC cable had backed out but still looked like it was plugged in.



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My friend got a assemble-your-self PC from something like "Tech-X" (Made in China) and it didn't even have a GPU, which it bragged about. $800 for crap.





Yeah! I've had my fair share of those. The most recent was when I forgot to plug the auxiliary power into the graphics card. I went nuts wondering why my mobo was beeping its head off...

And I definitely would like a standard for front pin layouts, but for now I'm fine with knowing that white/red is positive and black/blue is negative. =) I got the EVGA 680i + Antec 900's front panel connected in 5 minutes.



I had to go over someone else's build and could not figure out why the system wouldn't post. No errors... nothing. After about what seemed an eternity, the person had a gig stick of fb pc3200 in his slot. Swapped it out with a stick of unbuffered and silently cursed myself for not pulling the damn memory out in the first place.



#2 is SOOO me. Figuring out the front panel layout usually takes longer then assembling the rest of the PC.



I remember when the Athlon 64 bit 3700+ was a big processor to me and one of my friends bought a board and processor, went home and did the same thing. Did not lift the lever bent only one of the pins, but during the process of trying to bend it back.....snap. One dead processor... And as far as the dam 20 pin mobo connector must have left that unplugged a thousand times...actually i kinda like the feeling of relief you get when you realize, that it was just an unplugged molex connector and not a bad HDD, lol.



I totally agree for a standardization of the mobo headers. Then again I'm an engineering student so of course I would vote yay. Seriously though, stability and safety depends on making the electric flow properly. Sure, a switch may not be biased but it's safer to flow electricity in the right direction so the zener diodes and what ever smoothing/filtering circuitry on the boards operates within it's design limits.

What I mean is...the ground should actually be connected to the ground.
Oh and after coming to work and having someone else (non-tech) build a computer that I was suppose to build we were faced with a "dead cpu." I pull the sink only to have the proc come off with the HSF. The problem, the socket lever was never lifted before inserting the proc. Here's a tip: read the manuals twice, think about it (common sense, use it), then do it and take your time!


Switched the reset and pwr conns on mobo.
They need an industry standard on those headers!



Yeah youd think there would be a quick easy way to know which wires are for what, back in the 90's before taking a compy apart id be taking close up pics of all the wiring and draw up my own diagrams, oh crap was the other day when my HD went and my partitions got corrupted. Spent a few days trying to fix it before goign out and buying a new drive. Oh crap i didn't back up my 2 gig outlook datafile recently so i had to say by by to 3 months worth of emails which was a few hundred that could have been thousands in possible orders. Well im reading now the google magic formula to try and get visitors back to my sites and make up for the loss.


LOL no doubt...trying to decipher those things to me is at least an hour long task.

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