Preventing “Oh Crap!” moments

Gordon Ung

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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