Out of the frying pan…

So two days ago I got invited to participate in the City of Heroes beta test, which I found surprising considering that the game has just gone gold and should be hitting store shelves sometime next week, but I’m not one to turn down a chance to play the game for free for a week so I logged in and downloaded all 755 megs that made up the client. With my broadband it only took a half-hour or so and the next thing I know I’m busy making up a super hero and then right in the middle of customizing her skin-tight super-outfit my PC suddenly shuts itself off.

What the fuck?

I press the power button and it starts to power up again only to shut down almost immediately. I let it sit for a few moments and tried again and went into the BIOS immediately so I could check system temps. Just as I thought the CPU was running hot. It started at around 58 degrees Celsius and started climbing into the 70’s. Oooo. Not good. Max operating temp for an AMD Athlon 2500+ is around 85 degrees Celsius and with as high as this was at idle I’m sure I was hitting that when the processor was under load and that’s why it was shutting down. A safety feature built into the processor. Checking the case I see all the fans are running so I’m confused as to what the problem is. Shutting it down and inspecting things more closely revealed that the CPU fan has collected way more dust than it first appeared. OK, not a problem. Remove the fan from the heatsink and blow it all out with compressed air. Put it back together and turn it on and the temps are much more reasonable at around 53 degrees Celsius at idle and only around 64 or so under load. Not GREAT, but tolerable.

So I get to thinking it’s about time I swapped out the stock heatsink and fan for something a bit more robust and some thermal grease. So today I picked up a new HSF unit on the way home from work and I sat down first thing in the door and set about swapping out the old for the new. I had a little trouble getting the new heatsink on as it was considerably larger than the old one. Hit the power switch and… and… and…


The case is lit up like a Christmas tree and fans and hard drives are spinning merrily, but there’s no video signal and no POST beeps. Is that a burning smell? Shut it off. Turn it on. Same thing. Shut it down. Take out the processor. Turn it on. Motherboard immediately starts playing a “THE CPU IS NOT INSTALLED” sound sample to me so the motherboard is OK. Put the processor back in and remount the HSF and turn it on. Nothing. Just lights and fans. Shut it down and look at the chip closely, doesn’t look like I crushed it though it does look like the thermal grease built up a bit more than I expected when I was trying to get the HSF latched down. About all I can figure is that there must have been too much thermal grease and it ended up having the reverse effect of what was intended and I fried my processor.

Shit, damn, fuck, damn, shit, dammit. I’ve fried my share of hardware components in my time, but I have never, ever, fried a processor. Dammit. Not happy. Seriously not happy. About the only bright side to this whole thing is that the 2500+ is considerably cheaper than when I bought it a year ago and I’ve got a new retail version on the way via 2 day air for a mere $80. I considered getting a bigger processor, but the speed differences between the 2500+ and the 2800+ wasn’t all that much and put the cost over $120. Any of the higher model Athlons than the 2800+ and I’d be close to the cost of one of the new Athlon 64 bit processors which are going for an amazingly inexpensive $170 these days, so there’s no point in buying anything bigger than the 2800+. I’d love to get an Athlon 64 instead, but that would require buying a whole new motherboard to go along with it and I definitely can’t afford to do that right now. So I’ve got the same processor as the one I just fried, dammit, on the way and it should be here no later than Tuesday. So I’m a little less pissed than I was, but I’m still not happy.


15 thoughts on “Out of the frying pan…

  1. That really sucks man.  I only know a little bit about computers (I definitely don’t qualify as a programmer), but I can’t imagine burning out a freakin’ processor.  Good thing they’re cheap nowadays, though - never coulda guessed they’d be affordable.

    My friend’s brother had a computer he built that overheated so easily (due to how powerful the freakin’ thing was), he had to buy a special fan for it.  Whenever they run the thing, it actually makes the room it’s in about twenty degrees hotter than the other rooms in the house.  Needless to say, before they got the fan, he ended up melting some of it.

  2. Maybe, it has something to do with the game? Maybe that is why they are beta testing because of this particular ‘frying you customer’s’ problem?

  3. What is that I smell?  Pizza—no?  Meatloaf—no?  Yes, it is the Evil one and his processor doing a slow burn.  Then he wonders why I don’t like trying new stuff!!

  4. My name is Diane Hattula.  I am an artist and mother living in Escondido, California.  I
    believe that the coming presidential election is critical to the future of our country and our
    world.  Please take a second to read my message and, if you agree with it, please pass it
    on to your friends. 

    Unlike last election, most of us are now united in our opposition to President Bush and in
    our support of the Democratic candidate Kerry. 

    But our unity will not be enough. 

    I hope to persuade you to participate in the coming campaign in a new way - to seek out
    Republican and independent voters and discuss the election and the future of our country
    with them.  Casual political conversations are no longer socially taboo for a good reason
    - if democracy is to work, we have to talk to each other.  And advertising research tells
    us that the most effective promotional strategies involve ?word of mouth? campaigns. 

    Republican and independent voters are most receptive to arguments based on the
    Republican economic assault on the middle class and the environment.  Many voters
    presently have a skewed understanding of these issues.  I have devoted my web site,
      to presenting arguments and illustrations which can be used to
    educate voters on these topics.  Please take a look at it.

    Again, if you agree with this message, please forward it to other Democratic-leaning
    voters that you know.

  5. Mom, this wasn’t really anything new, I have to install heatsinks and fans every time I build a system, this was just a new HSF unit. I’ve done this hundreds of times and this is the first time I broke my PC in the process. Even then, as I always say, it’s not anything I can’t fix. OK, it’s costing me some extra money, but I can fix it.

    Diane, as much as I appreciate hearing about your political webpage it would have been nice if you’d attached your post to one of the many political entries I have on my website. I’m half tempted to remove your comment as inappropriate to the thread. Please try to attach such things to topics that actually have some bearing on the comment in the future, eh?

  6. This is why I don’t work on my car OR my computer

    You released the magic smoke.  You may not have seen it escape from your CPU, but you did releas it.  When you let the magic smoke out of your electrical components, not only is the component out of magic (and won’t run), but the smoke slowly collects in the area.

    For proof, I submit to you the many times students released the magic smoke in my EE 101 lab many years ago.  The more smoke that was released, the more students tended to release the magic

    Sorry to hear about your sick computer!  I’m about to upgrade mine, once I sell off my extra motorcycle (Honda v65 Sabre).  Thankfully, I’ll have a one year warrantee against smoking and other related ills.


  7. This is one of those things that all guys who homebrew their PCs do at least once in their lives, or so I’m told. I know a couple of guys that have fried multiple processors or, worse, crushed them when putting on the HSF. Talking about it at lunch with a fellow DIYer we determined that it probably wasn’t that I had too much thermal grease as much as it’s likely the heatsink was uneven. Too much thermal grease will result in less than efficient heat transfer, but shouldn’t fry the CPU.

  8. I wonder if Diane’s post is actually made by her or is one of those spam bots thing.

    But anywho, I have taken a look at the site and the sad thing is that while it is supposedly a democratic support site, most of its data end before or on 2000. So it is more of a statement on Clinton’s ‘failure’ rather than Bush. And for the data that goes significantly past it such as the annual wage increase, it actually provides ammunition that the recession was about to kick in between 1999-2000 since those years can be seen as the peak of the business cycles.

    Although, looking the wage figures past 2000 when unemployment rate went up, an argument could be made that the failure in economic policy is that of failing to push down wages at a faster rate.

    And the few arguments in there seems particularly weak because they just provide conclusions without any reasoning.

    Final analysis: Average short summary statistic site, which can provide equal ammunition for both democrat and republican parties. But Great art pieces in the website, love that ripple water effect of the second painting.

  9. That is exactly why I buy pre-built systems from Dell. I don’t want to deal with all that stuff, and I just don’t understand hardware like I used to back in the Apple ][ days.

    Hope you got things back up and running happily.

  10. I had a motherboard go out on me just moving it between cases, on a hard counter with all concerned objects & persons definately grounded to the safety ground.  You lost a cpu.  On the other hand, I had a guy on another board tell me he sits in the middle of the carpet wearing sweaters in winter installing memory w/o any grounding wires and has never fried anything.  Or at a former job, watching an IT guy flip a 386 on it’s side (Wham! My jaw dropped open when he did it), pull the sim chip out of his shirt pocket (w/o any bag or antistatic) and plug it in, with everything working.  After years jacking with electronics, I’ve realized it’s just Murphy’s law.  Best we can do is have the Luddite moment, acknowledge, and replace.  And be glad it wasn’t a $300 replacement!

    If you’d put too much thermal compound, it’d ooze out the sides, which could potentially short something. 

    May your 2nd day carrier be fleet of foot with the jetstream up its butt and arrive a day early!

  11. Not at this point, no. The game is fun and all, but not so much that I’m willing to plunk down $50 plus monthly for it when there’s so many other games out there I want badly. When it drops in price by about $30 (which it inevitably will) then I’ll consider jumping into the fray.

  12. Les, if you’re interested The Matrix Online is choosing beta testers.  I’ve only seen bits & pieces of it - my co-worker who’s Tech Lead for the website has been playing - and it looks pretty good (I admit I’m in the minority of computer geeks who can’t STAND games).  The graphics are pretty cool, but I couldn’t tell you too much more about the game itself.

    Heh, the last PC game I played through to the end was “The Curse of Monkey Island,” when I was out on medical leave many years ago and had nothing better to do!

  13. Way ahead of you, OB. I signed up to beta test both The Matrix Online and EverQuest 2. Haven’t heard from either one yet so I’m not optimistic, but it never hurts to try.

  14. I’ll see if I can put in a good word for ya today.  I try to take full advantage of whatever little perks go with being a corporate drone.

    BTW, Sorry for laggin’ on that package I promised to send… I’ll try to sweeten the pot to make up for the delay!

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