Outdated Hardware: When do you say no?

I think that when you look at a computer, you are looking at a rapidly devaluing asset.

Technology evolves very quickly, so quickly that what is the latest and greatest quickly becomes the oldest.

I was working with an old machine today that presented itself with symptoms of rebooting, crashing and a general slowness.

I smelt hardware failure a mile away, so asked for them to bring the system over, this was months ago.

Months ago, I ran through a fair bit of testing with the machine while it was here and concluded that it was an issue with either RAM or CPU.

Unfortunately, at one point there, I took the CPU out to inspect for damage, and a few pins got bent.

Not a problem I thought, CPU pins get bent from time to time when you handle them, and you can’t not get a bent pin ever, so I proceeded to straighten the pins on the CPU.

Unfortunately, one of the pins on the CPU not only got bent, as it was being straightened ever so carefully, it actually just snapped off.

I sat there for about 3 seconds thinking “Oh fu” – 3 seconds over.

Then, I concluded, that the CPU obviously was suffering from some weakness to have simply snapped a pin by such a simple, careful move of a pin (normally they are able to move ever so carefully, without breaking).

Knowing the user of the computer was a smoker gave me some idea of the environment the computer lived in. It was a passive smoker, and suffering from what we’ll call electronicotinal infection.

What this means is the electronics on the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and other electronic components suffer a short of some sort (or many shorts) and this causes the machine to behave weirdly.

Electronicotinal infection is primarily caused by smoking in the same room, as the machine, and other machines subject to the same environment may also suffer from the illness.

Unfortunately, Electronicotinal infection is rarely able to be cured. I’ve seen a few cases of it, and the only conclusion is to eventually replace the equipment due to the damage done to several of the key arteries on the motherboard (or other electronic device).

Please note that you cannot cure such an infection with Nicabate products, these will only contribute to the problem and speed up the inevitable.

Anyway, this machine I was returning back today, to try a correct CPU on, after lending them a 800Mhz range CPU, instead of the 533Mhz they had, whilst I chased down eBay for an equivilent part, resulted in more panic.

The machine would freeze with the 533Mhz processor inside, with a 400Mhz stick of RAM. I tried to access the BIOS to adjust the properties that it was trying to run the hardware at (333Mhz for RAM, 133Mhz for CPU), but had no success, the machine would just freeze.

However, the 2.8Ghz CPU inside the same machine, which was running at 1.4Ghz, assumably due to incompatible hardware, was working fine, and I believe the RAM was operating at 333Mhz there (the CPU was operating on 100Mhz, instead of the normal 200Mhz with 400Mhz RAM).

I also tried the 533Mhz CPU (the new one, sourced from eBay) with 333Mhz RAM (I figure, if it wants to run that, OK). But, the 333Mhz RAM I have is single sided, so I assume this might be the reason why it won’t start with that RAM.

Actually, now that I think of it, I didn’t try it with 2 sticks. Perhaps I should have.

So, I’m now at that point where you start to question, do we keep trying to salvage this machine from its suffering pain?

A computer can last years, 386 (or even 286, or Amiga, or Commodore 64) tought us that much. We all know a computer is capable of lasting a long time, maintained correctly.

This machine however, just doesn’t seem to have a lot going for it.

I think I’m going to source some double sided RAM to place in it, 333Mhz, and see if that’ll play nice with the CPU we sourced for it.

Otherwise, I also have a Celeron 400Mhz CPU to try out as well, maybe it’ll like that and this problem will be solved for a while.

The system however, clearly needs to eventually be replaced, as it is very visible that it’s going to have further problems, and could be a waste of time. It might last a few years though, so trying to keep it going might be worth it.

But, I then realise, there must be cases of systems out there where you consider the owner of this has gone – TOO FAR- it’s time to stop, revive, and well, build a new box.

When you consider new computer hardware is rapidly becoming old computer hardware, replacing an ancient (in comparable terms) hardware is pretty much a good idea to save headaches further on (and costs as well).

I must however ask, has anyone actually had a case where a computer is simply beyond repair, due to any lengthy exposure to substances, and now just worthy of destruction?

I can imagine there might be a few lazy computer stores and so forth out there that would have called it quits when they saw this machine, but I think that they place little faith in the hardware.

I think that some machines are easily fixed, and that some technicians just get lucky, I then think that others perservere too far, and I also think there are others who simply throw in the towel too quickly.

I of course love a challenge, so will give anything a go.


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