Riffed by Dr. Geek
from an idea by Vitriol


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some tools have no place in computer repair

I made an interesting discovery over the weekend: a hacksaw just has no real place in computer repair. How do I know that, you ask? Well, let me tell you a tale of hubris and woe.

I had mentioned previously that my computer at home was making whirring noises for several seconds after I turned it on. I finally discovered that a small fan on the video card was the cause of the problem. It's a cheap little Chinese-made fan, probably with lubricated ball bearings not up to the task long term. The lube is probably drying out or breaking down or something, and the fan does not turn well when it goes from the resting to the running state. So, I turn the computer on, the bearings make noise, the lube finally gets warm enough to kick in and do its job, and the fan quiets down. It's merely an annoying problem at the moment, but one that probably should be fixed.

My solution to the problem was to find a new VGA cooler fan+heat sink that would replace the one used by the manufacturer of my video card. This should be easy, right? There are a grillion gamers and overclockers out there who do this sort of thing all the time. The parts are out there, if you just go looking for them. This is what I told myself at least.

Finding the actual part actually turned out to be a little more difficult. I found a VGA cooler that theoretically fit my graphics card. I say theoretically because a) while the manufacturer web site did not specifically list compatible cards with my chipset, it did list both other and newer chipsets by the same manufacturer, and b) the chipset in question was not included in the list of incompatible chipsets. In the end, I got the cooler in question, checked it against my graphics card, and discovered that while there were matching screw holes, the mounting bracket for the cooler was too long.

This is where the a hacksaw comes in. I decided to cut one end off of the mounting bracket. I used a hacksaw to do this. It wasn't hard, and I thought the cut was fairly successful. I mounted the new fan and heat sink on the card and thought I was ready to go. That feeling lasted all of about ten seconds, until I tried to re-insert the card in my computer. I wouldn't fit. Some fins on the new heat sink were not clearing another component on the motherboard. So, I cut some fins off of the heat sink and tried again. I got closer that time -- close enough to think that I had correctly inserted the card.

I turned the computer on and the newly fixed graphics card did not work. Panic. I tried re-inserting the graphics card. It still didn't work. I eventually removed the new fan and heat sink. The screen remained blank and the graphics card remained dead.

In the end, I had to get a new graphics card. I'm not sure what went wrong with the old one. Did I bend the card too much when I was trying to get the new heat sink on there? Did a piece of metal temporarily connect two points that should have remained unconnected? I don't know know. I will admit that I was unsure of myself throughout the entire operation but I kept thinking "hey I'm a professional, I can do this!"

Note to self: remember how much that thought sounds like "hey y'all, watch this!" -- a phrase very frequently mentioned in the Darwin Awards.

In the end, I had to get a new graphics card. At least the replacement only cost $80.

said drgeek on 2007-01-16 at 3:31 p.m.


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