Some small repairs

A disturbing, grinding noise started coming from my PC earlier this week.

When I opened it up, I discovered the noise was coming from the fan on my northbridge chipset. My motherboard is an Asus A7V266-E, one of the few motherboards where, in a fit of insanity, Asus used a fan instead of a simple heatsink to cool the VIA chipset. (Maybe it’s because this mobo was made in 2001 – at the twilight of the dot-com era – where insanity was never in particularily short supply.)

It’s insane because a passive heatsink provides adequate cooling for a chipset, makes no noise and suffers no mechanical wear and tear. It’s the more efficient technology by far. A fan, on other hand, eventually strips its bearings, gets bogged down with dust and gunk, and starts making with the grinding before it shortly stops working.

So I did what any decent engineer would do – I stuck my finger in it, flicked the fanblades until it stopped making that infernal racket, closed my case, and went back to my game of Natural Selection.

Sadly, the problem returned on Thursday, and it brought friends. Shortly after booting up, my computer locked up hard. When I rebooted, I got this unhappy message:

Non-System disk or disk error replace the disk and press any key.

The hard drive sounded like it was trying to spin up, wavered a bit, and then shut itself down. :O :O :O

After panicking for a few minutes, I checked the connections and rebooted. This time, the hard drive seemed to be back to its normal self. However, the chipset fan still wasn’t looking too healthy. The moral of the story is, when a northbridge chipset gets a little too hot, parts of your computer start fainting.

I decided to make another pilgrimage to the modding capital of Canada, Bigfoot Computers, to pick up a chipset cooler.

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The pretty blue thing on the left is the Zalman ZM-NB47J Northbridge Heatsink I picked up. Quasimodo on the right there is the backside of the crusty old Asus chipset fan. The white gunk is thermal paste.

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As you can see on the picture on the left, the chipset is the square object with the dried up thermal paste on it. I wiped that stuff off with some isospyrol alcohol, applied a thin film of Arctic Alumina on it and the heatsink and voila, mission accomplished.

That giant metal thing on the far left is the Zalman heatpipe cooler on my Radeon 9800 Pro Ultimate. Now it has another Zalman heatsink to keep it company.

In the D drive: Far Cry. Quite possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. Too bad the AI and gameplay is so mundane.