Monday, October 21, 2013

Rising from the Ashes: Replacing a Motherboard

I mentioned in a previous post that my secondary system was built from spare parts I had available to me. The motherboard was an Asus P5N-T Deluxe bought several years ago for a build, but it ended up being RMA'd as I was unable to POST the system. It transpired that the LGA 775 socket had a bent pin and some debate ensured about where the fault lay and the board was returned to me in it's damaged state. When I decided recently to try and build another system, I was able to painstakingly bend the CPU pin back to roughly the correct position, resulting in a seemingly stable system; it passed my stability tests (after upgrading the CPU cooler, that is) and for a couple of months the system worked without fault.

Then all of a sudden, the system started freezing during use and eventually couldn't even POST. Initially I thought the problem could be related with the CPU; I had caused the chip to reach and maybe even breach it's maximum operating temperature during my initial stability tests (before I upgraded the cooler). However, I eventually realised this could be the work of my jury rigged repair, I opened the machine up, removed the cooler and CPU in order to take a look at the socket:

The offending pin is located towards the top-right of the socket, but you can barely see it in the above image unless you're particularly eagle-eyed. So, here's a better image that highlights the problem:

I researched ways to reliably fix the pin and found suggestions that ranged from simply repairing with conductive glue to removing the pin and soldering a replacement in from another LGA 775 socket. Now, I am willing to try these suggestions, but both of them come with associated risks and I would need to pull the board from the machine in the process. This is when I decided to try and buy a suitable replacement motherboard, which itself proved to be a bit of a nightmare; older, redundant, hardware tends to increase in value as it becomes less worthwhile to manufacture. I found several possible replacement boards on Amazon all retailing from around £50.00 upwards, with the cheapest being Micro-ATX, which I wasn't keen on. However, on Ebay, I found a hidden gem: an unused Asus Maximus Formula board.

I've wanted to own a Republic of Gamers branded bit of kit for some time now, but they have always been far too expense for my budget when I'm building or upgrading; when this board was released back in 2007 it retailed for around £180. I managed to pick it up for £70 on Ebay, which I was delighted about and couldn't wait for it to arrive! Once it had, I set about replacing the damage board as soon as I had time to spare. Here's a shot of the packaging, which had an upper lid secured by Velcro that, once opened, revealed some of the board's details:

Here's the board in all it's glory, removed from the packaging:

Not only does the board look amazing, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice custom backplate:

In the time since I originally put the system together, I had been fortunate enough to get my hands on a slightly superior processor; an Intel Core 2 Duo E6550. I decided that while I had the machine in pieces, I would install this in place of the E6400 . For those of you interested, you can see the difference between the two chips at the CPU World and CPU Boss sites.

Here's a few shots of the board after I installed the Arctic Freezer Pro cooler and popped it into the case. Once I've had some time to play with the system, benchmark it and perhaps even try overclocking, I'll be sure to write another post. While resurrecting the system, I decided that the system should be named "Phoenix" as it had rose from the "ashes" of the previous system.