A new customer rings, saying he has trouble starting his system, but it sometimes works if he unplugs some devices from the USB ports.
When I get there I find a nice games system… It would have been state-of-the-art about 2 years ago & is still a high-speed system by todays standards.
It has two 35Gb sata drives (10,000 RPM) using striped RAID (Motherboard has a built-in raid controller)… That makes for a very very quick disk system. The RAID disks have windows XP pro and mostly games on them. There is also a 200GB pata drive, with mostly music on it.
The systems doesn’t boot at all: it says that it cannot find any boot disk. Since I’m not familiar with this particular RAID setup & the RAID diagnostics are virtually non-existent, I ask if I can work on it from the office, but I tell him not to get his hopes up, as the RAID setup might have gotten corrupted (he says it happened once before, so he is already expecting the worst).
He also mentions that the 200GB drive was added about 1 year ago & he started having problems with the system since around that time.
Once at the office, the system boots just fine… I tell windows to do a restart & it goes back to its non-booting self. 🙁
I leave it off (power cord unplugged) for an hour, & then it starts again. This time I let it run for an hour & the system works fine… I disable the windows indexing service, & clean out the tmp directories, and there are no hiccups, even a file system check works flawlessly.
At this point, I start to suspect the 400 watt power supply & its ability to start 3 HD drives, 2 CD/DVD drives & a seriously quick AMD athlon.
I scavenge an older 300watt PS & connect it to the HD drives… Damn, these modern power supplies will not work unless there is a motherboard connected, so I also connect it to a pentium 2 mobo.
I start up the drives, then & fire up the AMD system… it works, but then fails after a restart.
I look closely at the AMD system… looking to see if there is anything else that could be causing a severe power drain.
I disconnect the CD/DVD drives, but to no avail.
I disconnect the 200GB pata disk, and all the problems disappear…
Ok, I remove the external power supply “life support” & run everything from the PCs 400watt PSU… it works just fine.
A faulty 200GB drive? I test it on the pentium 2 system nearby, & it works perfectly.
Now what else could be causing this??? At least the customer is happy to hear that he hasn’t lost anything.
All the components work well in isolation… as long as they are not all joined together.
I start to suspect the “k8v se deluxe” motherboard. There are many internet forum topics about this mobo & problems associated with it.
Nobody else seems to have the exact same setup (sata raid plus a plain pata drive), so there is no direct answer to this problem (and I don’t have the time to ask the question on the forums).
I suspect a bios upgrade could fix the problem (mobo has bios version 1003 & the latest available is 1007).
Given the risks in upgrading the bios:
– a bad flash
– a loss of raid configuration
– a worse or more subtle problem
And given that the customer already has another computer system, I reckon the quickest solution is to put the 200GB disk into the second system & share out the drive over the network.
Since the customer has a 4 port router (which he was unable to setup, so he currently has just 1 pc on the internet at a time). I offer to set it up & install the 200GB disk into the second system.
I return the system, setup the 200GB drive into the second system, but encounter problems with the router… but thats another story.