Anyone who reads my sites knows that I'm a sucker for dropping too much cash on computer kit. However, only people who know me well are aware that I have incredibly bad luck with hardware. Stuff just goes wrong more often than it should.
So when I was planning the latest upgrade, my good friend Spksh offered to take time out from documenting New Zealand's descent into 4GW mayhem and to build the system for me. He's one of those people who loves playing with hardware, and he's damn good at it.
With him building the rig, my hardware curse was bound to be foiled! I ordered the required parts and began to eagerly anticipate how much this system would scream:
1 x Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU, 2.4GHz, 1066MHz FSB, Socket 775, 32/64-Bit, Kentsfield Core
2 x Corsair XMS2, TWIN2X2048-6400C4, 2x1GB, DDR2-800, PC2-6400, CL4, DIMM, EPP
1 x Asus P5N32-E SLI Motherboard, Socket 775, 1333MHz FSB, 4xDIMM DDR2, 2xPCIe-16, 2xPCI, 1xPCIe-1, 8xUS
Which would be joining a couple of items I'd previously purchased:
Asus EN8800GTS Video Card, GeForce 8800 GTS, 320MB, DDR3, PCIe-16, TV out, DVI, HDTV, SLI ready
Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD Hard Disk Drive, 150GB, 10000rpm, 16384KB Cache, SATA-1
Zalman CNPS9700 NT CPU Cooler
Powered by an Enermax 535watt PSU, housed in a Lian Li PCV1100 case. It was going to be a pretty impressive system.
However, after assembling all of the kit, we powered on the system to find that the curse had struck again. The system powered on, and the motherboard had a green light, however no POST screen was displayed, and no beeps were emitted. The POST is supposed to be the catchall in terms of badly configured hardware, and as terrifying as BEEP BEEP BEEP can be, I've recently learned that a lack of these beeps when nothing is working can be even worse.
In the spirt of being techheads, we commenced troubleshooting. We had spare parts on hand. We were prepared. How prepared? Well here's a list of what we tried (although I may have left out a couple of things due to simply losing track of the combinations, but hey, you can forgive me):
- Placed the video card in each of the 3 PCI-E slots
- Placed a completely different video card in each slot
- Tried multiple different RAM configurations
- Removed ALL the RAM
- Reseated and checked all connections
- Tried completely different sticks of RAM
- Tried a completely different CPU (a basic Pentium 4 LGA 775 chip)
- Tried 2 different PSUs
- Reset the BIOS using the dip switches on the motherboard
- Reset the BIOS by removing the CMOS battery
At the end of all this, we can conclude that either the motherboard is DoA, or that I've managed to surround myself with a sea of dead or incompatible components. I'll take option one thanks, and with the amount of troubleshooting variants that we tried I'd like to think that option one is more likely than anything else.
Doing some searching for "P5N32-E SLI no POST" was pretty scary. It yielded far too many hits than I'd have liked. This motherboard was marked as "Quad Core Ready", and we already knew that it might require a certain BIOS level before it would accept that chip happily, however that revision was released 6 months ago, and we had an old LGA 775 P4 chip on hand just in case we needed that to upgrade the BIOS. I found a great hardware review site which had users review the board - the reviews were either "0/5 this board sucks" or "5/5 awesome board A++++++++" which lead me to believe there may be quality control issues ahoy in the land of ASUS.
The motherboard is all packed up, and now it's just a matter of seeing how the good folks at Ascent deal with returns. Ascent have been great to deal with so far. Their website is one of the best for buying tech gear, their staff are incredibly friendly, and their delivery times are insanely quick. Given the complexity of a motherboard, it sort of makes sense that if anything is going to go wrong it'll be there.
For the time being Project Quad Core gets marked as a failure. I look around my office, and it's filled with hardware and hardware packaging. It's almost an impressive display of carnage, although I'd rather it resulted in an impressive display in computing speed.
Hopefully that will change by the end of the week.