I closed down Micro Center last night.
I wasn’t having any luck getting my new motherboard working, even after working with Asus and with Micro Center’s online support. Micro Center’s web site said that if you take a system in to their knowledge bar, at the front of the store, someone with an A+ certification will help you. So I took them up on the offer.
A nice, knowledgeable technician named Eric spent two hours working with me.
I’m sure I’ll lose some cred by asking for help, but sometimes you just get stumped and you need help from someone with a greater quantity of recent experience and better tools. It’s now been more than 10 years since I’ve worked on desktop PCs on a regular basis, while Eric does it every day. And Eric indeed had better tools.
He got a kick out of the system. I recycled a case that dates to the turn of the century, and it still has a floppy and two optical drives installed, though they’re not connected. I don’t have bay covers anymore, so I just left the drives there. But inside was a brand-new Asus motherboard and Intel processor.
He powered the unit on and watched it perform as a three-second useless machine.
He double-checked everything I’d done and confirmed I’d connected everything properly. He did unplug my PC speaker and connect his own speaker, since he knew it worked. Mine should work, but since it’s been sitting in my basement unused since sometime during Bush II’s first term, I didn’t know.
He pulled out a power supply tester and tested it. (Turns out those aren’t necessarily expensive anymore. A cheap one costs less than $5. A nice one is more like $35.) It was delivering good voltage; the 12v line was delivering 12.2 volts, but that’s still within spec. And there’s a good chance under an actual load, the 12v line will drop to something closer.
So the power supply was good. He removed the memory, reconnected the power supply, and powered it up, hoping for beep codes. Nothing. He reversed the polarity on the speaker, and still nothing.
So he recommended a motherboard swap. So I removed the motherboard, walked over to customer service, and exchanged it.
Dropping in the new board took five minutes. Getting the stock Intel fan to mount properly took us more like 30 minutes. Intel really doesn’t want you to reuse their fans.
The new board would power up, but it still wouldn’t POST or give any kind of video display.
Eric concluded the CPU must be dead.
A DOA Intel processor? Really? I thought Intel was supposed to be infallible.
But seriously, in the 18 years that I’ve been working on PCs professionally, I’d never seen a DOA CPU. Not from Intel, not from AMD, not from Motorola, not from Cyrix, not from IBM, and not from IDT. For that matter, I can count the number of dead CPUs I’ve seen on one hand. If you don’t overclock a CPU or brush your dog’s hair with it, about the only thing that will kill a CPU is a power surge or a nasty power supply failure.
Eric said he’d never seen a DOA CPU either, until last week when someone had exactly the same issue I had.
But since the idea of the CPU being bad never crossed my mind, I didn’t bring my CPU box, so I couldn’t box up the CPU and return it. And it was closing time. So I put the system back together, carted it out to my car, and I’ll be back again soon to swap CPUs.
I’ve never seen or received this level of service at a big-box store before.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.