Monday, August 9, 2010

Desktop Update

Written 9 August, 2010

Desktop Update

After more than a year of putting it off, I finally took my desktop computer offline. On Friday I unplugged it from its myriad wires and cables, laid it on a table, and took a peek inside.

It looked so clean I was disappointed. It certainly didn't seem possible the overheating was caused by dust; there just didn't seem to be enough dust. The last few remaining sprays in my bottle of compressed air pretty much cleaned it out.

When I removed the heat sink from the processor it didn't look bad, either. But when I unscrewed the fan from the heat sink I discovered a layer of black gunk that looked like felt. It felt like felt, too. That was a strange sentence to write. It gave me a frisson.

Whatcha, frisson is your word for the day (see Whatcha Eaton's comment to my previous post here :)

No wonder the processor was overheating! It would be nearly impossible for the airflow from the fan to reach the vanes of the heat sink!

I carried the aluminum heat sink to the kitchen sink (OMG, another one of those strange sentences! Sink and sink. Frisson! Frisson!) and ran hot water over it. It made a mess of my nice white sink, but after thirty seconds and a few rubs with my finger, the heat sink was as good as new.

In removing the fan I had managed to drop two of the four screws on the floor. That evening, while we were talking in Skype, Sweetie asked what was wrong with me.

"I'm under my desk on my hands and knees, looking for screws," I said.

"Well, stop it and pay attention to me!" she said.

My under-the-desk antics didn't turn up either screw. By lucky accident, the week before I had stumbled across a magnet-on-a-stick I had bought from Harbor Freight Tools (I love Harbor Freight Tools!) and promptly forgotten about. It was a 4" round magnet with a 2' handle, meant for running across garage floors to locate nuts and bolts dropped by slippery, grease-covered fingers. It was just the thing to find the screws.

The next morning the device promptly picked up one screw, and, when standing to put it on my desk, I spotted the second. With all four screws present and accounted for, I attached the fan to the now dry heat sink, applied a liberal dose of processor grease to the bottom of the heat sink, and reattached it to the mother board. I even remembered to plug in the fan's electrical lead.

With mission accomplished, I could have stuck the computer back on line, but by now I was in the middle of cleaning and reorganizing the tangle of wires behind my desk. I was sorting out data cables and power cords to two external hard drives, speakers, a laser printer, an inkjet printer and scanner, a slide scanner, a label printer, a USB hub, the router, the cable modem, the webcam, and assorted gadgets and sundries. It was the perfect opportunity to address the other problem with the desktop.

For more than a year now-- in fact, for close to two years-- the DVD drive on the VAIO has refused to open. Ordinarily I would have just stuck a paper clip in the little hole, but the proprietary design of the VAIO's case covered the hole.

I spent the better part of two hours trying to figure out how to get to the back side of the drive to remove the screws holding it in place. Unlike the jard drive bays, which can be easily removed, the cage for the DVD and CD drives was riveted in place. Only one side of the VAIO's case was removable. I just couldn't figure out how to reach those two screws.

The owner's manual was no help, so I went to the Sony website and saw I could get 15 minutes of help for my out of warranty computer via live chat. I logged in and was soon talking to--

I'm not sure who or what I was talking to. I'll write about this more in the next post.

Having gotten absolutely no help from Sony, I attacked the case again with my Bluetooth in my ear and a mechanic friend on the line. She suggested I pry gently on the front of the case with a screwdriver. I did, and soon had removed the plastic overlay. It didn't get my any closer to reaching the screws that would allow me to remove the DVD drive, but it did uncover the pinhole.

I grabbed a paper clip and soon had the drawer open. To my chagrin, there was no disk inside. I had been hoping the problem was due to a warped or jammed disk.

Since, when I push the button, I can hear the drawer trying to open, I fear the DVD recorder is junk. I've left the front of the case off so I can play around with the drive when the computer is plugged back in.

I've mostly sorted out the hodgepodge of wires behind my desk and have begun plugging stuff back in, using wire ties to reduce the tangle. Tomorrow the desktop will come back online. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, I have my keyboard and primary monitor plugged into my VAIO laptop and am using it for web browsing and Second Life. Since, with all features enabled, it gets a frame rate about four times faster than my desktop was getting, I've been content to take my time with this project.


Whatcha Eaton said...

Although it was ultimately successful, I'm sorry to hear that your search for the cooling problem was "in-vane."

(Oooo. I distinctly felt a frisson in and around my philtrum that time!)

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

What model of VAIO laptop do you have?

Cheyenne Palisades said...

The desktop model is in the post about my chat with Kerry. The laptop model is (turning computer upside down, why the hell don't they put the model number on those stickers they put on the front side? Oops! The laptop is too tethered to wires at the moment to flip). So sorry, no number until the wires are all back on the desktop, unless I can find it out through hardware. Checking... I don't hold out much hope, since I zapped all the shortcuts for the pre-loaded Sony software.

I had to go to the Sony subfolder in Program Files, but I got it. Pain in the ass, I can't cut and paste and will have to jump back and forth between windows.



It has a core duo Pentium chip, four GB of RAM, a 300 GB hard drive, and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 graphics card. It runs Second Life really well. It came with Windows 7, which I frigging hate-- so much so that I'm working on a blogpost about it.

I bought it in September and, as I've been home most of the time, have used it only rarely until this week, so it's first cleaning is still in the future.