In the last few years, I have started building my own computers. This is the story of troubleshooting one of my computers and why it was relatively easy.
Industry standards in software is a recurring theme on this blog. But I have to give a round of applause to the microcomputer industry for arriving at some standards that have lasted for a good long while. Also, when new standards come along that supercede (and make obsolete) the previous standards, there is almost always a component that helps bridge the gap.
The ATX form factor is a computer case size and configuration that has been standard in desktop computers for a good long while. Motherboards and power supplies that match the ATX standard plug easily into this size and shape of box — with all the screw holes in exactly the right place.
Recently I pushed the power button on my PC and was greeted with… utter silence. This was disconcerting to say the least. When absolutely nothing happens like that, it is usually either the power button itself that is broken or the power supply has fried. I jumped the gun and put in a new ATX power supply (courtesy of my friends at www.thetechzone.ca). When everything was hooked up I got the same result: silence.
When you get no response after replacing the power supply, you might suspect the power switch itself or the connection from the power switch to the motherboard. By disconnecting everything except the motherboard, I confirmed that the CPU fan would spin up using the power switch — proving that the problem was with one of the peripherals.
What kind of problem? Well, it usually means that something is “shorting out” and to be honest my wife had noticed a “electrical burning” smell the day before. She has a better sense of smell than I do.
So I attached the peripherals (video card, hard drives, CD and DVD burners, fans, etc.) one at a time and tried powering up after hooking up each one. Everything was working right up until the very last connection: a USB wireless adapter. But it turns out that it wasn’t the adapter itself that was the problem… it was the extender that comes with this particular Linksys model. The extender cable went from the USB port up onto my desktop where a little base held the adapter itself. This had been handy because I could use the high speed adapter in my laptop without crawling behind the desktop machine. However, once I chucked the extender and plugged the adapter directly into the USB port, all was back to normal.
At any point it might have been any of the other peripherals. The beautiful thing is that each potentially failed component could have been swapped out — industry standards make that possible.