PC Resuscitation


I get a lot more satisfaction out of fixing things than I do replacing them. Part of it is the challenge, part of it is the learning experience, and part of it is the savings. But I think the biggest part of it may be genetically programmed into my DNA.

I do realize that sometimes it’s cheaper to replace something than it is the repair it. The other day I was looking over a broken electric can opener that we had replaced for the princely sum of $15 and realized that it was not worth repairing. I didn’t know what I’d do with an extra used electric can opener if I did repair it when they are available new for as little as $6 at Target.

I got an inquiry last week from my cousin in Pennsylvania about whether a power supply for a Compaq PC manufactured in 2002 should cost $185. I am usually able to pick up PC power supplies for as little $15 to $25, and so this price seemed way out of line. Upon further investigation I found that back in 2002 Compaq was using a non-standard connector and case size in their desktop power supplies. This makes the power supply rare and therefore very expensive. After looking over the pinout of the motherboard connector for the Presario 5000 model, it appeared that the majority of the pins were consistent with the ATX standard, but there were enough changes that it would take some fiddling to adapt a standard power supply to work like the Compaq model. The failure mode didn’t seem consistent with a normal power supply failure though. Usually when a PC’s power supply fails, the computer will show no signs of life. In this case, the computer would power on, but in a short time would shut itself down. This made me suspect that perhaps there was a bad electrolytic cap on the motherboard that would short and cause an over-current condition after things warmed up. If that were true, even a new power supply wouldn’t fix the problem.

My uncle is quite handy designing and fixing all things electrical and mechanical and offered to help. Despite having very little experience with computers, in a relatively short time, he and another relative were able to determine that the power supply’s fan had stopped spinning. That would explain why it was powering on but shutting down after a while. He went to Radio Shack and found a similar fan but it would not fit inside the power supply’s case. No problem, he mounted it outside the computer’s case over the power supply vent. It still fulfills the need of moving air through the power supply to prevent it from overheating. The fix worked and the PC has been successfully resuscitated.

It may be his nearly 70 years of ham radio and tinkering experience that came to the rescue because once you understand how things work, you can fix them even if you’ve never done a repair exactly like it before.

And then, of course, there’s that DNA thing too.

One thought on “PC Resuscitation

  1. For anyone else out there who is reading this: I’m an IT guy.

    This is one of the primary reasons why I build my computers, too much his non standard.

    If you did need a new PSU, even if you adapted the connector, it would not work. There are other things too.

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