A comment from a reader alerted me to the fact that I never updated my e-machine Tale o’ Woe.
So, the good news is yes, I did get my dead e-machine working again. But not without a lot of work. I will post the story in case it is helpful to anyone else. I must warn you, this is a long post….
My e-Machine (T-2040, a Best Buy exclusive) was making a horrible clicking noise one day, and would not boot up. No CMOS. No Welcome to Windows. Totally blank monitor. This was a brand new monitor, so it had to be in the PC.
By a largeount of internet research, I came to learn a few things:
- e-Machines are famous for having power supplies go dead.
- Any power supply (aka PSU) can be used (at one time, you had to buy them from e-machines)
- When the power supply goes out, it can blow the motherboard (aka MoBo).
The clicking was actually the floppy drive trying to access the floppy disc (as many PCs are set to boot the A: drive first) over and over and over. In essence, the PC was re-starting every :01 second. Here is a quicktime video of the actual event.
Scary yes? Think of watching that happen and wondering if your data is still there?
My troubleshooting steps:
- Removed power cable from floppy, this was the clicking – accessing it over and over.
- Had PSU checked at PC shop, it works.
- Swapped PSU for a good one and PC did the same thing, so the PSU wasn’t the issue.
- HD is a-ok, works fine in a USB enclosure.
- Removed cmos battery, and even replaced it.
- Un-hooked all external connections other than monitor.
- Removed HD and tried booting without it.
- RAM is seated and not loose.
Ugh. I SO not a hardware guy. Software oh yeah, I got it covered. PC hardware, no chance.
It all pointed to the MoBo. Time for a new one.
So with a lot of help from the Unofficial eMachines Forums, I tracked down a motherboard.
My only requirement was that the new Mobo must fit my case (MicroATX), had to support my old memory (DDR 256) and I wanted it to have an AGP video slot since those are cheap (scarce!) and my old MoBo had integrated video, which I didn’t want again.
This was the hard part, as Socket 478 boards are hard to find (my emachine’s CPU is a 2GH Celeron). Eventually, after more hours of internet research, I chose the MSI 661FM2-LSR, (no longer available) at NewEgg.com. It was on sale, and had pretty good reviews, good enough for me.
I also ordered a cheap AGP Graphics card that was pretty middle-of-the-road. It had 256MB of memory and was AGP, it met my minimum specs. Oh and a $15 rebate, so that was good too.
Once it arrived I was sweating bullets, I have never replaced a motherboard before. It was not as bad as I thought, but I did it very carefully. Very slowly. It took a long time, but hey, I didn’t want to screw it up.
Eventually I had it all back together, and I booted it up.
OK, I see CMOS! Woo-hoo!
And? A lot of DOS stuff then a page asking if I want to load the “last known good configuration.” I chose that and nothing. If I coose command prompt, it runs a list of things it is loading, goes black, and takes me back to the post again … But this was OK, this was more than I had seen before.
I think “Maybe I can repair the XP installation.” The next day, I pooped in the XP CD, booted to the CD and repaired XP (not using the recovery console – every place says not to use that, dont know why).
I got through the repair (which acts just like a re-installation), and upon final reboot, I see the XP loading screen for a nano second, then a flash of a BSOD, then we are in the same rebooting cycle as before the attempted repair.
No way to see the BSOD without a video camera and a frame by frame replay – it is that fast.
Shy of reformatting, I was stumped
Alas, I knew I had to install XP as if it was a new PC, which mean I couldn’t retain any previous settings, favorites, or installations. UGH. Well, if I going to reinstall, then I may as well start with a fresh Hard Drive and use my old one as a slave (and recover the data that way)
Office Depot had a 300 GB HD on sale (with rebate) for $99, so I grabbed that. I installed it, and guess what?
The original e-machines PSU was no match for the new HD and MoBo, and it couldn’t go on. It died on the spot.
So now I had to replace the power supply. The original PSU was a 250w, which is way low for theount of things I do with my PC. So I upped it to 480w using a no-name PSU.
This made the PC work again (hang on, this aint over yet).
Well, the new PSU had things working again.
Time to load drivers, partition the new HD and prepare to install XP. I created a slipstream XP SP2 installation CD. This made my XP CD include SP2, saving another hour of updates. Plus I set some things so that it would install unattended. Very nice not to have to click Next and fill out all the prompts. I statred the CD and left for the day. When I came back, XP was ready for me to get to work.
I won’t go into all the customizations I made to the new XP, nor the days of reinstalling software I needed. It was a chore and you probably already know the pain. But I had to do quite a lot to get my PC back.
Was it worth it when you can buy a new PC for about $200? No, not in an economic sense. But it was worth it to me to go out on a limb, and do some things I didn’t think I could do, and have the PC come back to life by my own two hands. Now that is a great feeling. But you may find buying a new PC to be easier and certainly less expensive (depending how much value you place on your time).
I had a blast, but I DO NOT want to do it again anytime soon!
e-Machine: T2040, Celeron 2 GHz, (originally) 256MB (PC 2100), 30GB HDD
HDD: Maxtor 200GB SATA - $49
Memory: 512 MB DDR 400 - $29
Graphics Board: MSI 661FM2 - $35
Power Supply: 430w - $25
Graphics Card: Xfx GeForce 6200 AGP 8x - $45
Cost: - $183