It May Not Be Your RAM

Several months ago it seemed like my monitor quit working after a reboot. It had been working just fine before that, so, naturally I was perplexed. My ViewSonic VG2030wm had never failed me before, and it “seemed” like it should be working. I swapped out the video card for another card with DVI port and had some odd display. OpenSuSE told me the monitor was not responding with its type which seemed quite strange. Both the monitor and the video card had a traditional 15-pin connector, so I hooked up a VGA cable and all was well. I wrote it off to either a bad port or a flaky pin connection in the DVI port.

During the past couple of days, one or more fans started making more noise that I was willing to tolerate (when the furnace wasn’t on to drown them out.) I deduced that it was probably the cooling fan on the CPU since that was the oldest fan in the case. I had replaced the power supply a few years ago and didn’t think the tiny little fan on the video card could be causing the issue.

Today the package arrived from MicroCenter and I swapped out the CPU heat sink/fan assembly. When I plugged it in, I could still hear fan noise, AND, the computer wouldn’t boot. I could enter the BIOS and do all of that stuff, but, I couldn’t boot. After several attempts I saw 3.7Gig of RAM verifying though there were 6Gig in the box. (The fourth RAM slot has issues, so, I cannot run 8Gig or, any combination which uses that slot.)

I removed the last 2Gig module and the system booted just fine. Naturally, I still had excessive fan noise because it really was the tiny little fan on the video card making most of the noise. This situation perplexed me. There should have been no combination of activities which cause that module to fail.

Thankfully, sitting on the shelf was a 580W power supply. My desktop unit had a 350W, which, with only one hard drive, should have been way more than enough, but, it was easy to change and curiosity was eating at me. (I really do believe the reason I keep this ancient mid-tower is that it is easy to change everything EXCEPT the mother board.)

Presto! I’m able to boot with the orginal 6Gig of RAM just like before.

Now I power down and swap the video card with a non-fan model that has only a DVI connector. Wouldn’t you know, my monitor is correctly identified and looks great just like before.

I understand where this sentiment comes from. The power supplies we bought in the late 80’s to early 90’s weighed a ton. They would outlast at least three motherboards and countless MFM, RLL, and ESDI hard drives. Back then power supplies were usually bound into the case in such a way that you had to remove EVERYTHING to replace them…so…most of us opted to get a new case with the power supply installed.

The other problem we humans have when it comes to diagnosing these issues is the fact we refuse to believe a power supply could get weak over time without failing. When this computer was new, 350 was more than enough to run everything. In fact, I used to have a second 1TB hard drive in this machine up until about a month ago. It ran all of that stuff. As it got older, it got weaker, but, there is no BIOS diagnostic we can use to see how many Watts our power supply is actually putting out. It seems odd when you consider the fact they provide a display which shows us not only the current CPU temperature, but the fan speed as well.

As always, keep an open mind and stock pile replacement components whenever you find brand new stuff on sale cheap. I’ve had that video card and power supply sitting here for years.

Roland Hughes started his IT career in the early 1980s. He quickly became a consultant and president of Logikal Solutions, a software consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS application and C++/Qt touchscreen/embedded Linux development. Early in his career he became involved in what is now called cross platform development. Given the dearth of useful books on the subject he ventured into the world of professional author in 1995 writing the first of the "Zinc It!" book series for John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc. A decade later he released a massive (nearly 800 pages) tome "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" which tried to encapsulate the essential skills gained over what was nearly a 20 year career at that point. From there "The Minimum You Need to Know" book series was born. Three years later he wrote his first novel "Infinite Exposure" which got much notice from people involved in the banking and financial security worlds. Some of the attacks predicted in that book have since come to pass. While it was not originally intended to be a trilogy, it became the first book of "The Earth That Was" trilogy: Infinite Exposure Lesedi - The Greatest Lie Ever Told John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars When he is not consulting Roland Hughes posts about technology and sometimes politics on his blog. He also has regularly scheduled Sunday posts appearing on the Interesting Authors blog.