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Seeking recommendations for a Socket A (462) mobo

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May 7, 2006 10:10:54 PM

My pc is exhibiting some problems and I'm pretty sure it's the mobo that's at issue. For the last couple months (and very infrequently) BIOS would issue 3 short beeps at boot indicating a RAM or video issue. Both the RAM and video card are fine though. About a month ago the system killed an Antec Neopower 480w psu which I replaced it with an Enermax Liberty 500w psu. This week I'm having issues with corrupt windows drivers - which seems to be a corruption in the Usn Journal (a re-occuring issue). What little info I could find on Usn Journal indicated either a failing HD or bad mobo. I've tested the drives with the manufactuerer's tools - they're fine.

The mobo seems to have a couple rusted capcitors and I've had to tinker with the northbridge fan - since it stopped working one day. I expect the dead fan has more to do with my issues than the bad capacitors.

Can anyone recommend a good replacement mobo? Overclocking is not a priority but stability is. Requirements: AGP 4x (video card supports 2x/4x), raid is unnecessary, support for atleast 4 HD (2 of which are ata 100 or 133) and form factor: ATX. Cost is not a big issue, I just want a good board that's not likely to require constant tinkering. Once the pc is reassembled I plan to give it away. (See my sig for the pc's current config).

NewEgg has the EPoX EP-8RDA3+ Pro which looked good until I read the reviews and saw that it has voltage and northbridge fan issues.
a b V Motherboard
May 7, 2006 10:28:16 PM

I'm running an Abit AN7, and more than happy with it, fan control for CPU and Northbridge, so it keeps system fairly quiet. Not sure if you can get it anymore though....
Related resources
May 7, 2006 11:08:08 PM

I tend to stick to the reputable vendors: Newegg or ZipZoomFly for most things, TigerDirect or Directron for specific parts. Pricewatch is a good site for getting ideas on parts, but what I'm seeking now is recommendations for a replacement mobo. I usually search the net for reviews and comparisons, but all I've found so far are too old to be very reliable.

<- Scribbles down Abit AN7 and tips his hat towards 13thmonkey.
May 8, 2006 12:28:24 PM

Thank you, Wusy, that's a great list. I found many vendors that sell Epox boards, but Abit seems pretty scarce. Any other suggestions?

Today I had Windows attempt to repair my damaged installation, twice. Windows now reports that it's running out of resources when loading personal settings. It pretty much chokes and dies at that point. Low resources suggests bad memory or memory controller (I think). Since the bios beeping has been inconsistant, I ran Memtest and the ram tested fine. So, barring a reformat and reinstallation of XP, I'm still guessing that it's the mobo that is bad. Anyone come to a different conclusion?
May 8, 2006 1:03:59 PM

That's a fine looking board, Doolittle. :)  Thank you, I'll add it to my list.
May 8, 2006 1:05:51 PM

Quote:
I'm still guessing that it's the mobo that is bad


Well you could treat it as I would with a fresh build - grab a copy of knoppix v4.0.2 (the kernel.org mirror in CA works well) and boot up into linux, then start up a terminal and get prime95 going:
-"wget ftp://mersenne.org/gimps/sprime2414.tar.gz"
-extract with "tar xvzf sprime2414.tar.gz"
-run it with "./mprime" (select "N" to gimps - stress testing)
-select "18. Options/Torture Test" by typing "18" and enter

As it is running you can surf w/ an old version of firefox but it may be painfully slow... If you have any HW problems outside of your hdd it should crash or prime should error out.

the Ultimate Boot CD Ver 3.4 can be handy, it has all hdd manufacturer hdd diags as well as memtest / prime and a whole lot of other goodies, another excellent troubleshooter tool.
May 8, 2006 2:13:15 PM

Excellent suggestion, Doolittle. I'll definitely give that a try. :) 
a b V Motherboard
May 9, 2006 7:37:21 AM

How about the BioStar M7NCG 400 M-ATX? It is based on the NVIDIA nForce2 IGP and supports DDR 400. It use it for my HTPC and I'm pretty satified with it.

You can over/undervolt the CPU. My Athlon XP 2500+ is running at stock speed with only 1.375v, down from the default of 1.65v (IIRC). Never had any stability issues with it unless I undervolted too low. Great board that lasted me for over 2-1/2 years. There is no chipset fan which makes it pretty quiet.
May 9, 2006 8:30:29 AM

Be careful of the Video card should you go to an AGP 8x, the voltage
is different and unlike the NVIDIA video cards I think the ATI WILL
NOT RECIEVE THE INCREASED VOLTAGE VERY WELL. nvidia as such
has built in the ability for an 8x card to go in a 2x or 4x slot.

This depends on what AGP your video supports.
If memory serves, AGP 2x / 4x = 1.5v
AGP 8x = 1.8v
May 9, 2006 1:49:52 PM

Thank you fo the tip, Desilver. I wasn't aware of that and it will certainly limit my options. :( 
May 9, 2006 2:25:22 PM

Asus A7N8X-E Deluxe v 2.0 is a rock solid board. With manual configurations the RAM issues are all but solved.

You get FSB 400, dual channel support, support for up to Barton 3200+, RAID 0 onboard, Gig LAN and another 10/100 LAN. Onboard sound and a ton of other features.

I have used the A7N8X for years and with my current setup it runs current games fine.
May 9, 2006 2:39:13 PM

desilver's post was confusing. Let's review AGP specs:

The AGP 1.0 specification defined 1x and 2x speeds with the 3.3v keyed connector.
The AGP 2.0 specification defined 1x, 2x and 4x speeds with the 3.3v, or 1.5v keyed connector or a 'Universal' connector which supported both card types.
The AGP Pro specification defined 1x, 2x and 4x speeds with the 3.3v, or 1.5v keyed connector or a 'Universal' connector which supported both card types.
The AGP 3.0 specification defined 1x, 2x, 4x and 8x speeds with the 1.5v keyed connector or a 1.5v AGP Universal / Pro connector.
Each up-grade is a supper-set of the 1x mode, so 4x will also support the 1x speed. The base clock rate is 66MHz, but to achieve to 2x, 4x, and 8x speeds the clock is doubled each time. AGP uses both edges of the clock to transfer data.

So, a 1x-2x card w/ the 3.3v key only will not work in an 8x slot:

would only fit this type of slot


but this 2x/4x card (probably what you have)

will fit this slot just fine and operate at 1.5v@4x


0.8V (not 1.8v) is the voltage requirement of new 8x AGP cards utilizing AGP specification 3.0. Motherboards supporting 8x AGP support both 1.5V AGP 2.0 compliant cards (AGP 4x) and newer .8V AGP 3.0 compliant cards (AGP 8x). The keying for AGP 3.0 cards is identical to that of AGP 2.0 cards to retain backward compatibility.

A motherboard that supports 8x AGP should work fine with a 1.5V (AGP 4x video card), and a motherboard that supports 1.5V (AGP 4x) video cards should work ok with a .8V video card (AGP 8x), however in the later example the video card would only work at the fastest speed the motherboard supports (AGP 4x).
May 9, 2006 4:06:46 PM

If you can solder/desolder, try replacing the capacitors. You can buy new ones here once you find out which ones you need. If you do not trust yourself with an iron, you might be able to find an electronics or PC shop around town that will do it for you.

Otherwise you can go the new board route method. I would highly recommend the Abit NF7 board mentioned earlier, but they are few and far between. You might find one on eBay. Just make sure you look for the Abit NF7-S Version 2.0, not the NF7-S2.

I've never used the other boards so I cannot comment on them, however if you plan to overclock I would stay away from the ASUS board as it's voltage options are limited compared to others.

And how can a motherboard kill a PSU?
!