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Broken Motherboard and other advice desired

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November 23, 2009 10:50:38 PM

Hello, I’ve got a problem with an old system that I am trying to get going so I can use it as an old game server (3-5 friends). I have never done such a thing before and have questions about that as well, but … back to my broken computer.

It’s a Gateway GM5088, with an AMD 64 X2 4600+ chip. The motherboard is KTBC51GLF, which is a 939 socket.

The machine won’t boot. I have subsequently dismantled the system and laid it out on my table so that I can diagnose it.

When I power up, the fans surge-on and remain at that same level forever. I seem to recall that when the system previously booted up successfully, the fans would surge on for about 10 seconds, and then “settle down” to a lesser level. The blue LED that is on the front of the case does not light up like it used to either.

I have tested the power supply with a PS tester. The tester is a unit about the size of a deck of cards that you plug the outputs from the ps into. My ps passed the test (display on the tester said everything was in range).

The onboard speaker on the mobo does not give off any beeps or signals. I can hear it come to life (slight buzz) when I power up, but that’s it.

I know the cpu is getting power because I took the heat sink off and powered on/off for about a second, and it got warm.

I swapped some older RAM into the board with no improvement.
I checked the CMOS battery. It is good at 3.3V.

I think it is a pretty good guess that the motherboard is bad, which is apparently a known issue (Google search). Actually, looking at the reported track record of this board, I’m sort of amazed that it lasted as long as it did.

1) Any other suggestions on what else I might check?

This board is ridiculously expensive for an obsolete board (~$160USD). I’ve tried to get it on an ebay auction for a lower price a couple of times already only to have it sniped (learned a new expression!) from me in the last 10 seconds each time. Paying 160 for a mobo that has a good chance of only lasting another year bugs me to no end.

2) Would I be better off buying a barebones system from newegg or some-such? I don’t need much of a system, but I am wondering whether a barebones system has the same “ports” available that my friends could use to connect to my server.

3) There are motherboards for this chip of course, but the majority are just as pricey if not more so. If I were to look for a cheaper board such as FOXCONN NFORCE4 ULTRA SOCKET 939 MOTHERBOARD, is there any way to ensure that it has the proper ports available to act as a server?

Thanks ahead of time for any suggestions on courses of action. I know my questions about ports for the server are pretty ignorant, but any advice or information is appreciated.

-Mike
a c 435 V Motherboard
November 24, 2009 12:40:01 AM

Pricewatch lists a 939 board at ascendtech for $65, but I've never done business with them, and got a warning from at and t about possible credit card problems with them. You can also try selling your old ram on craigslist for an upgrade to ddr2 or ddr3, or you might get lucky and find a 939 board cheap. I bought 2 items recently on my local craigslist and the prices were good. For a possible server board for use with your ddr ram, computer geeks has 3 asus opteron server boards for around $20. Socket 940 opterons are cheap, as low as $25, but don't know if your ram will work with them, since most server boards recommend ecc memory. Also, your gateway windows installation may not boot up with a non gateway board. And there's always black friday specials.
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February 12, 2010 2:26:33 PM

Hi,

I have the same problem with my GM5088. A local repair shop checked everything out and determined that the motherboard was the culprit. I bought the system on Halloween in 2006 (that should have been a warning), and it worked well for a few months after the one-year warranty ran out.

The first inkling I had that something was wrong was that the system wouldn't boot on power-up. After many tries, it would come on and run normally. As leaving it on was an option, I did. Every now and then, a Microsoft update would turn my system off and not be able to start it up, but after a large number of button pushes, it would always start. Until last March.

Here's where our stories may differ. Eventually, I decided that I couldn't break something that was already broken, so I took the GM5088 apart. Based on some forums that suggest the problem is due to flaky mounting of the GeForce 6100 chipsets (Northbridge and Southbridge), I took the motherboard out so that I could remove the heatsinks and look at the NVIDIA parts. Nothing was obviously wrong, except the MCP (NF-410-N-A2) had no thermal paste on it.

During this whole process, I would power up the system after removing various cards and memory, with no success. However, after I put the motherboard back and connected it to power, the blue light on the front panel came on and the CPU fan, which ran at full speed when starting up and stayed at full speed when the system was unresponsive, ran full speed but then slowed down.

After putting everything back in place, I was able to get the system to start and fail the boot process. I could get at the BIOS, but after a short while, this ability went away. (The system couldn't boot normally, since I had removed the hard drive and placed it in an external enclosure. Before I reconnected it via Firewire, the system went back to its sick state.)

I have gone through the same operations once more, with similar results. Disconnecting everything, extracting the motherboard, then reversing the process seems to disturb something in a temporarily beneficial way. Whether the problem relates to delamination of the motherboard, one of the video chips, some connector, or gremlins, is a puzzlement. As a last straw, I may take a heat gun to certain parts, as some have suggested in other forums, but I'm not optimistic. If you've found out anything since your last post, I'd be very interested to hear about it.

Cheers,
/elliot
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March 15, 2010 5:10:09 PM

Ya gotta ask yourself WHY-??

In our shop motherboards become obsolete so fast we no longer fix them- supply of warrantee backed boards is both cheap and a great way to upgrade your system.

I donate bad boards/ components to our local school system for teaching purposes.

Nuf said.
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March 17, 2010 7:05:51 PM

mstrmstr said:
Ya gotta ask yourself WHY-??

In our shop motherboards become obsolete so fast we no longer fix them- supply of warrantee backed boards is both cheap and a great way to upgrade your system.

I donate bad boards/ components to our local school system for teaching purposes.

Nuf said.


Thanks. It makes sense to stop trying to fix the problem, but the WHY is not so different than why you donate bad boards. It's a learning experience for me.

Last year wasn't a good year for my computers, with a laptop going on sick leave. After dealing with Microsoft Safety people, who thought the problem was a Trojan or some related baddie, and having them lead me to losing my OS and boot capability, I figured out that the problem was a bad memory module. I'm not that smart, but there is free software that tests memory, and replacing the module that was clearly bad solved the problem.

Help me here. If I replaced the motherboard with the original type, it seems to cost around $200. While I could go another way, I'd be left with a CPU that works and would have to buy another one to fit the motherboard. Then, I'd have to get an OS from somewhere, unless I wanted to try ubuntu and I'm probably not at that level. So, is there a way that's economically sensible to upgrade or even match the capabilities of the GM5088, or would I be better off just saving whatever I can and donating the rest?

Cheers,
/elliot
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