Other useful acronyms: Return Merchandise Agreement (RMA)
I wanted to thank many of the fine people on the site for making their knowledge available to others. This is really a plug for following the checklist on Tom's site: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-perform-ste..., and why taking a "step-wise" and methodical approach is the only way to go when trying to resolve issues that do arise during a new build.
I'm not going to rehash the checklist here, but I would like to emphasis a few items that literally saved the day on a recent build for a good friend of mine. This is my second successful build--my first being my own personal computer which has served me well for the past couple of years--but it was not without its "moments."
For example, I made a classic beginner's mistake and installed the RAM in the wrong dual channel bays, even though I knew better. I have it on my own computer! So, I scratched my head for a few minutes wondering why I'm not getting a POST.
FYI: If you have dual-channel memory support, make sure you install your sticks in the correct bays. The first bay nearest the CPU on the GA-P55A-UD4P motherboard is actually slot 2 according to the manual. Incorrectly installed RAM is the culprit many times when you get no display to the BIOS.
Once I corrected my RAM mistake, I was able to quickly set the BIOS and load up Windows 7 on the new box and start installing the chipset, video, and other drivers and critical updates. Updated the BIOS to the latest version and the machine was running like a dream.
The following morning required a reboot in order to load windows. This was not a normal behavior and concerned me. I rebooted and discovered that the new box had shut-down do to a CPU over-clocking issue. I had left the BIOS settings at their default and was not doing any extreme over-clocking with the CPU. I had taken the time to set-up CPU temp warnings in the BIOS before the incident. Apparently, it worked.
To make a long story short: I got out the checklist. I was unable to POST and access the BIOS. I pulled the SATA cable on the H.D.D. in the hopes I would go straight to BIOS. No luck. I feared the worst. I thought the CPU and MoBo might be fried. It was time to start pulling parts and applying the scientific method!
The Scientific Method
Test your predictions
Draw a conclusion
I removed everything except for the VGA card and the power running to the motherboard. Nothing. No go. I cleared CMOS on the MoBo by unplugging the box, holding in the power button for minute or two, placing a jumper on the motherboard's CLR_CMOS terminal for at least 15 seconds, removed jumper and rebooted. The BIOS popped up and flashed out--abnormal behavior to say the least.
It was obvious I had a very serious hardware issue, but what? ((( Read the checklist. ))) I then realized that the Antec 900 case does not come with a case speaker. The Antec manual says that you'll know the computer is "on" when the blue LEDs and case fans start, but that only tells you that your PSU is working, not whether the BIOS is posting.
I picked up a Case/Motherboard Speaker ( i.e. http://www.cwc-group.com/casp.html ) and plugged it into the motherboard's front panel. I decided to remove everything, including the VGA card and all the RAM sticks. I only had power going to the CPU and the motherboard main power. If the CPU and motherboard aren't toast, I should hear a series of long beeps indicating the absence of RAM memory. I HEARD LONG BEEPS! I inserted one stick of RAM into the correct dual channel slot and re-powered. I HEARD ONE SHORT BEEP! The BIOS posted!
I then re-installed the ATI Radeon HD 58301GB graphics card and was not able to POST. Waited a couple minutes, un-installed the card and you guessed it! ONE SHORT BEEP! I had a bad graphics card. Happily, we installed the EVGA nVidia GeForce GTX 470 and it works like a dream!
A note on purchasing computer components
I now follow a rule when buying computer parts off-the-shelf: If the part has a sticker slapped on the outside of the box that says something like "now supports windows 7," or something similar, I won't buy it. It needs to be printed on the box at the factory.
Case in point: We bought a NETGEAR PCI ethernet card that had the infamous sticker that claimed "Windows 7 upgrades available at netgear.com/win7" slapped on the outside of the box. The site didn't even work! You couldn't download ANY files from the site. RMA Number One!
RMA Number Two: The after-market CoolerMaster HSF had the infamous sticker slapped on the outside of the box claiming "support for LGA 1156 motherboards." WRONG! I scoured the parts and there was absolutely no 1156 socket bracket included! We went with a Frio HSF instead, since it stated right on the box support for LGA 1156 sockets. Works great!
Of course, I don't have to mention what RMA number three is! BTW, I like the nVidia spec better than the ATI. Hint, hint.
Operating System (OS) Installation
I've installed about every Microsoft OS, including server software, and found Windows 7 Professional to be the most painless install of them all. Things were up and running pretty quickly. When I installed Windows XP Professional on my own box, the XP OS did not recognize my SATA DVD/DVRW player and I had to pre-install SATA drivers during the OS install, but it didn't work. I had to pull my old CD ROM from an older computer and use it to load the OS, then I installed the SATA drivers for the DVD player after the OS was installed and everything played nicely together then.
When it was all said and done, my friend said it best, "This stuff isn't for the faint-of-heart, but it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life." He's happy. I'm happy. The system is happy.
Remember the checklist ... Remember the checklist ... Remember the checklist.