It’s Alive!

We had a computer that has done something odd for at least 3 years. Sometimes after being unplugged it would not start up again. You would have to keep trying to restart it until it just decided that it was ready. This problem has gotten much worse over the last 6 months or so. The problem came when the power would go out. Sometimes it would take close to a week before it would decide to start again.

This summer I got a new power supply for it thinking that was the problem. Did not help.

When the power went out this weekend, the computer acted completely dead. I pulled the motherboard and just tried a visual inspection. I saw that there were 5 capacitors that were bulging. None were leaky, but they were not right. I did some looking on the Internet and found a page that talked about restoring old radios. The man said the first thing he does is replace all the capacitors. If that does not solve whatever problem the radio had (which it almost always did) it would make the radio function much better. That told me capacitors are a likely device to fail.

I am handy with a soldering iron. I can cook my fingers on an iron with the best of them. The problem was in finding the replacement caps. I hit several stores yesterday looking for the size I needed. Finally I went to the man that has done some electronic repair for me before. He told me the reason for the difficulty in finding them was that it was an odd size. But, he told me how to combine caps to get the value I needed. We chatted just a bit and he said the key words: “That size capacitor is pretty common in computers, but not in a lot of other things.” Ah-ha! I have a motherboard at home in a computer that was pulled out of service a couple of months ago. I will look on that board.

Fortunately it had enough caps of the right value to do a pell-mell replacement of all the capacitors that I needed to replace. I popped them off while putting third degree burns on only one finger. I then I replaced the bad ones and put the computer back together.

It started up at the first try. Whew!

I would not try this with a new computer/motherboard that is still under warranty. But the machine that was failing was bought used in 2001. The motherboard that I pulled the caps from was bought off of my brother back in 2000 (or so) for $50. The reason I got such a deal is that the computer had already blown up once (sparks and smoke) and was pronounced dead by the computer experts in town. I bought it for parts and found out that it just needed a new power supply and some add on cards replaced. That old Pentium 350 had been in constant use up to about two months ago.

Someday I will own a new computer, but not likely.

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