Software And/Or Hardware FUBARs: The Latest, Unfortunately, In A Series
I "think" I have, I’m happy to say, convinced my mother back in Indiana to finally abandon dial-up Internet access and migrate to broadband. Her PC is fairly ancient, so with Mother’s Day in mind I’ve decided to donate a spare ‘white box’ computer to the project (along with a spare router, and buying her a refurbished 22" LCD) in order to ensure that she’ll experience the maximum return on her upgrade investment. Three years ago, the system I’m giving her was state-of-the-art, and it’s still quite a screamer:
- An AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 dual-core CPU (2.8 GHz, 2×1 MByte L2 Cache, Socket AM2)
- An Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard
- 1 GByte of DDR2-800 (PC2-6400) SDRAM, comprised of two Corsair 512 MByte DIMMs, which I upgraded to 2 GBytes of total system memory.
- An AMD/ATI Technologies x1900 XTX graphics card (keep reading…)
- One Western Digital 1500ADFD Raptor 150 GByte 10K RPM SATA HDD, which I’ll be replacing with two Maxtor 160 GByte 7200 RPM SATA HDDs in a RAID 1 mirrored set
- A Sony DDU1613 DVD-ROM drive, which augmented with a Pioneer DVR-104 DVD-RW drive.
- A Sony 1.44" floppy drive
- A Thermaltake Soprano VB10000BNS ATX case
- An Antec TPII 550W power supply
The PC runs Windows XP Professional. The graphics card has dual DVI-I outputs, but AMD/ATI also bundled two DVI-to-VGA adapters, which look something like this:
As such, over the past weekend I felt confident in mating the system to a VGA-only LCD (my Compaq TFT5030) in order to download and load Windows Updates and BIOS and other upgrades, and to install OpenOffice, Firefox and other additional programs, prior to shipping the PC off to Indiana.
I connected everything up, punched the power button, and at first all was well. I saw the BIOS splash screen, I saw indication that the motherboard’s Silicon Image SiI3124 secondary SATA controller BIOS supplement was being loaded, I saw the initial Windows splash screen…then the LCD went dark, followed by a diagnostic pop-up indicating that the display was receiving ‘no signal input’. (Im)patient twiddling of fingers for several minutes provided no improvement, nor did several forced system reboots. Nor did hitting F8 at the Windows splash screen and subsequently attempting to boot Windows in either VGA Mode or Safe Mode.
With nothing else to try aside from an unpalatable O/S reinstall, and on a hunch, I grabbed my Viewsonic DVI-inclusive LCD from the office and tried it instead. Lo and behold, it worked fine; what was waiting for me post-Windows splash screen were the initial Windows XP setup screens where you enter high-level parameters such as the administrator password and whether or not the system connects to a domain. And once I finished entering that information and got to the Windows Desktop, I was subsequently able to disconnect the DVI cable, reconnect the DVI-to-VGA adapter to the graphics card, and re-tether it to the Compaq LCD.
The VGA-only LCD has worked fine ever since, thereby seemingly removing the DVI-to-VGA adapter from the suspects list. So why didn’t it work from the very beginning? I honestly have no idea. The remaining culprits are AMD/ATI and Microsoft; I don’t know if some glitch in the pre-loaded graphics card driver was to blame, or if Windows XP uses some funky resolution/refresh rate/scan frequency setting combination for initial setup (perhaps in the absence of being able to read EDID details through the DVI-to-VGA adapter) that somehow confounded the hardware. Nonetheless, considering the formidable number of VGA-only displays still in circulation, I find the situation to be unconscionable. And to ensure it doesn’t happen to my mom should she ever need to reinstall the O/S on her new toy, I’ve yanked out the AMD/ATI card and replaced it with one from EVGA based on Nvidia’s GeForce 7200 GS that I had lying around. Admittedly, it’s a few steps backwards in performance from its predecessor, but it’s got a native VGA output, and anyway Mom’s not a gamer.
I wish I could tell you that the above narrative documented the full extent of the issues I’ve had so far in getting this system ready for my mother, but reality has inevitably even more frustrating. After swapping out graphics cards and powering the system back up, I was reminded via a Windows Blue Screen that I’d forgotten to first uninstall the ATI driver and application suite. This one was fairly easy to solve; I booted into Windows Safe Mode, de-installed the ATI stuff there, then rebooted. Windows’s Add Hardware Wizard wasn’t able to find an appropriate driver for the EVGA board on Microsoft’s servers, but a direct download-and-install from Nvidia’s website did the trick.
Continue reading with Part Two of this post, ‘Software And/Or Hardware FUBARs: Memory, BIOS and RAID Upgrade Fumbles‘…