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what the heck do I do with this mysterious motherboard?

This is a discussion on what the heck do I do with this mysterious motherboard? within the Motherboards, Bios|UEFI & CPU forums, part of the Tech Support Forum category. A quick background: About 18 months ago I bought a Dell Vostro 420 tower, with a one year warranty, and


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Old 07-18-2010, 11:04 AM   #1
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A quick background: About 18 months ago I bought a Dell Vostro 420 tower, with a one year warranty, and installed Ubuntu Linux on it. I had all kinds of challenges getting everything running on such a fancy new machine, but little by little I worked out some kinks, and Ubuntu updates worked out some kinks, until finally I was down to one: every now and then the whole system would completely freeze up, forcing a hard reboot with the physical button. I was never sure if it was a hardware issue (Dell's fault for selling me crap) or a software issue (my fault for changing the OS), and figured Dell Support would be no help once I'd removed Windows, so I just sort of lived with it, ran countless fscks and memtests (always 100% successful), and here and there would try tweaking BIOS or GRUB settings to see if I could stabilize things, and for weeks at a time I'd imagine I'd fixed it, but the freeze always came back eventually, at any old random time.

So, the other day the problem finally takes a decidedly hardware-ish turn: trying to reboot after yet another freeze, the system immediately fails the POST with two beeps. Which is supposed to mean bad memory (solution: replace memory) or faulty motherboard (solution: call Dell, except don't cause your warranty expired). I try each memory stick at a time, and several combinations, but always two beeps. I unplug everything but the AC, still two beeps. I take the computer off its rack and put it up on a desk on its side. And... it starts fine.

I put it back on the rack, and.. it starts fine. I plug KVM back in, and boot up Ubuntu like nothing ever happened. fsck and memtest still pass with flying colors.

In other words, physically picking up the whole box fixes the problem temporarily. So there's something warped, loose, or shorting on my motherboard, right? I don't SEE anything that looks warped, loose, or shorting. I've never added or modded any components in the original Dell build, so there's no *good* reason for anything to be damaged. I'm sure Dell just screwed me, and I've accepted that, but the question still stands, how do I salvage this $1,000 box that pretty much kicks *** except when it mysteriously and miserably fails? How do I track down this intermittent hardware problem?

I've considered buying and installing a new motherboard, but I won't even know if that solved the problem until I've been up for several months.. and then if it fails again I will probably stab myself in the throat in frustration.

I am wide open to ideas here... whatcha think? thanks a ton for anything!

rob
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Old 07-18-2010, 01:47 PM   #2
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It's a Dell so it's a proprietary board and the Vostro boards do have issues so even a refurb from Dell may end up with the same issue again, it's a mAtx G33 board but the mounting holes are not standard, the CPU heatsink is not standard nor is the rear I/O shield and front panel connector.
The PSU is going to be a 300w or 350w depending on the video card it shipped with.

I would pull the board out and look for any loose components or pieces of solder floating around in the case, if you don't see any, replace the board, case and power supply, and heatsink reusing the CPU, ram and drives
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Old 07-18-2010, 05:29 PM   #3
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That's good info. Didn't know Dell used their own proprietary boards, but that makes total sense, and you probably saved me a lot of confusion and time by pointing it out. Thanks so much, I will try your suggestions.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:13 PM   #4
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So, I didn't find anything visually wrong with the Dell motherboard, so I've set about to a rebuild. I've purchased a new case and motherboard (Gigabyte Core 2 Quad/Intel P43/DDR2-1200/A&GbE/ATX Motherboard GA-P43-ES3G) and a 400W PSU.

Wrench97 mentioned I should replace the heatsink as well, but it looks to me like the Dell heatsink will line up nicely on the Gigabyte board. Is there another less obvious reason why it's a bad idea to use it?

Thanks!
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:49 PM   #5
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Well to be honest there isn't except some propriatary things wont fit any thing but the oem parts like motherboards and such. If it fits then use it, I don't know about any one else but I never had alot of problems with using retail stuff with oem stuff, yeah a little modding but not that big of deal.
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Old 08-04-2010, 12:06 AM   #6
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Does that heat sink have the fan attached to it or is the fan in the Dell case and the the air is ducted to the heat sink?
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:28 AM   #7
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there's a fan directly attached to the top of the heat sink. There's a second larger fan on the case wall right next to it.

https://robgwin.com/stuff/vostro420heatsink.jpg
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Old 08-04-2010, 08:41 AM   #8
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Yeah, you can reuse that as long as you use new thermal paste and clean the old off with rubbing alccohol and a lint free cloth like a coffee filter.
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:39 AM   #9
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That will have a back plate on the other side of the motherboard, you'll have to remover the back plate from the OEM board and make sure it will mount to the new board and not touch any traces or part of the cpu socket when doing so.
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Old 08-09-2010, 07:05 PM   #10
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So my case showed up today, so I finally got to take a look at how this heat sink goes in, and.. maybe it won't work after all. wrench97 mentioned a "back plate" that might've been under the motherboard, but turns out the Dell case just has thread holes built right into the wall:
https://robgwin.com/stuff/dellheatsinkcaseholes.jpg

The new case, of course, has nothing of the sort. Can a "backplate" device be obtained, or do I need to give up and buy a new heat sink? I haven't found anything yet with some googling. Here's what the heatsink itself looks like:
https://robgwin.com/stuff/dellheatsink.jpg
(you can't tell from the blurry pic, but those are threaded bolts sticking out...)

How does a heatsink normally attach to the motherboard?? There must be an explanation of this somewhere on this awesome forum...?
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Old 08-10-2010, 12:30 AM   #11
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Yea that's the Dell case with the humps the board sits on.
I would upgrade the cooler but you could get a back plate kit.
You'll have to buy the complete kit like this one and just use the back plate(botto piece in the picture), however you need to make sure the screw size is the same or change the screws in the cooler> https://www.frozencpu.com/products/96...t_-_Rev_2.html

Or the complete cooler> https://www.frozencpu.com/products/97...40c14s52#blank
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