Last update :- February 19th, 2012

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October 2008 to September 2011

Following my redundancy from EuroTech Ltd (was Arcom Control Systems Ltd), the subsequent cancellation of the trial project I was working on for F-Secure Corporation and my decision to become self-employed (due to the downturn in the jobs market) I knew it would be sometime before I upgraded my system and this wasn't to happen until September 2011. However, as a sign of the times perhaps, I was forced into making some changes in the interim due to hardware failures - something I'd never experienced before!

May 2009 - ThermalTake Kandalf LCS P500 pump failure

After finally getting the noise levels to an acceptable level with the Core 2 Duo setup and everything running smoothly one day without warning the system shut-down. It was only during the re-boot, with no music in the background, that I noticed the P500 pump that drives the water-cooling for the Thermaltake Kandalf LCS case had stopped working! For fear or causing damage to the processor I aborted to re-boot, took the side off the case and re-checked the wiring. Despite an number of re-tries it was clear that the pump had suffered a failure.

I had no choice but to disassemble the system in order to fit the stock Intel cooler supplied with the processor - a "painful" process:

  1. Move the pump and reservoir out of the case
  2. Remove the water block from the CPU and move it out of the case
  3. Remove the graphics card and disconnect/remove all the SATA and other cables
  4. Remove the motherboard - to avoid potentially spilling any coolant on it
  5. Disconnect the water-cooling hoses and drain the system as much as possible
  6. Loop the in/out hoses on the front door mounted radiator to each out
  7. Loop the in/out hoses on the pump and reservoir to each other for shipping back to ThermalTake under warranty
  8. Remove the backing plate for the water block mount from the back of the motherboard
  9. Clean to top of the CPU to remove the Arctic Silver thermal compound
  10. Mount the stock Intel cooler as supplied with the CPU following the instructions provided
  11. Re-install the motherboard, graphics card and cables

I sent the pump/reservoir assembly to ThermalTake for repair/replacement under warranty and it was returned in due course - but I never re-installed it due to the hassle involved. Due to this I decided that if I were to go with a water-cooled system in the future it would be a sealed system - with no need to fill or top-up the coolant as it would be pre-filled and sealed.

October 2010 - EVGA Nvidia 680I motherboard & Hiper 580W Type R PSU failure

The system then worked reliably until one day it simply wouldn't run for more than a few seconds - despite removing and re-installing components and cables. I couldn't initially determine what the cause was and resorted to buying cheap alternative memory and a cheap graphics card to eliminate those as the cause and re-built the system outside of the case on a wooden board on the floor.

At this point the first suspect became a apparent as the Hiper 580W Type R PSU failed at switch-on during further testing. Flicking on the rocker switch on the PSU resulted in an internal spark and total PSU failure - as pressing the power switch for the motherboard resulted in nothing. True enough, inserting an opened paper-clip between the green wire and one of the black wires on the ATX power connector (which bypasses the safety check) of the PSU and flicking on the rocker switch resulted in nothing. I had to pay a visit to my local Maplin for a new generic 500W+ PSU.

With the system still outside the case and hooking up the new PSU the system booted properly and initially appeared to be stable - until I re-booted and all the BIOS settings had been cleared. As the OS was installed on a RAID 1 (mirrored) array using the built-in RAID controller no OS was detected on the re-boot as this wasn't enabled by default. I wasn't willing to leave the system running all of the time (which would remove the need to change the BIOS settings each time) so reluctantly ordered a new motherboard.

I had some work outstanding and didn't have time to re-install the OS and applications from scratch so was forced to go with another Nvidia based motherboard - in order to use my RAID set-up. This meant one based upon either the older 6 series or newer 7 series chipsets. At the time, and based upon then need for an express delivery, the option was either another 680i board available at £149 or a lower spec'd 750i board available at £77 - so I went with the cheaper option, namely the Asus P5N-D.

Whilst waiting for the new motherboard to be delivered I took the opportunity to back-up all of my documents, installation files, data and settings onto my two 250GB removable USB drives. Once the new board had arrived, the system had been re-built and I'd finished the outstanding work I opted to delete the RAID arrays and re-installed everything from scratch. RAID may have the advantages of backup and speed but the major disadvantage is that it's dependent upon the controller used - you can't move disks configured on one RAID controller to another unless they're backward compatible. Otherwise, had I had the time I would had opted for a newer Intel motherboard. I decided then that I would never use RAID again in the future.

September 2011 - Core i5 System

I finally decided to get a new system in September 2011 to take advantage of the highly regarded 2nd generation Intel Core "Sandy Bridge" processors and the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Based upon my past history of building my own systems you'll probably be surprised to hear that I opted for a pre-built system from Computer Planet - but based upon a custom specification using their "Design Your Own PC" option. This gives you the option of specifying the components you want to use but have the supplier build it, optionally install the OS and all current drivers and test it. This obviously costs you a bit extra but you get a guarantee and I simply didn't have the time to buy all the components from multiple suppliers and build the system myself.

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