My machine, nicknamed 44Magnum for the original behemoth tower case it
originally had, is once again live. The replacement Biostar motherboard
arrived and worked! Well, mostly worked. Perversely, it would not even
post as long as I had the new 1GB stick of RAM in it (a Corsair
ValueSelect). Seems that the two are not entirely compatible, a discovery
I made after reading some of the board's reviews on NewEgg.
Frustration! To make matters worse, after installing Windows XP and then
Service Pack 2, the computer took almost 2 full minutes to boot into XP.
What's going on? After post, there was a black screen for 15 to 25
seconds. Then the typical Windows ASCII progress bar would appear at the
bottom of the screen. But for some reason, the first 5 or so bars took
maybe 10 seconds each to advance. Once they were done, the rest
filled in virtually no time. Then to top it off, I could not get the LAN
to work at all (oops, turns out this was because our router needed the
machine's new mac address).
It was all too much. I went to all the local computer parts stores in a
vain search for a replacement 478 socket board. And 2 of the 3 I visited
were closed. The last, TigerDirect, no longer stocked socket 478. ARGH.
I resolved then that I would return the Biostar board and retire the P4
Instead I looked at my other options for compatibility. I had the new
PC3200 1GB stick and my ATI AGP X1650 was only a couple of months old (it
was a birthday present). The only other thing that came up was the AMD
socket 754 architecture. (There are some 939 boards that have AGP and
take 184-pin memory, but they are impossible to find.) With an Athlon 64
3200+, I'd have a machine more or less on par with my original Dell.
The new board came from TigerDirect (an ECS nForce 3). The new processor
came from NewEgg (an AMD Athlon 64 3200+, the 3400+ was out of stock).
The new case and memory I already had. I put everything together and
breathed a ragged sigh of relief.
I ended up swapping out my old primary hard disk because it was
accumulating a surprising number of bad sectors. 32MB of bad sectors at
last count, out of 160GB. (Actually, I'm just assuming this is a high
number. It seems high.) Was this a result of the original Dell board IDE
controller going bad or simply a natural deteroriation of this particular
drive? Was the Dell with after-market IDE controller actually stable with
the exception of this one hard drive? Could I have avoided this whole
month of downtime (and all these expenses) by just replacing that one
drive? I don't know. I might find out eventually.
Anyway, after some data and drive shuffling, I got the final XP install
done. I'm slowly reinstalling the old games and apps I had from before
(many won't run without the proper registry entries). My standby
benchmark, 3DMark2001, reports that the new 3200+ configuration is a
fraction slower than the P4 2.8GHz setup, but only barely. I do now have
a bit more memory (1256MB) which should help a bit with some things.
Having this machine back up and running removes a big stressor from my
life. Now I can resume my normal relaxation recreations that I was sorely
missing (such as BF2142 and BF2), as well as do more work on my personal