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Very very wonky motherboard

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6 replies to this topic

#1
Tommy

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I think I've posted about this board before, but I'm not quite sure. But nonetheless, this thing, yeah, thing...is absolutely crazy.

 

It's the ECS NFORCE 570 SLOT-A and it basically does what it wants to. Here's my really big beef with it. Sometimes it boots, other times it doesn't. It turns on, and doesn't do anything at all except spin everything up. This especially happens if I try to put a battery in it. If I have a battery in the board, then basically forget it, it will never actually start to post. I literally have to kill all the power and drain it so that it totally forgets everything in order for it to start up again. And no, even just clearing CMOS with the jumper doesn't work either. The thing has to be drained or else.

 

I've been told before that ECS wasn't the greatest board to go with but now I have it, in fact I've had it for quite a while now. The USB ports don't seem to work because you go to plug in a mouse and nothing happens. You can actually see the little laser try to light up, but that's it. So I think those are shot. Not a big problem since I have an addon USB card I can use. But the booting thing...has anyone ever experienced something like this before?


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#2
Drugwash

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Yeah, I have a pretty old MSI board - something with 845P Neo - that used to boot only once in a few dozen attempts, then more and more rarely. At some point I tried a BIOS update which I can't recall if it went through or not, at which point the board died completely, the diagnostic LEDs on the bracket stay constantly lit green. BIOS chip is soldered on the board so no way to take it off and do a hot flash.

 

While it did work, the external SATA controller chip used to get quite hot which I don't know if it was normal or not. Disabling it in the BIOS appeared to improve board's stability but only temporarily.

 

Capacitors were all looking good, no bumps or leaks, but no way to know if any of them were dry unless I had unsoldered them, which I didn't.

 

Other than that there's a weird chip on the board called "MSI core cell" with a small cooler on top, which I have no idea what it does.

 

First of all you should measure all the voltages from the PSU and make sure they're within the acceptable margins.

 

Then examine carefully all the (large) capacitors on the board, see if there's any gonflated and/or leaky; those would have to be replaced before damaging anything else.

 

The BIOS chip may be failing, but you can't know that for sure unless you replace it with same or directly compatible model flashed with the correct BIOS version.

 

Other possibilities may be bad contact in RAM or CPU sockets.

Sometimes RAM pins may get burned due to such bad contacts so pull them out and examine the pins at both RAM sticks and board memory sockets. Clean RAM stick contacts with a pencil rubber.

Loose contacts in CPU socket could also lead to weird behavior - take the CPU out, find yourself a good magnifying glass, gently and carefully remove the CPU socket cover and examine the contacts, see if there's any loose ones and if found use a thin needle to bend very gently the loose pins back to their normal shape.

Please be extremely careful when you remove the socket cover, it can easily break. Same with the contacts. So don't try it if you're not sure you can handle the operation and the possible loss of the board.



#3
Tommy

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Hey, thanks for replying Drugwash. I think there are a few things that I can rule out. The PSU should be fine since I've used it on several other boards and they've worked just fine. That of course doesn't always mean it's fine, but I think it can be ruled out. I didn't think to look at the CPU contacts, so I could start there since it's an easy thing to look at. I don't recall seeing any bad caps but of course there could be something that I can't see easily. But the CPU itself and RAM was used in another board and it worked perfectly fine, but that board has a bloated cap unfortunately and even though it works, it needs replacing. I'm really thinking something with the BIOS could be up, that or something controlling it. But it just seems so weird that putting in a battery makes it no longer bootable. And the funny thing is...I never get beeps out of it, at all. I was able to get a little key tick sound out of the speaker, but that's it. Since it's an award bios, usually those will at least emit one beep when you first boot the computer. Not this one though.... :/


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#4
Drugwash

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Careful with the CPU socket, the contacts inside are very fragile and the cover can easily break as I said above.

Since the CPU itself has been moved around, do examine its pins too with a magnifying glass, one or more may be bent. Those are fragile as well.

 

What I forgot to mention:

- if the BIOS chip is in a socket, you may try to pull it out (using a couple of needles inserted in opposite corners) and insert it back a couple times (check the position of the cut corner)

- make sure you insert the battery the right way; I have a board with a vertically mounted battery socket and it's easy to insert it the wrong way. Measure the voltage on the battery (or replace it - it could be shortcircuited)

- worst possibility is for the board to be damaged mechanically, which may happen when mounted too tight in a flaky case which is then twisted whilst handling it or when inserting RAM/ATA or floppy cables/power + LED + speaker wires; that could explain the faint/missing sounds too



#5
Tommy

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I might do that. I actually ordered a different motherboard and it's on its way. But I'd still like to examine this board and see what's going on with it. The actual hardware I'm sure is good because it works just fine on another board, so I'm guessing either the BIOS chip *could* be failing, or maybe one of the pins on the board for the CPU is just a bit off. I don't know if the battery is short circuiting or not but something extremely weird is going on because even after I remove it, it takes a lot to get it back up and going again. The battery isn't vertical so I know it's going in the right way, but I have seen those vertical ones before. The motherboard itself is actually quite flimsy and that's one thing a lot of people complained about with this board so even though it might've been somewhat state of the art with features at one point, I think there are boards that were better made. I went with my favorite brand, Gigabyte. If all goes well, I'm praying it'll arrive tomorrow. But once I have this other board out of the case, I will examine it more carefully. I do notice that the northbridge fan is very flaky too so I don't know if it could've overheated at one time and caused *some* damage or what because it's just a fan, really no heatsink at all so I wouldn't say that's out of the realm of possibility either. In fact if it sits for more than a few days, I literally have to stick something in there to make the fan start moving again. So that is one of my bets as well.


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#6
Drugwash

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Unfortunately in situations like yours it's extremely hard to determine the faulty component(s) and maybe impossible to fix if any of the tiny SMDs (surface mounted devices) are damaged.

The battery issue does strongly suggest something like this. A little elaboration:

BIOS settings are kept in the volatile memory by means of stand-by 5V voltage from the PSU. The 3V battery is only meant as a backup during power shortage, unit displacement - anything that may interrupt the power for even the shortest amount of time.

 

As such, there is a relatively simple circuitry that switches between stand-by voltage and battery voltage as needed, in order to keep the volatile memory of the BIOS powered at all times. Usually it's one or two transistors, a few resistors, maybe diodes and capacitors.

 

Now, if that circuitry becomes defective for some reason, it can block the power from both the PSU and the battery, thus putting the BIOS chip in an emergency state. Sometimes it can deplete the battery in a very short time due to a shortcircuit.

 

Such defect may only be repaired by qualified personnel, if there's anybody out there that still cares for fixing motherboards and other similar devices (such as mobile phones, for example). Unless you personally have the skills and the appropriate tools, of course.

 

The fact that the board is flimsy as you say may have lead to PCB tracks breaking as I mentioned above. Those tracks are so thin that the slightest bend can break them and it's not only the visible ones on both sides but there are also a couple or more internal layers where tracks can break or blow due to high current (shortcircuit or heavy load).

 

The northbridge fan may not be a problem, at least not in the early boot stage. That one can easily be cleaned and greased (usually), just be careful with the flexible safety (dunno its actual name) on the axle, not to break or lose it - it tends to spring away.

 

It is kinda curious though to employ a fan but not a heatsink - it usually happens the other way around. I have a relatively new machine here donated by a friend (with a Gigabyte board, incidentally) which sports a quite large heatsink for its chipset but no fan; I've had intermittent crashes/reboots with it, inability to detect the IDE drive in BIOS and - coincidentally, maybe? - it all went back to normal after I attached a small fan to that heatsink which used to get really, really hot. Here it is: GA-M55S-S3 rev1.1.

 

Anyway, since that board will be spare when the new one arrives, you may play with it as you like but still be gentle, try not to consider it dead until it actually dies. Good luck! :)


Edited by Drugwash, 06 February 2016 - 07:29 AM.

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#7
RJARRRPCGP

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It's also very likely the motherboard requires a recap...


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