The Heat Is On

I have a workhorse computer in my office. A 1.6GHz Pentium 4 machine. I assembled this machine a few years back. I used an ASUS P4B motherboard, a stock Intel cooler for the CPU and whatever cheap power supply that came with the case. There were other items in the machine such as Firewire, AGP video card, hard disks, CDR, etc.

The machine stays on 24/7 and it has done so since I put it in service a couple of years back. At least until Tuesday. Just before a 7:00pm recording session the machine did a hard stop. Just died. I noticed that there was a significant amount of heat coming from the machine. And, sure enough, the power supply fan had siezed. This caused the CPU to overheat because of the dramatic increase in ambient heat. The Pentium 4 chips will actually clock down, literally slow the processor down, to combat the heat. But, the combination of motherboard sensor and overwhelming heat caused a system halt to occur.

Fortunately, I had a spare Enermax 450 watt power supply. Why I did not install this power supply in the first place I do not know. I delayed the session start by thirty minutes as I had actually intended to print off some project plans for the client. I quickly replaced the power supply and all seemed resolved.

So it seemed.

Yesterday, I noticed that the machine was literally unusable. Sluggish. Unresponsive. I rebooted the machine and entered the BIOS diagnostics to take a look at the temperature readings. The CPU, at idle, was registering 61 degrees Celsius! Way too hot for this class of processor at idle. I tried replacing the CPU cooler with a higher efficiency system to no avail. Although the temperature came down somewhat, the chip no longer performs. Thermal damage obviously toasted the processor.

I have blocked off a day to rebuild this machine. Given my prior experience this is what it takes to fix a computer. I have to replace the processor, motherboard and memory. The processor because the P4 1.6 is no longer available. I’ll try and get a Northwood P4 at the 3GHz or better level. The Prescotts are said to have thermal issues and I really do not want a repeat of heat related problems.

Since the processor wants an 800 FSB I have no choice but to ditch the P4B motherboard. I’ll throw in a P4P800SE motherboard with the Intel 865PE chipset. And, because the memory chips are different, I’ll need to throw in a gig of high performance memory.

My only question mark is whether I can get away with remounting the original hard drive and repairing the Windows XP install. I hope so. It is such a pain to reinstall a boatload of applications.

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