Tuesday, January 26, 2010

dust bunnies are taking over

I've been having problems with my desktop system. This is where all the magic happens. This is my video editing station, my digital photography touch-up studio, whenever I want to download something, this is my server, my depot, basically, my central hub for anything computer related.

Or it was. For the last several months (actually close to 8 months to a year I'm embarrassed to admit), my computer has been constantly hard hanging.

That means whenever I play a video game for more than 5 minutes, the system would freeze. If I attempt to open more than 5 pictures at a time onto various layers, it would freeze. If I try to do video editing and watch a video clip in VLC at the same time, freeze. It was annoying at best, and downright hard stop to video rendering at worst.

And so 2 nights ago, it hit an impasse. I had a half hour video that I needed to create and it wasn't happening. After 5 minutes (if even that), the system would just hang and I'd have to reset it.

Now, I'm a computer guy. In that I mean my other life outside of photography is very computer (PC) centric. I in theory should know exactly what's wrong.

First, I changed my ram. Ram is generally the first reason why a system randomly hard hangs. Then I changed my video card to something a lot less powerful because high end video cards produce a lot of heat, and heat is also a very common reason why a system hangs.

I also tried re-installing the OS, and tried another OS all together (evaluated Windows 7, but didn't feel like I needed it.) No difference.

Now hard drive on the verge of dying produces quite a distinctive noise. Although I didn't hear anything of the sort, I also tried a new HDD when I installed Windows 7. Alas, this also made no difference.

So 2 variables left - motherboard or CPU, neither of which I wanted to spend money to switch out.

But I had no choice as of last night. It was either I tried to switch one or the other, or just buy a new system.

Well, as a last resort, I wanted to put in new thermal paste onto the CPU chip between it and the heat sink/fan combo. If that helps, I'm golden.

I looked into the heat sink, completely caked with dirt/dust/and general dirtiness that floats around the room when the case door is left wide open. I took it apart, blew all the dust off, used a dry toothbrush to clean out any remaining gunk. Took a sponge brush to scrub between the fan blades, and after alcohol rubbing the surfaces clean (CPU and heat sink) and putting on new thermal compound, bing, bang, boom. Bob's your uncle.

My system finally is running stable again, and all it was were the damn dust bunnies that acted like a thermal blanket, trapping all the heat in.


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