RHR Wants your help (Hardware Horror Stories)

We need your help, tell us your hardware horror stories, we plan to do a youtube video or a few if it goes well of horror stories of hardware.

Tell us the stories of the BSOD during a massive tournament or the Coil wine that made the dog howl you know the usual.

Or the RMA from hell or microsoft tech who never returned your calls and emails.

By posting here you agree to let us post your story on youtube. We will also hopefully have a giveaway or two for those who help out 😄

Thanks
-RHR Staff

Be careful what you wish for, some of us have mechanical keyboards and remember the first time we met Chinese solder.
I lost my PowerBook 180's daughter-board and PowerBook 160's donor video chip to the evil stuff!
I will make a note to write something up soon.

Very excite. Many horror. Much word. 1300 it would seem. Let me know if I should have had someone other then myself proofread it. 😛

Ancient Chinese Secret
As experienced by Oelmuvun.

One day I acquired an untested Macintosh PowerBook 180. This is a nice little machine from 1992 with a 33MHz 68030, 68882 FPU, 4MB onboard RAM expandable to 14MB. For storage and expansion you have a 1.4MB floppy and 2.5” SCSI HDD, internal modem slot, ADB(keyboard& mouse), two serial ports, HDI-30 SCSI, video out(8-bit colour @ 832x624), line level in & out with built-in mic and speaker. The 180 in particular has 128KB VRAM for the internal display that is a 10” 640x400 greyscale Active Matrix LCD. Not bad.

When I tested this machine I was seeing video corruption, so I swapped in a compatible but slower PowerBook 160 daughterboard (25MHz 030, no FPU) to find the issue gone. I had no luck cleaning and fiddling with various connectors now that the problem was isolated to the 180’s daughterboard.

What next? Let’s try the video RAM. I would rather not sacrifice the PB160 unless I really had to. I cannot remember if it used a different chip, or if I just could not find a datasheet for what it had, or if I just did not want to sacrifice it but I started looking elsewhere. A PB145 proved incompatible. What I did notice was that my two PowerBook 150s shared the same VRAM chip as the 180. The 150 is a machine I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand it uses IDE HDDs, 640x480 screen res, 40MB RAM ceiling, and has a 33MHz 68030. On the other hand that LCD is an absolutely terribad passive matrix panel. It has no ports except a single serial, optional modem, and HDI-30 SCSI. No audio in or out, no ADB, no video out. It has no mic either. As a budget machine of that time period I am certain it made people happy, but if I am going to play with low end machines I can think of better ones.

One of my PB150s is not in good shape and I did not mind donating it’s bits. The VRAM chip in question is a 40-pin SOJ package, easy peasy. Unfortunately the video corruption remained after the swap! Bugger; How about the main video chip? It is a 100-pin QFP and I can do that, no worries. However this comes at the cost of my PB160 since the pair of 150s and 145 available to me do not have the part I need.

At this point I get out the hot air and whip off the chips from both daughterboards, all is well.
Now there are three ways I can put this sucker back on.
#1: Clean the pads and pins, flux up, tack down a couple corner pins and solder each individual pin with a teeny tiny iron tip and thin solder. I had no tiny solder on me at the time.
#2: Tin the pads, more flux, then fart some hot air onto the whole mess. The IC should more or less align itself with the pads and settle in nicely.
#3: Tack corners of the IC, goober some solder all over the rest of the pins, and drag some desoldering braid along the pins to pick up the excess solder. This is a popular method, but one I am not all that experienced with.
There are times when I should be off in a corner wearing a dunce cap. This was one of them. Can you guess what option I went with? Yep, I figured I should build some experience with option #3. Normally it would have gone fine I am sure. However this time I was a bit short on my usual solder and for some stupid reason which was probably being too lazy to order more, would have preferred conservation… for projects that matter more and really need a lot. MEGA-FACEPALM(in default Unreal Tournament announcer voice even)

But that was fine right? I had a whole spool which came with an “Ancient Chinese Secret” iron. Not even a second thought; for once it was a good thing that a cheaply made item had lead in it! 63/37 Solder is 63/37 Solder is 63/37 Solder, right? Hold on a second, I need to facepalm some more as some of you may already have determined.

I blob some flux and tack opposing corners before proceeding to slop the new solder on. Seems okay I guess, not quite as shiny though… Oh well, grab the desoldering braid……. It is not wicking why is this not wicking? More flux? Still not wicking!? Will a vacuum pump be my saviour? Oh god it just sort of sits there and does nothing! Dilute it with good solder, anything to get this garbage off!

It would have been a really good idea to test this solder on something dead first. At this point mixing in good solder then using desoldering braid sort of works, but is extremely wasteful and is dumping extreme heat into the IC, delicate traces, and PCB itself. This is a lost cause; it is time to retreat and remove the IC with hot air.

The situation so far is that I have ripped a pad off the PCB while the IC and pads are covered in un-removable solder. I toss the IC into some helping-hands and spend way too much time eventually managing to clean it off. The PB180 daughterboard is a parts-board now; perhaps someday I will stick the FPU and CPU onto a future PB160 board and bump the clockspeed up? Who knows?

Let’s put the PB160’s video chip back on the PB160 daughterboard and see if it still works… Nope, I killed it with heat. Time for more hot air to remove the dead chip; I am going to toss the PB180’s faulty chip on the PB160 daughterboard just for the sake of making sure the PB160 daughterboard still works and make sure I at least had isolated the right chip. Yep, video problems; at least I was on the right track.

Typically you would fix a damaged pad or trace by taking some tiny gauge wire and routing it from the pin of the IC to the trace’s nearest VIA or other part. The problem with this is that the trace went under the video chip and to a VIA that came out under another IC on the underside of the board. Not happening. I suppose I could at least try bending all the pins of this QFP package down to gain a bit of clearance for some 30 AWG wire wrapping wire to reach it’s VIA… But no, not happening. There is still some of that nasty solder on the rest of the pads anyway and trying to remove it would likely take the pads along too. I did not bother cleaning the flux off the PB180 daughterboard either, by now the board is likely toast even if I did bypass the missing pad.

Ultimately I need a new daughterboard. I do not remember what models exactly are compatible but the list goes something like 160, 165, 180, I think. I am not sure about 165c or 180c. I am pretty sure the 170, and 140 are out. I flat out know the 190, 150, 145, and 100 are not happening. If I get another video IC from a parts board I can still snag the CPU and FPU from the PB180 board I killed and bump up the clockspeed of the PB160 board. If I get a PB165 daughterboard it will just need a FPU since it is already 33MHz like the PB180. No crystal oscillator swap required.

And after all that I get to go spend $100 on a CF or SD to 2.5” SCSI adapter. Yay. I actually really dislike old 2.5” SCSI drives and that is a big reason why I have not pursued this project further.
Someday I will come back to it. I may even learn another lesson. Haha. 😛

The only recent one that comes to mind was from my most recent case/psu swap - (Thankfully, this is worst thing that has happened in a long while!)

Got a new case from Be Quiet and a PSU from Thermaltake (DPS G 850w) - I spent weeks sleeving it (see picture) and was so proud of how it came out! Installed it, plugged everything in…. click power. Quick fan spin, then off... nothing. Click.. nothing... click... fans spin (yay!) then shut down. again. I checked everything multiple times.. actually spent a good hour checking, re-seating, etc. It wasnt till I unplugged power cords till I realized the 1/2 the 24 pin (on the PSU side) was UPSIDE DOWN!??? Yes!! this plug fits into the PSU VERY easily upside down! I thought for sure I cooked something. Thankfully I didnt and she booted up just fine!

The worst one was about 12 years ago.... not much of a build up story wise.... I was doing a wipe/reinstall and formatted the wrong drive... lost a ton of stuff. Made me sick for weeks.

I wish I had more horror stories, but I've been very lucky in that department except for one occasion. I was building a really nice high end gaming rig for my friend a couple of years ago. Now I'm no noobie when it comes to building a system and know what to do and what not. I always ground myself to avoid ESD damage, before touching any parts. That day though my girlfriend was all touchy feely. She came up behind me and hugged me trying to initiate you know what. I promised my friend to deliver his new beauty that afternoon though, so there was no time for such delights. Of cause I'm only human too, and hugs just feel too good to be turned down. Unfortunately for me my gf wore some kind of polyester blend blouse and while placing the last screw into the motherboard I felt the discharge jumping into the board. I completely froze, because if you can feel a discharge that's at least 2000 volts and it takes only  100 volts to fry a mainboard. Sure enough the board was gone. Lucky for me Asus replaced the board, but I'll never forget the stink eye I got from my friend, when I told him he had to wait a few weeks for the replacement. Felt pretty bad that day.

TL;DR:Gf got frisky with me while I was building a PC for a friend and our romantic electricity fried the mainboard.

Cheers,
Spike

The only horror story that comes to mind is what I had happened to me with an ATI 9800 All-In-One card more than a decade ago. I had bought it from Futureshop at the time, went home to find it required more than what the AGP slot to power it. As it happens it required a molex power connection, which I diligently plugged in.
.
A few days later I smelled something burning or burnt smell and my computer would turn on but I couldn't see anything on the screen. Popping open the case I was welcomed with a burnt power pin on the graphics card. I was trying to figure out HOW this could have happened as it was plugged in correctly but I couldn't.

I was able to return it to Futureshop (well exchange it) as no one had ever heard of that happening before and to this day I still haven't ever seen or heard about it happening. This replacement card lived a long life with the exact same system setup as the one that cooked its own power pin.

Had a Mountain Mods U2-UFO Horizon that was friggin amazing. One day my PC starts shutting off more and more quickly, obviously the first thing I think of is heat. I'm running a custom loop with a PA120.3 radiator that fit the case perfectly since it had the old (25mm?) fan spacing and I knew it couldn't be due to a lack of cooling ability, yet my CPU and GPU were basically lava.

Turns out radiators don't cool very well when one of the core tubes cracks and turns the bottom of your case into a neon green swimming pool. If I had any other case with radiator mounting up top I would have lost a lot more that day than a radiator.

@Spike:

I wish I had more horror stories, but I've been very lucky in that department except for one occasion. I was building a really nice high end gaming rig for my friend a couple of years ago. Now I'm no noobie when it comes to building a system and know what to do and what not. I always ground myself to avoid ESD damage, before touching any parts. That day though my girlfriend was all touchy feely. She came up behind me and hugged me trying to initiate you know what. I promised my friend to deliver his new beauty that afternoon though, so there was no time for such delights. Of cause I'm only human too, and hugs just feel too good to be turned down. Unfortunately for me my gf wore some kind of polyester blend blouse and while placing the last screw into the motherboard I felt the discharge jumping into the board. I completely froze, because if you can feel a discharge that's at least 2000 volts and it takes only  100 volts to fry a mainboard. Sure enough the board was gone. Lucky for me Asus replaced the board, but I'll never forget the stink eye I got from my friend, when I told him he had to wait a few weeks for the replacement. Felt pretty bad that day.

TL;DR:Gf got frisky with me while I was building a PC for a friend and our romantic electricity fried the mainboard.

Cheers,
Spike

Thanks for the share spike love it haha, read the tldr before the rest and really thought this story was going another direction.

Do you mind if your horror story is included in a video coming up?

So this one is set about 15 years ago or so. I was starting to learn about computer assembly and I was confident that I was ready for my first solo build. A friend of mine was looking to get a new rig, so I helped him pick the parts and offered to assemble it for him so that he wouldn't have to pay  for assembly at the store. Trusting my skills as a builder he agreed and so, after doing all the shopping for parts, I dived into it and was pretty sure I would do a great job. Now remember that this was a first ever build for me and I had never actually seen anybody put a rig together (there were no youtube tutorials back then). So I proudly start putting things together, opening the case (had a pre-mounted PSU), slapping in the motherboard, processor and cooler, sticks o ram, graphics card and 3D accelerator card (a 3dfx Voodoo 2 if I'm not mistaken), the floppy drive, the HDD and made all the damn connections. I had done it and was feeling pretty great about it. That didn't last long… As I finished connecting the peripherals and finally hit the power switch on... NOTHING... nothing but a weird electric noise inside de case... (lucky for me, I was building this at my parents home and my friend was away, else I think he would have killed me there on the spot). I rushed to turn the thing off. I opened the case a looked inside and was baffled. Everything was properly connected. I couln't figure out what was wrong...
I called my friend and told him the rig had some problem and that it was best if we took it to the shop to see if they could figure it out.
The next day, at the shop, we talk to the owner of the shop and explain him the issue. He takes the rig to back room and less than 1 minute later he returns with a serious look. He stares a bit at us and asks who built the rig. I stepped forward.
The man points at something small in his hand and states: "you have to put these first before screw the board to the case". He had standoff screws in his hand. Then he proceeded "you are lucky you didn't burn the whole damn thing".
That was embarrasing but it was one lesson I would never forget about building a rig.
I did ended up fixing it myself and that rig is still working after all this time. Though my friend doesn't actually use it nowadays.

I use an ASUS T100TA as my laptop for computing in Windows 10.

The number of problems… oh my... where do I start. The Camera is not detected at all. This is caused through just simply updating multiple things, like updating to Windows 10. I have to rollback specific driver(s) to re-enable it. I've had to do this multiple times throughout the computer's life so far.

I had to update to Windows 10 via keeping all my files and programs or else it would come up with errors like not outputting any sound, not detecting wifi, and more.

I still can't hear Cortana and she still can't hear me.

The computer can actually do Heroes of the Storm considerably well after being optomized a bit. I get 18FPS Minimum in actual gameplay and 30 FPS Average. Note: Heroes performance is dependent on internet connection due to its design.

One problem with that though: I'm running a 2GB Memory computer. This means I can easily reach 90% Memory usage just running Heroes or Hearthstone with no other programs open. Occasionally it reaches 95+%.

The most recent was when my Windows 7 decided to corrupt itself. Nothing was working correctly. I made sure I had everything backed up with a third party software but I totally forgot to create a recover boot disk. I was freaking out thinking I lost all my game/save files. Luckily, I was able to reinstall Windows create a recover boot disk and still recover files. It just took a lot longer. But it didn't end there. A couple of weeks later, I had decided to get better/locking SATA cables. I replaced the cables and put them all in the same ports. Well, my system decided to change all the drive letters and somehow delete the partition table for my backup drive. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out the deleted partition. I used TestDisk to recover the entire drive and something else to get my drive letters back to normal. Things just haven't been going my way as of recent. For the life of me, I don't know how I haven't lost any data. The PC gods have some mercy. 😛

It had to be when I was first getting into IT work and networking from the ground up specifically.  I was working for a fire dept as a paramedic part time as well as working for a bank IT department.  The board didn't want to budget money for IT expenses because reasons!  So the Assistant Chief relied on me to piece together the cheapest PC's I could 1 at a time!  They were also running on Win 98 and I built an NT 4 server.  I spent hours upon hours troubleshooting network connectivity issues due to either incompatible NIC's or bad cable runs or terminations.  Much of it was self inflicted as I was trying to do it fast and cheap(I got paid separately for my IT work at the FD so I tried to keep it reasonable)!  It didn't help that when you already are working 75 hour weeks your free time is now back to being tied up with your main career!  Eventually I got everything working but I spent so many hours of my time fixing my screw ups that I hated myself and questioned why the hell I ever wanted to be in IT!

A year or so ago I was contemplating a GPU upgrade, but I was quite concerned that my aging 500w PSU may not be up to the task of what I was considering. Then out of the blue I had the biggest win so far in my life…a 750w gold rated PSU that was fully modular. Big excitement! Time passed by and communication was weak about receiving my winnings. Eventually (I believe around 2 months later) I received my PSU. I got straight to work with installing, tidying cables, and making it look as good as I could. A few hours later it was go time. Checked all the connections....power on...booting up....and hard shut down. After a few more tries the PSU was dead. Even testing it shorted resulted in the PSU shutting itself down after a short time.

SO...time to get this sorted out...RMA time. Weak communication again, resulted in big delays. Eventually the PSU is mailed out and I get reimbursed for the shipping cost. THEN...a call from the RMA facility. Their parent company is the OEM, but no facility in North America is currently contracted to work for this company. Long story short they agree to fix the PSU. Received back another month or two later.

OK...this time I am a little more cautious and decide to just connect the PSU to the PC while its out of the case first. Same result as before the RMA. OH GREAT! Short it out....green to black, check, PSU spins up...5,4,3,2,1...pop, flash, stink....oh joy.

A few more emails, a few more phone calls, and me making recommendations as to what I would like to be done, and I had a brand new PSU shipped to me from a retailer.

So in the end I got a nice looking PSU that does its job wonderfully...probably 5-6 months after the adventure began. That said it involved a lot more jumping through hoops than I would like.

@Soullessone21:

Thanks for the share spike love it haha, read the tldr before the rest and really thought this story was going another direction.

Do you mind if your horror story is included in a video coming up?

Sure, no problem. And btw, thanks for the chance!

Many….many moons ago I was working for this company called Compaq (yes this ages me) as a division tech support.  Basically if you were in Canada and had a multi-million dollar contract and had a problem with your Compaq server....you called me and I either got it fixed over the phone / modem or sent an underling to fix it.

Any ways it was Saint Paddys Day and was a slow day when I got a panicked call from a certain major Int'l company (think Fortune 50)....apparently a big wig was visiting for a grand opening of a new server room (think tens of millions worth) and was....well less than sober. He decided that since he was drinking and everyone at the St. Paddy Party they were having were drinking...the new server needed a drink too.

I sent a tech dweeb who reported back that at least one pitcher of green beer - and maybe more - had been poured into the server which was up and running at the time (last minute test runs)....and I had the 'joy' of explaining that nope it was not covered by their contract but if you dont give me any shite I can have the parts replaced within 8hrs...if they had the budget for it. The next day the 'grand opening' went off without a hitch...but the division's budget for the next year was GOOOOONE. 😛

This is not a disaster story by any means but I good tip so others can learn from my dumb mistake.

I built my first PC many many years ago and after about 2 years the mobo failed on me. Some google searching showed that this was a common problem with my mobo (I didn't know this when I bought it because it was fairly new). So long story short I RMA'd it which went smoothly. However, this was my only PC at the time so I had no computer while I waited for my new mobo to arrive back. Well I finally got my mobo back and was all excited and went to reinstall everything. Well I quickly learne my mistake when I couldn't attached my CPU cooler to the new mobo, BECAUSE I LEFT THE BACKPLATE ON THE MOBO I RMA'D! It was an adhesive type that stuck to the back of the mobo in addition to the typical screws. I didn't remember to take it off because who looks at the underside of a mobo?

Well then  had to go online and buy a generic backplate which luckliy worked perfectly. So I was out a few dollars and a few more days without a PC but this could've been prevented if I had remembered to remove the backplate.

I chalk this up to a rookie mistake!

By the way, I checked out the youtube channel, looks great, keep up the good work!

  • 16
    Posts
  • 4301
    Views