Reviving The Windows Gaming PC

The Apple Store revived my vintage Black MacBook (2006) several years ago after the CPU fan started screaming like a banshee, replacing the CPU fan, battery and keyboard. I hoped to get another six years of usage before getting a replacement system. Alas, the CPU fan started acting up several months ago. The system would shut down in 15 minutes after starting up. I could no longer use it to look for a new job, or, after being unemployed for nearly eight months, get it repaired or replaced. I had to switch over to my Windows gaming PC, which spontaneously reboots whenever I needed to do something.

Like most users who switched from Windows to Mac, I only turned on my PC to play video games. The last rebuild was in 2007 to upgrade the motherboard, CPU and memory for Windows Vista. That system was quite stable. A few years ago I replaced the dual-core processor with a quad-core processor and the video card from an ATI Radeon 3870 to an ATI Radeon 6790. That system wasn’t quite as stable. Upgrading to Windows 7 and Windows 8 over the years didn’t help much.

Was the quad-core CPU that came out years after the motherboard got manufactured and enabled with a BIOS update incompatible? Was the video card defective? Was the power supply failing in a mysterious way? Or was it all of the above?

Troubleshooting the PC was never urgent as I rarely played video games after getting serious about writing and suffering bouts of unemployment from my non-writing tech job. With the MacBook out of commission, I needed another computer system to continue my job search. The easiest solution was switching over to an old Dell system. However, I never take the easiest path if a harder—more educational—path is available.

After opening the PC and the Dell to lay side-by-side, I started switching out the video cards. With an old Nvidia Quadro video card in the PC and the 6970 video card in the Dell, both systems ran without problems. I then started checking the power requirements for the video cards and looked up the specs on the power supplies in each system.

The PC still had the power supply from 2007 with 20A on the 12V rail, but the Dell had a newer power supply with 40A on the 12V rail. Most new video cards required at least 25A on the 12V rail. The 6970 needed the extra juice for graphic-intensive applications. The solution became obvious. I switched the power supplies and put the 6970 back into the PC. (I didn’t bother putting the Quadro back into the Dell since the motherboard had a built-in AMD 4200 video chipset.) After wiping the hard drive and re-installing Windows 8.1, the PC was no longer spontaneously rebooting.

It didn’t take long to get the PC up and running with email to resume my job search. A few days later, I landed a new job. The only Mac-specific applications that I’m missing from the PC are Photoshop CS3 and Bento for ebook publishing. I can boot up the MacBook to complete any tasks within 15 minutes before it shuts down. Despite transferring operations over to my PC, I’m going to save up to get a replacement Mac later this year. Like most users who switched from Windows to Mac, the Mac is the better computing device.


C.D. Reimer

http://www.cdreimer.com

C.D. Reimer lives and works in Silicon Valley. His interests are ceramics, painting, tropical fish, and web programming. These keep him out of trouble when he’s not fixing broken users and consoling hurt computers.