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Cost of replacing a fried motherboard
February 17, 2005 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I recently fried my motherboard. At least I'm pretty sure I did. Burning smell and all. Anyway, now I need to replace it. I wanted to get advice and experience from people who have done this.

It's a Dell Dimension 4500. I've read that since they use non-standard connectors, I'll have to replace a few other things as well. How much would this cost me to do it myself? To take it into a computer shop and have them do it for me (more likely...)?
posted by billybunny to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Oh, a clarification: I'd be doing this on the cheap, so I'm looking for minimalistic prices. No tricked out gaming stations for me, I'm afraid.
posted by billybunny at 4:59 PM on February 17, 2005

Are you sure it's not just your power supply? Open your case and look at your mobo. Any damage to the mobo that caused a burning smell should be visible.
posted by pmbuko at 5:29 PM on February 17, 2005

I don't see any damage. I just assumed, what with the smell, but it might be the power supply. Here's what happened.

I was installing a new stick of ram. It wasn't seating properly, so I was attempting to figure out what I was doing wrong. (I just wasn't pushing hard enough, as it turns out. That kinda sucks.) I wound up restarting quite a few times, and eventually I wound up restarting with no ram in at all (not sure how that happened). It beeped, but it smelled like something was burning. Then I couldn't get it to boot past the dell logo. Didn't even go into dos or display error checking.
posted by billybunny at 5:38 PM on February 17, 2005

Dells are not the most standard beasts in the world; the PSUs tend to have (just slightly) different pinouts than regular ones and the Optiplex line can't take a regular ATX motherboard. The Dimensions (probably) can (mine can, but it predates the 4500 series by a few years); however, if you've really fried the motherboard you're looking at replacing enough stuff in there that it'd be far less stressful and far easier to buy a new case (NewEgg has pretty good deals in the $20-$30 set - I bought this for a client and was very impressed; I love my $25 Foxconn, and I swear by Raidmax cases although I would not under any circumstances use a PSU that came with any of those cases). Your CPU and (additional) RAM as well as any drives would probably be OK, so you're just needing a case, a motherboard that matches the CPU, probably a new heatsink for the CPU (Optiplexes have customized spiffy cooling, dunno about newer Dimensions), and a new powersupply - total expenditure probably around $150.

It's awfully odd that you'd fry the motherboard just by not having the RAM seated properly. Do you have RAMBUS RAM? If you do and you don't put the terminator cards in the machine won't boot. If the PSU did go out, do not replace it - you'll need at least an ATX PSU with a converter cable which I can't find thru Google right now. Is it crashing at the Dell logo or does it not even get that far?
posted by mrg at 5:46 PM on February 17, 2005

on second thought and some searching, you don't have Rambus, you have DDR so that rules that out. You also have an older P4 (400 or 533MHz FSB) so you can buy a cheap ($35-$50) board; NewEgg has an EPoX Socket 478 for $35.50 now. You may want to call up a local repair shop (or some friends) and see if they can test your RAM and CPU; it's not unlikely that they'd actually be what's fried. Testing should be free or very cheap.

You may also want to check and make sure all your cards are seated properly too; disconnect everything but the keyboard and video card (internally too, unplug all the drives) and try booting it again; unplugging and removing the CMOS battery for a few minutes then putting it back and trying again.. you might get it booting again.
posted by mrg at 5:58 PM on February 17, 2005

What msg said. What you did is unlikely to have damaged something on your MB unless you broke a cap or something accidentally. Most "I can smell it" burn outs on mother boards are really obvious with black scorched carbon marks around the blown out component.

If it does turn out to be the MB the labour a shop will charge will be more than the parts cost. If you know which end of a screwdriver to hold the actual replacing of the mother board is the easy part. Pick the brain of the sales guy at the component store on what to buy (a build sheet for you system would be handy to answer all those questions you don't have the answer to).

Testing is straight forward if you can find someone with compatible hardware. Just swap your pieces for theirs one at a time. This is pretty safe; it's almost unheard of for bad PC parts (with the exception of power supplies which should be tested with a meter) to damage other good parts.
posted by Mitheral at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2005

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