I'm sure that part shouldn't be on the floor
November 4, 2005 1:08 AM   Subscribe

I broke my computer, but it didn't break...

So, while installing a new video card, I managed to break a capacitor off the motherboard (At least, I think it's a capacitor. It's small, black and cylindrical).

Now, I'm still having (I believe unrelated) grief with drivers in the Windows partition, but the Linux install seems just fine. Is this going to blow up/catch fire/destroy other parts later on? Is this something that can be fixed, or should I be looking for a new motherboard?
posted by pompomtom to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Capacitors can be used to regulate voltage stability. Different parts of your computer might get voltage outside tolerances they otherwise shouldn't.

I don't know what the long-term effect would be if it isn't already affecting your computer. Can you resolder the cap to the board?
posted by Rothko at 1:17 AM on November 4, 2005

Response by poster: Can you resolder the cap to the board?

Not that one... the pins came out of the cap, and then I broke one off the board trying to wiggle it all back together.

I'm thinking I could take it to a shop and get someone to do it... I still have the cap for identification purposes (though the writing on the side makes me think I need an eye test).
posted by pompomtom at 2:06 AM on November 4, 2005

Response by poster: Thinking about it though... is the lack of the cap going to give a risk of blowing something up when the circuit is broken at that point?
posted by pompomtom at 2:54 AM on November 4, 2005

I would get a new motherboard
posted by spooksie at 3:40 AM on November 4, 2005

I'd bet you will find something little doesn't work anymore, like a USB port, or the reset switch or a floppy drive.
If I was in this position, I'd tuck the broken piece away safely and keep using the machine as usual.
If it turns out some key component has died, take it to the TV repair man to replace the capacitor, but it is as likely you will have killed something you don't even use like a serial port of onboard graphics chip.
For simple soldering repairs the TV repair guys are the goods, a computer shop will want to sell you a whole new motherboard.
posted by bystander at 3:44 AM on November 4, 2005

I snapped off a little piece near the CPU socket on my motherboard, checked my budget to see if I could afford a new one, and ran the machine with a close eye on it for a day, ready to go to the store if something was really wrong.

Nothing happened. It's been about six months now since that happened, and everything is fine. The one thing that happens now and then is a hang during shutdown, but I think that happened before the accident, too.

One thing did happen, I guess: Everything smelled like burning plastic for a day, even far away from the house. I guess I was feeling paranoid. Since then, april fresh in the computer room, and Civ IV is running the animations at the right speed.
posted by mph at 9:34 AM on November 4, 2005

Best answer: If your time means anything to you, replace the motherboard. It could be perfectly fine, it could crash randomly every 3 months, it could crash randomly every 5 minutes. It might only crash on tuesdays when it's a full moon, or it might crash any time you click on a particular file. The point is that you really don't know, and if your time (measured in time lost due to crashes and head-scratching and wondering what's going on) is worth anything, you will just replace it.

In general all those capacitors on the motherboard work in parallel - they are all connected across the rails of the supply voltage to stabilize it and even out the the quick and sudden bursts of current demands. So, losing one may not necessarily be fatal. However, it will mean somewhat less regulation of the supply line, which can lead to all kinds of mysterious things happening. Again, if your time is worth ANYTHING you will get a new motherboard.

You can also replace the cap. The fact that the one that broke off was damaged is irrelevent - they are a commodity item and are in no way individual at all. That's not to say they don't have specifications that must be met. But for example when you break a cylinder head bolt when repairing an engine you don't really worry about the fact that it's ruined, you just go buy a replacement.

All that would be required is finding a suitable replacement of equal or greater specification (generally, in descending order of importance: >= capacitance, >= voltage rating, < esr.) and soldering it in. don't expect to find something at radio shack though, because these caps tend to be of very high quality because they pass very high currents, and therefore need extremely small esr ratings. you will almost certainly have to mail order the part.br>
If you are handy this is an option, but only if you have a good idea what you are doing and aren't afraid to roll up your sleeves, and you possess or can obtain a quality soldiering iron and related gear.

Again: This motherboard would probably cost about $100 (or less) to replace unless it's a particularly high end model, and your time is almost certainly going to be worth more than that - so don't just fuck around wondering if it's okay and putting up with constant crashes, just replace it.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:10 PM on November 4, 2005

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