Should I buy a new motherboard?
August 25, 2007 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Should I buy a new motherboard for my HP Pavillion Desktop?

I have an HP Pavillion a320n, about 4 years old. I had been having intermittent problems with it, including 3 power supplies dying, weird shutdowns and blue screens of death. I attempted to flash to a new bios, which ended badly. For a while, it tried to post and got stuck, with the power light blinking. I tried a few things (flashing from a floppy, resetting cmos, resetting jumpers, reseating ram, processor, heatsink...)but was never able to get it to post. Currently if I turn it on, the power light comes on (solid), the hard drive spins, the mouse lights up but the monitor and keyboard (which work fine with our other pc) don't work. I can work the CD-ROM drive to open it and close it, and if I insert a disc, it spins and the lights go on, but nothing else happens. There are no beeps from the cmos during this process.

Today I found the exact Asus motherboard on ebay. It's 89 dollars which I think is a good price. Is this a no-brainer and I should just buy it, or am I missing something else I could try at home? Are there risks to swapping out the mobo and keeping the same hardware?
posted by Biblio to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
It sounds like replacing the mobo will only give you more grief. In my experience, the proper use for a 4 year old HP Pavillion is as a doorstop.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:22 PM on August 25, 2007

That doesn't sound like a good price for a 4 year old motherboard. Also the trouble you would have to go through isn't much different from what it would be if you built a new system with the help of some of the parts from your old system. How much more than $89 would you be willing to spend for a newer more capable machine?
posted by Good Brain at 3:59 PM on August 25, 2007

Much like a car at the end of its lifespan, you can fix these problems one at a time as they come up, or you can bite the bullet and buy a new one.

Look at the low end systems from Dell, HP, and others; they're probably better than your current system in every way, and are cheaper than you think.
posted by IvyMike at 4:06 PM on August 25, 2007

1) You should be able to swap in the new mobo with no problems.

2) The key is figuring whether it's worth 89 bucks. As with cars, at some point it becomes cheaper to get a new system.

300-400 dollars will get you a whole system from the Dell outlet (which will be faster and have more memory than what you have now) Drop your old harddrive in, copy over the files, and you're set.

Of course, that assumes that you have 3-400 dollars to spend.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:09 PM on August 25, 2007

Response by poster: Hmmm, I guess you're right. I just got a Dell laptop and like it a lot, so I think I'll take a look at their desktops. Maybe I can sell some old parts on ebay!
posted by Biblio at 4:42 PM on August 25, 2007

What about just using your laptop to replace the desktop? You can always get a docking station for home use so you have your external monitor and keyboard/mouse.
posted by jmd82 at 4:57 PM on August 25, 2007

$90 is too much. If you can give us the detailed specs of the HP Pavilion, we may be able to recommend a better replacement board. That said, it may still be time to sell the old parts and start fresh.

It seems like you have some interest in the inner workings of PCs, and if that is the case you should really consider building a system from parts, or specifying a system at a local computer store.

If you go with Dell, watch deal sites (like fatwallet or redflagdeals) for one-day-only specials. It will be obvious when the right deal comes along because the discussion forums will be buzzing. If you don't vet the price through a deals site, chances are you are paying way too much.
posted by Chuckles at 5:27 PM on August 25, 2007

Response by poster: In case anyone is still hanging around here...the last thing I did yesterday before posting this was swap the power supply with the one from my working Dell. No joy. When I put it back in the Dell, it started behaving exactly like the HP...light on, fan spins, mouse lights up, no keyboard, monitor, or HD. So now I am wondering if the HP just kills power supplies, or if there's a problem with the powerstrip it was plugged into. At any rate, I now have 2 dead computers and all 6 of us are vying for time with my laptop. Any ideas?
posted by Biblio at 9:22 AM on August 26, 2007

Best answer: So, one of the things I tried to avoid getting into, but probably shouldn't have avoided, is the issue of non-standard power supplies. I think HP sticks to the ATX standard, though I'm not sure, but Dell definitely does not. So, you may have created a bigger problem :(

In general, power supplies are very robust. Even plugging one into a severely defective motherboard should not cause any damage to the supply. On the other hand, troubleshooting is about keeping every possibility in mind, and testing instead of guessing, so.. My suspicion is that you have not properly reinstalled the Dell's power supply, and when you've fixed whichever connection isn't right, it will just work.

Motherboards are less robust, although still not that damage prone really. Depending on the specific models of the systems you have, using the Dell supply on the HP motherboard may have caused permanent damage, due to Dell's non standard pinout.

If you can't quickly figure out how to get the Dell working again, try following one of the many good PC troubleshooting guides in other AskMes. They are always going to be too abreviated, or too detailed, depending on your exact problem, but the basic point is: take everything apart, connect only what you need (motherboard, power, CPU, ram, and sometimes video), see if it works (by letting it POST, and sometimes even booting to a troubleshooting CD to run burn-in and test programs), and then turn off and add another part.

Finally, it is really important that we know the exact model numbers of the machines you are working on. Knowing only Dell and HP leaves tens of thousands of variables, but knowing the correct models should bring that down to hundreds :P
We don't even know if the Dell has a standard ATX power supply, or a proprietary one, at this point..
posted by Chuckles at 10:38 AM on August 26, 2007


I said this:
It seems like you have some interest in the inner workings of PCs, and if that is the case you should really consider building a system from parts, or specifying a system at a local computer store.
because of the proprietary parts issue you will run into with brand name PCs.

On one hand, if you are getting into the guts of your PC, proprietary parts are a real pain, on the other, brand name PCs can be really cheap. I can't balance those considerations for you :)

That said, if you need even cheaper prices than Dell one-day-only deals, try intechra (aka retrobox) - I've never dealt with them, but they have great prices. Also worth considering, especially for Canadians, vfxweb - they are very reliable as a parts dealer, but I've never bought a full PC from them.
As a general rule (there will always be exceptions) avoid used Pentium 4s. They will either be so expensive you might as well buy new (and better), or they aren't any better than 1GHz+ PIIIs which cost much less. like the PIII I linked to from vfxweb. At an astonishingly low $37 CAD, it would be a very good platform for most applications, though it could use $25-50 more RAM.
posted by Chuckles at 11:00 AM on August 26, 2007

I've purchased a single computer from RetroBox (before they were Intechra). The freight charges cost more than the computer itself and shipping took almost 3 weeks-- we're talking about a simple P3 Dell workstation for close to $100, not a used Sun server or anything. This was two or three years ago.

I was recently in the market for another old workstation and looked at Intechra; I don't know if it's a timing thing, but their selection really sucked and what systems they did have were pretty expensive (after factoring in freight charges).

Ultimately I ended up buying a wholesale lot off eBay and selling the extras individually, but I digress...where you really ought to be looking for a replacement workstation is on Craigslist and MySpace (strangely).

Craigslist is a hit-or miss thing; here in Atlanta it's flooded with people using it as marketing for their dubious custom PC businesses...tons of overpriced Alienwares and generic customs. I know other cities don't have it as bad.

In my experience, MySpace classifieds tend to have more of the soccer-mom and student types just trying to get rid of their old computers, usually at negotiable prices.

My own experience with HPs is that they're more cost-efficient to replace than they are to repair. Don't spend the $80 on a new motherboard.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2007

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