It's like family, only weirder…

Speaking of DiY PC Projects…

How familiar are you with that acrid smell of burning electrical components in expensive computer equipment? That smell that pricks your nose to alarm at 100′ from behind sealed doors…

I was reacquainted with this noxious odor this afternoon while trying to reanimate an old Shuttle Intel P4 system I had laying around. It has never worked and I thought it would be good to give a last look before ditching it. While this system has been reluctant to provide any deltas through its myriad of configurations and troubleshooting steps, I was able to coax it into change this time. The Shuttle gave up its ghost with a whiff of smoke. I sought out the culprit only to discover that the 512MB, 333Mhz memory module was installed backwards…and cock-eyed. My most recent attempt to ensure everything was seated before giving it all another power test resulted in pushing the module down just enough to make some disastrous contact with conflicting power leads. The sharp smell of gases were from that ~$200.00 (at the time) component having its gold leads burned into oblivion on a wafer of silicon. What really sucks about this is that the machine probably always worked, but the memory module has always been in backwards.

Turns out this board had badly manufactured memory slots on it that allowed DIMM’s to be inserted (mostly) either way. If I had paid better attention to it, I would have noticed that the chip was slightly misaligned within the slot. Chock it up to experience. Lesson learned – and just in time for the new rig as it comes together.


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