Monday, February 28, 2005


Sick hardware on

My server was sympathetic with me lately as it was getting sicker by the day:

  • Its cough CPU noise was loud enough to hear in a different room with two young kids in the house!

  • The secondary HD on my server had several bad sectors and Win2k decided to unmount it whenever it was unable to flush the write operations to the disk.  I blame it on the case design as the HDs were too close. The second HD mounted directly over the first one in the case got way too hot. The HD container I bought worked like a charm so the HD still worked. Sort of. Rebooting the server each time it lost the HD was a pain so I decided to fix the HD problem first.

This weekend I scheduled a thorough chkdsk, crossed my fingers and rebooted. The HD is 80GB but less than half full so I thought 1/2 hour should be enough for the chkdsk. Boy was I wrong. One hour later I got worried and shut down the server and lugged it to the kids room where I could connect a screen and keyboard to see what was happening 

(The server only has a mouse attached as I do all management via Terminal Server. Someone please tell me why Win2k refuses to work without a mouse which you cannot do anything with but boots happily without the keyboard you need to log in...)

Since I already had it handy I decided to fix the fan first. I had bought a replacement fan a few weeks earlier on where I bought the server several years ago. One neat thing is that they, like, offer free shipping if you can pick up the goods in one of their deposits.

I had never swapped a CPU fan before so I didn't really know what to expect.  I sure didn't expect this mess when I took of the heat sink:

Who put a chewing gum on my CPU? Same color, same consistency. Yuck!

Turns out it is a feature not a bug. The documentation in the box didn't mention anything but I found a tube of white stuff hidden below the new fan. I thought it as the usual humidity absorbing stuff that is included in most boxes with electronic devices. I had a look at the fan constructors web site and discovered that the chewing gum is quite important: put on a thin layer of the silicon stuff on the CPU before replacing the heat sink. I guess it's increases conductivity.

As soon as the CPU fan shut up I could hear that the hard disk was terminally ill. During chkdsk it made nasty clicking noises when it tried to read certain areas of the disk. I managed to find a 200GB in a local shop for 100 euro and recover 99% of my data. I only “lost“ one of my CDs that I had ripped to MP3. A few minutes later and I was able to play my entire CD collection in my Kiss player again :-)

At least I have an idea what to use the old hard disk for. Change of plans: the disk seems to work OK after the latest format so it stays attached as temporary backup disk for stuff that I can afford to loose.

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