The Beginning §

This computer was one I worked on occasionally, but it eventually tanked entirely. On December 25th of 2015, I received this computer. Here were the the problems with it, in order from the earliest to the latest issues:

  1. The DVD drive wouldn't read DVDs
  2. The USB ports on the left caved in
  3. The computer would not POST

The computer, turned on, but with nothing visible on its screen.
The computer's power LED, illuminated in blue.
As you can see, this computer isn't doing anything useful.

Well, time to tear it apart.

Removal of a screw labeled with hard drive platters, under the Ethernet jack.
First, this Torx crew has to be removed.

The disc drive, minus its faceplate, showing two screws on each side of the drive.
Next, you must remove the faceplate from the disc drive, and remove the two screws on both sides of it.

There's not much more to it, you just hunt down some more Torx screws, and then you can remove the back cover.

The squirrel-cage, laptop-style fan, with dust in it.
We can tell that this computer has certainly seen its fair share of usage.

The computer's two USB ports, misaligned from being forced improperly.
Here, we can see the problem with the USB ports. The anchors have been broken, so this means that the case has been damaged. The ports could simply be glued back on.

The USB ports from the outside.
Here's how it looks from the outside.

No matter what I did, swapping the CPU and RAM around and everything I tried, the motherboard would not boot whatsoever, although I confirmed that the CPU and RAM worked fine in other computers.

I told my client their options, and we eventually settled on trading computers, that is, I lent them my Gateway GT5422E, and I kept their TouchSmart.

The Revenge of HP's Bad Workmanship §

On February 3rd of 2016, I decided that I was getting sick of seeing the TouchSmart's pieces flooding a desk, and that I wanted to investigate the issue further.

Once again, the computer, as before, was inoperable. Sometimes, I'd get three blinks out of the power LED upon plugging in its power supply, and still no successful boot upon trying to turn it on. Trying another power supply, as per an Internet suggestion, did nothing to solve the issue, as I simply used an Antec NP65 universal adapter with not nearly enough wattage for the computer, resulting in only three blinks from the power LED, also happening when the power button was pushed, with no bootup attempt whatsoever.

Remembering an HP TouchSmart tx2 that I worked on back in 2012, I aimed to use the same crazy workaround on this TouchSmart that I used on that one, and that involved simply using a hair dryer for a short time to heat up the graphics chip. Both of these units use integrated graphics, so it was the northbridge that had to suffer.

The northbridge chip, being torched by a hair dryer.
I simply gave a Conair 1850-watt hair dryer a few chances over that chip right there. The first time, perhaps about 15 seconds of heating, didn't work. I tried 30 seconds, plugged the blasted thing in, and...

A section of the computer's monitor, lit up with text.
...exactly what in the blue blazes am I seeing here? This thing's working! It probably can't be trusted, but there we have it, this thing's confirmed to have been affected by a solder problem.

I had since given my client their hard drive back, so I don't have their operating system to test this system on, but that's okay, because I don't need it. As a cheap alternative, I simply booted Arch Linux via PXE, and am running three instances of the "yes" program, outputting to /dev/null, and intend to leave it this way as I sleep.

My intention is to see if I can fight with this thing enough to make it fail again. If I can't, for the life of me, make it fail again, I will tell my client that the motherboard is working again and that I'll swap systems once more, although I also intend on telling them that the motherboard may not last. However, if it continues to fail, I think the system should be pieced apart and sold, or perhaps a repair service would be worth looking into. I can solder, but I don't have the proper equipment to work on BGA-mounted chips like this TouchSmart's northbridge!

The computer survived eleven hours of CPU stress. I wanted to take things further, so I stuck a hard drive in it, and installed a fresh copy of Windows 8. Windows 8 installed fast and smoothly, and runs very well on this system, unlike Windows 10 did before its supposed death. The next step is to give this thing a graphics test.

As of February 9th of 2016, I've cycled this system between being off, being on, and doing FurMark tests. It has never shown a single hint of GPU failure. For this reason, it'll probably be going back to its owners soon. I have also since correctly positioned the USB ports in the system, and using epoxy to keep them in place.

On February 15th of 2016, the system was returned to its owners, working quite well, but not without warning of possible future failure. As of February 20th of 2016, I've heard no bad news about it. Yay for another successful repair!

Today is March 28th of 2016. Unfortunately, albeit unsurprisingly, the TouchSmart died again. On the other hand, a replacement motherboard was ordered, and has arrived today!

The computer with its motherboard replaced, showing the BIOS.

After a bit of fiddling around, the new board is working. It's time to cobble it all together.

I've observed that the new board seems to freeze sometimes, which I'm hoping is just due to dirty electrical contacts, but it's now exhibiting this very strange effect, where various characters on the screen are turning from white to purple, and back...

...and now it isn't booting anymore.

After cursing HP for making such garbage heaps, the machine turns on once again. Pushing around on the RAM sticks does not freeze the computer, suggesting that the RAM has excellent contact with the motherboard. In other words, I don't get it, other than it possibly being a problem with its solder, akin to the original board.

Strangely enough, the motherboard was shipped without a southbridge heatsink, as well as missing the translucent orange square piece of ` that goes around both the northbridge and the southbridge. I transferred these from the old board. Additionally, I notice that the circuit board seems to get quite hot.

Memtest86+ v5.01, showing no errors so far.
Right now, I am putting the system through its paces with Memtest86+, and everything seems fine so far. I'll let it do this for a while as I do some other work, then I'll come back to this.

For so very long, the system absolutely never failed Memtest86+, all the way to the end, after many passes, possibly in the order of 22. With it doing so well, I decided to move onto the next stage of the project, which was installing an operating system onto it, and having it do reboot after reboot, to see if it would survive that.

I had thrown a spare Seagate ST3750330NS hard drive in there before starting the memory test, and I attempted to install Windows Vista over PXE, but it wouldn't work, due to not liking the Ethernet card, for some reason, so I moved on to Windows 7, which worked absolutely fine.

I added my reboot-after-five-minutes batch file to Windows' Task Scheduler, and the reboots were on. It rebooted every five minutes perpetually, and never failed, all the way until the hard drive fell off of its SATA connectors, causing a Blue Screen of Death, all due to my tape hack failing. Silly me.

I put the hard drive back in its place, and had it do some more reboots. It lived on, until the same tape failure happened again. Since the motherboard had never failed to initialize, I call it a success, and I threw the system back together, with its original hard drive and everything. Sure enough, it came up with Windows 10 (bleh) as it did before any of this drama happened, so it's all good.

It's April 1st of 2016 as I write this, and this system's going back today! Hopefully, this will keep it working for good, until the next solder failure. Gotta love HP!

Unfortunately, something VERY crazy happened. The vehicle used for transport went through a flood, and once I finally made it to the owner's house, the all-in-one was found damp and dead, all live on show for the owner! The computer would not turn on at all, and I was absolutely ashamed for what happened. I apologized several times, but the owner showed absolute mercy, not complaining one bit about how insane it was that he was paying for his system to be ruined during transport, albeit not completely ruined.

This was as insane day; this all happened after getting my feet all wet walking through a flooded parking lot, having to hang out at a gas station barefoot, and carefully plotting a safe exit and directing my transporter's car by stepping outside, barefoot in the floodwaters. Finally, after I got home, I tested the system, and, sure enough, it was stone dead. I tried everything I could, even torching the motherboard with a hair dryer, and even several times with a heat gun, all to no avail.

I still had the old motherboard, which still didn't work. I took the heat gun to it, and, just as before, the board started working. Finally, the system was OK, and everything else besides its replacement motherboard seems to be working, including the hard drive. Thank goodness!

The only problem with this is that the old motherboard is likely to die again, likely even quicker than it lasted before, which was about a month. The only way to stop this would be to get the motherboard repaired, or replacing it once more.

Additionally, by some strange means, the replacement motherboard's money was actually fully refunded the day it was received, meaning that it was free! It's nice that no money was lost, only effort and time.

The original power button switch began breaking, for whatever silly reason, but, fortunately, the replacement motherboard was bundled with a bunch of nick-nacks...including a power button board, which got the situation resolved! Woo!

After such a long day, at long, long last, the computer has been assembled, and it is working just fine now. Only a miracle will keep the motherboard running for longer than a month, but crazier things have surely happened.

Today is July 21st of 2016. The motherboard had long since failed, and the computer had been sitting in ruins for months on end.

In early July, it was decided that a replacement motherboard should be purchased, and only today did it finally arrive.

The replacement motherboard, inside of an antistatic bag.
Here it is. I know what to do next!

The replacement motherboard, now installed.
There we go.

Firing it up for the first time did not work, which was fishy, but sure enough, trying it a second time, it worked fine.

The system in operation once again.

The system will undergo various testing before it sees its owner once again.

Today is July 22nd of 2016. The owner came here to pick it up, and I rushed in a Windows 7 installation, since we both were disappointed with Windows 10's lack of performance. All went well. The system's going back!

Today is August 15th of 2016. Yesterday, the TouchSmart died again, and I loaned the owners a laptop of my own while we all wait for the seller to help out. What a mess this system is!

Today is September 17th of 2016. I managed to snag a motherboard complete with a CPU, cooler, and a wireless card, all for $80, and I threw it into the system. It works now, but it's not going back until it's received lots of testing.

The replacement motherboard, installed.

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