computers: power supply fix

I fiddled around with computers for five days straight over Christmas. I knew upgrading a laptop to Windows 7 and adding memory would be a chore, but I also had to repair my desktop.

cheap HP Pavilion, power supplies, old Northwest Falcon

On the right is the mighty $3000 PC that Northwest Falcon hand-made for me in 2004 out of slabs of aluminum and top-of-the-line parts.

On the left is the HP Pavilion I got second-hand for $100 to replace it when it died. They have nearly identical specs!

The HP Pavilion soon stopped resuming from standby, so I would mostly leave it powered on. Then it wouldn’t start up after being turned off. Thousands of people have this problem, many HP Pavilion desktops shipped with a crappy power supply unit (PSU). It turns out there’s a hack for that, the immortal “hairdryer trick” (Google it).  So I would only turn the computer off when I went away for a while; when I returned I had to hold a hairdryer to the back of it for 20 minutes until the power supply rose from the dead and then I could restart the computer. Crazy, but it worked.

Then at Christmas I had to reboot my PC into Windows to run Quicken to look up last year’s charitable contributions. (Quicken sort of runs on Linux thanks to the amazing WINE program, but it’s too fiddly getting the right mix of Windows code and Linux equivalents for it.) Instead of clicking Reboot I accidentally clicked Standby, and immediately started cursing. Sure enough the computer wouldn’t come out of standby even though I pressed the power switch immediately.  This time the hairdryer trick didn’t work even after blowing hot air into the PC for 25 minutes. Time to get another computer… except my last backup is 7 months old 🙁

So instead I tried to replace the power supply, the thing I should have done ages ago. There are lots of guides to doing this, it’s just unscrewing stuff and disconnecting and reconnecting a lot of connectors. In the photo the dead cheap HP power supply is the gray box at top center  First I swapped power supply with the brass and ball-bearing masterpiece from the $3000 hand-made Northwest Falcon PC (in the photo it’s at the top left of the computer on the right), but that didn’t work either. (Pro tip: the only way to tell if a power supply works is to short two pins together to make its fan start, see Power supply paperclip trick.) So I bought a new power supply, the Antec EarthWatts 380D Green (in the photo it’s the box at bottom center). I installed it in the HP Pavilion, only to find that HP’s stupid custom cutout for the PSU has flanges that overlap the Antec:

curse you, overlapping flange

Ahh, to hell with it, I screwed it tight anyway. I pushed the power button, and the power supply fan turned on! … and the HP’s cheap plastic power button failed! So I removed the front panel, reassembled the power button, and it powered on! Glory be! Both hard drives seem fine despite getting a 25-minute blowdry.

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