A Bit InCapacitated

Service to repair blown motherboard capacitors – Ed

I think these two excerpts illustrate the problems reported in the hundreds of responses I received from this inquiry.

“I work in a mom-n-pop computer shop, and last year we were more or less strictly dealing with Abit boards. Guess what? Virtually all the Sa6/R, BX133, and boards from the time of Jan ’01-Sept ’01 are coming back. All for the same problem- busted caps.

“I think we sold maybe 100 SA6Rs in those few months- guess how many come back? Maybe 40 of them. Where are the other 60? I suspect if they have the same type of caps, then they will be back eventually.

“The episode has basically caused our little shop to give up on Abit completely and utterly. We shall never carry them again as long as an alternative exists.”

“I have seen hundreds of Abit boards with capacitor problems. Either
bulged, blown or leaking. When I worked for a local computer
manufacturer, one customer alone had over 300 boards that went bad before
the one year warranty expired.”

Maybe the best way to handle this is in the form of an FAQ.

How big of a problem is this?

Based on what some resellers said, it looks like at least a large minority of these boards have this problem. By “these boards” it looks like boards made by Abit roughly between two-three years ago. It’s not rare by any means, it’s not 100% by any means.

What does this problem look like?

Capacitors bulge, they break, once-in-a-blue-moon, they explode, they leak, leaving either brown residue around itself or blackish gookie stuff. Occasionally, there’s no outward sign of damage, but usually, there is. More details can be found here. You can also search in the newsgroup alt.comp.periphs.mainboard.abit. I would suggest using Google to perform newsgroup searches.

How legitimate is the guy offering to replace these capacitors?

The emails generally confirmed what the gentleman had to say about the problem. Those (relatively few) who sent their boards in to have the capacitors replaced were quite satisfied with his work.

The only real complaint was about the price, though I think this was more “Why spend $50 to repair when you can get new and better for $100 or so?” than anything else. One person suggested having the local
TV/VCR repair shop handle this as an alternative. Quite a few did the work themselves. Once fixed, the boards almost always work fine again, sometimes even better than when new.

What about Abit?

Abit seems to have had a mixed record on this one. When this problem first emerged, they didn’t seem all too responsive about this. Later on, they basically extended the “warranty” to two years for mobos having this problem.

They really would rather the reseller handle this, but can be “persuaded” to fix the boards for $25. Turnaround time varies, from a few days to a few weeks. You probably won’t get your original board back, and then tend to fix just what’s currently broken. On the other hand, the one you do get back almost always works.

I have an Abit board, what should I do?

First, you should look at the capacitors on your motherboard. Identify who makes them. If you look towards the end of the repair website, you’ll find out the brand names of the capacitors that are so often blowing up.

Look at the capacitors. Do they look normal, or are they bulging or broken? Does it look like they’ve leaked, or do you find powdery residue around them? If any of the latter, you will probably be having problems shortly, if you aren’t already.

You then have to decide what you want to do. Do you want to spend money/time/effort repairing the thing, or do you want to buy a new one? Many if not most of those with this problem chose the latter.

However, as might be expected, most of those who have had the problem swore they would never buy from Abit again.

I have a recent Abit board, there’s no problem there.

We don’t know that yet. Most people who had this problem didn’t get them for quite some time.

If you do have an Abit (let’s say anything from the KT7 and after), if you have time and it’s convenient for you, take a look at the capacitors, write down the brand being used, and send me a note telling me what you found.

Maybe Abit’s using better capacitors now, maybe they aren’t. This is one way to find out.

What about other companies?

There were a few scattered reports about capacitor problems with other mobos, but that’s just what they were, scattered.

Why did no review site talk about this?

In this particular case, the problem rarely showed up early on, and thus wouldn’t have come up in the short time a board is normally used in a review.

The real reason is that review sites don’t usually look back at products. We’ve done it a few times, but in all honesty, not terribly often, either.

We’re going to change that, and in a couple days, we’ll put out how we propose to do that for comment.


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