New System, Old Problem 1544

I have a friend. He’s wanted a new computer for a while. Since his last computer purchase a few years back was a bit traumatic (let’s just say NEC got persuaded to hand him another one because the first one was so bad), we waited a bit to get the most bang for the buck on a stable platform.

In his particular case, the “killer app” is a flight simulator program, so the priority was a machine with as much CPU power as possible, items like video cards actually help little for this kind of program as opposed to games.

We already had RAM and OS, we needed primarily a CPU, mobo, and case.

It’s code voodoo time.:) Mission: find an AXIA, preferably a 1Ghz version.

First one showed me a 1Ghz/100Mhz chip: ARGA, bah humbug!

The second one didn’t even have a 1Ghz/266 listed, but he sure had one. AXIA, week 10.

While I’m looking, the salesman is prattling to my friend about why overclocking isn’t necessary anymore. Talk about preaching to the wrong audience! My friend says, “He WRITES about overclocking.” Probably not the best thing to say when
the guy doesn’t have a posted price on the CPU, but he sells it to us for $170 and tax. I need a mobo, and they have an IWill KK266 mobo (yes, we eat our own dogfood), so now I’m looking for the right Via chip and resistors on the board.

(I really ought to tell people in advance when and where I’m going to do things like that just to see the spectacle. :))

Now I really have the seller mystified. Anyhow, I grab that for $125 and tax.

He wants a new hard drive, and only the big IBMs are around for sale, so I get a Western Digital WD300BB for $103 + tax. My friend buys an Antec case and Emermax power supply, and we’re ready to go.

We go back to my house, I pick up a video card, a floppy, a heatsink/fan, thermal grease, and other sundries.

We go back to his house. Installation of equipment is uneventful.

Machine boots on the first shot; hard drive not recognized. Turns out WD is a little finicky about being called a Master when it’s a single drive, but that doesn’t take too long to figure out.

Partition, format, install OS at stock speed. No problems.

Now it’s time for fun. Set the BIOS for 10X133.

Machine won’t boot.

I try an 8.5X multiplier. No problem.

The sinking feeling starts. A lot better to have a very good idea of what’s wrong than no idea, but it’s still not great.

Try a few other combos. Nothing but 8.5X works.

Just to be on the safe side, do some cold booting, play with the voltages, reflash BIOS. Nothing.

Just to make sure the CPU isn’t the problem, run it at 8.5X150. No problem. 8.5X160; no problem.

Time to reinspect those little resistors. Look at the IWill site, look at the board. The resistors are in the right place, alright, though the resistor in place doesn’t look optimally surface-mounted. We try connecting while the machine is in operation (did I mention my friend designs and builds audio electronic equipment?). Still no go (but still works afterwards).

Sticker on the board says 3/13/01, after this was supposed to have been handled at the IWill factory, and indeed, that particular item was done correctly at the IWill factory.

Outside of this problem, I was pleased by how the board recovered from non-boots. After a non-boot, it snapped right back into operation at default, every single time, no multiple tries.

Don’t know if this is a one-off problem, or something more, so that’s why I’m writing this.

If you have recently bought an IWill board, or got a fixed one, tell me whether or not you’re running into this problem. Thanks!

Email Ed

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