Readers digest version at very bottom of article!
Motherboards and processors.
So this past month on a month long business trip I decided I’d buy a bunch of components to build a small form factor server that I could bring on future trips. I did all the usual research, microATX mono, microATX compatible case. PCI express x16 2.0 (XBMC is a must of course), adequate PSU, etc….
Everything was going great as Newegg delivered everything a day ahead of schedule. Forgot to order a DVD drive so I picked one up from Microcenter for $12 and then I had everything I needed. With my trusty screw driver set I got the box all put together without issue and fired her up. Its so exhilarating when you turn on a newly built system and it posts BIOS on the first try (before you ask, no I do not live in my Mom’s basement, although she is a very nice lady and I would be happy to save on rent).
Next step, install the OS. Its gonna be a dual boot system because I need Windows for some programs for work so I’ll install Win7 first. A fresh Technet install before they pull the plug on the program. WTF mate? “Cannot format the drive”??? Probably just windows, I’ll write the boot record myself and format with Gparted, no problem. Try again, install gets to 20% of expanding files and hangs for hours. Hmm this isn’t right.
Long story short, give up on Windows, move on to linux. Ubuntu installs but its unstable. Mint installs, also unstable even with software renderer. Ok now we’re in hardware realm. Better run some tests.
Memtest86+ – 24 hours, 6 passes no errors.
Complete surface test on 2 hard drives, no errors
Switched out SATA cables, same problems.
Now things get weird: every other reboot a different component disappears from the BIOS and then will usually return after another reboot. Sometimes its listed in the BOIS and then once Gparted loads its gone again. All power cables connected right.
Hit the forums: lots of people with weird symptoms like mine, some resolved as SATA cable replacement, some with bad OS images, some with failing drives. All of these things passed for me, hmm. Must be the board.
So after posting a nasty review on Newegg about the mobo I come across a link to a forum entry for the manufacturer. Its an FM2 APU board, and I have an FM2 APU processor. BUT: this board’s BIOS that it ships with does not support the new AMD Richland CPU architecture, have to update the bios.
Great! Easy fix I’ll just load it on my USB and flash the newest stable. Wrong! Flash fails, flashing the bios fails because the current bios does not support the installed CPU. In the words of Lil John ‘HWHAT’? Read more forums, only way to fix this is to install an old Trinity APU processor, flash the bios, and then install he new Richland APU. Oh let me check the pantry to see if I have a Trinity lying around, darn fresh out. Alternative, just bring that board on into the nice people at —enter manufacturer here—, “we’re located locally in Miami and California”. Sure, right, locally 1000 miles away. Get mad at tech support, give up. Email newegg, passed 30 day RMA window, but hey guess what? Its Newegg, they granted me an exception because the incompatibility wasn’t explicitly labeled on the site. RMA and buy a different board. All is well, crisis muddled through.
Bought parts for a custom build. Everything fits. OS is unstable. All hardware tests passed individually. Processors is FM2 and motherboard is FM2, BUT the mobo BIOS does not support this specific CPU architecture. Basically have to return the board for store credit.
Morale: read before you buy. And not just the tech specs, check the forums too. Sometimes motherboards don’t support a CPU architecture or CPU feature if it is released after the board/bios came out. In my case I couldn’t even flash the BIOS without installing an older CPU first.
“Damn! Lady Ga Ga got some yams” – Abraham Lincoln