Change of Plans

I think I’ve fixed my recent hardware problems. As you may recall, my system was occasionally turning itself off, suddenly and without warning. Graphically-intensive games seemed to be the cause: I first noticed the problem in Team Fortress 2, but later observed it in other games, including ones that I had played without problems before. This is weird behavior for a PC: the sort of problem that can be triggered by running a game generally manifests more mildly, with the game dumping you back to the desktop with an “illegal operation” dialog. At most, you expect a system lock-up, not a system shut-down.

Well, when I was blowing the dust out of the case the other day, I noticed that some internal cables were out of place. This box keeps its wiring tidied up with plastic clips stuck to the metal of the case walls with adhesive pads, and one of those pads had come unstuck. The cables didn’t seem damaged, but they were hanging vary close to where the video card sits, and some of the dust was actually blackened. My theory is that the cables were actually touching the video card’s heat sink. Once the card started really working, the metal of the wires would carry that heat straight into the heart of the PSU, which has to take things like sudden heat spikes seriously and really has only one way of dealing with them.

With the wires re-secured, I was able to get through all of the TF2 Developer Commentary tracks without incident. So I’m ready to give the high-graphics games another try. Now that I know what was going on, I’m pleased that the system handled the situation as gracefully as it did, and apparently avoided permanent damage.

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