A few weeks ago I picked up a quick freelance job from one of the cab drivers who drives me home often. He had a computer he wanted me to take a look at and attempt to upgrade for him. He doesn’t want to spend more than $200, and he just wants basic things done to it, nothing major to me. He drops off the machine and to my surprise it’s an old HP Pavilion mini-tower. I take it in and stare and it and realize that this is not really worth it; it holds a maximum of 512MB of PC100 RAM, it has a 20GB hard disk, and it’s only got a Pentium Celeron 667 in it. I let him know this thing is basically worthless and he informs me that a friend of his has given him a newer eMachines computer. I tell him I’ll take a look at it.
The machine is an eMachines T3092 with an Athlon XP 3000+ processor, 512MB DDR RAM, 160GB hard disk, CD-ROM and DVD-R. It’s got onboard nVidia gforce 4 video and sound, and it actually works fairly well. He wants the maximum amount of RAM (2gb) and a fresh install of XP, nothing really major.
Step 1: Order RAM
Easiest part, right? I order 2GB PC2700 RAM from New Egg for $54 and have it shipped to me at work. It ships from Edison, NJ…about 30 mins away. It takes 5 days to reach me. This is annoying to me because I could have used 2 of those days (the weekend) to install and test the RAM. Why would this have been important to me? See below…
Step 2: Install RAM
I install both 1GB sticks, computer boots, I rejoice. While working a bit I notice some issues. Freezing, slow loading, and finally blue screens. This is not good. I’m thinking it’s a driver issue because of the new RAM. I reinstall the chip-set drivers and still blue screens. Finally I run Memtest on the RAM, right away both sticks come up with errors.
Step 3: Test RAM
I pop out 1 stick and test only one. Same deal, red flags like China. I pop that stick out and test a stick that I know to be 100% working, one from a computer that is used all the time. Memtest: CHINA! What next?
Step 4: Begin Google and BIOS
Looking through the BIOS for memory settings; speed, voltage, etc. Nothing to change that would help. Google brings some light on this; many people have the same issue, works with 512MB but nothing more. Some people say it’s the power supply unit (PSU), some had RAM issues. Since I know it’s not the RAM, it might be the PSU. That’s my next stop, testing a better PSU than the Bestec that’s in there. Many people on forums complain that the PSUs in eMachines are crap, and they tend to burn out boards, RAM, or just don’t give enough voltage. Hopefully it’s the PSU.
If after I test the PSU tonight it does the same thing it’s time to get a new motherboard for this guy. Now, keep in mind he wants me to try to stay below or as close to $200 as possible, at this point I’ve been VERY generous with costs only charging him 50% of my normal labor costs. If he needs a new motherboard I need to eBay it because no one has them in stock. The price on eBay with shipping is approximately $60, the same price as the RAM. I told him I can either get a new motherboard or he can stick with the 512MB RAM for now. Only issue with the latter, he has to pay for th 2GB RAM still, it’s not returnable, and I only bought the brand I bought because it was well rated, has a lifetime warranty, and was cheaper than the other more known brands. He wanted me to save him money, so I did. Now it might bite him in the wallet.