Building a PC: More help needed

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by IJ Reilly, Jun 26, 2004.

  1. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #1
    Last month I started a thread about rolling my own PC. Got a lot of great advice about the parts to choose. Based on that advice, and my own research, here's what I bought:

    Antec case
    Abit NF7-S Mobo
    AMD 2800+
    ATI 9800 Pro AGP 128 mb
    512Mb RAM
    Samsung combo drive
    Seagate HD
    Logitec KB & Mouse

    After about four hours of assembly, it's all together. I think. When I power it up, I get a scrambled image on the monitor, looks like white characters on black. This I assume is the BIOS screen, but I can't be certain since the monitor won't sync.

    For testing and setup purposes I'm hooking the PC up to an old Apple 640x480 display through an Apple to VGA adaptor. (I've tried two different monitors.) Maybe some sort of inherent incompatibility is my problem, but I doubt it because these monitors are pretty basic. I can't find any help on this topic in either the Abit manual (which assumes that the display syncs), or the ATI manual, which assumes that Windows is already installed.

    Is there a way to force the PC to sync with the monitor? Any other suggestions?

    Thanks in advance... :)
     
  2. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    #2
    Assuming your mobo has on-board video I suggest connecting to the on-board video and remove the GFX card (assuming you haven't already done this). If that works then go ahead and install Windows then install the GFX card.


    -Lethal
     
  3. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    #3
    Unfortunately it doesn't. I actually thought I was getting a motherboard with on-board video, but that's another story. I also tried the s-video out but I'm pretty sure that won't work without the drivers installed.
     
  4. brap macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Location:
    Nottingham
    #4
    I have a very similair system (NF7-S, 2800), and I can tell you the BIOS is definitely not white on black.
    Your 9800 should be booting into a 'compatibility' legacy 640*480 VGA mode, as with all machines at POST. This doesn't seem to be happening.
    You may want to try booting the system with just system board, memory, cpu/fan and VGA card installed (read: not even hard discs). This should get you into the BIOS.
    If not, try getting a different VGA card installed and see if you boot up, because it sounds like that could be the issue.

    Do you get the POST-succesful 'beep' at all?
     
  5. Mav451 macrumors 68000

    Mav451

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2003
    Location:
    Maryland
    #5
    I agree with this guy. This sounds like either mobo/vid card problem (which may be interpolated).

    The first thing to be taken care of is getting your ENTIRE setup to POST. If you don't hear the initial "beep", then something is wrong in the Hardware sense.
     
  6. bloodlocust macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2004
    #6
    Hiya, I've built loads of pcs.

    Listen out for any long beeps or rapid beeps. Those mean a serious failure - which may or may not mean you've installed the componants properly.

    The 9800pro offers TV-out. I don't think it works immediately but you can try it on your TV via the supplied cable to see if thats the cause. Seriously, I don't think all mac monitors are immediately compatible with the output of PC graphics cards. But?

    Try this checklist. Always earth yourself when working with pcs - that is, touch grounded metal like a radiator etc... keep doing that at intervals to discharge static.

    Now the checklist - I want you to remove all hard drive cables from the motherboard. This includes floppy and CD. You don't need those for a sucessful POST.

    Remove the sound card if there is one.

    You should be left with just a motherboard, ONE stick of ram in the first slot (closest to CPU) and of course the graphics card and cpu.

    checklist
    ----------

    Now you want to make absolutely SURE that the graphics card is getting POWER from the PSU (power supply unit). Yep, the Radeon 9800PRO requires external power as well as the AGP is insufficient... if you've not done that, do it now!

    Also, make sure the CPU power supply is in, and the fan power supply is in!

    Once done, try a tentative boot. If all's well, add the rest one by one. Remember! Always disconnect power first from mains and discharge static...

    Good luck!
     
  7. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #7
    I get the beep. In fact sometimes the monitor syncs up just enough so I can seen the BIOS and CMOS screens. It made me kind of nauseous, but I was even able to pick through the menus once and reset the CMOS to 80-column. Thought that would help, but it was a long shot. So I reset the CMOS from the board.

    The ATI card is externally powered. It's all plugged in, the fan comes on, and clearly it's generating video -- just not video that my old Apple monitors like.

    I also tried the S-video out, connected to an old Apple AV monitor (it's got a S-video connector). That didn't work either, but I wonder if the S-video on the ATI is active without an OS and drivers installed.
     
  8. brap macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    Location:
    Nottingham
    #8
    Ah.

    Well, I think the long and the short of this is - get another monitor, PC SVGA at least. AFAIK no additional video output is active without an OS/drivers, although I've only ever had NVidia chips. Most cards use 3rd party TV chips from Phillips or Conexant, which are enabled through the OS.
     
  9. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

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    #9
    I've been trying to track one down as a loner. The ultimate solution (I'm hoping) will be my 17" Apple LCD with a DViator from Dr. Bott. It should arrive next week.
     
  10. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #10
    In answer to my own question after some research... Mac monitors (older ones, at least) expect a sync on green, which isn't going to be supplied by a PC video card. Also, the two monitors I have in surplus, an Audiovision 14 and a Color Plus 14 are both fixed-frequency monitors, so unless the video signal coming out of the card just happens to match in resolution and frequency, they aren't going to sync. Either one or both of these reasons is good enough to cause these monitors to not function on the PC.
     
  11. Elbeano macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    Location:
    PA
    #11
    That sounds like some pretty good reasons why nothing was working. I'd say find yourself a nice used PC store in your area, and drop about 20 bucks on the cheapest monitor you can find. Or, go WILD and buy a new 17" one for like 80 to 100 bucks.
     
  12. ToddW macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    #12
    it sounds to me that your video card is working proberly, however if you have an outdated monitor that can make it a little screwy. I would definately go with another monitor, that should fix the problem.
     
  13. bloodlocust macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2004
    #13
    If you've got cash: Lacie
    Quality budget: samsung syncmaster

    I know the Lacie works on both macs and pcs without problems, don't know with samsung, but they both have amazing frequency ranges, flatscreen and tiny dot pitch.

    Or you could be flash and go for a TFT, but get one with a really low response time - 16 is good.
     
  14. LeeTom macrumors 68000

    LeeTom

    Joined:
    May 31, 2004
    #14
    Plug in a compatible monitor. Your computer is fine.

    Lee Tom
     
  15. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #15
    Right. My DVIator arrived yesterday, allowing me to connect an Apple 17" LCD to the PC, and violas, I have video. After one false start, Windows installed, and now I'm in business.

    First observation: the Windows installer is about as sophisticated as a stone axe. I felt transported right back to 1983. Oh, and Microsoft nags me every few minutes about registering my copy of XP. I've got all of thirty days before my PC stops working. Jerks.

    All in all, this project wasn't quite as difficult as I'd anticipated. It was time-consuming, and I don't suppose I saved much if any money. But the next time some PC wire-head calls me a Mac weenie I can look 'em right in the eye and tell him to get lost.
     
  16. Mav451 macrumors 68000

    Mav451

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2003
    Location:
    Maryland
    #16
    Heh, well if you are on the Corporate Edition...you would not get any of this nagging at all (more reason to hate XP Home).

    And, it is usually not as time-consuming as you are making it. The process would have been greatly alleviated if you had gotten a GUARANTEED PC compatible monitor in the first place -_-. Its like trying to put a PC video card in a Mac, and then expecting it to work the first time (it might work with a BIOS flash, but if you knew beforehand, why didn't you get that taken care of before even putting it INTO your Mac in the first place).

    I can get my full XP installation done in under 2 hours, programs/drivers/tweaks. As with all experiences, the first time will always be the most time-consuming.

    And by the way, you're still not a true PC builder yet :). You haven't tapped the Abit NF7-S's true strength--overclocking. If you can show up a PC guy by telling them you've went with 11-2-2-2 ram timings instead of the more common 6-2-2-2 b/c FSB's greater than 200Mhz (on the nForce2) benefit from 11 more than 6; then you are truly a PC builder b/c you actually know th e ins-outs of your motherboard.

    Building it is only half the journey--the second half is knowing your setup's limits. This does not mean haphazardly overclocking, but doing it smartly. You can get an idea of what your NF7-S can handle by going to nforcershq.com and seeing what other people have--people usually post their vCore/FSB/Ram timings/Vdimm in their signature there.
     
  17. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #17
    I'm not including the monitor adventure in my time estimates. I'm also not including the time spent in research or shopping, which was considerable. The DViator and my Apple LCD was the ultimate, planned solution, but the DViator hadn't arrived by the weekend so I thought I'd give the old Apple displays a try.

    The actual installation of XP was less than two hours. I'd say less than an hour and a half, including the low-level drive format, none of which am I including in the total construction time of about six hours. I don't think this was inordinate, considering it was my first time out.

    Abit threw me a curve when they included only one standard ATA cable and one S-ATA cable. I didn't buy an S-ATA drive, so this left me stumped for a while. They'd also tucked into the box a very poorly worded flier explaining the S-ATA to ATA adaptor they'd included. I figured this out without much delay, but then discovered to my disgust that the adaptor made the drive an extra half-inch deep, which prevented the enclosure door from shutting properly. So I switched the S-ATA cable to the optical drive. Unfortunately, for reasons I can't explain, the optical drive would not operate consistently on the S-ATA bus (this accounted for my false start installing Windows -- the installer got so far, reported an error, and quit).

    So I bought another standard ATA cable from Radio Shack, replaced the S-ATA cable and adaptor on the optical drive, and everything worked.

    I solved a lot of problems like this along the way. So yes, I'm a "true" PC builder now, by definition. What I'm not at this point is a PC hacker. Maybe later.
     
  18. garybUK Guest

    garybUK

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    #18
    one word of advice dont use those sata-pata converters, they dont give you any benefits and windows is buggy with sata. Also optical drives arn't the best drives to put on the sata bus yet..

    You will see no performance increases and you may have better reliability if you put any PATA (UDMA100-133) devices on their IDE connectors on the board.
     
  19. ToddW macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2004
    #19
    I disagree, my rig for gaming uses the same components as IJs and I have yet to have problems, on the windows or linux side of things
     
  20. Mav451 macrumors 68000

    Mav451

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2003
    Location:
    Maryland
    #20
    Well it is a little of both actually.

    When nForce2 came out initially in the Fall of 2002, it was buggy as hell. Of course, its been nearly 2 years since then, and I can say from my long stay on the forums of nforcerhq.com that the SATA problems were fixed in a BIOS update in early to late March 2003...

    So, yes, there were SATA data corruption issues back then, but that's now a year old issue that has been fixed--and a year is a LONG time in the computer industry these days :)
     
  21. IJ Reilly thread starter macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Palookaville
    #21
    I wasn't looking for any benefits, since I don't have any S-ATA drives -- I just wanted it to work. Abit shorted me the second P-ATA cable, including the serial to parallel adaptor instead. For whatever reason, it didn't work on my optical drive. I didn't like the look of the thing from the very start. It hangs out from the back of the drive and doesn't seem to make a very positive connection. Experience tells me this isn't a reliable setup. I'll hold off on using the S-ATA bus until the price of the drives comes down. I'm in no hurry.
     

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