PC Clean 2: Washed and Rebuilt

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It’s PC clean o’clock, and I’m back to finish what I started.

Before you go any further: If you’ve not read PC Clean part one, please do so now!
Now you’ve done that, so we can move along. Unless you haven’t and just skipped it, in which case this won’t make a whole lot of sense. After washing and drying your motherboard, it’s time to put it back together.

Hook it Up

Before you can test it, you need to get everything back in there. Assuming you’ve got everything you need, you just have to assemble it. Don’t forget to use thermal goop under ALL heatsinks you’re putting on the board.

PC Clean board collection of stuff
Everything that’s going to end up on this board

Many people are uneasy about things like this, but in a modern computer (from the last 10 – 15 years) it’s practically impossible to assemble it wrong. Everything will generally only go in one place, and one way. In fact, one of the reasons this second article is so late is that I didn’t have a compatible power supply. I got one out of a different computer that was given to me by a friend of the family because he didn’t need it anymore.

Testing

I like to use the plain black foam rubber friction mats as a non-conductive surface to hold the board on. They do make other colours, most of which should be safe, but I would not recommend using any with a metallic or glitter property. Otherwise, any clean cardboard should be non-conductive, but they may not hold the board in place as well.

PC Clean MOBO drive power supply test mat
MOBO on rubber mat with HDD and Power Supply attached

If you now have this set up, you need to identify the power-on pins. Your MOBO may or may not have a diagram printed on it, but the manual will have one inside. If you don’t have the manual, a quick Google search should yield the information. For example I searched: “mcp61sm-gm pins” and the first result, http://www.pigeonsnest.co.uk/stuff/mcp61sm-am.html had the pin layout, and a lot of more technical information right there on the page. Once you’ve identified the pins, you can either short them with a screw or a paperclip, like a pro, or play safe, and just plug in the button from a case.
Start off without the HDD plugged in, just to see if you get a POST screen. If you don’t there may be any number of things wrong, but not necessarily a dead board. Especially on older hardware, it’s easy to tell when something is wrong, but not always what’s actually wrong. In my case, I found out today that my testing bench monitor is probably dead. R.I.P. So I moved the board to my main setup after reseating the RAM so it would stop beeping at me.

PC Clean working monitor rat's nest MOBO
Moved the whole rat’s nest to a working monitor, plugged in keyboard

Software

I went through the BIOS, confirmed that all the important bits were recognised, and installed Linux Mint. My attempt to install a random graphics card, also taken from a donated old PC, failed for unknown reasons. One of the quirks with old hardware is that any number of pieces can fail together without being defunct independently. I will try the card in another refurb I’m working on.

PC Clean readout working Linux Mint
Basic stats readout running Linux Mint on the Washed PC

In the Case

Once you have a working computer, it needs a house. Any old PC case that will fit all the components properly will do. That said, if you’re doing this with a new MOBO that just happened to need to be washed, you’ve probably got a new case for it anyway. I took a lesser system out of a donated case and put it in there.

PC Clean old case, new life
Washed PC in an older case

Coincidentally, it’s not only possible to wash a PC case, it’s actually easier than the MOBO. I just do it in the shower… Fully disassemble the case so all the pieces are separated, except anything that’s riveted, and take out anything with wires. Then you take it to a sprayer and hose it down. If it’s really mucky you can even get in there with a scrubber. Dry it with a floor fan or a hair-dryer.

PC Clean PC Pron sideways look, e-Machines Case
Some sweet PC Pron (if this were 2006)

Protip: You want to remove those tacky front ‘badge’ stickers. The easiest way is to peel the bulk off, and remove the adhesive with coconut oil and rubbing alcohol. Rub the oil in for a while, then finish it with the alcohol.

PC Clean, the Conclusion

Well it’s been a hell of a journey hasn’t it? I think it has. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my journey as I’ve surely enjoyed sharing it. But I imagine some of you must wonder why I would bother doing this. Especially for a computer that was only good for about six months in 2006, this was a lot of work.
Well, I did it for two reasons. First, I got tired of seeing that meme of a guy washing a MOBO in a sink with his dishes. Every time someone shares that I comment that it’s actually doable and half the people think I’m trolling. So now I’ve got proof. I did it, and it works, and I have photographic proof. Second, I wanted to write a fun article that could help other people do this if they need to. This methodology isn’t just useful for refurbishing old tech. A new board that was shipped through a flood, a PC that was rescued from a mudslide, a smoker’s PC… All valid starts for this process.
So have fun washing and rebuilding a PC. Refurbishing, or building ‘Frankenstein’ computers, is something I’ll never tire of, and I hope you enjoy it as well. Until next time, steady hands.

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