Friday, May 12, 2006

I used a Dremel to upgrade my PC

As you might recall, about 5 months ago I built a pretty cool Media Center PC.  I have been experiencing some times where the lip sync is off.  This seems to be something in the recording because if I play it back, the lip sync is off every time.  Stopping and restarting doesn't fix the problem.  I suspect it was the very old tuner I had in the system.  The solution:  get a new tuner.  As the PCIe bus is supposed to be the wave of the future, I decided to get a PowerColor Theater 550 Pro PCIe.  This tuner is based off of the ATI 550 Pro chipset which gets the best reviews.  The card was even on sale at Newegg for like $65.  It's since dropped $5 and now comes with free shipping--shoulda waited.  The card arrived yesterday and all seemed well.  Then, I went to install it.

When I tried to put the card in my computer, I noticed a problem.  The Zalman heat sink on the north bridge got in the way.  There are 2 PCIe x1 slots and the north bridge was positioned in such a manner as to obstruct *both* of them.  Despite the fan noise, I considered going back to the fan the north bridge came with but that was too tall as well.  What to do?

The solution:  cut off enough heat sink fins to allow the card to fit.  I broke out my Dremel tool, outfitted it with a cutting blade and went to town.  Now, sporting about 1/4 fewer blades than before, the heat sink fits under the PCIe card and all is well.  The card is in the machine and working.  Here's to hoping that my av sink problems go away.

After this fiasco, I started looking around.  Most motherboards out today have similarly situated x1 PCIe slots.  Almost everything I looked at either had the north bridge in the way or, worse, had the slots right next to the x16 display card slot where it would interfere with air flow and oversized fans.  To date not much is shipping in the x1 PCIe form factor.  With the current support, that trend will probably continue for a while.

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