E-Machines Problems

I’d like to point out that I’ve been using E-Machines desktops for my own personal use for quite some time now. Some people might find that surprising since my current occupation is computer maintenance.  I decided to go with E-Machines when I bought my last desktop for the simple reason that they were cheap and I tend to cannibalize parts from older machines. Feels kind of dumb to spend $800 on a pre-built machine only to replace everything in it but the hard drive, memory, processor and motherboard before I even turn the thing on. I got two of them for what a comparable Compaq at the time would have cost. Compaq is my first choice, Dell is second, and Sony fits in there somewhere.

I’ve had a few problems with them, as have my clients and a lot of other people it seems. The two things I’ve had happen are the hard drive crashing without warning, and the power supply going out and taking the motherboard with it. In fact I recently rebuilt a machine for a lady at church because of the latter problem. The hard drive thing seems to be pretty rare, the one I had used a Seagate hard drive, and those seem to be fairly reliable, my former youth minister had a machine his church lose the hard drive too. I replaced mine with a Western Digital and it works great.

What I’d recommend doing if you buy an e-machine desktop is immediately replace the power supply and get a voltage stabilizer. This will run you about $40 total on Newegg.com if you get a Rosewill 300w power supply and one of their discount voltage stabilizers. One of the biggest problems for computers is not power surges because most people get power strips anyway to protect their investment, and due to the simple fact that a single outlet won’t cover a computer, monitor, and printer set up much less the dozens of other peripherals people use.

Replacing the power supply will probably void your warranty. If you get an extended warranty from wherever you got the machine it’ll probably void that too. Think about if you want to do that, those extended warranties can be pretty expensive sometimes. If you do it’s a pretty easy thing to accomplish. Of course if you have a warranty you’re probably ok if this happens, but you’ll likely lose all your data.

Most e-machines I’ve encountered had standard 20 pin power supplies. They’re the kind with a twenty pin main connector, and a separate four pin connector that plugs into the motherboard. The value Rosewill power supply I got for my client recently was actually compatible with quite a few different types of motherboards so you’re probably in good shape. If it’s the standard type motherboard you’ll have to detach the four extra pins on the 20 pin connector first before you plug it in. That power supply is pretty loud, and may not easily fit into your case, I had to wiggle some stuff a little to get it in and hook up the CD-ROM. It does have an extra fan though, which is good if your machine runs a little hot. 

I put a Rosewill 350w power supply in my two machines that was a bit more standard, and it’s a little tougher power supply as well. You can barely hear it and it has pretty decent cooling as well. It’s a little easier to install and not much more expensive. The reviews talk about people using them in blade servers that run all the time and they haven’t messed up. My machine pretty much does the same, and I’ve had the power supply in mine since aroundDecember 2006 and have only turned it off two or three times since then.

If your E-Machines computer one day doesn’t turn on, it’s a pretty fair bet that the power supply burned out the motherboard. I’d recommend ordering a new motherboard, processor, and power supply in one batch if you can. Just replace all of it at once. I was able to replace all that in my client’s machine for less then $150, and my own machine’s new hardware ran just barely more then that. Both are a lot better machines now. One thing you need to do though is find out what kind of RAM is in your machine. It’ll be either DDR or DDR2 unless you have a really old one. Get a motherboard that supports that kind unless you want to order memory with it. That way you don’t have to replace your RAM chips. Both times I’ve replaced the boards the memory was still good. Actually I’m pretty sure the processors were still good too, but you’re way better off just getting a new processor anyway since finding a board that supports your current processor might be a little tough.

Keep in mind when you replace the motherboard, you’ll either have to reinstall Windows completely or do a “Repair Installation”. Sadly, your E-machines Restore Disk will not work for either at all. You can’t just stick it in there and restore your computer, it won’t boot up because it doesn’t actually install Windows so much as it just copies all the files that were on the machine when you got it back to your hard drive.

Fortunately what you can do without buying a whole new OEM copy of Windows, is find someone that already has a regular OEM version of whatever Windows Version you’re using and do a Repair installation (If you have Windows XP Home Edition at least, someone with an HP or Dell computer will probably have exactly what you need). An upgrade disk will probably work for this too. It basically involves setting Windows up again, and when you go to install, tell it to repair instead. Repair using the Recovery Console is not the right choice, you want to “Install Windows” then when it finds Windows on your hard drive already you can tell it to repair it instead of writing over it. It’ll put all the right drivers in and you won’t lose anything (well it might screw up some installed software, probably not though), and you can just use the CD-Key on the back of your computer and reactivate Windows when it boots up. I’m pretty sure doing this is not illegal since you DO have a license for Windows, but you’ll need to do the same thing again if your computer ever crashes later. I actually carry around a backup copy of my own Windows XP Home CD just for that reason. Having a friend make a copy of his disk for you might be a good idea, but this is probably against your end user agreement. Maybe not though. All you have to do after that is install your motherboard’s drivers so you can get the most out of it.

The above paragraph refers to how you’d do it with Windows XP, and probably Windows 98. Windows Vista has a somewhat different set up process so it’s probable the repair option is in a different place. It might work exactly the same though, I’m not sure. The newer E-Machines with Vista might not have their typical lousy restore disks either.

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