(JaiChai) "Operation Second Life" - With no prior experience, I revived an old desktop computer!



"Operation Second Life" - 3D animated ,gif

A rare, signed, higher resolution and non-watermarked version of this image is available for download at: https://creary.net/digitalart/@jaichai/operaton-second-life



Two weeks ago, my friend told me that his 12 y/o computer finally kicked the bucket. He then proudly described - in great, monotonous detail - his new "Power User/Gaming" system.

Later on, I asked him what he did with the ancient machine.

"My wife is already complaining that it's now just 'useless clutter', so I plan to put it out with the rest of the trash tomorrow. But if you could do something with it, you're welcome to it, buddy." he said.

The next day, I picked up the old desktop and brought it home.

I remember the suspicious, sideways glance my girlfriend gave me when she saw me lugging the tower, then the screen and a box with the old keyboard, mouse and power cords into our "guest room cum JaiChai's Zoo/Lab/Hobby Shop".

After a lot of research, trial and error and insomnia, I manage to resurrect the 12 year old computer!

Mind you, although I'm good with software, I'm without a clue about hardware. I don't even own mini-tools or a basic voltmeter.

Here's a summary of what I did:

  • Fiddled with the CMOS until it had a successful P.O.S.T. (Power-On, Self Test), but still wouldn't load the OS (Windows XP!).

  • Created a bootable USB with a Linux (Ubuntu) OS installation image.

  • Opened the case and removed over a decade's worth of dust from the whole motherboard, fans and CPU (AMD Athlon II) with a soft toothbrush, Q-tips and the wind from a standing fan set on "High".

  • Switched out the corroded RAM with some old, but clean and compatible SIMMs. After that, the CPU would get half-way into the OS installation and then shutdown.

  • Removed the CPU fan and discovered accumulated residue and debris.

The electro-paste between the fan and the CPU chip had long since dried up or burnt away.

At this point, I almost put "Operation Second Life" on hold. But as a last "Hail Mary" play, I did an online search for "DIY and homemade electro-paste".

Lo and behold, I found a suitable, homemade electrode-paste that I could make immediately!

The concoction is made of 80% toothpaste and 20% Vaseline and lasts up to three months before needing replenishment (or replacement with proper, commercial electro-paste.)

Imagine that?

  • I then created and tried three different flavors of Linux Distributions on fresh, bootable USBs.

The fourth one (Linux Mint XFCE) finally worked; installing without a hitch.

But after a couple minutes, the system would shutdown again.

  • My girlfriend was now worried about my extended, OCD style "Fixathon" and begged me to take a break - or better yet, admit that the antiquated computer was permanently D/O.A. and quit altogether.

I promised to stop after I try one or two more things...

It was then that I remembered that no matter how many times I tweaked the CMOS, the date and time would sporadically go drastically out of sync. Several resets were needed after the OS finished loading.

I searched online: "intermittent, incorrect date and time after loading OS".

The results stated that a wrong system date and time often conflicts with many behind-the-scenes programs; especially those dependent on syncing with the internet (e.g., browsers and internal auto-update scripts).

Many sources agreed that conditions of unstable system date and time are usually due to a failing CMOS battery - the small, circular 3V battery commonly used in wrist watches; which, in turn, screws up the system BIOS.

"Aha!", I thought.

You see, I stopped wearing wrist watches years ago when my smartphone made the watch wearing redundant. But I did not give or throw them away.

  • Excitedly, I popped out the CMOS battery from the motherboard and replaced it with a battery from a cheap, 9 y/o G-Shock sports watch.

Viola! No more erratic date and time issues!

But sadly, after 10-15 minutes, the computer would still shutdown!


After days of tinkering with this stubborn thing, I was tired, frustrated and angry. I decided to put a pause on this "Repair Job from Hell!" and take a 48-72 hour cool-down period.

A couple of days later, I returned to "The Project that haunts me in my sleep".

Continuing where I had left off, I replicated the same procedures from before.

But then I noticed something...

During reboots, the machine did its usual OS loading, run for a few minutes, then shutdown, BUT WITHOUT THE NORMAL SOUNDS OF A FUNCTIONAL DESKTOP.

It basically would beep the P.O.S.T. and then silence. No low-level buzzing. No whizzing sounds of the CPU and System Fans.

"Well ain't that a bitch?!" I thought.

I wasn't sure if more hardware had just now "sh*t the bed" or if I hadn't paid attention to the presence (or absence) of its sounds all along.

F*ck it! I'm not spending another week on this cursed machine!

I already felt like a fool; an Asian version of Don Quixote battling my own fire-breathing nemesis - in reality, a defenseless old computer, lol!

Foregoing the traditional (and common sense) method of "One variable at a time"; that is, try one thing, evaluate, then try another and so on, I decided to do the last two things I could think of:

  • Swap the CPU and System Fans

  • Replace the Motherboard's Power Unit

Note: All cannibalized parts were from units in "The Electronics Graveyard" located in the Guest Bedroom's closet.

Like a robot, I turned on the desktop computer.

Without an iota of enthusiasm, I stared AND listened to the computer; totally expecting the system to abruptly shutdown. I truly could see no glimmer of hope and scolded myself for wasting over a week on this Anti-Christ of a machine!

In fact, I was already preparing a space in the closet graveyard in my mind. The sooner it was out of my plain sight the better.

When the gloomy introspection faded, I had daydreamed over six minutes away - AND THE MACHINE WAS STILL RUNNING!

I could hear the distinct whizzing sound of the CPU and System Fans. The flapping of tissue paper over the air vents confirmed a strong external air-flow.

Ten minutes went by without a hiccup. Then another 15 minutes passed and it was still on!

I hesitantly launched the browser.

Still working.

I stressed the system by opening more tabs, then finally running multiple programs in the background.

No change in status, it was still functioning fine.

Again, like a robot, I stood up - just staring at the screen and not believing my own eyes.

A few moments later, I felt my girlfriend tapping my back and then her arms around my waist.

She smiled, kissed my cheek and said, "Well look at that! It's alive! But then again, you've always been my cute and favorite genius. C'mon, it's time to go to bed, no?"

"Hell yeah!" I said.

"Operation Second Life": Mission Accomplished.


The computer is running fine. I set it up as a node for the Mysterium VPN network mining Myst cryptocurency.

I need to replace the electro-paste and probably the 9 y/o CMOS battery 'cause circular 3V batteries' average lifespan is five years.

That would be a convenient time to install one or two HDDs I spotted in the spare bedroom's closet.

Oh yeah, maybe I should buy a mini-tool set, an anti-static pad and a simple voltmeter?

Submitted FYI.

Hope you and yours are well and loving life today.

In Lak'ech, JaiChai




(JaiChai 04 FEB 2022. Simultaneous multi-site submissions posted. All rights reserved.)


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I'm a single papa actively enjoying my varied passions (e.g., Writing, Disruptive Technology, Cryptocurrency, plus more hobbies too bizarre for most folk). I live on an island paradise with my teenage daughter, longtime girlfriend and three dogs.

(IJCH) Life, People, and Philosophy
(IJCH) Life, People, and Philosophy

IJCH - Inside JaiChai's Head (Meaning: My Warped, Personal Opinions and Musings on Life, People and Philosophy)

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