[GTALUG] war story: reviving an old computer

D. Hugh Redelmeier hugh at mimosa.com
Mon Dec 10 14:12:49 EST 2018

I had an old computer in storage for a couple of years.  Separate from
its disk drive (SSD).

After I reinstalled the drive, it would not show many signs of life.  Not 
even a POST screen.

I plugged and unplugged everything from the motherboard (except the 
processor).  Then it would limpingly sort-of boot.  The problem looked 
like disk errors.

I tested power-supply voltages with a cheap tester designed for that 
purpose. OK.

I tested the SSD on another machine using a SATA to USB 3 dock.  The disk 
looked OK and I was able to fsck the appropriate partitions.

Still booting was a bit wonky.

I replaced the SATA cable for the drive.  It booted fine.


The system is quite old.  It seems to have some oddball limitations on

- no UEFI support

- the firmware cannot boot from a Fedora 29 Live USB stick.  It can be
  selected as a boot source, but the boot doesn't happen

- but two OSes (CentOS 5.11 and Fedora 20) do see the USB stick and

- the firmware cannot boot from the SATA Bluray / DVD / CD drive.
  Probably the firmware can only boot from ATAPI optical drives.

- Fedora sees exactly the expected bytes when it reads from the SATA
  optical drive (the contents are the Fedora 29 Live image)

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