My new motherboard (abit IP35 Pro) arrived Friday, and I swapped it out last night. Everything went perfectly, especially given that I followed this excellent guide for swapping out a motherboard without reinstalling the operating system. The new board is really nice, with lots of options to tweak and optimize. In fact, the system seems to run more quietly now. All was going well until this morning. And what harm befell my newly rebuilt system?
I updated (or attempted to update) the BIOS.
Now, let me just state that I have updated the BIOS on many, many computers before. I have updated via both Windows utilities and command line without incident. I have never had a single BIOS flash fail. I don't know if it's the law of averages, fate, or sheer bad luck, but today marked my first bad BIOS flash. With this board, there are two methods by which to update the BIOS: via a Windows Flash Utility or via bootable floppy. Since I haven't used a floppy in more than 5 years, the Windows utility was my only option (I've since discovered there's a way to boot to a USB key). I downloaded the latest BIOS file from abit's website and proceeded to flash the BIOS via their Windows utility. All went well until the verification phase, where the utility locked up at 90% complete. In fact, the whole PC locked up, forcing me to do a hard reboot. Not good.
To my surprise, the system went through POST upon reboot. Unfortunately, the settings were all screwed up. The processor and memory speed were being significantly mis-reported, and I was completely unable to save any settings to the CMOS. I tried clearing the CMOS and re-flashing the BIOS (with a floppy this time), but nothing would fix the problem. Attempts to save settings to the CMOS resulted in the system not POSTing at all, requiring a CMOS erase. After spending several hours trying to fix the problem, I gave up, and reinstalled my previous mainboard. So, now I'll have to send back the IP35 Pro for a replacement. I could try ordering a new BIOS chip, but it's just easier to get the whole board replaced. God knows I won't be using the Windows with the replacement board.
How frustrating. It's times like these that makes me want to buy a pre-built machine from one of the major PC manufacturers. There, I said it.