The unexpected happened last night. I was playing a game of Tiger Woods 2004 when the game locked up in the middle of a shot. Thinking it was just a program crash, I gave my PC the three-fingered salute (CTRL-ALT-DEL). When the system didn't respond, I tried hitting the power button, expecting the machine to go through its shutdown procedure. When this didn't work, I reluctantly hit the reset button. The system reset, but just sat there without going through its POST.
I assumed I had a dead CMOS battery, or possibly a bad memory stick. I replaced the battery with a fresh one to no effect. Pulling each pair of RIMMs (yes, this is an older machine with RDRAM in it) and replacing them with shunts had no effect as well. Even reseating the processor didn't seem to work. At this point, I was pretty baffled, as the motherboard was powering up, and there didn't seem to be any bad capacitors or other visible damage to the board. On a whim, I decided to pull the Celeron 1.7GHz/400 from the downstairs PC and put it in my machine to see if it would work (both processors are based on the Northwood core with a 400MHz FSB). To my surprise, the machine fired right up. I had never heard of a processor going out, especially after 2.5 years of reliable performance.
I didn't relish having to shell out some cash for a new proc, especially since I am planning to migrate this system to my wife and build a new rig later this year. Compounding the problem was the realization that buying an older proc with a 400MHz FSB was going to be a challenge. Fortunately, I realized that Intel procs carried a three-year warranty. Since I bought the processor in a retail box from NewEgg, I could prove that it was within its three year warranty period. I decided to call Intel the following morning to set up a warranty exchange.
So, today over lunch I called Intel and explained the problem. The tech had me read off the serial number, product name etc. from the proc. After a few questions (do you overclock, what kind of cooling do you have etc.), he told me I would receive an email with instructions on where to ship the processor to receive a replacement. So, I plan to pack up the processor and heat sink and ship it out tomorrow. Hopefully it won't take long for them to ship me a new one once they receive it.
In the meantime, I'm using the Celeron from the downstairs PC in my machine. It's no speed demon, but at least I can use my machine while I wait for a new processor. I went ahead and purchased a faster processor (2.8GHz/533) for the downstairs PC. I was planning to do this later in the year anyway, so I just moved in my purchase date.