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I d e n t i f y i n g  -  P h y s i c a l   D e f e c t s Identifying Bad Caps

Are you wondering whether your board has the bad capacitor plague? Here are some things to look for on your board that are tell-tale signs of bad capacitors. The board in the following photo's is an Abit KT7 Athlon motherboard. This particular board is a rather bad one, yours may not look quite as nasty..

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Ok, from looking at those photo's, I'm sure you get the idea. Look for swelling on the tops of the caps, and also along the base of the caps. Take note of the brownish crap oozing from the bases, that is electrolyte . In some cases, you may also catch a whiff of a strange odor permeating the room, and this time it wasn't those refried beans you had for lunch. The smell kinda reminded me of an ammonia-like smell. Whatever it may smell like to you, the aroma is very distinctive!!

You may also notice that the capacitor isn't sitting flush to the board. If they're tilted and pointing in every which direction, that is not normal. The bases of good capacitors will be sitting flush to the board, and the cap should be at a near perfect 90 degree angle (perpendicular) to the actual PCB (Printed Circuit Board). Like I mentioned above, this particular board is one of the worst case scenario's... Beware that not all capacitors will bulge, swell, and burst. They can fail and you would never know by looking at them.

Click for larger images.


I d e n t i f y i n g  -  S y s t e m   E r r o r s  &  S y m p t o m s

Here are some functionality symptoms and issues your system might display if your capacitors are failing. Please note that these symptoms can occur even if your capacitors are not showing the physical signs demonstrated above. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Most of the time, there will be physical signs of failure.

System Faults:
Motherboard fails to POST.
Memory Test Fails.
System randomly and/or constantly reboots itself.
Fails to fully boot (or even install) Operating System.
System randomly and frequently freezes.
Random & frequent 'Blue Screens of Death'
BSoD or hard freeze under heavy drive activity (Either RAID, SCSI, or standard ATA)
CPU temps abnormally higher than usual under typical or less load.
*CPU VCORE & other system voltages are erratic or far out of tolerances.
Resetting the system after a freeze and the system will not repost.
(You have to completely power down then power back up.)

*CPU VCORE & System voltage issues can also be associated with a faulty power supply. Before you decide your caps are bad, ALWAYS try a known good and high quality power supply.

If your capacitors display any of the above symptoms, there's a chance that you've got the plague. The more sporadic and random that the symptoms occur is usually a good sign of bad caps. However, you should double check any and all drivers and other hardware FIRST! Some of these symptoms can easliy be mistaken for other computer problems! Although, if you've already done that and your system is still acting like this, there's a good chance that you may be faced with breaking out the 'ol soldering iron!!

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