The Day My Video Card Exploded

Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit. My video card didn’t literally explode. Here’s what happened:

Yesterday I was working when my computer froze. “Well, sometimes it happens”, I thought, so I tried rebooting it. It appeared to start normally, then nothing. Mac OS just froze at the login screen, and trying to boot Windows gave me a BSOD. I managed to boot OSX in safe mode and everything appeared to be working: my hard drives were OK, apps were running, no errors. So I turned off the computer and tried to turn it on again 10 minutes later. This is what I saw:

Well, maybe my monitor is out of tune.

“So it must be something with the video card”, I thought. I opened my computer case, popped the video card out, and started inspecting it. Soon enough I found the culprit:

Yep. Three beautifully blown up capacitors.

At first I panicked. This is my work computer, it had to be working again ASAP. I started searching online for a new video card, but since I live in a (kinda) small city, video cards are not only really expensive here, they’re also hard to find. But I had no option: I needed it working, so I was convinced to get a new video card first thing in the morning on the next day.

A couple of minutes later I tried to google “blown up capacitor” just to see what kind of results I’d get, and I noticed this is quite common. These capacitors are pretty bad quality and are prone to explode, specially in the video card I have (it’s a XFX Geforce 8600GT): the ones that blew up sit right in front of the cooler’s air escape, so the cooler is pretty much blowing hot air on them all the time (what a great design, huh?)

I found some people saying that they’re pretty easy (and cheap) to replace, so I decided to give it a try. What the heck, the card was already dead anyway. So I woke up this morning, went to a local electronics store and bought three capacitors to replace them. I tried to do it myself, but my soldering iron was not good enough for the job (I could fry the card), so I ended up going to one of these places where they fix TVs and stuff and asked them to replace the capacitors for me. After a few minutes they gave me my card back with the new capacitors:

Now we’re talking.

Guess what? I put the card back into the computer and everything is working again! I could not believe it: I did decide to try replacing the capacitors, but I was pretty much expecting nothing, already prepared to spend more than $250 in a new video card. So I ran a few tests and it all seemed to be ok. I worked all day on the computer and it’s perfect, as if nothing happened.

Total cost to repair the video card: about $3 for the capacitors, and about $2 for the guy who soldered them for me. And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing that what seemed like a stupid idea did actually work.

Now just try to imagine how many video cards that could be fixed with five bucks and a few minutes of work end up in the garbage…