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Help, I think my motherboard is dead

Ok, so I have a Dell XPS8500 that I love and have upgraded over the years. I changed the GPU to a gtx970 and upgraded the power supply, put it all into an awesome new case, upgraded to Windows 10 and everything is just great.

But tonight, it died. And it was completely my fault, and I know every person here will want to kill me cause I broke all the rules. Let me say, I KNOW I'm not supposed to do what I'm about to tell, but I just was being lazy and so please, feel free to hate me for it, but please try to be kind anyway cause I feel so terrible without anyone's judgment. Here's what happened:

The case I have has clear window on one side so I can see the components. I saw it was getting a little dusty, so I took off the side and pulled out my compressed air to just give it a quick spray. I KNOW I should have powered down, but it was just a QUICK little spray, so I didn't (yes, hate on me.). I also KNOW that I'm supposed to spray a couple times away from the components to check the nozzle before using it, but I didn't (hate me please). I usually do. Today, I just didn't. Little did I know that when I had walked out of the room for a few seconds, my 1 yr old son had come in and sucked on the strawlike nozzle and got saliva all in it. So when I sprayed my components, I got saliva all over the top of the GPU and a very very tiny little bit onto the motherboard. That's all it took. It was in sleep mode, but in just a few seconds, the fan kicked into high gear for half a second and the PC suddenly shut down completely.

I tried to wipe it, then let it dry, and after an hour, I tried to turn it on and the PC gets power just fine, everything lights up just fine, but it doesn't boot at all (screen stays off and disk light doesn't blink) and the fan whirrs at full speed until I finally just pull the plug.

So, I'm 99% sure that I need a new motherboard. Am I right? I had wanted to upgrade, but stayed away when I read about how complicated it is. Still, I feel like I can replace it for much cheaper than buying a new PC, especially since the Core i7 and GTX970 and my other components are still really nice quality and there's no need to change them. However I have some questions.

1. This is obvious, but I am right that I killed my motherboard? It got on the GPU too, but since it was in standby, I somehow feel my GPU was probably ok....am I totally a fool to think that? Actually more saliva got onto the top of my GPU than the motherboard, so should I expect it to be dead too? Is there a way to check at all?

2. How hard is replacing the motherboard? I've read it's the hardest thing to do. I've replaced the case and most parts, but I stayed away from replacing the motherboard cause this is what I've heard. However my brother has built several PC's from scratch and he's never said anything about difficulty with motherboards. He has just about the same experience with PCs as I do.

4. Is ram compatibility a big issue? I've seen people always make comments about how your motherboard has to be compatible with the Ram (I've got 16gb)...I'll have to check what kind of ram it is, but is this really as difficult as people make it sound, or should my ram just be plug and play with most boards?

5. How possible is it that any other components, like the GPU were also damaged? Never had a PC die from a short before - is there a potential it has also damaged RAM, CPU, obviously GPU, etc?

6. What happens to Windows 10? I had upgraded from 8 that was preinstalled when I bought it, so I don't have a product key. When I considered upgrading the motherboard before, a Windows rep told me that I would have to uninstall the key using command prompt or something like that, but since I can't boot on this PC, is the key just lost forever and I have to buy a new license?

7. Anything else I should know or be careful about? Am I right to assume that I can probably fix this for way less than just buying a brand new PC with 16gb ram and Core i7, etc?

Again, I feel like killing myself, so please feel free to hate me for being so stupid and doing what any computer user should know (and I do too, I just got cocky).... but please don't be too harsh, as I already feel bad enough........ any help is appreciated.
Reply to Lv 88 Mog
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More about motherboard dead
  1. Best answer
    you already swapped the case and a motherboard swap is no harder. breath easy there. give this a once over, Murphy is a jerk but anything that can go wrong will. run through the list and verify the spit was the issue.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-perform-steps-posting-post-boot-video-problems
    1. fool no, optimistic and that is good. I would not expect it to be dead but prepare, no way to test other than to test, put in another PC and see what happens.
    2. easier than a case swap
    3. where did 3 go?
    4. compatible as in the same type (DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or DDR4 each are different and will not work in each others slots), and speed once those two have been met you should be good. proper speed and slot type.
    5. possible. really depends on the short, what was shorted, and how
    6. Hopefully someone can answer this, mostly windows 7 & and linux for me
    7. proper grounding, always discharge to a grounded metal object (like an unpainted part of a power supply that is plugged in). you should be grounded and safe to work on the PC.

    you have rebuilt once (case swap) another rebuild should not be out of your skill-set nor should changing a motherboard.
    did the system beep at boot up normally, did it give you one beep? if not look to the link I gave and go to step 17, attach a speaker to the proper header. the motherboard speaker is the main diagnostic feedback device the motherboard has. it may be telling you what the issue is- assuming the speaker is not connected.
    when you have a speaker try this, force a beep code. remove the RAM and try to boot, this will normally make the motherboard beep like a pinball machine, if you cannot force a beep code the motherboard is gone in my experience.
    Reply to R_1
  2. Wow, thanks so much for the incredible answer! Strangely, after this post, I tried to start the PC and it did the same thing (fan at full speed, but not booting). But after waiting another hour and trying again, my PC booted up completely normally! Is this possible? Could it be that the circuits dried out and that's why it worked again? My personal experience with electronics - once it shorts from moisture, it's pretty much dead even if it dries out, so I'm absolutely shocked. Everything seems to be working just like usual now...should I still be concerned?
    Reply to Lv 88 Mog
  3. it really is a gamble, there are so many solder points on a motherboard, depending on what is shorted, what it is shorted to...
    saliva has less salt than blood and its the salt that makes water conductive, if it evaporated and the "short" was corrected, and the short was not a high voltage dump there MAY be no damage.
    not all shorts are evil. every time you turn on the motherboard you are electrically shorting the power pins on the motherboard. an electrical short turns on the unit.
    Voltage, and Amperage at the short are what will determine the extent of the damage if there is any the damage.
    motherboards are vastly more robust than they were 20 years ago.
    for peace of mind you can benchmark or stress test the system. if the system was damaged it will most likely fail under load.
    Reply to R_1
  4. R_1 said:
    it really is a gamble, there are so many solder points on a motherboard, depending on what is shorted, what it is shorted to...
    saliva has less salt than blood and its the salt that makes water conductive, if it evaporated and the "short" was corrected, and the short was not a high voltage dump there MAY be no damage.
    not all shorts are evil. every time you turn on the motherboard you are electrically shorting the power pins on the motherboard. an electrical short turns on the unit.
    Voltage, and Amperage at the short are what will determine the extent of the damage if there is any the damage.
    motherboards are vastly more robust than they were 20 years ago.
    for peace of mind you can benchmark or stress test the system. if the system was damaged it will most likely fail under load.



    So would you recommend I just continue to use it until it dies, IF it dies (making sure I keep up-to-date backups and everything), assuming there is some kind of damage? Cause it would be a shame to dump it if it actually corrected itself.

    I DO want to, and had a plan to, upgrade the motherboard eventually, I just have been scared away by reading "how-to's" that talk about compatibility issues and BIOS setup problems and what not. Somewhere I read that many people change everything BUT the motherboard (which is basically what I have done also) because it was such a pain. I also have never replaced my CPU and don't want to screw up with thermal paste, etc....
    Reply to Lv 88 Mog
  5. My advice, just be aware of what happened, if there any problems down the line you now have a starting point. You have probably heard this before but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". it's working now my suspicion is that it will keep working for a long while yet.

    the motherboard is the skeleton and nervous system of the computer. everything connects to it. choosing the right motherboard can be daunting. start with the CPU, decide on the chip you want first. the socket choice will narrow the selection down. the CPU will also choose your RAM as it houses the memory controller. once you have those sorted its pretty easy. the cutting edge, the newest chips, the latest equipment are always plagued by issues, BIOS updates, compatibility issues etc. these take time to iron out.

    it is rare that I buy the latest and greatest for me. I will usually be a generation behind, now is the time I 'm looking at the 7th generation kaby lake chips because the 8th generation is around the corner, wrinkles are well ironed out at this point. if the wrinkles persist they are well known.

    thermal paste is a snap, especially if your CPU comes with a cooler, the cooler will have the proper amount pre-applied to the proper area.
    Reply to R_1
  6. R_1 said:
    My advice, just be aware of what happened, if there any problems down the line you now have a starting point. You have probably heard this before but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". it's working now my suspicion is that it will keep working for a long while yet.

    the motherboard is the skeleton and nervous system of the computer. everything connects to it. choosing the right motherboard can be daunting. start with the CPU, decide on the chip you want first. the socket choice will narrow the selection down. the CPU will also choose your RAM as it houses the memory controller. once you have those sorted its pretty easy. the cutting edge, the newest chips, the latest equipment are always plagued by issues, BIOS updates, compatibility issues etc. these take time to iron out.

    it is rare that I buy the latest and greatest for me. I will usually be a generation behind, now is the time I 'm looking at the 7th generation kaby lake chips because the 8th generation is around the corner, wrinkles are well ironed out at this point. if the wrinkles persist they are well known.

    thermal paste is a snap, especially if your CPU comes with a cooler, the cooler will have the proper amount pre-applied to the proper area.


    Sounds good to me. Beautiful advice, thank you so much, I will keep all this in mind.

    When you say a cooler attached to the CPU, you mean the heatsink and fan or whatever? So if I ever upgrade my CPU (though I'm still satisfied with the Core i7), I should look to buy one that already comes with the heatsink and fan already attached and just needs to be clicked into the socket? That would be incredibly convenient.
    Reply to Lv 88 Mog
  7. not attached, most RETAIL chips will come with the stock cooler, some are mediocre but all are capable for the chip they are paired with, the cooler that comes with the CPU will have the Paste already applied to the right spot on the base of the cooler. like so:
    https://images.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.frostytech.com%2Farticleimages%2F200706%2FintelC2Dstock_bot.jpg&f=1
    the three grey spots on the copper base are the thermal paste, when the cooler is seated, pressure will flatten the strips out and cover the entire CPU die ensuring proper heat transfer.

    a third party cooler like my cooler:
    http://media.bestofmicro.com/A/T/236261/original/cooler-master_hyper-212-plus_base.jpg
    require application of thermal paste to either the CPU or the cooler before use.
    this is the difference I was referring to about the stock cooler having paste applied. you will still need to install the CPU then the cooler to the motherboard.

    it is still a two step process for a fresh retail CPU heatsink install
    three steps for a custom cooler or a stock cooler that has been removed and cleaned, fresh thermal paste must be applied as step two.
    Reply to R_1
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