Question What the heck happened to my motherboard?

Aug 24, 2020
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I recently encountered a serious problem for which I have found no answer. As of Saturday night, my custom-built PC was working wonderfully. In the tech world, it's starting to get old (built in July of 2014), but it's still a powerhouse of a computer for someone like me. I noticed there was a Windows security update pending, but I ended up going to bed without shutting my computer off. When I got back to it in the morning, there was no display. PC lights were on, but nothing else functioned. I ended up powering it down manually, and from there I could not get it to boot. The lights would come on, sometimes it would turn on and off repeatedly, and I eventually got one of my monitors to come on with the message "BIOS is updating. Do not shut down or reset the system to prevent system bootup failure." I left it like that for more than an hour before manually shutting it off.

Here is the thing: I never updated the BIOS, nor did anyone at my house. ASUS has also assured me that this motherboard will never under any circumstances update the BIOS automatically and in fact is unable to update automatically even when connected to internet. I have also had Microsoft ensure me that a Windows update will never modify the BIOS. So what in the heck could have caused that message to appear? The only possible changes that happened to my computer overnight would have been the Windows security update installing automatically.

Here are my two theories:
  1. The computer overheated while left on and fried the motherboard. Note that I have never had any issue with overheating in the 6 years I've had this computer.
  2. The BIOS chip failed.
Does anyone know what could be causing this or how I could test these theories? I currently have the PC sitting at a shop, and they want $800 to replace the motherboard. They tell me that the motherboard was friend due to a BIOS update. A BIOS update which couldn't have possibly happened. I'm not willing to spend that much money in the first place, but I'm especially unwilling if the computer could just (potentially) overheat again and fry the new motherboard.

Here are the specs I can provide right now:
i7-4770k
ASUS Sabertooth z97 Mark 1 motherboard
8GB GSkill Trident X Ram
Corsair hx850 PSU
GeForce GTX 1660 Super GFX
Samsung 250GB SSD
 
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Does anyone know what could be causing this or how I could test these theories? I currently have the PC sitting at a shop, and they want $800 to replace the motherboard
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Does it really matter if your theories are right or not? Assuming the shop's right the only possible repair is to unsolder the BIOS rom chip, update it with a ROM programmer and solder it back on. Not many are capable of that kind of work and cost would be similar what they're hitting you for a replacement motherboard if you found a true tech with the equipment to do it.

Speaking of: can't you find a cheaper replacement motherboard that would fit your CPU? If not, for $800 you can probably put together a far more capable modern system: motherboard, CPU and memory. Reuse everything else for economy. I'd tell the shop to pound sand.
 
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Reactions: kurdtnz
Aug 24, 2020
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Absolutely, I can buy the same board myself for $230 and install it. I’m just worried that I don’t know what caused this in case the new board fries as well
 
Absolutely, I can buy the same board myself for $230 and install it. I’m just worried that I don’t know what caused this in case the new board fries as well
If the BIOS chip failed (incredibly rare as far I know) you could not have done anything different, and overheating should not cause a BIOS update cycle to commence either.

I think the best strategy is to not let the system get into an update cycle unattended, especially when it may entail restarts. That's the only thing you could have done differently here, as far as I can see.

Do you have a cat? I can imagine a cat getting curious if some lights start flashing at a restart and then stepping on the keyboard and pushing just the right keys at the wrong time to start off a BIOS update.

BTW, even $230 seems way too much for such ancient tech.
 
Aug 24, 2020
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$230 is too much, but the alternative is to buy a new CPU, RAM, motherboard, and possibly power supply which I don’t have money for. I appreciate the advice, I will probably just buy the same board and pray the same thing doesn’t happen.
 
$230 is too much, but the alternative is to buy a new CPU, RAM, motherboard, and possibly power supply which I don’t have money for. I appreciate the advice, I will probably just buy the same board and pray the same thing doesn’t happen.
FWIW...I have to believe an HX850 PSU will hold most any modern CPU, even with a 1660 Super GPU. It would be overkill for a highly efficient Ryzen 3600 on a decent B450 mother board, which is surprisingly inexpensive and you'll now have 6 Zen 2 cores / 12 threads going to work for you. The only thing I'm unsure of is your memory, if it's DDR4 you'd be set if not 8Gb is pretty cheap these days but I'd seriously advise going 16Gb if you can swing it .

At any rate, with careful shopping you'd have modern hardware with more performance for close to the same cost as an old motherboard (just the mobo) will cost.

Oh, and warranties for the next three years in case something like this should happen again, which is highly doubtful.
 
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Aug 24, 2020
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FWIW...I have to believe an HX850 PSU will hold most any modern CPU, even with a 1660 Super GPU. It would be overkill for a highly efficient Ryzen 3600 on a decent B450 mother board, which is surprisingly inexpensive and you'll now have 6 Zen 2 cores / 12 threads going to work for you. The only thing I'm unsure of is your memory, if it's DDR4 you'd be set if not 8Gb is pretty cheap these days but I'd seriously advise going 16Gb if you can swing it .

At any rate, with careful shopping you'd have modern hardware with more performance for close to the same cost as an old motherboard (just the mobo) will cost.

Oh, and warranties for the next three years in case something like this should happen again, which is highly doubtful.
I very much appreciate your recommendation. I decided to just go for it and upgrade MOBO, CPU, and RAM. I was going to buy an i7 9700 for $300 but then I looked at your suggestion of the Ryzen 3600 and realized it's only slightly worse than the i7 but a solid $110 cheaper (still a big upgrade from my i7 4770k). I'll also be getting a B450 and 16 GB Ram, which I can fit in my budget given the relatively cheap CPU.

And I hadn't thought about warranties - good to know I won't have to worry for a little while at least.
 
I very much appreciate your recommendation. I decided to just go for it and upgrade MOBO, CPU, and RAM. I was going to buy an i7 9700 for $300 but then I looked at your suggestion of the Ryzen 3600 and realized it's only slightly worse than the i7 but a solid $110 cheaper (still a big upgrade from my i7 4770k). I'll also be getting a B450 and 16 GB Ram, which I can fit in my budget given the relatively cheap CPU.

And I hadn't thought about warranties - good to know I won't have to worry for a little while at least.
I don't recommend you get a B450. They will need a BIOS update to support the new Ryzen 4000 series and it's not sure at all how this will goes or what board will get that BIOS update and when. Get a X570 board or a B550 board so that maybe in a year or two you will be able to buy a Ryzen 4000 series and pop it in your new board without issues.

Can you get a B550 Tomahawk?

Something like this would be good.

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X 3.8 GHz 6-Core Processor ($206.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK ATX AM4 Motherboard ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory ($74.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $461.97
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-08-25 13:59 EDT-0400



Or if you can afford a little bit more for that 3700X.

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor ($289.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK ATX AM4 Motherboard ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory ($74.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $544.97
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-08-25 14:00 EDT-0400
 
Aug 24, 2020
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I don't recommend you get a B450. They will need a BIOS update to support the new Ryzen 4000 series and it's not sure at all how this will goes or what board will get that BIOS update and when. Get a X570 board or a B550 board so that maybe in a year or two you will be able to buy a Ryzen 4000 series and pop it in your new board without issues.

Can you get a B550 Tomahawk?

Something like this would be good.

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X 3.8 GHz 6-Core Processor ($206.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK ATX AM4 Motherboard ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory ($74.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $461.97
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-08-25 13:59 EDT-0400



Or if you can afford a little bit more for that 3700X.

PCPartPicker Part List

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor ($289.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK ATX AM4 Motherboard ($179.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws V 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3600 CL16 Memory ($74.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $544.97
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2020-08-25 14:00 EDT-0400
I actually did end up purchasing the B550 Tomahawk, although only because I couldn’t get a B450 shipped to me in a timely matter. Kinda glad I spent the extra $40 now. I also got the Ryzen 5 3600 (don’t care about overclocking), although for RAM I went with the cheaper Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB. Still a massive upgrade over my old RAM. I appreciate your input as well - looking forward to completing the new build over the weekend, and I’m only out $550.

As for the cause of my motherboard dying in the first place, the shop tech swore to me that Windows updates can now modify computer firmware. He said that the security update is almost certainly the cause of this, and that makes me very nervous for all Windows computers in the future. I know that I, for one, will never be leaving a Windows update (especially a security update) unattended again.
 
I actually did end up purchasing the B550 Tomahawk, although only because I couldn’t get a B450 shipped to me in a timely matter. Kinda glad I spent the extra $40 now. I also got the Ryzen 5 3600 (don’t care about overclocking), although for RAM I went with the cheaper Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB. Still a massive upgrade over my old RAM. I appreciate your input as well - looking forward to completing the new build over the weekend, and I’m only out $550.

As for the cause of my motherboard dying in the first place, the shop tech swore to me that Windows updates can now modify computer firmware. He said that the security update is almost certainly the cause of this, and that makes me very nervous for all Windows computers in the future. I know that I, for one, will never be leaving a Windows update (especially a security update) unattended again.
That guy at the store was telling you pure bs. There is only one thing that can update your BIOS and this is if you're using a HP or a similar brand computer that comes with a third party program checking your drivers and BIOS. That software can update your BIOS but not Windows Updates. Windows Update will never change your BIOS version. I have never seen that in over 25 years of me building systems.

Do not be worry about your new system. It will take Windows Updates like a champion. Your 3600 is a big upgrade from your 4770k. I know this is what I had before changing to a 3900X. It's night and day ;p

What version of Windows 10 did you have before your old system died? It could have been the Windows 10 version 2004 update but even then this does not update the BIOS by itself. I saw Windows Updates change BIOS settings but never changing the version and it only happened like once or twice in 25 years.
 

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