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Reduce Downtime With These Backup Components

Written on February 7, 2020 by Chad Warmenhoven
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Why you need this article

At some point in time every computer user will encounter some type of system failure. In this article we will cover some of the best items to have on hand in order to prevent downtime in the event of a failure. If your system has a problem the following components are extremely helpful to have on standby for diagnostics.

Keeping these components handy isn't necessarily a FIX for your issues but instead makes the diagnostic process drastically easier and has the added benefit of getting you back up and running quickly while you source a replacement either through an RMA or new purchase.

Mouse and Keyboard - Wired

While you probably have a spare mouse or keyboard buried in a drawer somewhere, chances are it's a wireless device. That can be a useful diagnostic but making sure you have a wired device ready is vastly more useful. Removing the wireless aspect from a diagnostic tool removes one more potential failure point allowing you to identify the root cause of your problem much more easily. For your backup keyboard and mouse we recommend the absolute most basic, simple device possible.

Networking

When your network stops working your workflow can come to a grinding halt. Having a backup WiFi dongle or USB Ethernet adapter can be the difference between a moment of downtime and a WEEK. We recommend the following options as they are extremely reliable while not being overly expensive:

Cables - Video

Sometimes monitors go dark or disconnect and cause all our icons to move to a secondary monitor; the most common culprit can be traced back to the cables and/or adapters. Keeping spare cables around means you aren't waiting for a delivery when your monitor suddenly won't connect. The following cables are a staple everyone should have at least one of at all times:

System Cooling

If your system is overheating then a common cause is the cooling system such as case fans or CPU fans. Keeping some spare fans can help you get back online quickly in the event of a fan failure. We highly recommend matching the size of your current fans so login to your account in the Puget Systems website then navigate to your order and review the "Case / Cooling" section.

Selecting the Case "Fractal Design" in the example above will show you the details for your case and selecting "Tech Specs" then scrolling to the bottom will show you which sized fans your system uses.

Under the "Case / Cooling" section you can select the "CPU Cooling" for additional details and fan size identification for your specific cooling.

HDD/SSD

Hard drives (HDD) fail. There's no two ways about it, they just don't last forever and sometimes they don't even last as long as we hope. Naturally, if a product is under warranty it's easy to get a replacement but what do you do while your drive isn't working? Or what if you aren't sure THAT'S the issue?

Keeping a spare HDD even if small and old is a solid way to be prepared for that pending failure. Make sure the replacement drive uses the same technology as your current hardware.

  • SATA Power and SATA Data

OR

  • IDE Power and Data

Solid State Drives (SSD) are no exception to the rule. While statistically they last far longer and experience random failures less frequently than HDDs, they still die. While SSDs are generally more expensive than HDDs, some people prefer to keep one on hand in the event their current SSD fails. The speed benefits of an SSD over a HDD are dramatic and in the event of a failure it may be a while before your fulltime replacement is in hand so having a temporary, but still very fast, replacement can decrease your stress level.

Graphics Card

Keeping an inexpensive Graphics Card (Graphics Processing Unit, GPU) on hand is probably the best component to have in the event of failure. There are a number of reasons to suspect a GPU is causing problems:

  • No display during boot
  • Artifacting or display corruption
  • Monitor flickering
  • Poor Render or other graphics heavy performance
  • System not booting or rebooting during POST

Any of the above can be caused by the GPU along with others not listed but having a GPU nearby is an easy way to help diagnose the culprit. Generally when you replace the GPU you'll immediately know if the original GPU was causing the problems because everything will work great on first boot!

Ideally, we would all keep a direct replacement as backup but that's ludicrous. If we spent that much on an identical replacement, who wouldn't want to just install it in our system and use it! When selecting a backup GPU keep the display out ports (such as HDMI, DP, DVI) that you are currently using and make sure the backup card has the same ports so you can use the same cables/monitors.

Fear not, there are plenty of options out there but here are a few that we would recommend. These options don't require additional power, are small and easy to store, are relatively inexpensive, and are generally very stable products.

Memory

Random Access Memory (RAM) or Memory, can be the cause of numerous different issues such as:

  • Boot failure
  • OS slowdown
  • System Crashes / BSODs
  • Errors when opening applications
  • Applications closing

Unfortunately, this is not a complete list of all the issues that can be encountered when RAM is failing/failed. Thankfully, because RAM isn't a hugely expensive product to pick up keeping a spare stick around is a cheap way to make sure you're always prepared for diagnostics.

Computers we have built in the last few years all utilize DDR4 so that is where our focus will be. If you have an older system, all of these tips apply but the recommended hardware won't work for you. Before buying RAM it's always a good idea to make sure it's compatible with your system by checking out your motherboards/CPU specs. It's also recommended your backup RAM is as close to identical as the current RAM your system is using. Try to match Speed, Size, and Brand if possible. Make sure the the RAM you are purchasing is within the range of supported products. Be mindful of the following specs:

  • Brand
  • Memory Type
  • Speed Rating
  • Latency
  • Registered (Yes/No)

Some replacement options are below:

  • Option 1 - Crucial DDR4-2400 4GB
  • Option 2 - Crucial DDR4-2400 4GB ECC
  • Option 3 - Crucial SODIMM DDR4-2400 8GB (for NUC and laptops)

Cables - Power

Keeping backup Power Cables seem like an unnecessary step but the truth is: They are cheap, and actually can fail or cause problems.

We recommend having at least one power cable on hand and ready to replace in a diagnostic phase, in the event your system demonstrates any of the following:

  • Not powering on
  • Shutting off unexpectedly while being used
  • Powering up briefly then shutting off
  • Even some sound distortion issues could be traced back to a failing power cables
  • Many more

Since there are quite a few issues that could be caused by a failing power cable (or surge protector) it's a SUPER inexpensive part to have in order to perform diagnostics.

Conclusion

The amount of stress relieved by knowing that you have some backup components is immeasurable. There are so many components that can cause problems and failures so troubleshooting can be extremely tiring; having to wait for a replacement component to be delivered when all you need to do is TEST, will just add to the severe stress of the situation.

This in no way is a complete list of the components you could have in case of failure but instead is our recommendation based on what issues we see most. Let us know in the comments what components you have on hand and ready for diagnostics!

Need help with your Puget Systems PC?

If something is wrong with your Puget Systems PC. We are readily accessible, and our support team comes from a wide range of technological backgrounds to better assist you!

Contact Puget Systems Support

Looking for more support guides?

If you are looking for a solution to a problem you are having with your PC, we also have a number of other support guides that may be able to assist you with other issues.

Puget Systems Online Help Guides

Tags: Advice, Component Replacement, GPU, Hard Drive, Hardware, HDD, How-to Guide, Memory, SSD, Technology
psy

This was an excellent article on an often ignored aspect of computer use. As someone who uses workstations for work and runs a small VFX studio, I can't stress enough about the need to plan for contingencies. I will however add a few components that I felt were missing, here:

1 - The chief among which is the Power Supply. This is also the one component that is more likely to fail than RAMs and GPUs without warning. System damage is rare with newer PSU failing these days. However, in a typical scenario, let's say when you are near a project delivery date and your machines are cranking away renders on full load, the PSU sometimes give up. Keeping a 700w(or above, depending on your system) non modular, bronze rated unit is a good idea. Non modular units arent that expensive and in critical time, cable management benefits of a modular supply would be the last thing on your mind.

2- UPS: In addition to the Power Supply, and this could probably be a "permanent" part of your setup in daily use, An uninterruptible power supply should also be a part of one's setup. Unexpected power outages, voltage surges are becoming more common in many countries nowadays. Having a back-up UPS would allow you to, at the very least, "Save" your work and safely shut off your computer. You dont have to buy from a top brand, there are less costly alternatives now available and work just as well. Make sure they have an Auto Voltage Regulator or AVR built-in. For most people, a 1200VA or 1500VA (usually 750-1000 watts output)unit will suffice.

3- Monitor: Probably not needed if you are on a multi-monitor setup, as you can still move your desktop to one monitor and continue to work. However, monitors also sometimes black out unexpectedly (power surges are a common cause). Keeping a 20-24" full HD LED panel is a good idea. Doesn't have to be IPS or Professional grade if you are not color grading. They are a cheap buy and can be had for as low as $70 new and even less if you buy used.

Posted on 2020-02-10 17:25:19