Or, the curious case of the computer that would not run on it’s feet.

This computer would runs fine in the shop and then freeze when it went back onsite. After replacing the hard drive, CPU, RAM, motherboard and power supply (all of which tested fine) over the course of a couple weeks, I discovered this obnoxious machine would run fine when laying on its side, but freeze when stood up…then magically unfreeze when returned to its side.

Here is a video of this baffling behavior

I unplugged EVERYTHING non-essential, no change. Removed the hard drive from the case and wiggled it around, with no ill effects on the machine. But even with the hard drive out, the computer would freeze when set vertically. Unplugged all the fans, still freezing. What else would care if the computer was upright? Is there some crazy RF field at my desk.

Finally, I pulled the motherboard again, and saw this:


A freaking STAPLE hanging out from behind the motherboard plate. The gravity-triggered lock-up-my-computer switch!

rivetsSeveral violent shakes upside down using the “get pick out of guitar” technique yielded about a dozen more staples lurking between the motherboard plate and the side of the case (which, infuriatingly, was riveted on).

I’d be really interested to know how these used staples got in there. This computer lived its life in the back of a gas station and ran problem free for nearly three years before it started locking up. Also, the only way for the staples to get back there is through the holes in the motherboard backing plate – and no real way to get there with the sides on the case.

At least there is an an answer. Not sure if this really constitutes a helpful solution but it vexed me so much it deserved a post.