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Non user-servicable hardware

Well it had to come sooner or later – what’s an IT blog without a good rant?

I look after a number of Asus eeeBox’s at work. These are essentially Netbook hardware in a very small form factor, with a VESA mount that allows you to fix the box to the back of a monitor. I’m not a great fan of the hardware – a pokey 1.6Ghz Atom with 2GB RAM and 160GB S-ATA hard drive. These seem to suffer from extremely slow disk I/O – I suspect with an SSD – or even a 7200RPM hard drive, they’d be a bit more sprightly. However, for general office apps and space-saving, they are a good concept.

They also occasionally suffer from the issue of not booting at all and going through the POST (Power On Self Test). When they were under warranty, I used to send them back to Asus (via the supplier). Asus had an awful turnaround of at least a month. However, a year has now passed – the length of the warranty, so that is no longer a cost-effective option. Plus, it would be good to be able to know how to fix the problem.

Some work with Google seemed to indicate that the non-POSTing issue could be fixed by disconnecting the CMOS battery for a few minutes with the system unplugged from the mains, then re-connecting the battery. Sounds simple enough.

However, Asus, in their wisdom have designed these things so as they are not user serviceable. Apart from an easy to swap-out hard drive cage, the only way to get in to these eeeBox’s is to remove two screws from the frame, gently prise off both side panels, being careful not to snap off the little lugs. You are then presented with two metal panels held together with a number of small screws. Having removed those, the next step is to remove the chassis from the plastic frame – done by removing four larger screws – which aren’t easy to get back in. Having removed a number of smaller screws to separate both panels, you can now get to said battery! Thankfully, all the connections to the PC are still accessible, so I could test before re-assembly – all was good and the machine worked again when I put it all back together.

However, would it have been so difficult for Asus to actually allowed an easier access panel that provides access to the CMOS battery – especially as this is a common problem! At the same time, they could have provided easy access to the laptop-sized SODIMM memory slots at the same time!

This would have saved much time with assembly and disassembly and would have been both easy and cheap to implement! The hard drive is user accessible, so I’m wondering what possessed their design time to come up with the idea of the battery and memory being as difficult as possible to swap out!

With organisations being more cost-conscious, the eeeBox isn’t a bad solution for some applications and actually makes sense as a ‘fleet PC’ for organisations. But please think of us techies that keep these things working – there really is no excuse in this day and age not to allow easy access to certain components!

Categories: Computing, Hardware, Rants
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