My Dell Optiplex PC wouldn’t start, and the on/off button was blinking yellow.
It turns out that this was Blinky, the dreaded blinking yellow light (the power supply equivalent of Blooey, the dreaded Windows blue screen of death).
Of course, I didn’t have a current backup for the bricked computer, and the warranty had expired.
I found one quick fix on the internet: checking all of the USB ports to make sure that none of them had messed-up contacts that might be causing a short circuit. No such luck — my USB ports all looked fine.
I considered trying to install a replacement power supply into my PC, but I found a bunch of posts on the internet from people who had tried replacing the power supply and/or the motherboard (!) without success.
I decided, for the time being, to abandon the Brick, and to try to salvage my data by installing the Brick’s hard drive into another computer. (What? You don’t have a second computer on your desk? What kind of Geek are you?) Sad to say, the hard drive from the Brick was a SATA drive. The second computer (an older model) only had IDE connectors.
No problem. I went to the local build-it-yourself computer store and bought a hard drive enclosure (sometimes called a “shell”) for $50. (You can undoubtedly find one for less, but I was in a hurry.)
I installed the Brick’s hard drive into the shell, and then plugged the shell into the second computer’s USB 2.0 port. I was back in business in under 30 minutes. If you look on the internet, you can find web pages explaining how to run email and other apps from an external drive.
I then ordered a used, off-lease computer at www.dfsdirectsales.com. Assuming I read the spec sheets correctly, I should be able to cannibalize the Brick for stuff like RAM, etc., and install it into the new computer. Total price, including shipping: $278.00. (If I had been more confident about being able to salvage parts from the Brick, I could have gotten out for $50+ less.)
So, all in all, Blinky only cost me about 90 minutes of downtime, and $328. Plus, I get a new computer! (Well, it’s new to *me*, anyway…)
Followup (March 19, 2011): It turns out that Dell Optiplex computers of a certain vintage have a known issue with their motherboard capacitors. If you’re a brave soul with a soldering gun, you can try replacing the capacitors — there are a couple of webpages out there that show you what you have to do. You can also try buying a replacement motherboard on eBay. As for me, the Brick is sitting in my garage, missing various components that were cannibalized for other systems.