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Marsouin223
1 Nickel

Aurora R4, move internals to new case

Hello!

We have a pretty old Alienware Aurora R4 that stopped turning on. The power button just didn't seem to do anything. I should note that the PSU test button did work, turning on the lights and fans and even causing the BIOS screen to display. (It no longer shows BIOS, just lights and fans, but this may be because of monitor issues and/or because we took the entire thing apart and put it back together in the meantime). We were out of warranty, but out-of-warranty support thought it might be a motherboard issue. We agreed to try replacing the motherboard, but the issue persisted (We did get the part cost refunded, but not labour). We suspect that it's an issue with the actual power button on the top of the machine, as it always seemed pretty flimsy and the metallic plastic cover fell off years ago. However, Dell/Alienware no longer makes the Front I/O assembly, so there were no replacements available.

TL;DR: Power button issue (probably) causes complete failure, no spares available.

That brings me to the proposed solution: Move all of the [expensive] internals, or as many as we can, to an [inexpensive] new case. This post is basically a sanity check to make sure we're not trying anything totally stupid. Here are the parts we'd like to reuse:

  • Intel i7-3930K processor

  • 4x 4GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM cards

  • the Intel X79 motherboard that came with the Aurora R4 (more on this later)

  • The Alienware Water cooling that came with the computer (it cools the processor, nothing else)

  • The Blu-ray reader + media card reader

  • The ATA 3 hard drive some other hard drives we had laying around (the current build has space for 4, we use 2)

  • The Power Supply Unit that came with the computer (I'm not sure of a model number, but the cord we got with it is 125 V. should be 875W)

  • 2x 3GB DDR5 AMD Radeon HD 7950 w/ crossfire

So that brings me to my questions:

  1. What size is the motherboard? Our research showed MicroATX. Is this correct?
  2. Will the Alienware motherboard work in a new case? We plan on buying a simple case- no lights and/or active vents. Will the Alienware BIOS/software screw things up?
  3. Do we need to keep the master I/O board and/or buy a replacement?
  4. Will our current hard drives and optical drives work with any case? Do we need to buy mountings for them?

That's all the questions I can think of, but this is my first time building a computer. Can you think of any unforeseen problems/complexifiers with this plan? If so, comment! 

Finally, are there any parts (especially cases) you'd reccomend? This is probably the least important question, but any help is appreciated!

 

Thank you for your help,

 

Marsouin223

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7 Replies
Tesla1856
6 Gallium

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case


@Marsouin223 wrote:

Alienware Aurora R4 that stopped turning on.

TL;DR: Power button issue (probably) causes complete failure, no spares available.

You can test the (simple) power-switch with a multi-meter. You can usually turn-on a motherboard without it ... using the old "jump-start" technique.

Yes, trouble-shooting broken computers takes skill (that's why people train for it).

Retro-fitting proprietary motherboard and other parts into an after-market case is an advanced-modding project.


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Cass-Ole
4 Germanium

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

jump start motherboard on

Pin Position 6 / 8:

  • leave Front Panel connector on > micro-metal 'tool' > short pins 6 / 8 together momentarily until desktop jump starts on (& remove tool)
  • Back Front Panel connector off > short pins 6 / 8 together momentarily w/ a flat-blade tool until desktop turns on & back tool away
  • micro-tool might be a bent staple or two needles touching like chop-stix; flat-blade tool = screwdriver tip

If PC jump starts on, then top external power button needs replaced

If PC will not jump start on, issue may be elsewhere

Raw Assembly > gain access to power on button due to possible failed plunger

If you're adventurous, you can disassemble TOP I/O area of PC, remove plastic housing & expose raw power on button, press it, see PDF Owner Manual & AlienTube

If PC starts, replace top I/O

Top I/O part# 5W6MX >< R1 R2 R3 Top I/O = loss of top USB3.0 port

Order temporary power on switch; back front panel connector off & place onto pins 6 / 8; start PC w/ side panel removed if need be

If PC will not start when pressing raw button, nor will jump start w/ tool, nor will start w/ new top I/O (or temporary switch); if new mthrbrd did not fix issue; issue is 'else where' (CPU / PSU etc)

__________________________

Moving Hardware To New Case

It is a micro-ATX / u-ATX form factor Mthrbrd, 9.6 x 9.6

You can relocate to new case, simply drop mthrbrd in, drop parts u mentioned in & leave the rest behind (do not transfer MIO board, nor buy a new one); whether your HDDs need mounting support depends on the case u buy (purchase a case that offers 3.5" drive mounting support)

The larger Area-51 R1 desktop is similar to the smaller Aurora R1-R4; a lady friend of mine contacted me last week, the idea was to remove original parts out of the 51 (place all new hardware inside it), move those parts to a basic case & get it all working

Mthrbrd/cpu/DDR3, cooler rad + fan, HDDs DVD etc transferred into new case, new PSU was chosen (old PSU could have transferred over as can yours; however, yours may need SATA cable extensions if the SATA cables can not reach the new HDD mounting spot)

Your radiator fan will plug into your mthrbrd CPU_Fan header

Your liquid cooling motor needs an ADAPTOR; the most logical type is an unshielded molex-to-fan adaptor R4 mthrbrd does not have enuff chassis fan headers to support a different type of adaptor (basic unshielded fan extension as seen & used on Area-51 below); find & use the one above, plug it into an open Molex 4pin found on the harness that supplies power to your DVD drive area, or the one that powered MIO, or a 4pin cable when using a traditional aftermarket power supply

For Area-51 5pin & Aurora 7pin cooler motor 'special black' connectors:

  • unshielded molex-to-fan adaptors have 3pins & 2-wires
  • all 3 pins plug in (2-wired pins are used, 1 un-wired is not)
  • 1st pin (black) goes to pin 1 of your 5 or 7pin
  • 2nd pin (red) goes to pin 2 of 5 or 7 pin
  • 3rd pin plugs in (but has no wire)
  • the remaining slots of your special 5 or 7 pin do not need to be plugged into anything
  • cooler motor only needs ground + 12volts to work / run, which is supplied by the 2-wire (3pin) molex-to-fan adaptor shown prior

Photo Edit Below: A51 owner I helped transfer parts into a basic case

  • Rad-Fan plugged into Top CPU_FAN header
  • Cooler Pump Motor 5pin plugs directly onto top Sys_Fan5 header
  • By plugging in directly, there's no need to buy an unshielded fan extension or molex adaptor as seen earlier
  • Aurora 7pin can plug directly into a fan header also, as seen below, so long as the wider 7pin can attach & not be interfered with by other mthrbrd parts & so long as there is in fact an open fan header

Above: 5pin cooler motor plugged directly into 3pin fan header (pins 1 2 3 make contact while pins 4/5 do not > Aurora 7pin: pins 4 5 6 7 don't make contact)

Below, 5pin & 7pin can make good contact w/ fan header, 3pin fan also shows

Above, reverse adaptors, 5pin 7pin to 3pin fan for secure connexion

________________

*When de-coupling the cooler motor from the CPU (to transfer), buy new thermal paste

(Phobya Nano Grease / Gelid GC Extreme / Grizzly Kryonaut)(Arctic Silver minimum)

*SandyBridge 3930k CPU can be upgraded to IvyBridge 4930K 4960x w/ Bios A08 or higher

*Part tag for your mthrbrd is on two labels, it is probably FPV4P (Sandy) or 7JNH0 (Ivy) mthrbrd & either can be used if u need a replacement

*If you don't have an SSD (SOLID-STATE-DRIVE), get one (Samsung 8 or 9 Series)(Use Macrium Reflect to clone / image your OS onto new drive or install Windows clean onto it)

*Be sure new case has one or more intake / exhaust fans; if not, purchase fans in the size recommended by the case supplier (see owner's manual etc)

ProTip: Try the jump start methods 1st; ALWAYS be gentle w/ Aurora on/off plunger

That is all the time I have

For those wondering, with my wiring help / specialty cables & advice, her Alien now enjoys MSI TaiChi, Threadripper, Enermax 240, Radeon 295X2, EVGA 1200 P2 power supply & flashy DDR4 (=

Marsouin223
1 Nickel

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

Thank you for all the responses. Will Try it out and update.

If it turns out the power button IS the problem and I can't jury-rig anything, any common-format motherboards you can recommend compatible with my processor and/or the 2 graphics cards? Any suggestions for what to look for?

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Cass-Ole
4 Germanium

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

Hi. You're contemplating removing this mthrbrd to put something else in its place?

To that I'd say, remove it now & bench test it, which is to say, jump-start it on outside of the case if it will. If it won't, then yes it has a grave issue & needs replaced (so long as the power supply used in the bench test is known to be good, that is, & no user-error involved in setting up the bench test)

The jump-start shorts pins 6 & 8 together momentarily w/ a flat-blade tool, can be done inside the case or outside, a feat which the $2 power switch button can accomplish

I linked you to the FPV4P & 7JNH0 mthrbrds, those are the simplest solutions, just get the same R4 board which will be plug & play w/ your current HDDs & Windows install

The Asus Rampage IV Gene is considered the best micro-ATX X79 (socket 2011)board of its day; because it was, & due to its age / relative scarcity & desirability, it may be expensive or hard to source or both; top mthrbrds do not depreciate in value in the way we'd think they would or should, nor do top chips

Help having Aurora R4 function properly on the Rampage IV Gene please

Due to its age, the X79 Intels may prove hard to find, but other popular brands may be MSI X79MA-GD45 (R4's 'twin') AsRock X79 Extreme4m Gigabyte (did not make an m-ATX X79); the one u have now is made by MSI for the Aliens, it is adequate, what we'd call close-to a mid-Tier board (but neither high-end nor true low-end)

3930k & R4 board, CPU current market value begins at $62 & is readily had for $80, R4 board ~$150

Asus X79 $200 - $300 used

I have an R4, my best judgment is the alienboard now in it is today's best solution, only because the Asus board is & has always been too expensive; I own the AsRock 4m above I linked to, & consider it slightly better than our MSI alienboard but by now not worth the hassle if all we're trying to do is hold onto an $80 CPU, not whilst knowing that way newer (better / faster) hardware can be put in there instead

Here, Luke's R4 is running Gen8 8700k on an EVGA board (which supports Gen9 9900k), you'd chime into his thread there for mthrbrd swap advice

Which new modern mthrbrd + CPU to consider is not something I have time for, due to the multitude of choices (& generations of Intel chips & chipsets since 3930k); I can say that my fave boards are by Asus, MSI, EVGA ... Gigabyte & Asrock pull up the rear, however Giga has stepped up their game for Gen9 w/ the Aorus Master (for 9900k)

In short, your X79 choices (links) are ASUS MSI AsRock, but I didn't see anything for sale ($600 Asus Gene is not practical); so try google / shopping or similar (Amazon etc) ... best easiest solution is still the alienboard ... modern solutions are by manufacturers above, starting with popular chips like 6700k 7700k 8700k 9700k 9900k, some i5-K CPUs may work in those generations (i5-9600k)(the above require newer DDR4 memory, u have DDR3); google & uTube are the two places I look for reviews & comparisons on old hardware & new ...

My best advice: if needed, get another R4 board, then consider upgrading CPU to 4930k 4960x later (sell 3930k or at this point hold onto it as a spare or for sale later if u ever part w/ R4 or R4 mthrbrd so it can bundle w/ it)(board needs Bios A08 or higher for IvyBridge CPU) ... I hope this helped  

 

 

 

Marsouin223
1 Nickel

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

Okay! Small update on this particular solution (I see I've gotten some similar sugggestions). For anyone trying to fix a similar problem, here's what I've done: 

I attempted to confirm that the motherboard itself was working by jumping pins 6 and 8 with a paper clip as my tool. Something not mentioned in this person's reply is that you DO need to remove the GPU(s) in order to access it. On my computer, the plastic housing for the front I/O connector was missing and the Reset +/- pins had no wires going into them. After initially failing to jump the motherboard, I tested the PSU using its test button to confirm that the motherboard actually would turn on. It took some fiddling, but I was able to jump pins 6 and 8 by touching my pieces of paper clip to the metal contacts on top. Again, I had to fiddle around a bit to get it to work. That's where I've left off for now.

Again, thanks for all your help! I've now confirmed that the motherboard itself is not stopping the computer from booting.

 

I may try and fix/circumvent the Front I/O assembly whilst in the current case, or move on with buying a new case- haven't decided yet. 

In any case, I'll update you guys further and, again, thanks for the help!

Cass-Ole
4 Germanium

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

You're right that Aurora has limited hand space for this area of the board

In my 1st photo I showed that u can approach the top of the connector to get at the metal pins shown, while it is also possible to attack the pins inside the connector slots by gently forcing your tool into the slots

Typically we'd back the black connector off entirely & attempt jump-start w/ screwdriver flat-tip on poles 6/8 (with connector off, MIO board may not receive signal to turn on, since it is patched into the front panel connector / wiring); jump-starts using this method are for short-term tests only, simply to verify mthrbrd can turn on manually

Note: there are no RESET wires/pins because there's no reset switch; you can buy a reset switch & plumb it in there, tuck it in case & remove side panel to press it when needed. An item like this may also work; however, the MIO board would need wire-modded into the on/off scheme. If not, item below for test purposes

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Marsouin223
1 Nickel

Re: Aurora R4, move internals to new case

Sorry for the long time between replies. So, I managed to disassemble the computer and test that the *actual* button (not the flimsy chromed plastic POS) worked properly. Because I'm not that confident about messing around with the wiring, my current solution is to run the PC with the side off, and the Front I/O assembly just kinda hanging there.

I'm actually relatively happy with this- it's definitely shoddy, but at least I can play games now, and the fix was free.

However, I ran into a problem when getting the system up and running- the computer only detected one GPU. The AMD driver disk apparently saw both of them, but only the #1 GPU shows up in device manager. Currently just running it on 1 gpu, but any advice would be appreciated.

Finally, I wanted to ask a question about the OS. My R4 currently runs Windows 7, but as support is being cut for that OS soon, I'd like to upgrade to windows 10. However, when I last tried to do this (during the free update period), the updater threw an error saying that my PC isn't compatible. 

So, my question on that front is: Do I need to replace parts to get Windows 10 to run on my machine? If so, do you know which parts are blocking the install?

 

Thanks for all your help on this.

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