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  Antec Fusion...

[13 June 2022] Back in January I acquired one of these off ebay...

(Not actual one)

It's an Antec Fusion Media PC case... and in my case, it was housing a system. However, after playing around with the system for a while it failed (PSU and motherboard). While I'd had it running on Windows 10 I hadn't been able to get the built-in-display/control knob working properly; the display would do its thing but rotating the knob just had it displaying "Volume 0%" with every increment. Was this a driver, software, OS, or hardware fault with the display module or the knob itself?

I didn't have an original driver disc so I had to go by what I could find out online, from old forum posts.

With a replacement motherboard (but still using the original Akasa RAM) and PSU* installed (because the other ones failed - see below) I did a fresh install of Windows 7 and that made no difference to the volume knob not working. I removed the front panel and disassembled the knob component and cleaned things with deoxit. This still made no difference and even trying to short contacts in the rotary component still resulted in the "Volume 0%" thing being displayed.

I was baffled; were these not the correct drivers I was using or was there some compatibility issue with 7? My research on the old forum posts harked back to the Vista era, and people then were having issues, but there was only one that vaguely referred to the Volume issue I was dealing with.

I decided to give Windows XP a try. I installed the Fusion drivers as before, but this still didn't get the knob working, but I realised I still needed to install audio drivers. Since I had a Soundblaster sound card to hand that I had considered using in the system anyway, along with drivers for XP, rather than trying to download XP drivers for the onboard audio, I installed this PCI card instead. I'd been trying the volume knob at every stage and restarting after each install too, but as soon as I restarted after installing the sound card the knob worked! Well as far as showing on the case's display the changing volume level; it wasn't actually adjusting the volume in Windows, but that would seemly just require some fiddling about in some settings.

Using the Soundblaster card instead of the onboard audio got the volume knob working! I switched back to my Windows 7 install, disabled the onboard audio and installed the Soundblaster drivers, and again, the knob now worked. I don't know why this should be so, but I was relieved to finally get the volume knob working rather than having to assume the knob on the case was somehow faulty.

Options now...

The PSU I have installed for now is over-kill in terms of wattage but at this system's low load the PSU fan doesn't spin. With the system installed with Windows 7 on an SSD means the only point of noise is the CPU fan, on which I've connected a resistor.

I'm not sure if I want to instead install the system more permanently on Windows XP (and even use a more period-correct motherboard for that), although this would mean a noisy hard drive instead of the SSD (unless I shell out for an SD card solution).

In addition to the PCI Soundblaster card the onboard LAN doesn't work (it once got struck by lightening), so a PCI-express ethernet card has been installed. This leaves a PCI slot free on the micro ATX motherboard for a TV card (of which I have a few), and I have my eyes on a passively-cooled graphics card. That will fill all of the slots, which I quite like the idea of.

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- Acquiring my Antec Fusion -
- Initial clean and test -
- Installing Windows -
- Front panel display / volume issues -
- Things fail -

[19 February 2022] I acquired my Antec Fusion case off ebay. At the time of purchase it was housing a system, all pretty old now but complete with everything except a hard drive and operating system to make it work.

I got it for what I consider to be a good price considering I intended to just resell the case to make a profit, and then see what was what with the parts inside that were included, although the whole thing was sold as "spares / repairs" so I didn't hold out high hopes.

Initial clean and test...

The system needed a good clean out as it was full of nicotine-ladened dust (the worst kind). I also spotted at least one motherboard capacitor that was bulging.

I inspected and cleaned out inside the PSU too* but thankfully there was no sign of any failing capacitors in there.

*Warning, do not meddle inside PSUs unless you know what you are doing as they can contain high voltages.

After spending some time cleaning out the dust I plugged things back in and switched the system on for the first time... *BANG*... just kidding, there was no bang, the system just calmly whirred into life; even the two 120mm fans were still operating quietly.

Installing stuff...

I installed Windows 10 on an SSD to test things further and that went well.

There was an included 'TV Capture Card' and the drivers were automatically downloaded by Windows and installed as 'Philips SAA713X, Hybrid Capture Device'. I have to wonder what software was originally included with this and if it is still available or what to install instead to make use of it (not that I intend to use it myself).

Motherboard drivers could be problematic though; it is a Foxconn 945GZ7MC-RS2H. I avoided using the onboard graphics (limed to VGA and 2MB I believe), and opted to install a dedicated graphics card, partly also to see if the PSU could cope.

There is 2GB RAM installed (with Akasa-branding on the heat spreaders) and one problem I discovered was that all but one of the plastic levers on the RAM slots were broken off... and that one I broke off. But it turns out 2GB of PC2-533 RAM is the max. apparently, so what's there can stay where it is; I'd prefer 4GB for Windows 10, but it can work on 2GB.

Regarding the PSU, it's an Antec branded one also and proved capable [for now...].

Front panel display...

Connecting up the case's front panel display and getting that operational proved to be tricky. There was a USB lead to connect to a header and I noticed in the Device Manager that this presented an Unknown device. Researching further I found that "iMon" software was required, but the first iteration I tried of this, while it installed the drivers, then presented me with the following error:

"VFD H/W installed in this system is for ANTEC VFD, NOT for iMON."

Thankfully, as forums suggested, installing a different version resolved this.

The display works; it cycles through various outputs as per the software, and (showing its age here) will display information from WinAmp (which I duly installed to test out). Apparently it should show equalizer graphics but for me it just cycled the track number and title. The main issue is that the large volume control knob doesn't operate the volume. When it is rotated the display says '0 Volume', which implies the system it at least recognising the input. I don't know if this is a software thing or an actual fault with the knob. Maybe some grime got in to the contacts. I did dismantle it a little to see, but couldn't get far with just removing screws, and I can't see that De-oxit would get in anywhere helpful. I might give that a try as a last resort. The large knob that the case features is rather ridiculous if it doesn't work.

Perhaps driver issues are the issue... there still remains an 'Unknown device' and the sound output is showing as Digital Audio S/PDIF. I've tried downloading various audio drivers with no change.

Speaking of the large knob; the overall aesthetic of the front of the case is pleasing to me and I'm considering that it would probably look good coupled with two old Sony amplifiers I have. Since I've been playing around with this case I'm tempted to do more with it rather than just sell it...

  • Could I fit a 2 x 120mm AIO liquid cooler (minus the fans) and make a super quiet system? I have one that might fit.

  • I would consider a passively cooled graphics card; I'm visualising one that has a large heatsink that wraps round the PCB since this case has poor GPU cooling.

[20 February 2022] The next day I decided I would install Windows 7 on the system; this would enable me to check the sound driver issue since the drivers would surely work with 7. This would also enable me to check the volume knob again.

I had just finished transferring the files I had downloaded onto a memory stick ready to wipe over everything on the SSD with Windows 7, when... *BANG*... no it didn't really do that... but it might of... The computer wouldn't switch back on for me to install the OS. Somehow, even though I'd had the computer running under load for some days (running Einstein@home) the PSU had now decided to give up... silently. Very weird (perhaps it serves me right for doing yesterday's fake *BANG*.... I'll add the PSU to my small pile of "To Fix Later" and resort to using another on my next attempt...

Sadly that attempt also failed; not only had the PSU given up, the motherboard wasn't powering up with a replacement.

I decided to remove the motherboard to investigate further. Here's the mess I found under it...

I really should have done that to begin with.

I determined that those capacitors I had noted were bulging were the most likely failure point. I took a closer look at them to determine what replacements I needed. I started reading the details on them and got confused why the four tall brown ones all had the same rating when they were clearly different sizes...

The reason being, they had expanded/blown their tops so much that some looked taller than others - I'd never seen any failed capacitors look quite like that before! I'm surprised I had this board working at all... I'm also suspecting that the state of these capacitors lead to PSU failing.

For now I have ordered some replacement capacitors, four tall ones, and six of the small ones that surround the CPU. They're coming from China, so will take a while to arrive.

[UPDATE] Sadly my efforts to replace the capacitors proved to be unsuccessful; the board would still not POST. I had struggled to remove the old capacitors and it may have been that I damaged the board or there was some other issue.

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