According to the manual, FF is listed as one of the most common POST codes and indicates a problem with the CPU. Then it lists five troubleshooting steps. First up it says to check the power connector in the motherboard socket and verify the +12v connector is also firmly seated if required. Okay well that's not really a problem with the CPU and the TechAID LED's already confirm that all necessary voltages are present, but I try reseating the connector anyway with no change in the boot code.
Next up the manual suggests to remove the board from the case to make sure it is not short-circuited. Okay, also not a CPU problem but just to keep in line with the guide I remove the board and try booting it on the workbench... still no dice. The third step is to replace the CPU, preferably with one of the same speed, inspect and clean the socket and pins. Now we're getting somewhere. I am able to dig up another working Socket A system and pull the CPU from it to install in the problem board. Unfortunately, this doesn't fix the situation either; the TechAID still displays code FF.
Discouraged, but still with two more steps to go I quickly move on to number four. Make sure the CPU is inserted fully and seated properly in the socket; reseat if necessary. Well I'm pretty sure after all the processors I've installed over the years I can manage to get one inserted correctly, but just to be sure I pull the CPU back out. In fact I go one step further and use a 3rd known good working CPU and a different CPU cooler as well, reinstall everything making sure I'm doing it correctly, try one more time and get the same results. Sigh,... on to the final step. Check with your motherboard manufacturer as your BIOS may be corrupted. Hrm, well if the motherboard BIOS is bad, there's really not much I can do with it. It's not under warranty and I'm not going to spend the money to repair/replace an old Socket A board.
Needless to say, the Soyo TechAID certainly didn't live up to expectation. The whole purpose of this device is to take some of the guesswork out of troubleshooting PC problems, and at this it failed miserably. Had I purchased a new CPU, or went through the hassle of RMA'ing it, I would have been even more upset when it did not correct the problem. As it was, I'm out only an hour or two of time spent pulling three machines apart and swapping components around.
Incidentally, I did try the "bad" CPU in one of the other systems and it works just fine. I also tried replacing the power supply and memory, and went so far as to try the memory in a different slot. I even tried pulling all the cards and memory out, leaving only the motherboard and CPU, and the TechAID would still report BIOS code FF. For me the Soyo TechAID was not helpful at all in troubleshooting, and for someone less experienced or without spare parts to try swapping, this product could actually cause more harm than good if the user relies solely on the ability of the TechAID to pinpoint the problem.
Thanks to Geeks.com for supplying us with this review sample. Geeks is your one stop shop for computer case accessories and more.