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The computer brain in your Windstar is called an ECU. They are very specific and you will need to pull it out of the van (Inside right side of dashboard) to see the correct version. They sell used ones on eBay for around $145. Just make sure you have the correct numbers off of yours.
Desktop computer cases have mountings that suit the majority of motherboards. You most like need a new switch mode power supply as the existion one won't have the correct power connectors and won't supply enough power.
Motherboard batteries are usually attached to the motherboard adjacent to the BIOS chip, they are held in place with a simple clip most of the time, but are sometimes soldered to the board. they look like wafer batteries or hearing aid or watch batteries. look at the number printed on the face of the battery to know what battery to replace it with. the number refers to milivolts+the physical width of the battery. if you can find the proper milivolts, the width or "thickness"of the battery can sometimes be "worked with"
Never used this website but it hass all the gateway boards... do a google search with your laptop model number and add spare parts after it and see what comes up... I am talking about the full model number nit just MA7..
eg. my laptop is HP dv5. but the full model number id dv5-1160us.
By removing the heatsink and cleaning it, you may have wipe d the heat sink compund, or the heatsink is not well attached to the base and is not making full contact with the CPU.
Check for this two conditions, and correct them.
Everything should be fine.
It could be a number of things , could be overheating , could also be shorting out....
For the overheating: When you have the motherboard in and the PC runinng make sure all of the fans are running correctly.One scenario is dust, fans tend to run slower or even stop if there is a heavy buildup on them. Also make sure there are enough fans. Should at least have one fan over the processor , and one on the back of the case. Try not keeping the computer in enclosed spot's like in a cabinet in a desk....the more open the area the better....There is actually a neat little program called "SpeedFan" , its free and it monitors and displays the temps of your computer, may want to download that.
I know you said you were an amateur , but maybee ask the person installing the board. They want to make sure that the motherboard isn't directly touching on the bottom of the case , or even having a screw that fell underneath it...all of this could cause a short circuit and of course fry your motherboard.