Heal Thyself

Wow. I’d been meaning to post about other things, but now my main computer has died. Fascinating problem. Main problem being I’d rather not have to deal with it, and I can’t afford the cost of any replacement parts, or any parts or software required as a cascade effect.

The machine is a P4 3.2 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Intel D945GPM motherboard, running Windows Vista Ultimate. Yeah, I know. The last Windows I paid retail for before Vista was Windows Me. Guess you should all hope I don’t decide to buy a retail copy of Windows 8. Which is allegedly great, but looks silly to me. I built it, well, when Vista was the current release. Missed 7 by a couple years. Heck, has it really been that long? This would be like buying Windows 95 in 1996 and still running it in 2000. But seriously, never any problems with Vista, and that is not the issue here, apart from the inevitable requirement that it be “activated” or replaced.

The problem was the machine turned itself off, then would not turn on for more than a blip. Almost like an overheating problem. Or a power supply problem.

Fast forward to having troubleshot everything. I have a perfectly good power supply. I sure hope I have good hard drives, RAM and CPU. Looks like it’s the motherboard, but in a weird way.

The machine powers on if the 2×2 power cable is left unplugged. If it’s plugged in, over by the CPU where it’s supposed to go or the machine won’t turn on, the machine acts like it’s not plugged in. The power supply works correctly in an alternate environment. Resetting the CMOS and all that did no good.

It’s bizarre.

My preference would be for a direct, exact replacement, but D945GPM boards are unavailable. So at a minimum I need a board that will fit my CPU and RAM, will support SATA, and maybe all would go fine bringing it back up. I suspect I may really need a new hard drive, so the OS can start from scratch and all files on both existing drives will be accessible. Many but not all important ones are duplicated between the two drives in that machine, or are only on the secondary drive, added specifically to have room for files. Particularly pictures of the kids. Still, I’d rather not have to wipe the boot drive to get it back to reality.

The really unfortunate part is it’s the only computer in the house, or computer carcass, as most of them are, that uses SATA drives. I’d not thought of that as a problem with my backing up photos between drives on the same machine…. needing THAT MACHINE to read one of the drives. All our pictures before the last few months are also on another computer’s secondary drive. And that’s the other dead computer of the moment, with a bad boot drive that’s currently undergoing the most dire-looking chkdsk I have ever seen, while attached as a slave to a spare computer. That spare also has a backup of some of the pictures. What I really need is to make systematic use of a file server in the house, with appropriate redundancy/backup systems, and topped off with more systematic copying of selected pictures (and other important files, like taxes, which are on the motherboard-free computer and could be needed as we thrash out some issues) to cloud storage. Hey, I’d been thinking about it and tentatively planning! One of those things for when I had the money.

I am typing this on an old laptop someone gave me. It has XP Home and is functional. Or it was once I disabled as much as I could of Norton Security Suite. It’s one of those ones that came with no disks and if you need to restore, the OEM put all that in a special partition you can access at boot. Except… not. When I tried to do that, it prompted for the CD that came with the computer. Not. So it either stays the same, or it gets a new OS. If the latter, then it may become a Linux machine. Between that and a spare 1.6 GHz XP Pro machine that has almost no drive space (the one doing chkdsk on the rogue drive for hour after hour today), I kinda sorta can muddle through. It’s not fun, though. You get comfortable with the way things are. Indeed, the Vista box didn’t become my primary until my old Windows 2000 machine had problems I didn’t take the time to diagnose fully, but which probably meant hard drive failure.

In all this, I am paying for being a leading and ongoing economic indicator. I ran out of money in 2007, and some of it was smoke and mirrors before that. It’s gotten too little better, too slowly. What should be avocation to the point of vocation, spending on technology, is a huge luxury. It needs to change Real Soon Now. That I could believe in.