Two days before Christmas, our home computer started acting odd, in a very destructive way. DLLs started tipping over, the OS became unstable, and files became corrupt. Did I mention all this happened after I had just finished touching up our photo for the Christmas card we were planning to print the next day? Can you guess which was the first file to become corrupt?
No problem, I thought. I have two disk drives, each with two partitions. I zip up all my data and back it up on the OS drive’s second partition, and I use Norton Ghost to regularly take an image of the OS which is then stored on the second partition of the data drive. So I rebooted into Ghost and laid down an image of the OS, figuring some crucial file had become corrupt and was wreaking havoc.
It didn’t work. The computer melted down again. At that point, I tried just about everything. The errors were completely random, but things got to the point where I couldn’t boot the machine, let alone reinstall Windows. After hours of work over several key holiday days, I took Tricia’s advice and handed the computer over to Best Buy to have all the hardware checked out the day after Christmas. $60 later, they told me all the hardware was in tip top shape and I simply needed a clean install of Windows, which they were willing to do for an additional $60. I almost hit the guy.
Back at home, I continued trying all combinations of anything I could think of. It wasn’t until the 30th that I tried each individual DIMM of memory. I thought I had tried this in the early going, and Best Buy had explicitly told me that my memory had checked out, but I was desperate. Of course at this point I was testing the memory in a new motherboard I had just bought (thinking the IDE controller was the problem) which was installed in the new case I had just bought (because I was tired of bloodying my fingers on some sharp edges in my current case). Sure enough, one of my DIMMs was bad, and the moment it was out of the system, everything ran fine.
I’ve left out countless details (like buying and returning hard drives, staying up until 1 a.m. every night working on it, etc), but suffice it to say this was a frustrating experience. I was particularly irritated by Best Buy telling my memory checked out fine. If they had caught that one thing, it would have saved me about 15 hours of effort (not to mention buying a new motherboard and case). I went back to the store and demanded a refund. After a bit of haggling, they gave me a $60 credit toward some new memory.
I must confess I was rather shocked at how dependent we’ve become on the computer. We didn’t do Christmas cards because we lost the edited picture (not to mention the fact that we use Outlook to print our mailing labels). We haven’t done the 2002 video we were planning because it was a completely digital project dependent on the computer. I’m behind in my finances because I pay all my bills online. I missed a meeting at church because the invite was via email. My conclusion has not been that I must free myself from the computer. That would hardly feel like liberty given how easy the computer makes the aforementioned activities. Instead, I’ve realized our budget does not reflect the importance of computing to running our household. I’m now thinking we need to make it a major priority to buy a used laptop or something to function as a backup computer.
The picture, by the way, is of my old case and motherboard. I didn’t have the heart to take everything apart again and reinstall it on the old board (which isn’t all that old), so I am instead working a deal with my dad to make it the starting point of a new system for him.