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Archive for October, 2006

Pardon Me While My Computer Explodes

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

Warning: This post makes use of computer-related jargon and acronyms. Read at your own risk.

It has been exciting week for me and my computer. A few weeks back, I decided that it was running kind of hot, so I decided to dismantle it, clean it out, and remount the heatsink. I must’ve used too much thermal grease when I put the heatsink back on, because it actually seemed to get worse a few days later. Suddenly my computer was shutting off while doing simple tasks like ripping a CD. A computer really shouldn’t overheat and crash from something like that, so I knew I’d done something wrong.

So I took it all apart again, cleaned off the apparently-too-much thermal grease, put on a more moderate amount, and reassembled everything. Suddenly it was running much cooler and quieter—no more fans running full blast—and it wasn’t randomly rebooting or powering off on me. But . . .

Apparently the damage was already done. A week ago today, I was surfing the internet, reading some blogs, when my dear sweet computer suddenly froze. If a computer shouldn’t overheat and reboot while ripping a CD, it really shouldn’t freeze while browsing the internet. I tried rebooting it, but then it wouldn’t even POST. Obviously a major component had just failed or was in the process of failing. I cleared the CMOS, and then it booted up (albeit with a CMOS checksum error, strangely enough), but it was very unstable and eventually froze again.

For the next day, I could only get it to boot by clearing the CMOS. I won’t bore you with the details of everything I tried, but it involved a second motherboard and power supply and lots of assembling and disassembling. But by Monday aftenoon, the instability had rapidly progressed, and my poor CPU had shuffled off this mortal coil.

As if having one’s CPU literally cook itself to death isn’t bad enough, I found myself in the unfortunate situation of having a motherboard with an obsolete CPU socket. Few stores have compatible CPUs in stock anymore, and even something nominally compatible might not actually work with my motherboard. So my choices were (1) buy the same exact type of processor, even though it might overheat and melt down, too, and (2) buy a slightly newer processer that would be much less likely to overheat but might not be compatible. Yippy.

But luckily for me, my parents had a computer with the exact same processor I had, and my brother had just upgraded his old computer and still had his old parts. My dad got a brilliant and very generous idea: they’d give me the processor and use my brother’s old stuff instead. It was technically a downgrade for them, but they only use that computer for basic stuff like internet and office tasks, so I doubt they’d really notice a difference.

I still had one more problem, though: even with the new CPU, I couldn’t get Windows to load. It seemed as though, in its death throes, my processor had somehow trashed a good number of important system files, so my installation of Windows was hosed. Reinstalling over the top of the old one didn’t fix it. So for the umpteenth time in as many months, I backed up my important files, formatted the hard drive, and did a fresh installation.

It took a whole week to get my computer back up and running, but at least it didn’t cost me any money, which is a very good thing right now. And if this post made your eyes glaze over, just smile and nod and say, “I’m glad you got your computer fixed, Jon Boy.”

Posted by Jonathon at 9:27 pm | 3 Comments »