A Second Preamble

The PC in question, or something similar, manufactured by Zoostorm

This computer building request came out of nowhere really, and I hadn’t expected to be building any new computers this summer. I had worked on most of Trevor’s computers in the past, and let me tell you, they certainly provided me with some work. The problems would have the oddest presentations, and often become more complicated as I spent more time working on them. The last one failed fairly gradually, then catastrophically. The RAM turned out to be the culprit after the first round of issues, but it led me on a merry chase, where I swapped out every component that refused to work. First it seemed to be the hard drive, which was replaced, then things worked fine…for about 10 minutes. Then the graphics card seemed to be having difficulties, and after disconnecting it I got slightly further on, then things worsened again. Windows 7 still refused to install, or did install but gave weird errors, and an inability to open executable files, which is a slight inconvenience in a time where everything is packaged in .exe files. I had tried everything and anything in a vain attempt to fix the problem, but nothing worked. Eventually, I stumbled across a bootable RAM checker program and it shed light on the real problem. One of the sticks of RAM had become corrupted, somehow, and caused everything to go haywire.

So things were quiet for a good while. Until the power supply blew up. I replaced the PSU (power supply unit) with a new one, and things seemed to be good again. But that wasn’t quite true. More problems arose, again not due to any issue I could see. After swapping out all the components, my best guess was that the PSU had taken out a sensitive component in the motherboard; not that it would explicitly tell you by kindly failing to boot or anything. My last act was to replace the motherboard, and all was right in the world again. Windows 7 installed fine, and the computer ran like a charm again. It was no slouch, with an AMD Phenom 9600 quad core processor and 4 GB ram it performed reasonably.

I had a USB fail, but not just as epic as this

And then it went funny again. I hope you’re starting to see a pattern emerging here, because I certainly did. Now, for absolutely no apparent reason USB ports started to fail. First they wouldn’t recognise a removable memory stick, then they would, then they would read it as corrupt and required formatting. This was scariest when I had a momentary lapse of judgement and plugged in my main external hard drive, only to have it read “You need the format the disk in Drive: E before you can use it”. My heart stopped. All my backups, and backups of other computers I had worked on were stored on there, along with all my documents and everything I hold dear in cyberspace. I was in crisis mode, and grabbed the hard drive, pulled out the power supply, and sprinted to the other room where my laptop was hiding. My heart was still sinking as I booted up, and then came the moment of truth. I carefully plugged the USB cable into my laptop and waited. And there was the drive icon, same as always, with no prompt to format the disk. It really did seem like an age had passed, and on the short journey between the two rooms I was already thinking that I should have another backup, and how I would fix the filesystem if it had been messed up. I’m glad it didn’t come to it, but please, people, backup your data! This stuff is scary…

Anyway, Trevor said it was probably time for a new computer, and that he would like me to build him one. Of course I agreed, and said I would work on his other computer in the meantime, to see if it could be salvaged as a backup. Which leads me on to the newest edition to my portfolio, the Newforge Computers NC300, or something like that. I haven’t cracked the model numbers deal, but I’ll get there. At the moment I’m cleverly using the name of the case, prefixed by NC, to save any hassle. I even have my own OEM logo for System Properties. Aren’t I so cool?

As far as I can tell, the next post will definitely be the 2nd PC Building Issue.

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5 responses to “A Second Preamble

  1. My brother’s external harddrive was wiped after being plugged into his girlfriend’s TV (or maybe it was the DVD player – not entirely sure). Either way, the files were erased. Thankfully there are program’s to retrieve recently formatted data on drives, but with this tool (and probably others), you need space on another drive to transfer all of the salvaged data. Unfortunately my brother had 900+GB of files retrieved, and no space to store it! But, to his luck, none of his personal data: such as CVs, University work, etc, was going to be lost, so he didn’t bother restoring it.

    In summary, data can be retrieved, but chances are you need space to store it and then transfer it back to your external. Obviously avoiding accidental formatting, however, is a lot safer.

    This comment is very long

    • That’s madness, it just shows you can’t really trust anything to keep your data safe, and always have a backup. I love how the comment was so long you had to have a summary 😛

      Yes data can be retrieved, but there’s no guarantee of how much will be saved, and how much will be corrupted or broken. I’ve recovered photos and other things from memory cards, and said photos have ended up with grey bars breaking up the picture, or unable to open at all. It’s a bit unpredictable really.

      I also wouldn’t have had anywhere to transfer the entire contents of my HDD, but with a lot of recovery programs you can choose to recover only specific file types, perhaps excluding those which you don’t need back again.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Yeah I doubt the retrieval programs are terribly successful. It’s probably better to restore the entire drive as I’m sure picking a choosing loses fragments. I recently backed up my photos on both Jason and Ryan’s harddrives. I think some day I’ll invest in a Dropbox account and backup a lot of stuff there. Don’t suppose you have yet to get Dropbox :P? Recruiting people gifts both participants with 500mb!

  2. I’m hoping to build up a new developer / gaming rig in the near year or so, so I will definitely follow your progress! Building a really good computer is so cheap these days, you can really save a ton if you look in the right places.

    Oh, any films on the go?

    • Thanks Aaron. You can build a great machine on a budget which will do pretty much everything. I’m working on the PC Building Issue at the moment, just having difficulty in what way to approach it.

      Film wise, not a lot really. I have a few ideas, but they need a lot of work.

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