Technical Difficulties

My home PC — not even two years old yet! — has decided to die. Either that it wants to kill me.

First the power supply fan started making a grinding noise. Blowing out a pile of dust didn’t fix it, so I got a new power supply. That seemed to go in unusually well. I should have known that the Fates were marking me for trouble.

While installing the power supply I stuck in the replacement for the backup disk which had gone bad a few months ago. Then I fired up the hardware RAID to mirror the main disk. It wouldn’t. I tried a lot, lot, lot of things, finally finding a software product that told me the old disk didn’t want sector 1 read. That is potentially very bad – sector 1, if I recall, is where the disk keeps its partition info. The first step in a solution, if solution there be, was to run CHKDSK /r (scanning for bad sectors).

So I ran CHKDSK /r. Took a while. Found a bad cluster in one old file, otherwise was no excitement.

Rebooted. And now my display is all funny. The text is corrupted even during the bootup process. Once I get into Windows XP, there are funny lines everywhere. Not good.

So turn it all off, unplug, reseat the ATI 9800 AIW video card, check wires, change the oil (no, wait, that was last month when I was fixing the generator, different story). Fire it up again.

Now there are blocks of rainbow along the bottom half of the display when I boot up. And, once in Windows, the entire display is corrupted with a sort of moire vertical line pattern at every resolution except 1024 in which only the right half of the display is corrupted.

I’ve checked the monitor and the cord and they display perfectly off a different computer.

So I think my AGP video card is fried. And even though it’s probably inside the warranty period, I bought a modded one with a silent Zalman heatpipe and fan, and I would imagine that this just might void the warranty.

I will call ATI help soon, but they’ve never been any use in the past (“reinstall the latest drivers” “but I did that twice before calling” “reinstall the latest drivers”). So now I have to find a reasonably fast AGP video card that doesn’t make too much of a racket.

And then I can go back to worrying that my disk is about to crash.

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6 Responses to Technical Difficulties

  1. Joe says:

    Let’s see:
    Fast video card in home PC of law professor. Why do I think that the combination spells trouble? Obvious solution: a game machine for the kids in the house (including dad), and a dependable websurfer with integrated video for everyone else. Use quality components, splurge on the power supply, and since you are in Florida (lightning strike capital of the Western Hemisphere), don’t forget the battery back-up and surge protector.

  2. Rachel says:

    and in the short term pick up something like Symantec Ghost to copy your HD to a known good drive.

  3. Eli Rabett says:

    First thing I would check is the replacement power supply. Sounds to me like you got a bad one. With luck it did not fry anything.

  4. anonymous participant says:

    hmmm…get a mac. unless the hardware tinkering and software spellunking appeals to your academic mind. if so, exactly how smart is it to waste precious time on ill-designed hardware and buggy software?

  5. molly bloom says:

    Get a new dual core intel Mac. Then you can run Windows (if you must) which you will do less and less as you begin to use Mac’s OSX.

  6. Nick says:

    Mac elitists 🙂

    I like my Powerbook, but I don’t like paying $3000 for a machine when I could get a comparable one for under $1000. And don’t get me started on monitors.

    You mentioned trying a new monitor and cable, but not a new video card. Also, you said the first sector on your hard disk is done for. Priority one here would be the hard disk. I would recommend:

    1. As has been mentioned, make sure all your fans are working and try a new PS. I’ve seen a remarkable number of failing power supplies doing bad things lately and an incorrect amount of voltage to your hard disk might be the problem. My rationale here is that you have both a video problem and apparently a disk problem. HOWEVER: It’s possible, if you have an NTFS filesystem on your disk, that the program telling you your MBR is shot just doesn’t understand NTFS properly — especially if you had to really look to find a program that told you there’s a disk problem. Just check and make sure that it is built to understand that drive architecture.

    2. Regardless of whether or not this fixes the problem, boot from your XP CD into Recovery Console and use the tools there to diagnose and/or fix your MBR (Master Boot Record, where the partition information is stored, as you know) and, unless you’ve done a lot of tinkering with them, any corrupted system files (the Recovery Console can restore DLLs and other system files to factory default).

    3. If these together don’t resolve the issue, swap your video card. You should be able to snag a cheap AGP card from somewhere just to test. if you keep all the packing material you may even be able to say “I’m an idiot I don’t even HAVE AGP omg woops!” and return it afterwards. Also, your university IT department might have one lying around they’d be willing to loan you — but specify you’d bring it back, or ask if you could bring the machine in for them to just test the vid card. A prominent professor who doesn’t ask stupid questions and just wants a little help won’t get turned down.

    3. If a different vid card doesn’t work, then you’ve so far isolated: a. The power supply; b. your hard disk; c. your video card. The only other piece of hardware in the chain that could be the problem is your motherboard, and if the mobo is bad, and it isn’t under warranty anymore, you may as well buy a new comp.

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