Summoning computer geeks: Do you recognise the following symptoms?
My computer has had an ailment for a few years now. Every summer, it goes through this little period of a few months when it strops hard. From a cold boot, it will generally freeze on “Detecting IDE devices…”. And if I reset, it will probably do the same thing again. Next time I reset, it will make it a bit further along with the boot process. And the next reset will take it a bit further along still. After ten minutes of such coaxing, I will make it to the desktop. Once it’s made it this far, it’s generally stable.
Last year I swore that I’d do something about it over winter. I decided the problem was probably in the motherboard, so I’d replace that, and the processor and RAM while I was at it.
But I never did get round to it, and this summer I dealt with the problem by basically leaving the computer switched on for weeks at a time, only turning it off when I knew that I wouldn’t need it for many days.
Last night, after the computer had been on for about six hours, I went back to it and discovered it had frozen. Curious, I thought, so I shut it down.
This evening, I got home from work and went through the whole boot-up ballet. However, this time I got some piles of miscellaneous and meaningless error messages once I got past the bootloader. “Right,” I thought, “enough is enough. Karen, we’re going to PC World.”
So we got to PC World and I waited for an assistant in the PC Clinic. They’re generally not very bright, but I figure that it’s always worth getting as many thoughts as possible. I was disappointed to discover that not only did they not have any AMD processors in stock, but they also didn’t know when they’d be getting some, and they had already been waiting for a month. Dabs it is, then.
Secondly, I explained the boot-up ballet to the guy behind the desk. He suggested reformatting the hard drive. “It’s not a software issue,” I replied, explaining for the second time that it happens in both Windows XP and Linux. He suggested that the problem may not be in the motherboard or processor at all, but in the hard drive.
Now, I’m not overly inclined to drop everything and target the hard drive, but the fact that I’m not instantly dismissing his suggestion seems to indicate that he might be right, even if only by accident. Now I’m toying with the idea of obtaining a new hard drive just so that I can do a fresh installation to find out for sure.
Anyway, I’m really quite lost and jaded by now. I’m considering just handing in my geek card and buying a prebuilt system, so that I don’t have to think about it any more.
I suppose what I’d really like is for one of my geeky readers to say “Oh, I’ve had that EXACT problem, and it turned out to be the power lead. Replace the power lead, and I GUARANTEE that it will work again.” Failing that, I think I have these options:
1. Keep replacing parts, one at a time, and have a fresh disappointment every single day. Worst case scenario: the problem is in the frobjet, I buy a new scrobpig, the crazy frobjet destroys the new scrobpig, I replace the frobjet, my system still doesn’t work and I’ve wasted money on a scrobpig. Second to worst case scenario: I end up replacing everything.
2. Replace everything up front. Order motherboard, processor, RAM, power supply, hard drive from dabs. Cross my fingers and hope that they are all compatible with eachother.
3. Buy a prebuilt system that suits my needs. This may feasibly work out cheaper than option 2, despite the fact that I’m paying for a replacement case and DVD drive, unnecessarily.
Please say nice things to make me feel better. I beseech you.
UPDATE: Further tests – warning, this may be hard to keep up with. I unplugged the hard drive from the motherboard, and booted from a Linux CD – all worked fine. I then powered down, reconnected the hard drive, and booted normally – looks like it is working again. From this I deduce that the problem is hard-drive related, but I think it’s the hard drive controller on the motherboard. Why? Because if it was within the hard drive unit itself, then it would have perceived the second boot (the one from the hard drive) as a cold boot. The fact that the second boot behaved as a warm boot suggests that the problem is on the motherboard (which was already warm from the CD-induced boot).