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   ► KBComputer TechHardware   Print This     
 
Tech Hardware:
A PC Repair Tale
 
Posted 23 months ago on 11/18/2017
Take Away:

This story describes a real life experience I had with a computer that had more than one problem with it.

KB102804

When I go on a computer repair appointment, I often encounter a PC with a single part that has become broken and needs replacement. This is what I call an “either or scenario”. It has always been a bad hard drive or a bad motherboard or a bad power supply and so on. Statistically speaking, it is very unlikely that it will be more than one main hardware component in a given PC that goes down and needs to be replaced.

Against the odds, I recently encountered my first troubleshooting encounter where this unlikely event did in fact occur. If I may adapt my previous jargon, I will call it a “this and that scenario”.

I went to see a longtime customer who said her computer would randomly shut down after being up and running. The problem had gone on for about a month by the time I received the call. I began to investigate the issue by restarting the computer. At one point I performed a system registry scan which removed a lot of errors. When I tried to restart the computer, it displayed the cursor in the upper left corner of the post screen and just hung there. At this point, I decided to take the PC back to my home to attempt to fix the computer.

At my house, I plugged the hard drive from this machine into my laptop computer using an IDE data transfer cable. It configured it as a distinct drive letter in Windows, but I could not access the files and folders when I double clicked its icon – it gave me a message about the drive needs to be formatted or something to that effect. Now I knew this disk had problems. Next, I decided to do a disk recovery operation using R-Studio NTFS. Using this software, I first opened the drive to display the files and folders. That took a good 20 minutes, because there was about 75 gigabytes of data on it. I then began the R-Studio NTFS recovery operation and it just took forever complete, because of all the numerous disk errors R-Studio NTFS encountered.

After the recovery operation was finally completed, I went to the computer store in my neighborhood and purchased a new 250 gigabyte IDE desktop hard drive to put into the computer for the reinstallation of Windows XP. I formatted this disk on my laptop computer first to save time during the Windows XP OS install operation. When Windows XP was copying files prior to the installation, it moved unbelievably slow. In fact, I had never seen a Windows XP installation move so slowly – an old tortoise could have moved faster! I powered down the computer thinking the hard drive I had purchased was a dud and then took it back to the store for an even exchange. I returned with the second hard drive and retried the OS install and the same frustrating thing happened once again!

At this point I was beside myself. The odds of 2 new hard drives being defective was extremely unlikely. I decided to buy a used computer from a reputable seller on ebay without a hard drive since I already had this one. When it arrived, I placed my store bought hard drive into the PC and installed the Windows XP OS and it completed without a hitch.

This was a rare instance of the hard drive and the motherboard in the same PC going bad. I have resuscitated many PCs and I have never seen anything like this.

I actually had another issue with this particular PC last year. It was a custom built job and it was running 1 gigabyte of memory. After doing some research on this particular motherboard, I learned it could run up to 2 gigabytes of memory. The really weird thing about this was the fact that it took 2 different types of memory – PC100 SDRAM and PC2100 DDR memory! There were 2 slots for each type of memory (4 total). The PC100 side was occupied with the 1 gigabyte of memory (2 half gigabyte PC100 modules). I then purchased the 2 half gigabyte PC2100 modules for the unoccupied side. I didn’t really notice much of a difference after the machine was bumped up to full memory capacity, but I left it at that.

A few weeks later I received a call from the customer. She said the machine was locking and freezing and not working right. I came back and removed the PC2100 modules from the machine and they were subsequently returned for a credit. At that time, I just assumed the PC2100 memory modules were incompatible even though the motherboard’s specifications said they should work. I didn’t hear anything after that for a while and I assumed everything was back to normal.

Now I am beginning to really wonder what happened. Was the computer’s motherboard already in the process of failing before I tried to add the PC2100 memory? Or did the addition of that extra memory precipitate the failure of the motherboard as well as the damage to the hard drive? I am thinking the latter, but who knows…this mystery will never be solved.


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