Monday, September 04, 2006

Well, the computer has gone kablooey, and now I'm waiting for some upgrade parts. I suppose it had to happen some time. The board I have is about five years old and can't really handle most of the extra stuff I've slapped on it in recent years.

So, here's the saga of how this happened.

As some readers may know, I play an online game called City of Heroes. You create a superhero, then go off and beat the snot out of evil. About two weeks ago, it got to the point where I couldn't even play the game without the computer locking up in under a minute. So I think to myself "Okay, I'll reinstall the game." The reinstall doesn't help. "Hmm," I say, "maybe I have a bad memory stick somewhere." I run some tests, and it all shows up as good. I shut down my comp and stop worrying about it.

Next, I swap out video cards. No luck. Considering that I went from a AGP 4x 64MB graphics card to a AGP 8x 256 MB graphics card, I hoped the beefier card could help process a bit more. No, it made things worse, actually. I couldn't even get the pictures to show up properly. The moral of this story is that even though AGP cards might be able to step down from 8x to 4x, the boards may not be able to handle it.

Next, I think "Well, the graphics card needs more energy to run properly, and since I'm also running two hard drives, maybe I should upgrade my old 350 Watt power supply to a 450. Instead, I wind up grabbing a 600 Watt supply in case I add anything else to the board. There's a minor problem here. The power supply is freakin' huge compared to the old 350 that I'm replacing. It doesn't quite fit in the case. So I do a little jury-rigging and I now have the supply wedged into the case and reinforced with zipties to ensure that it doesn't fall. Seriously, it's a very ugly way to fix the computer. Okay, I power everything up and... no success. Now I'm a bit peeved. It looks like the next hardware fix is either going to be a new motherboard or a new processor.

Before I go that route, however, I want to try one more last, desperate series of software fixes. I reload the graphics drivers again. No help. I reinstall City of Heroes again. No help. I try doing a quick reinstall of Windows. No help. Upgrade the BIOS. No help.

Okay. Now the desperation sets in. I decide to do a full format on both hard drives and reinstall Windows and everything else I have from the ground up. Archiving my precious iTunes music, old college papers, and a few PDFs I picked up along the way, I try putting it all to some CD-Rs. Now Windows won't accept my CD-RW drive as valid. Grabbing a copy of the burning software that came with my CD-RW, I reinstall that and everything gets archived. I take a few breaths and format my data hard drive. I've had it only for about a year and never came close to filling it. Then I try to reformat my main drive, an 8GB drive that came with the original computer insides from about seven years ago. No luck. Windows is too sophisticated to format itself so easily. I slap my upgrade CD into the drive, restart the computer and have it boot from the CD. NOW it formats, and I say goodbye to years of assorted heavily fragmented code. Yes, none of the defragmentation programs I have could totally defrag my old drive. So, I now have a clean installation of Windows on my machine. I download all the security updates and other assorted crap. I download my graphics drivers and freeware utilities, reinstall my anti-virus software, redownload my favored defragmenter and get everything ready for a reinstallation of City of Heroes.

I install City of Heroes and... nothing new happens. My dad looks at it and says "Well, if it's having problems with this game and it's a 3D graphics game, do you have any older 3D graphics games you can load to see if they work?" I try that by installing Warcraft 3 since I couldn't find Age of Mythology. Dad's pretty sharp sometimes when it comes to computers. Same problems as before, but now my monitor occasionally goes out if I put a heavy load on the processor. Okay, I now know that it is NOT software-related for the final time. I do a little more testing, checking my processor and memory for one last time. The monitor blinks on and off every so often. Processor's good, and so is the memory. It's got to be a motherboard problem.

Now I once again remove the case and see that a bunch of the capacitors have popped open on my board. They're leaking a bit.

I think we've found the problem.

So, now I wait for a new board, new processor, new memory, and a new cooling fan. I really hope this works.

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