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April 23, 2001--

Another system crash Sunday morning has me just about to give up computing for good! I was going to write my brother Jim a note about how the computer was working pretty well since he gave me a processor and memory (see the New PC). So I turned the machine on Sunday at 11 and it wouldn't boot. Turns out there was a sector on the hard drive that went bad. That sector happened to be located in the spot where some System files sat, and these were required for the computer to start. Hence no required boot files, no computer start.

It took the next six or seven hours to experiment, research, tinker and figure out a recovery strategy that would work.

It was a mess, but I was fortunate in one way: I had two hard drives on the machine. The other HD contained an old C:\ drive and back-up files. This old C drive was from the old computer which this newly built machine very recently replaced (again, see the New PC). The bottom line is that I reformatted the old C partition and did a clean installation of Windows making it the new C drive.

I tried everything I could think of to save the old C and all my programs and settings. I tried copying the System folder files into a new folder and renamed it System to see if it would boot, and it almost did. But it was missing the virtual device driver package that contains lots of little VXD drivers, which even reinstalling Windows couldn't restore. It was an exquisite hair-pulling afternoon. I missed out on a gorgeous Spring day in coastal Georgia, exiled in self-imposed isolation trying to save the machine. It's now two days later and, while it does run, I don't have Internet access back yet. Plus it isn't shutting down properly (though Control-Alt-Delete does work). So while it does run, and does so in fine fashion, it is still an exasperating daily experience! I'm close to giving up on the whole concept of computing for fun. It's been a while since I've had that!

When I first got a home PC, a Packard Bell Pentium 150MHz, back in late 1996, computing was fun. And it continued to be so for the next almost five years, especially considering the advances in Internet technologies and the broadband access speeds we enjoyed. The computer worked faithfully and (almost) flawlessly all those years. Sure there were a few problems along the way, but it would run and it lended itself well to being upgradable. I would put a new processor in it as well as modems, sound card, video card, another hard drive, an internal Zip Drive, yet another hard drive and a Promise controller card. It was a great machine to tweak and experiment upon. Until the beginning of this year, that is.

After the dawn of the real millennium things started to go wrong. The errors and general protection faults that are well known with Windows machines started to wreak their havoc with our computer. Errors accompanied by random data loss is disaster waiting to pounce. It was time to get a completely new machine.

Well, not completely new. The sound card, video card, modem, and hard drives all were in good working order. I believe that finally, after the recent upgrade, the problems stemmed from bad memory, bad RAM. But I came to that conclusion after seeking the answer elsewhere--building, finally, a real personal computer. The trick was how to do this with virtually no money, which was ours in abundance--no money, that is. My older brother came to the rescue as he had a multitude of spare and extra parts left over from building numerous machines for his son and himself. He graciously donated a 900MHz Thunderbird AMD processor and a 128MB stick of PC133 RAM. I only had to find a case and motherboard and I could dissect my old machine and transplant parts to Frankenstein a new, up-to-date computer. Again, you can read about those painful exploits in the New PC. I won't rehash them here. Suffice it to say, there are definitely merits in buying off the shelf products. Especially in the case of warranties!

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