Next Stop – Personal Computer Hell

For a week or so I have been nursing along a PC that served me well since my second year at University. The fan attached to the case of my PC had very nearly given up the ghost. Due to this much reduced airflow (I described it to one of my friends as producing as much air as a gentle fart) my graphics card was overheating when playing my favorite online game and even when browsing the web. In order to perform some functions, the case’s air inlet required a hairdryer on cold setting pointing at it and turning on. In the last few days the side panel of the case was removed and the hairdryer was on constant stand by. It was not in a happy place.

It was decided that for a budget PC, it had done it’s work and should now be retired to someone who will use it with the onboard graphics for word processing. It’s time to be a glorified typewriter has arrived. A budget was set to get the components needed for a new PC. My first purchase was a second hand case from a local networking website. For the sum of £25 I acquired an Antec Sonata II case. Bargain. Advice was gratefully taken from a knowledgeable friend and we arranged to meet on Saturday 31st January in order to go round  a computer fair. Once there, I could see my other half looking longingly at components superior to his own. I knew what would happen if I upgraded my machine and it ended up being superior to his. In three months we would again be at a computer fair spending money to upgrade his machine to be superior. After a quick discussion we decided that he would upgrade his PC and I would have the components he replaced. This was good for me as his second hand parts work out a lot cheaper than brand new ones. It did however mean that we needed an external hard drive for backing up purposes as both PCs would need hard disks formatting and therefore could not hold any information. We purchased a 300GB external drive from Cex and a screwdriver set from Maplin. Now armed with his new motherboard, processor, 4gb of RAM and a neat little tool kit, he was the happiest chappie in town.

Over lunch we discussed the intricacies of dismantling two PC’s, salvaging the relevant parts then rebuilding two PC’s. Our knowledgeable friend very kindly volunteered to come back to our house and help build/format/test the machines. This is an offer we were both grateful for as in the back of our minds, we knew with no help we would still be building PCs on Wednesday. We got back with all the goodies and began the tedious work of first backing up documents onto the external hard drive then dismantling my old PC. My old PC was a Dell. They are notorious for customising their cases and motherboards meaning the only salvageable parts were the ones I had already upgraded. They weren’t too bad to remove as some DIY case modification (read hammer) had taken place previously. Once out, the components were replaced with the original Dell parts and the case modified (read bent with a screwdriver) to accommodate them again. Brilliant. A third of the battle was done.

Next, the other half’s PC was stripped. His old motherboard, processor and RAM went into my machine and he gleefully fitted his shining new parts. Our knowledgeable friend was chief builder for my PC whilst the other half cracked on with his own. Here’s a few action shots that the chief equipment technician (read passer of screws/screwdrivers/maker of drinks i.e. me) took

As you can see, knees and computer chairs masqueraded as work benches. The place looked like a PC building sweat shop in some seedy backstreet where the workers are paid in rice grains. By about 11pm that evening both PC’s were up and working with Windows being installed. The other half’s machine was fine but mine kept rebooting itself quite randomly. This meant that hardware had to be tested. Various parts were removed and put into the other half’s working PC. After hours of faffing we thought the problem was solved. By this time though, our knowledgeable friend had missed his last train home so it was out with the airbed and on with the sleep.

Next morning all was looking peachy. The PCs seemed to be running fine. I set about playing with mine when – uh oh – a blue screen of death and a reboot. *Insert Swearing Here* We tested all the remaining hardware by slotting it into the working machine and it all tested ok. Final thing before crying – a Windows re-installation. I masterminded this as the other half and the knowledgeable friend popped off to maplins for some other large fan that glows blue. Very tentatively, I loaded all windows updates and hardware drivers. I kept loading and loading and loading. No reboot. I loaded more. No reboot. I loaded everything. No reeboot. I played World of Warcraft. No reeboot. Oh Happy Day!!!!!!! A new PC! The knowledgeable friend finally managed to go home at about 4:30 pm Sunday afternoon. I’m guilty that we stole his weekend but on the other hand – we would still be doing it now had we not.


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