Panic at the Disco

“Um, what’s the computer doing?”

As soon as Sam said those words, my heart sank.  I know that, at 4 years old, my computer is a silicon version of Methuselah.  Every time it boots up, I say a little prayer of thanks to the technology gods.  The tone in Sam’s voice, however, was ominous.  I glanced over in the direction of my PC and was dazzled by the light show taking place on the monitor.  It was like it had been possessed by a Pink Floyd concert.  Random patches of colour appeared and disappeared while the whole screen pulsated with a trippy strobe effect.  Clearly, something abnormal was happening.  The first thought that ran through my brain was “I don’t have the money to replace this,” followed by the heat of panic crawling up my spine.  Trying to clear my head of the more numerous negative thoughts cropping up with each passing nanosecond, I reached for the first weapon in any computer-literate person’s tech support arsenal.

Maybe it’ll all be OK if I reboot!

I jabbed the restart button and started wishing I had a rosary somewhere in the house.  A few Hail Marys certainly couldn’t hurt the situation, could they?  In the absence of prayer beads, I started chanting the mantra “please post,” over and over again.  SUCCESS!  As the Windows loading screen appeared, I was just about ready to high five myself, Sam, my rabbit, and any passers by.  Before I could even raise my hand in celebration, however, Disco Fever returned to my monitor, and I realized that I was in for a much tougher fight.

I pulled the computer from it’s perch under my desk and wrestled the cover off.  It suddenly dawned on me that it had been a long time since I had last cleaned out the inside of the case.  Clumps of dust and rabbit fur rolled around like tumbleweeds.  The CPU, PSU and GPU fans were all running, but the blades of each were coated with a heavy layer of schmuckus.  I quickly got to work with a can of air and a paperclip, blowing out the dust I could see and scraping the fan blades free of their mucky burden.  Satisfied with my work after about 10 minutes of intense cleaning, I slapped the cover back on, plugged everything back in and powered up.

Studio 54, again.

I was starting to feel defeated when I remembered a potentially game-changing piece of information.  The last time I swapped out video cards in this machine, I kept the old card.  Where could it be?!  I opened the closet and began tearing through boxes of crap.  Old football cards, abandoned computer games and a pile of books began accumulating behind me as I frantically searched through all of the stuff I couldn’t bear to throw away.  And there it was, the lime-green box with the Nvidia logo on the side.  Yes!  Off came the cover of my computer case, and out came the offending video card.  I slapped the old card in there and again started feeling the smug assurance of victory.  Cover on, power on…woohoooooooo a Windows desktop!  Wait, wha…why does my Creative media panel have a red X on it?  NO SOUND?!

My sound card is just slightly more modern than the Parthenon, and every so often, it will have an existential crisis and refuse to be detected by Windows.  Why now, though?  In the past, the remedy has always been to swap it back and forth between PCI slots until it suddenly decides to work.  After 5 swaps, I was starting to accept the fact that it just wasn’t going to come back this time.  At this point, I just wanted a computer that worked, so I wrote off the sound card as dead, went into the BIOS and turned the onboard sound from off to auto.  As I booted up one final time, I gave my surround speakers a salute to say “was nice knowing ya, I’m a headphones only man now.”  As Windows loaded and I prepared to search the web for my motehrboard’s AC97 drivers, I noticed that the red X over the Creative media panel was conspicuously absence.  No shit!  I just had to threaten the infernal device with retirement and it stepped right back into line.

HALLELUJAH!  Everything works.  As I screwed the cover back on for the last time, I muttered a heartfelt thanks to whatever forces that had conspired to bring my computer back to life.  It’s at times like these that I’m glad I’m geeky enough to fix my own hardware, and don’t need to entrust it to some hacks at Best Buy or some nominal “Genius” at the Apple store.  Hoo-rah for DIY!

~ by schlippo on April 10, 2010.

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