Labor Day Computer Woes

Well, I wanted my first real post to be technical in nature but I had an interesting day with computers yesterday and decided to share. 


Some of my friends and I run a VPN and Active Directory Domain.  My VPN server is quite old and a constant source of problems.  It's tendencies include randomly crashing, hanging and frying IDE hard drives.  It seems to be OK with SCSI drives for the time being. 

Given this scenario, I decided that I needed to get a new firewall.  It took my friends and I almost a week to get the VPN working properly so I was reluctant to rebuild the gateway.  Yesterday seemed like a good day though as I had recently aquired a PII 333Mhz computer. 

Initial Attempt

I decided to build the machine up first and get it running.  Once I had all of the software installed I planned to hook it up to the network. 

I spent a minimal amount of time updating the hardware on the machine.  Mainly I was adding more RAM since the last one suffered from a lack of RAM from time to time.  Next step ... install.  After an hour of trying to find my handy little book of CDs I decide that I've left them at a friends house. 

No problem.  I'll burn a new CD with my girlfriends computer. 

Side Track 1

So I log into my girlfriends computer, pop in a blank CD and start looking for the images to burn.  To my dismay there is no CD burning software on her computer.  At that point I remember that her hard drive crashed several weeks ago and I had to reinstall XP.  I forgot to reinstall her CD burning software. 

Guess where the CD is.  Yep.  In the software case that is missing. 

No problem.  I'll install the software from the company web site.  I can use the trial version temporarily and I'll enter the key when I find my software book.  So I install the software, reboot and it blue screens.  <insert screams of pain here>

Panic Time

It's only 10:00am so I have at least an hour before my girlfriend wakes up and discovers that I've blue screened her computer.  I don't want to have to have to confess (again) that she can't check her email.  Time to act fast. 

Tried all versions of Safe Mode with no luck.  After trying each individual mode I get a new and scarier message.

   Primary Hard Drive 0 Failure

Just in case you missed it.  I had recently reinstalled her computer and hard drive for this exact same problem just a few weeks ago.  This is a little comforting because I can blame it on the hardware when my girlfriend wakes up. 

At this point I should have realized that today just wasn't a good day to be toying with my computers and gone back to bed.  But I decided to press on. 

After thinking about the situation for awhile, I decide that the extra 120Gig hard drive in her computer must be the root cause.  So I pull that hard drive out and rearrange the cables for her primary drive.  Slap the case back together and reboot the computer.  It hangs at the BIOS. 

Odd.  I'm not much of a hardware guy so this didn't disturb me much.  I'm used to having to play with the hard drive configuration a few times before the BIOS likes it.  I go through my routine a couple of times with no results.  Then I look at the hard drive.

I bent the pins.  And not just a little bend.  Bent till they conformed to 90 degree angle of the side of the slot.  About this time my girlfriend pops her head into our office. 

Oh joy.  No way to explain my way out of this one.  The only choice now is to beg forgiveness and get the reinstall going fast.  Luckily I have a spare 40gig drive laying around so I throw that one in.  No luck.  Apparently I fried the IDE controller. 

At this point I give up on my girlfriends computer.  This has gone beyond my knowledge of computer hardware and frankly, I'm scared of doing something worse to the computer. 

Side Track 2

Back to the firewall/gateway problem.  Still need to get a CD.  I decide to take the long route and burn the CD on my 2x2x6 CDRW drive.  Once again I don't have any burning software installed on the machine so I download the trial version again.  I can't get that to run.

So I take the even longer road and walk over to a friends house to get a CD. 

Remember the Firewall / Gateway

After this, things go fairly smooth.  After install I have the VPN up and running in about an hour.  So far it appears to be much more stable than the old VPN and working great. 

Tomorrow's task however, is to rebuild my girlfriends computer. 


Comments (2)

  1. Matt Hawley says:

    I know the feeling, however I’ve never fried a IDE controller before. EEK! I just recently had to purchase a new video card, so I decided to take the high road and purchase a ATI All In Wonder…boy what a headache. After 5 rebuilds, about 20 hours, 2 phone calls to ati, and 1 phone call to Tyan (to figure out what chipset drivers I need), I got things working…well to the point where I can play tv. God forbid I try to use their software to record shows, nope, that freezes the machine.

  2. Jamie says:

    Wow – you must have an amazing and understanding girlfriend – err, I mean fiance. You’re a lucky man.

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