Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A D.O.A. Computer

          A coworker has been mentioning that his computer would not boot up any more and it was giving fatal disk error messages. I said I fixed another coworker’s computer a few weeks before and that I could look at his to find out if I can repair it (for a fee of course). On our way home from work, I followed him and picked up two Dell computers that were not working. When I got home, I took out the newer one, removed the battery, discharged any remaining power left, plugged it in, then turned it on. Each and every time I tried this, the message I got was: no bootable hard drive found. I looked up that error message on the internet and most if not all said that the hard drive was most likely dead. Not wanting to give up so easily, I wanted to try other things, but I had to go to bed because I had to return to work the next night. When I woke up in the afternoon, I swapped the hard drive with one of my empty drives which was recognized by the BIOS. So that means the computer was still ok but the hard drive it came with wasn’t being recognized by the system. I also inserted some old operating system disks and they all launched (I aborted the process midway). As a last option to find out if the hard drive was still salvageable, I attached it to an external drive enclosure with a USB connection and connected it to my own computer. My computer tried to install a driver but did not succeed in recognizing the broken hard drive. I finally decided at that point that the drive was deader than a doornail. If another computer cannot even read the drive, then it’s impossible to even try to format and partition it. The drive was DBA (dead before arrival) and nothing else could be done with it. I could tell my coworker to find a shovel so he can bury the drive in his backyard. Cause of death: unknown.
                I said two Dell computers right? Well as far as the other one, I still have to find out what’s wrong with it as of this writing. I might work on it tomorrow on my day off.
                Okay, so the next day, I did the same preliminary removing and discharging of the battery on the second computer. I turned it on and it stopped midway through the boot process and asked me to strike F2 or F12, so I did the F2. It continued booting after that. Other than being slow, I didn’t see any error messages or anything wrong with it. I had to leave it to do my stationary bike workout and when I came back, it had gone to sleep. When I turned it back on, a familiar name came up in the log in process. I suddenly remembered that I had worked on this computer about two years before where I had to clean it up of spy ware and viruses (virii?). At that time, I optimized it so it would work faster. It’s really an outdated computer which only has 256 megabytes of memory, the type that isn’t manufactured any more, so it could not be upgraded. It also came with only a 60 gigabyte hard drive. Oh, my! I did the usual Windows XP updates which took a couple of days due to the slowness of the processor and the lack of memory. Then I ran Ccleaner to eliminate unneeded files and repair the registry. When I talked to the owner, she said the computer would not boot, however I couldn’t duplicate the problem. I warm booted and cold booted several times while it was connected to the power cord without any problems. It was until I reattached the battery when I noticed what the owner was talking about. It would not boot at all but just hang to the point where it asks you to strike F2 or F12. That was the AHA! moment. When I detached the battery, the computer had no problems booting. I searched the internet for causes of this problem but other than a question posted in a message board, there were no answers to be found. Why did this happen? Heck if I know. It could be worn out contacts between the battery and the computer which interferes with the whole system, or it could be because it’s really old. At least I found the cause of the problem even though I don’t have an answer for it. Other than that and in spite of it’s age and slowness (kinda like me with running and walking), it’s still fully functional as long as it’s plugged in. I don’t know if the owner will have the patience to wait for programs to load and webpages to open though.
                As a follow up regarding the newer Dell, I talked to the owner and suggested that he contact the company to see if he can purchase a DVD disk of Windows 7 because the system didn’t come with a disk like most computers do nowadays. Since the hard drive was dead, the built in recovery mode was no longer accessible and he didn’t create a system recovery disk nor backed up his computer. Dell should only be charging a nominal fee for the disk, and the owner can buy a new hard drive to reinstall Windows 7. Unfortunately, all his saved data is gone. Oh, I almost forgot. Before I finally gave up on the damaged hard drive, I placed it in the freezer then tried to use it again. That technique failed too. Just as a side note, I have used that technique before to recover data from a failing external hard drive. I managed to recover most of it although it took several freezings and thawings

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