Author Topic: Computer death!  (Read 21071 times)

Tami1982

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Computer death!
« on: February 23, 2013, 03:20:50 PM »
My computer appears to be on its last legs.  From what I've gathered, my hard drive is dying.  At least that's why my research regarding the horrid grinding sound it started making last week has led me to believe.   It's also become incredibly slow, hanging a lot, and having system errors.  It's about 8 years old.   Is this the expected lifespan?  What is the mustachian thing to do here?  Can it be repaired or should I start looking for a new one? 

I have a netbook, but it's capabilities are extremely limited.  I'm still in school so I need to have word and other programs that my big computer has, but the netbook doesn't.  I also do not have "real" cable, but utilize netflix and other things, which despite many mustachians trying to help me, I have not been able to run on my netbook.  So I don't believe I can make it long term with this little thing. 

Anyone have any ideas?  Repair possibilities for the tower or other ideas?  Thanks!

marty998

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2013, 03:30:18 PM »
I'm sure you've backed up everything in anticipation of it dying.

You can replace the hard drive with a new one. My dad can do it but I still have a fair bit to learn.

Just taking off the tower case will be an eyeopener for you in seeing how many of the parts can be removed and replaced (like the microprocessor for example).

However I'd personally go with a new one. 8 years is a good run for any tech product. Time for an update that will suit your purpose.

matt_g

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2013, 05:00:12 PM »
Backup all of your data, once you hard-drive crashes, it'll all be gone.

I wouldn't sink more money into an 8 year old computer, get a new one with a Core i5 or i7 processor.  I'd check slickdeals.com or the dell refurbished site.  I'd get windows 7 rather than 8. 

AnonymousCoward

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2013, 05:29:46 PM »
Buying a new computer is pretty unmustachian unless it's inadequate for reasons other than the failing hard drive. It's capable of streaming video so it's clearly not an antique.

I'd mosey over to http://www.reddit.com/r/techsupport to have someone verify your diagnosis. It's probably a dying hardrive, but getting a second (third?) opinion can't hurt.

Once you're sure it's the drive, buy a new one to replace to dying one. Harddrives are held in by single screw a few screws, and they have two cables going in, data and power. Just stick the new one in where the old one is and use all the same wires. Check YouTube for a video guide if you want. Once the new drive is in you'll have to reinstall your operating system. This is assuming you have a desktop and not a laptop, laptop repair is harder but still possible.

If you want to be super smart you can buy an external hard drive. Take the new drive out of the enclosure and put it in the computer, then put the dying drive in the enclosure. Once you've gotten the computer up and running with the new drive you can copy your data off the old drive.

edit: thanks James

Whatever you decide to do, do it soon. A struggling harddrive won't last long.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2013, 06:29:03 PM by pmallory »

Jamesqf

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2013, 06:17:58 PM »
Harddrives are held in by a single screw...

Perhaps, depending on age & case design.  Others may have several screws holding the drive, or there may just be a couple of clips that you push together, and the whole thing slides out.  Best to take a look, and check with someone with more experience.  But it's not at all difficult.

Only possible problem with a new hard drive is finding one backwards compatible with an 8 year old system.  I don't really keep track, but I think most current drives are SATA 3.

fiveoh

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2013, 06:37:10 PM »
Horrible grinding noise - my guess = one of your fans is dying and/or rubbing against something.  Hard drives usually just die.  Open your case and listen to all the fans and see if you hear the noise coming from one. 

An 8 year old computer can easily get filled with malware/viruses/lots of programs hogging memory and be bogged down without something actually being "wrong" with the hardware. 

What version of windows are you running?
« Last Edit: February 23, 2013, 06:38:52 PM by fiveoh »

Nords

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2013, 07:05:26 PM »
Buying a new computer is pretty unmustachian unless it's inadequate for reasons other than the failing hard drive.
Conversely, I'd have a hard time believing that an eight-year-old PC is "adequate"...

gooki

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2013, 07:56:51 PM »
Just be aware, an 8 year old pc may well use and IDE hdd, virtually all new hdd are sata. So buying a new one won't exactly fix it.

So better off finding a used hdd in good condition. Lots of geeks will have these floating around, I know I have many I would happily give away.

SamV

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2013, 09:55:14 PM »
Can you not use Word in cloud (google docs)?? If yes, please do consider a Chromebook for $249.

Tami1982

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2013, 10:08:07 PM »
Wow!  So many replies.  Thanks for all the insight guys.  I appreciate it!  The minute I realized things were being strange I backed everything up.  In fact, 20 seconds post back up the computer shut off - on it's own.  I restarted it to a major systems error notice:(
 
I'm pretty sure it's not virus/malware, as I run scans for both frequently.  I had done some research and had been led to believe it might be the spindle or something on the hard drive, but now that you've mentioned the fan - I haven't heard it running at all today.    Last week I was able to run 8 google chrome windows and have two word docs open, and have magic jack running and have no issues.  Today, if I try to open ONE chrome window the lag is incredible.   It will hang and hang and hang and then maybe go through.  And run like normal for a minute.  And then that's over. 

The computer totally fits my needs.  It runs windows XP and all the programs I need.  I have little to no issues with it.  I'd be happy if it lasted a few more years or if I could do an inexpensive fix to get me through a few more years.   

I'm going to try to figure out which type of hard drive and fan I have (if anyone has advice as to how to figure this out I'd appreciate it) and see if I can't replace those for low cost.  If that fixes it, awesome. 

I do not know much about hardware - should I take it to a computer store?  Or is the cost to have them look at it worth it at this point?  Should I just put that money towards the parts?

Thanks again for all the input, I really appreciate it!

darkk2b2

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2013, 11:18:24 PM »
This depends on how much work you want to put in.

Here is how to tell if your hard drive is IDE or Sata http://youtu.be/k4Tt6Ss_dSk
If it is a hard drive problem and you buy a new one and install it. You will need to install an operating system on it (such as Windows XP).

Do you have a Windows XP cd? If not, you may need to buy one. Unless you have the sticker (Pic) http://www.windowssupportnumber.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Windows-support-number1.jpg or unless your computer still works enough to get to the product key from the computer properties  (Pic) http://lh6.ggpht.com/_X6JnoL0U4BY/S_KNP-As5wI/AAAAAAAAf2c/OVc96MlZzc4/tmp1D6_thumb_thumb.jpg?imgmax=800   

If you have your product key (but not a cd) then you can download a disk image from online (such as a bit torrent site) then burn the image onto a disc.


If you do have a cd then one way to test if your hard drive is bad is to put the cd in and boot from it instead of your hard drive. That way everything is running off the cd and nothing is using the hard drive. If you still have the same problems then your problem is not with your hard drive.

I applaud you for trying to fix it rather than just throwing it out and buying a new one.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I am sure one of us on here would be glad to help.

gooki

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2013, 11:54:17 PM »
Diagnose it yourself.

Open up the case, power on. Make sure all fans are spinning. Don't touch anything with it on. Also check for excessive dust buildup while off.

Basically being 8 years old you should be able to find any parts you need for free or very close to it. I still think your right and it's a fucked hard drive.

Replacing parts is easy. Just make sure unplug from power socket. Even reinstalling software is easy, provided you have the disks, and if you don't then it's not particularly hard.

Fixing PCs is a fairly useful skill to have, and can easily save you hundreds of dollars.

Tami1982

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2013, 12:09:12 AM »
Feel like a rebel!  About to break the seal on my tower.  Off I go:)  Will let you guys know how it goes tomorrow.  Thanks again guys for the support and feedback.

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2013, 08:22:25 AM »
I'm all for repair over replacement like the others have suggested, but at eight years, it's worth doing some investigation on whether it's worth the repair. IDE hard drives can be picked up cheap refurbished off of Newegg.com these days (under $30 with shipping), but if there's any capacitors that are going bad on the motherboard or in the power supply, it might not be worth trying to fix it up unless you know how to solder.

While you've got the side off your case, clean out the dust bunnies and take a look at the capacitors on the motherboard for any bulging or leaking. Here's a couple resources to help you out with what to look for:

http://www.badcaps.net/pages.php?vid=5
http://www.ccl-la.com/badcaps.htm

The problem is, you frequently get bad caps in power supplies, too. Given the age of the machine, you're likely running an ATX 1.x power supply which'll be difficult to replace given all the quality PSU manufacturers have moved on to ATX 2.x spec, which doesn't have the appropriate voltage rails to properly power an older machine. I've seen systems with bad caps continue to work for years without repair due to their location and the overall impact on the hardware, and I've seen some that just outright tank a system.

I should also make note that security updates for Windows XP are coming to an end in just over a year. It doesn't mean that the hardware will magically become worthless at that time, it just means that an OS with a terrible security history is getting thrown to the wolves. There's Linux as many of us have mentioned in the past in regard to your netbook, but that doesn't sound like a viable option if you're firmly entrenched in the Microsoft camp with stuff like Office and Netflix... or if the hardware's sufficient, you might be able to upgrade to Win7 with most of the fluff disabled, but the cost on a license unless you can get it free as a student puts the cost in the range of a good refurbished enterprise workstation from Newegg if you factor in hard drive price as well.

Like I said, I'm all for repair over replace as I believe that desktop machines have been at a level for well over a decade to be sufficient for most users needs as yours appears to be, but be mindful of what you're repairing.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 08:27:37 AM by I.P. Daley »

Paul der Krake

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2013, 09:37:08 AM »
Siding with the "upgrade" camp as well. You can find laptops/desktops for $400 on newegg that would fit your usage just fine and won't need upgrading for years.

Even public libraries have upgraded away from XP- it's time to let it die.

Scooby Doo

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2013, 10:33:08 AM »
Lets try and stop guessing, and try a little bit of actual troubleshooting.

If you can still launch Windows, hit the Windows key and R, and type eventvwr. This will launch the Event Viewer. Select the System log and see if there are any recurring errors in there.

If there are any recurring ones, post them here, or even save the log and attach it for us to have a look at. If it is just the hard drive that is physically failing, but otherwise the machine is fine, then a hard drive replacement makes more sense to me.

urover

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2013, 10:03:54 PM »
All those recommending an upgrade need a facepunch. My mother's 7 year old PC with WinXP on it runs beautifully til date. We had a slight ghosting issue with the CRT monitor which was fixed by replacing the cable at a local CRT repair guy. The tower's running just fine. My formula is "If this <insert-possession-name> was sufficient for all your needs back when you purchased it, then it will still suffice today". An upgrade is for non-mustachians. Use it til it dies!

I.P.Daley seriously needs to stop freaking the OP out with all that geek crap.

OP, open up the tower, post a few photos of what you see so we can tell what type of HDD you have. Also, if Windows is booting, go to "My Computer", right click on C:Drive and in Tools select to "Scan the disk", and include checking for bad sectors. Next time it boots, it'll do a full hard disk scan. See if it reports bad sectors. See this post for better instructions: http://www.techfuels.com/windows-xp/17314-how-fix-bad-sectors-windows-xp-post23948.html#post23948. If you find bad sectors, you'll need to replace the HDD asap. So, come back with the pictures and we'll tell you what HDD you have.

Don't let the wires and the fans and weird looking drives freak you out. They're not as complicated as you think they are!

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2013, 10:36:31 PM »
I.P.Daley seriously needs to stop freaking the OP out with all that geek crap.

The only people who deserve face punches in this thread and elsewhere on the forums are those who advocate needlessly wasting money, including replacing parts on a machine that might be better retired and donated off to a non-profit that could properly refurbish it. We don't know that for sure yet, though, do we? I know you think you're helping, but when you're just rehashing existing advice anyway, it's best not to jump to conclusions and insult others with an incredibly narrow opinion built on fragmented information.

Legitimate security concerns about the long-time security of an operating system and a casual inspection for failing components that cannot be easily replaced with a long-standing history of failure in consumer electronics are not "geek crap" that would freak OP out, and are necessary subjects to address. If you had any awareness or background to these forums instead of seagull posting, you'd realize I am probably one of the hardest core use-up-wear-out mustachians on here, especially in terms of electronics... but I also have enough sense and real world bench experience to advise people to do enough due diligence to make sure they're not potentially throwing good money after bad.

Have some faith that Tami isn't entirely flying blind and have the perspective that sometimes with some people in certain circumstances, it's not going to be worth fixing up for the money spent for some people. Not everyone can or will run Linux and bend over backwards to keep replacing failing components on a legacy machine that requires a bit more love than their skill-set and the requirement of niche markets could potentially provide. I never once told Tami to replace the machine, only to inspect it for easily identifiable problems that might not make the machine worth repair in her situation when another one could be had for not much more than the price of a refurb hard drive and a Windows upgrade.

KingCoin

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2013, 10:43:29 PM »
All those recommending an upgrade need a facepunch. My mother's 7 year old PC with WinXP on it runs beautifully til date. We had a slight ghosting issue with the CRT monitor which was fixed by replacing the cable at a local CRT repair guy. The tower's running just fine. My formula is "If this <insert-possession-name> was sufficient for all your needs back when you purchased it, then it will still suffice today". An upgrade is for non-mustachians. Use it til it dies!

Really? How's your 14400 baud modem treating you these days? Still sufficient? Computers aren't a Rolex. They have a half-life, and keeping them on life support becomes increasingly time consuming, costly, and not worth the brain damage unless you get a kick out of computer trouble shooting. If you've gotten 8-years out of that bad boy, you deserve a $100 high-five.

By all means, pop the top off, see if you can locate the source of the racket, and possibly fix it with a $10 part from amazon and a how-to youtube video. If you can't locate the problem, and don't mind the noise, make sure you have everything backed up and run until it dies.

However, spending 10 hours+ on the problem or bringing it to a repair shop and racking up a $100+ repair bill simply isn't worth it when you can get a good new/refurb for under 200 clams that should last you another 6yrs+.
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Dell-500GB-GX740/19335667

urover

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2013, 11:18:51 PM »

If you had any awareness or background to these forums instead of seagull posting, you'd realize I am probably one of the hardest core use-up-wear-out mustachians on here, especially in terms of electronics... but I also have enough sense and real world bench experience to advise people to do enough due diligence to make sure they're not potentially throwing good money after bad.

I'm not denying the fact that you're a "use-up-wear-out" mustachian at all! In fact, I'm new on the forum so what do I know about you? I'm not jumping to conclusion about anybody. Just that I often find that on my own DIY expeditions somebody posts a lot of technical jargon and that really intimidates me into not going ahead with the job. So, all I wanted to do is to make the OP comfortable with the job at hand.

Really? How's your 14400 baud modem treating you these days? Still sufficient? Computers aren't a Rolex. They have a half-life, and keeping them on life support becomes increasingly time consuming, costly, and not worth the brain damage unless you get a kick out of computer trouble shooting.
I don't use the modem, I connect to a router via LAN :), so yes still sufficient. I agree computers have a life, but PCs are known to have better lives than laptops (due to various reasons) and it's often easy to (troubleshoot and) repair a PC than you can a laptop.

I wasn't trying to insult anybody. I just cringed at the suggestion of "upgrading" because the PC's too old already. If I rubbed you guys on the wrong side, I'm sorry and I'll try to put it nicely next time.

Btw, what is "sea-gull posting" ?

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2013, 12:01:36 AM »
My sincerest apologies, Vsanjay... I think between the previously unknown cultural divide and the fact that I've been a bit inappropriately brusque on occasion lately just culminated in a bad combo for both of us. I haven't exactly been Welcome Wagon material the past few weeks.

Btw, what is "sea-gull posting" ?

It's something that I probably shouldn't have typed, and I apologize for that as well. I assessed your possible follow-through on a very limited post history, and jumped to conclusions myself. As for what it means, think about what seagulls are most known for behaviorally, similar to pigeons and management...

Left

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2013, 12:24:53 AM »
if you do buy a harddrive, I'd say get a fairly large one (100gb+ hdd or a 100gb ssd). You'll be shelling out money now (still at around $100 or less), but when you do buy a new computer you can either skip for a smaller harddrive (saving some money) and put in the one you bought in its place (since you'll have experience with it). Or if the default hdd is the size/bigger on the new computer, buy an enclosure for it and have a backup external harddrive.

Depending on how much you want to play around with computer, you could always take out the harddrive completely, then run linux off of a flash drive (I use xpud or puppy linux for their small size). Then put the computer behind tv and hook it up with hdmi cable (if it has it). You can now use computer to play games on TV/stream movies/use as a dvd and cd player. I've done with with a small laptop/netbook and it works fine, since you aren't doing much except streaming, the computer doesn't have to have high specs.

actually now that I think about it, you really should just try to run a copy of a linux off of a flash stick or cd. See if you still have problems with the computer. Since it skips the harddrive completely, you'll be able to tell if the rest of computer still works and if it is just harddrive. Well, if you have access to a computer to make one... or if you have one laying around.

edit: here's a quick link to a search I found on how to boot a live linux cd http://www.hackitlinux.com/50226711/run_linux_without_a_hard_drive.php It's an old post but it still applies, just use a newer linux distro >.>
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 12:29:34 AM by eyem »

urover

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2013, 04:01:43 AM »
My sincerest apologies, Vsanjay... I think between the previously unknown cultural divide and the fact that I've been a bit inappropriately brusque on occasion lately just culminated in a bad combo for both of us. I haven't exactly been Welcome Wagon material the past few weeks.

No problem! I don't have the best of English skills either, so I messed up!

if you do buy a harddrive, I'd say get a fairly large one (100gb+ hdd or a 100gb ssd)
That's a great suggestion. You'll get great 320GB HDDs for a small price these days (again depends on if you have SATA or IDE connector on your hard disk). Please avoid SSD for now since from my experience they've been expensive and not so reliable (yet).

Tami1982

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2013, 11:37:49 PM »
Come on picture!  Work! 

Here is what I have learned so far: No goo leaking from anything, but one cap appears to be bulging slightly with a swollen top.  Drive is 160gb.  If this photo finally uploads will upload additional info shortly.

Edited to add: Whew!  Picture finally loaded.  Thank you again, guys for all your help.  I sure enjoy learning with you.  Fan is spinning like the dickens and the hard drive is very noisy with the case off.  Work work work.    No grinding noises.  Just heard that the one time.  I have the discs for windows should I need to reload it. Also attaching the event log.  I'm not sure how to read this, but there are a TON of events.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 11:53:29 PM by Tami1982 »

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2013, 12:35:02 AM »
Tami, I might be incorrect, but it looks like there's at least three caps on the mobo that look rough: two bulging, one leaking... but it could just be the lighting. Check the attached image against the board. Take a look, I have a feeling they're probably suspect. Odds are, if the mobo's developing bad caps, that cheap Dell branded Delta PSU is probably going south as well. I won't ask you to crack the power supply, you could shock yourself pretty fierce.

Your call ultimately, but typically I regard bad caps on a mobo to be living on borrowed time. It's repairable if you can solder and know some basic electronics, but that's also something that falls well outside of most people's skill sets.

I don't recall what your student status is so I don't know if you have access to a free/cheap copy of Win7, so I'm going to run the numbers for you as an expense...

If the hard drive is genuinely failing (probable), XP has about a year left of security updates, and even if you found a buddy with a Digikey account and a soldering iron who worked for beer...

250-500GB WD SATA HDD - $60 (250GB for $35 refurbished, but only a 90 warranty versus three years)
Windows 7 Home Upgrade - $120
Figure about $35-50 for a replacement power supply (erring on the side of caution).
Mobo recapping usually runs about $50-85 to have someone do it for you, like Badcaps.net.

$240-315-ish to keep the machine robust and functional longer than just a few months to a couple years.

And then, there's the slew of refurbished Dell Optiplex 755's on Newegg selling for anywhere between $155-215 plus shipping depending on processor speed, RAM, HDD size, and flavor of Windows desired, amongst an ocean of other machines in the same price range that have already been linked. There's always the argument of older refurbs needing a bit extra money dumped in, and you are flying blind versus the hardware you already know... it's a tight call financially.

It might be worth looking up an electronics recycler and/or NPO refurbish outfit in your area and consider putting your old baby to pasture... it had a good run, and maybe someone else who has access to other donated machines and equipment can fix 'er up and pass along a donated machine to an urban family instead of mulching the parts and slow-boating it back to China to sit in a colossal toxic landfill.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 12:37:26 AM by I.P. Daley »

gooki

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #25 on: February 26, 2013, 02:28:20 AM »
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 02:31:34 AM by gooki »

urover

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2013, 03:11:41 AM »
@Gooki, the IDE cables, if you watch carefully, are connected to two CDRom drives. And at the bottom to the left, you see a hard disk with a sata cable and a power cable running to it. So, SATA HDD it is!

@Tami, if the original HDD still boots, you might want to use http://clonezilla.org/downloads.php to clone all your data from your old HDD to your new HDD without ever having to reinstall anything! You might want to check and fix bad sectors on your old HDD before doing so, though.

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2013, 07:37:33 AM »
I should probably clarify my current replace over repair stance for those of you who are still advocating only replacing the hard drive:

1) Tami has reported at least one failing capacitor on her motherboard, and it appears there might be at least one to two more visible in her posted image that deserve closer inspection. Given caps can fail without bulging out the top as well (not common, but does happen), there's the possibility there's others she might be missing as well.

2) It's an eight year old Dell. If the machine's old enough to be developing bad capacitors on the motherboard, there's almost assuredly bad capacitors in the power supply. Unless you have a clever idea how to teach her how to use a multimeter and put a load on a PSU, or walk her through cracking open a power supply to inspect more capacitors without touching the large cap that'll lay out a horse if you short it out... let's just assume where there's one failing cap in an old system, there's others in the usual places for the sake of time.

3) If the hard drive is genuinely failing, there's no guarantee that it isn't failing only because of overall service time, but there is a serious risk of it failing from insufficient voltage off a likely suspect if not failing power supply. Replacing a hard drive under these possible conditions would only destroy another hard drive after a few months at best and do nothing to improve the situation at worst.

4) Given the known quantity of bulging capacitor(s) on the motherboard combined with the other symptoms, there is no assured guarantee that the stability issues that Tami has experienced aren't entirely exclusive to a singular failing hardware point at the age that this machine is at. The only way to know for certain is to remove the hard drive entirely and properly test the power supply and the motherboard for overall stability under load for several hours to ensure it's just the hard drive that has failed. Even if it does prove to still be usable and stable right now with dried out, bulging, failing capacitors... how long do you think that will last given known damaged electrical components in the system, and how much money is too much to spend on a system in this state while ignoring that problem?

5) The Windows license upgrade cost. This needs to be factored in overall cost now given the rapidly approaching April 2014 EOL date of the current OS if repair is even being considered, because repair means trying to get more than just another few months to a year of service time out of the machine. Given the price of parts combined with the cost of a license for an OS she couldn't even transfer to another machine versus a replacement with the OS pre-installed, you have yet another compelling reason to replace over repair. Other things to consider, too: the hardware specs are still unknown to us, so we don't know if Win7 would even run on this machine without say a RAM upgrade at the minimum. And yes, there's always Linux which costs nothing... but after the past few months of Tami's various posts regarding her netbook and even with the things name-checked in this thread, it's pretty clear she's not a prime candidate to make that switch. That said, it does raise a valid question of how much money you really want to spend to ensure a computer can stream Netflix. MS Office is still a justifiable reason to not migrate, too, as LibreOffice just can't cut it for certain functions.

6) Time already invested in troubleshooting. The actual time might not be this long, but we're already into the span of several days without the machine. The machine as it is currently needs a lot of time and some more difficult skills to master to ensure it's stable and will work long enough to warrant spending any money on it to keep working long term. From a car analogy, just replacing the hard drive and crossing your fingers is like replacing a corroded radiator on an engine with a hairline cracked head gasket focusing purely on visibly superficial symptoms. The radiator may genuinely need replacing and you can swap it out, but will this keep the engine from mixing its coolant and lubricant?

I'm all for repair over replace. I love repair over replace. I just soldered in new caps on an old LCD screen over the weekend to get a few more years of service out of that bad boy and I'm in process of doing similar to an abandoned 32" LCD HDTV. If Tami were local to me, I'd offer to be the dude who worked for beer for her because I'm all about keeping electronic waste out of the rubbish system and keeping machines like this going... but being a guy who does that, I know it's difficult to do some of the things needed to truly fix the system for continued long-term invested usage, and cap replacement can be dicey on these tightly integrated boards, too, as you might damage something else while trying to heat the solder up enough to remove the bad... and there might be other damaged components that you'd miss that are resultant from damage due to the failing caps, too. Brother, that stuff's hard to trace out.

That said, a good tech should know when to walk away. This machine doesn't have to be a losing proposition, but under the circumstances with the resources available? If you're spending enough money and can justify needing a computer, you need it to be reliable. Spending money on swapping a hard drive on a nearly decade old machine that has any bad caps and will shortly need a paid OS upgrade that could be replaced for less than that repair and upgrade is a bit foolhardy. It's Tami's choice, ultimately, and she's already in the badass category for all she's done so far... and it's not like we're talking about a two year old machine here, either.

Tami, it's clear there's a lot of people wanting to help you save money and get back up and running, which is terrific. Clearly, you'll get whatever help you need from the community here with whatever choice you take. I've made my case, take it for what it's worth.

DoubleDown

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2013, 08:51:53 AM »
I'll second I.P.'s recommendation to get a new one. You already got 8 years out your machine which is admirable! I got a new (not refurbished) Acer laptop 1.5 years ago, that meets all my needs, for $250. I'll bet you could do even better on a new one or certainly a refurbished one.

Tami1982

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2013, 11:07:25 AM »
I want to thank all of your for your support and I learned so much through this thread.  I really wanted to be as mustachian as possible and wanted to resist the urge to throw money at a problem instead of putting in the time and effort.  Well, we've put in the time and effort haven't we?  And it seems that we've reached a point where the if's and maybe's are a little too high for my peace of mind and for so little difference in cost.

Thank you again for your time and effort, especially IP Daley, for explaining so much to someone who knows little about the guts of the machine that runs my life:)  I definitely feel smarter for it.  And you were right - upon closer inspection 3 caps were bad.

It seems to me that buying something from new egg for under $200 is going to be my best, long term solution.  If I can get 6-8 years out of that I will be ecstatic.  I paid $1,100 for the one that's dying.  Some things I didn't think to mention: One of my disk drives died a while back, also some of the usb ports.  It will be nice to have those fully functioning again as well. 

I am a student, and as it turns out, can get upgrades to Windows and Microsoft Office for free.  So that will save me some $$ in getting the new machine up to what I need it to have. 
I'm looking at all this refurbs and don't know what I need to run Windows 8.  If anyone could point me towards a machine capable of running that, along with handling a few apps at a time, I would greatly appreciate it.  I'm a wicked multitasker and like to have multiple chrome windows, plus often another 2 applications up and running and flip between them all a lot.

In addition, in terms of safety of my personal information - what should I do with this computer's hard drive to prevent any passwords, credit card info, that kind of thing from being pulled off it?

etselec

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #30 on: February 26, 2013, 11:59:30 AM »
In addition, in terms of safety of my personal information - what should I do with this computer's hard drive to prevent any passwords, credit card info, that kind of thing from being pulled off it?

I'm sure tech-savvy folks will have all kinds of clever solutions, but the most fool-proof and simplest is probably to take it out back and smash it with a hammer until it's very, very dead.

Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #31 on: February 26, 2013, 12:22:08 PM »
Glad to be of help, Tami.

As to your questions and comments (not in the order posted):

Great to hear you've got a freebie line on the MS stuff through your college/university, that helps save a lot of money as I'm sure you've noticed.

As to system requirements of Win8 over Win7, required specs are actually about the same. I have a feeling given your described usage habits that you'll likely prefer Win7, though. Pretty much any system with 2GB of RAM or more and manufactured in the past five-plus years should be plenty. All those Optiplex 755's are Intel C2D machines (dual core) and should be plenty.

As for data security on the failing drive, you've got two options:
1) If it's still operational enough, yank it out, put it in a better machine after disconnecting the other hard drives, and run DBAN on the turkey. A single 0 (zero) pass will be plenty.
2) If it's too far gone to reliably get a wipe done, take a screwdriver set to the thing and tear it apart until you get to the platters (how? just keep removing screws over and under labels until it starts to come apart), then just run the strong neodymium magnet inside the actuator across the platter surfaces and scratch 'em a bit, that'll sufficiently damage the thing enough to not be worth the money to try and rebuild and recover for even the deepest pocketed crackhead. If you're curious to learn a little something while doing that, watch this video.

Given the additional problems you've just pointed out, it sounds like my suspicions are right on. Those bulging caps are likely directly related to the hardware problems you've had with the machine leading up to this point.

As to the cost of machinery versus durability and usage length... I'd be surprised if you got another six-eight years out of a $200 refurb like the Optiplex 755. The thing to remember is that they're already about 2-4 years old already. Figure your functional usage time-span to be around another 2-4 year range with the thing with some proper care. Considering those Optiplexes were over a grand new, and they're well designed and reviewed, it won't be an unreasonable expectation. Quality electronics cost money to get the usage span you got, but if you can pick up a quality used machine for far less than 1/4th the price of the thing new while still having 1/3 to 1/2 of the life expectancy ahead of you... you see why I (and others) recommend business/enterprise grade refurbs now. It keeps perfectly good machines out of the trash heap to be properly used until failure point, and reduces overall needless supply/demand for new crap. And for the money, that's about the same life expectancy or better than I'd expect out of new consumer-grade at the same price point.

To my brief earlier point, though, it's hard finding quality builds anymore under at least half a grand new or factory refurbished. Most of this stuff is designed to be disposable krep to continue driving sales, even getting into the lower end enterprise sector these days. Software requirements and hardware advancements are no longer sufficient to actually drive growth and sales anymore, so manufacturers design the things to fail to keep sales up at the price of environmental impact and your wallet. In this context, now you know why Apple seals their batteries inside their laptops and phones and wraps their phones in glass... and nearly everyone uses cheap CapXon capacitors in their electronics.

If you do buy a refurbished desktop like one of the Optiplex 755's linked, keep in mind they're third party refurbished. Sometimes they're great, sometimes something will slip through. You're already ahead of the curve now. Order with confidence knowing what to look for with the machine once you receive it to take full advantage of the short warranty they have. Look for bad capacitors on the mobo and through the vents on the power supply and while the case is open and you've got yourself well grounded to a chunk of metal make sure connectors and cards are well seated, and use UltimateBootCD to do some basic hardware tests after you get it. Run Memtest86+ for about 6-8 hours to make sure no errors pop up, and run the drive manufacturer's extended drive diagnostics on the hard drive. If anything bad shows up during the tests, send it back for an exchange immediately to avoid longer-term issues... otherwise, you're good to go.

Any other questions you want to ask me specifically, you know where to find me. :)
« Last Edit: February 26, 2013, 12:27:02 PM by I.P. Daley »

Nords

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #32 on: February 26, 2013, 10:57:25 PM »
Please avoid SSD for now since from my experience they've been expensive and not so reliable (yet).
I agree that an SSD is uncalled for in this situation.

However I just gave myself one last Christmas, and it's been absolutely wonderful.  Less noise, way less power consumption, less heat, and incredibly fast response times.  Prices are also dropping quickly-- I'm not sure what happened last fall, but Moore's Law is now being vigorously enforced.  Its price has already dropped another 15% in the last couple months.

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Electronics-SATAIII-2-5-Inch-MZ-7TD500BW/dp/B009NHAF3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361944577&sr=8-1&keywords=samsung+solid+state+drive+840+pro

As for reliability, I'll have to get back to you in a couple of years.  But the SSD's environment is much happier than the working conditions of the old HD.

Scooby Doo

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #33 on: February 28, 2013, 08:10:25 AM »
Also attaching the event log.  I'm not sure how to read this, but there are a TON of events.

Hi Tami - thanks for posting the event log. It does have some of the following errors:

'An error was detected on device \Device\Harddisk1\D during a paging operation.'

This tends to suggest that the disk may be beginning to fail.

I'm sure that the machine could be fixed and restored cheaply if you had the technical knowledge. If you haven't, and you can get a machine for the price that I.P Daley is talking about, then that does sound like the best bet.


Norman Johnson

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #34 on: February 28, 2013, 09:16:19 AM »
Re SSDs: When the hard drive dies, it's dead. Do not pass go, do not collect $100. See you later data! At least with older hard drives, there is the possibility to recover the data. Make sure you back up, and frequently!!!

Nords: Prices on hard drives are recovering because they can start to produce them again at higher levels after the factories were wiped out in Japan.

OP: Eight years is a good run!

Scooby Doo

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #35 on: February 28, 2013, 09:36:46 AM »
Not entirely true - the data can be recovered, just not economically at the moment.

SSDs are generally used to install the operating system, with data stored on a larger capacity mechanical disk.

However, most operating systems now come with backup software included, so there is no excuse for not backing up regularly, so the SSD shouldn't be any more of an issue than a 'standard' drive.

My Dell laptop (with SSD) is now hitting five years old. I have so far resisted moving to an Ultrabook, mostly because I think the old CPU wars have largely topped out.


Norman Johnson

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2013, 09:42:15 AM »
Scooby Doo, can you PM me any details on companies who recover that data? We have been discussing this at work and now that we are getting machines with SSDs, I know this will come up. Best look into it now so we can let the clients know what they are up against by not backing up their data!

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #37 on: February 28, 2013, 10:13:55 AM »
There are some things that are worth it to run to the ground and pay to repair but a PC just isn't one of them, especially an eight year old desktop. You could pick up a dual core netbook today for under $300 that has at least 4 times the computing power, RAM and hard drive space and uses less than 5% of the energy as your enormous desktop. Depending on how much you use your desktop and its power use, the netbook could actually pay for itself in a few years.


Daley

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #38 on: February 28, 2013, 10:15:52 AM »
Lila, pretty much any major drive data recovery service these days are set up to do SSD data recovery as well. Outfits that most businesses trusted to do data recovery on failed magnetic storage drives in the past like DriveSavers, Secure Data Recovery Services, and SalvageData Recovery are all set up to do solid state drive recovery as well. Expect hellacious prices as always, though. Those price tags remind you that an ounce of prevention is always worth more than a pound of cure with data backups.

Jamesqf

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2013, 12:30:39 PM »
SSDs are generally used to install the operating system, with data stored on a larger capacity mechanical disk.

I don't know about that.  For a laptop especially, the SSD is likely to be the only drive.  And I don't quite see how most users would have any use for a larger drive than a reasonably-priced SSD.  My OS and all the system stuff fits comfortably in a 10 GByte partition, and I'm only using about 25% of the remaining 100 GBytes.

Norman Johnson

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #40 on: February 28, 2013, 03:00:13 PM »
Lila, pretty much any major drive data recovery service these days are set up to do SSD data recovery as well. Outfits that most businesses trusted to do data recovery on failed magnetic storage drives in the past like DriveSavers, Secure Data Recovery Services, and SalvageData Recovery are all set up to do solid state drive recovery as well. Expect hellacious prices as always, though. Those price tags remind you that an ounce of prevention is always worth more than a pound of cure with data backups.

Thanks for the info. Somedays I'm really sad about the status of my IT department. :(

Scooby Doo

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2013, 08:03:02 AM »
Hi Lila, pretty much what I.P Daley said. Same places, just more money!

Jamesqf, perhaps I didn't word that correctly. They were originally used that way as the first batches of SSDs were only 30GB or so. I have a 120GB in this laptop but it's bursting at the seams, and my other machines have 120GB OS drives with 1TB mechanical drives for data.

However, I am perhaps not 'most users'. I'm guessing you're either on XP or Linux, as Windows 7 wouldn't fit on 10GB with a page file.

Nords

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Re: Computer death!
« Reply #42 on: March 01, 2013, 10:04:41 PM »
Scooby Doo, can you PM me any details on companies who recover that data? We have been discussing this at work and now that we are getting machines with SSDs, I know this will come up. Best look into it now so we can let the clients know what they are up against by not backing up their data!
I think you'd better server your clients by having them use a backup service no matter what type of whiz-bang hard drives or SSDs they have.  Users just hate to do backups and usually skimp on quality instead of investing in a real offsite data archive company's support.

For me, Carbonite and an occasional backup to an external hard drive (stored 60 feet offsite in our shed).  By "occasional" I mean "right after I lost something".  And Carbonite is just a convenient place to copy data, not a real offsite backup company.  It's the convenience that makes the backups happen, not the price.