Monday, May 28, 2007

Adventures in Windows

On Wednesday my father rang me with another computer problem. Yet this time was different; he was fed up. He said he was driving up to my place on the weekend (a two and a half hour drive) to drop the computer for me to fix.

I didn't know how serious he was until the next day a letter arrived in the mail, explaining some of the problems he`s been having, and all the info he thought I would need about his computer and the programs on it (He is well trained :). I did some research on the info he gave me. I had a plan of attack in mind before he even arrived.

But we all know how well things follow the plan...

The Plan:

  1. Have a quick look around his current install, and perhaps show him whats going wrong.
  2. Go to computer store and purchase: a new Hard Drive, and a copy of Windows XP professional.
  3. Install new hardware.
  4. Install Windows XP Pro on it's own partition.
  5. Create partitions for: documents and pictures, backups, and downloads.
  6. Install programs for security, antivirus, and spyware.
  7. Re-install his needed programs.
  8. Lock down and configure all of his software.
  9. Make a slipstream disk for disaster recovery.
On Friday dad arrived, computer in hand. We got straight to work plugging everything in. I booted into his Windows XP install.
Well boot is a nice way of putting it... It took about 10 minutes to boot, and even then the errors were amazing, the hard drive and CPU didn't stop spinning.

After about 20 minutes of waiting to open a program, I started Spybot Search & destroy and killed nearly all of the 30+ programs that were starting at boot. After rebooting dad's computer was way faster.

After explaining what was going on to him, and showing him a few things. I explained my plan of attack, he was really happy with it. He loved the idea of having a full windows install. He doesn't want to go to Vista yet. He was happy to know that he could purchase an update disk when he is ready. Yet for now he wants to stay with XP.

He wanted 2GB of RAM, because as a photographer and photography teacher he runs some very memory intensive programs like Photoshop. So we wondered off to the computer shop. He brought:
  • A 320GB Western Digital Hard Drive = $155
  • 2 x 1GB Sticks of Samsung RAM = $110 each
  • A copy of Windows XP Professional OEM = $220
He was really happy with these, so we came hope and I started to install the hardware.

Then everything went wrong...

Lost inside dad's reality distortion field, I've only just crawled out. He stayed until Saturday night, and everything was going wrong until he left. Daz and I just could figure out what was going on. First it appeared we had a dodgy RAM stick, then that the BIOS battery was flat, then something else...

All the time the symptoms were changing, the inconsistency's was unlike anything I have seen from a computer before. I was so incredibly confused and frustrated. I had Daz telling me one thing, then dad telling me another, and in the end I think I was trying the same things over and over again. With dad touching, moving and playing with everything.

Hitting the reset...

Finally dad left. After resting for a couple of hours. I had a look at the computer again.
With in ten minutes I realised exactly what the problem was. The BIOS had not me upgraded to support 2GB of RAM. The motherboard is capable of supporting it, but the BIOS isn't. I'm going to have to flash the BIOS.
I have never done it before. It should be interesting. I have to admit it frightens me a little.

I have installed Windows XP Professional on the new hard drive, I am quite impressed with it so far. It is way better than the Spyware filled OEM Home version I worked in last. It is very strange being back in Windows. I haven't forgotten how to use it though :)