The other day I had what I call a "Tech Wake Up Call".
Out of the blue (literally) an error screen popped up in the course of booting, followed by a Windows XP "apology message." This, needless to say, was not helpful in charting my course.
Let it be clearly understood that one of my uppermost concerns is optimal system performance. Diligent system management does not just set the expectation of dependability and instantaneous response; it reinforces a sense of being justified in that expectation. (Yeah, I know.)
So, after going through several reboots and getting no closer to a login screen, (in fact the result became "no input signal for <monitor>, going to power-save mode" and monitor shutdown) I figured it was time to get out the XP installation CD.
Booting from the CD got a monitor display...of a number of files that appeared to be loading, and finally a "C" prompt. Well, it was an improvement. Not exactly Windows, but at least a door.
Using a spare laptop to get online I found:
- a lot of entries about this on the net (some real interesting hits on "signs video card is failing")
- more than a few symptoms that might lead you to think otherwise, but all associated with the video card
- the ever-present comment: "[the video card] is just bad so get a new one"
That last is the chiller because this video card is now obsolete (although as of 10/2010 I found 3 sources on eBay, certainly for this).
At the (literal) end of the day my problem was solved, so far, although I have no evidence that running CHKDSK /R and the recovery CD procedures deserve the credit other than a sudden normal reboot from the BIOS. (No log message saying "Baby, I'm back!")
As I retraced all my activity, from the massive security patches applied to the system earlier in the week, until that fateful "apology", I can only conclude that something I did while cleaning the system upset the delicate balance. (Make sure compressed air is used while system is off! Doesn't matter how many fans are going... It's not. A good. Idea!)
However, the underlying inescapable reality is that after five faithful years of service I have to replace my system (the ultimate upgrade?). Or at least consider it.
Well, you may be thinking, that is painfully obvious.
But I've read that it's common for businesses to [very] reluctantly part with what they are familiar with. This has been most evident in the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7.
I have never held the opinion that any software at any point in business operations should be the only alternative for carrying that business. I've even had the experience of supporting legacy software that was indispensable yet could not be re-created... (Thanks very much, got the T-shirt). 😉
Yet, I am a little surprised to find I have developed an affinity with this machine. We've been through a lot together and it has been essential
in my growth. It is the first machine that I've used truly beyond the boundaries of my employment. I went back to school with it. I've explored everything from Hubble telescope photographs to more mundane fare.
It is also the first machine with the purpose of trying to build something that is mine.
The days of this being my primary PC are coming to a close and I have to say on the whole, I've been fortunate and thankful for this high quality assembly by PC's For Everyone.
One thing I will be on the lookout for is hardware monitoring software, any as trustworthy and as comprehensive as I can find. I've also taken a few other steps that will provide more options should I encounter this situation again.
Another take-away I've gained is it might help to get a spare video card with next purchase of a PC or within a year or two. That might "save the horse for want of a horseshoe nail." In any case it's a sound strategy to have a 3 to 5 year plan for replacing a computer system or enabling an overhaul that will yield the same results.
In a future entry I'll share some of my considerations in this area.