A Laptop Repair

Posted on Wednesday 19 December 2007

So, as I mentioned yesterday. I’ve been kind of busy of late. Christmas does that to pretty well everyone I know this time of year.

That being said, I’ve still been able to fit in a computer emergency or two. The latest one was for my eldest daughters laptop. She got it from Dell just over a year or so ago. I highly recommend Dell laptops, both my daughters have them. They are affordable and can be configured in many different combinations and fit pretty well everyones budget. However as a friend of mine mentioned recently, you do have to wait a week to get one.

Dell is very good in supporting their hardware, especially during the warranty period. My youngest daughter’s DVD burner died after an unfortunate incident at a border crossing. We called Dell and they shipped out a new one right away. The laptops are very easy to maintain (hardware wise). It just took a single screw to unlock a slide mechanism and out went the bad drive, in went the new.

Unfortunately, I was called in to fix my older daughters drive after the warranty period. The hard-drive was dying and she was terrified of losing all her pictures that she had on it and didn’t want to involve Dell. So I got called in, which in this case was a benefit to me because I got copies of every picture that she had taken of my grandsons! Big Grin

The hard drive was in bad shape, it was failing both the internal and external tests and was running slow, very slow (a hammer and chisel could have won a letter writing contest!) I was able to rescue all her pictures, they didn’t appear to be on a bad portion of the drive. However I was having problems with windows itself now as portions started to corrupt as I was diagnosing it.

The drive was acting as if it had suffered a trauma (been beaten or dropped while operating.) Which is quite possible with two very energetic young boys running around the house. Even severe vibrations be deadly for a computers hard-drive due to the speed of the turning discs on the drive and how close the read/write head(s) are to them. I explained it to my son-in-law this way.

Picture a 747 flying at top speed. Then fly that plane one foot off the ground. That’s about the relationship within a computer hard-drive. Dropping or banging a computer when it is operating is like causing an earthquake to occur underneath that airplane, and if the ground rises…

It’s also a good analogy for why manufacturers need clean rooms and why hard-drives are sealed. Again lets say that 747 is flying along at top speed, one foot off the ground. If it were to run into a smoke particle (something you and I would have great difficulty seeing with our naked eye.) It would be like running the plane into a two story house. To give you a better perspective – a human hair would be the equivalent of a mountain range…

So getting back to the repairs. If it was my computer I would just go out and buy a new hard-drive but they weren’t quite ready for that, so I spent the next two days (about 12 hours each) running various tools, checks, checkdisk’s and other techniques on the drive to get it to settle down and behave itself.

Once that was accomplished, I then set to repairing their Windows XP operating system and finally checking out everything that they needed most (which was mainly connectivity, Internet Explorer, Virus Scanners and Firewalls and Outlook Express). Here is where I stumbled across the wonderful world if ie7 (Internet Explorer 7). As my wife would say, whoever designed it must have been on drugs! Here is some more info on it, if you are interested…

Did you know that you need to uninstall ie7 BEFORE you can repair Windows?! I kid you not! You don’t have to go any further than that, to explain why Windows is getting such a bad name for itself – who needs to use all the problems with Vista to ‘dis’ Microsoft, just talk about ie7!

Of course, had I known about that little problem before I had started it “might” have been easier to finalize repairs but it wasn’t the only stumbling block. Another issue I had was whether it was the corruption of the hard-drive or just the fact that Norton Security was fighting with Windows over who controlled what on the computer.

Basically the computer connected fine to the Internet, only ie7 didn’t think it was! The solution was removing Norton Security, then everything worked fine! Since I didn’t have her installation discs for Norton, but did have them for Trend Micro Internet Security Pro with an extra license available I installed that instead.

Finally, after more than two days I returned the patched up laptop to my daughter and son-in-law who were more than happy to get it back (I also gave my daughter a DVD backup of all her pictures on her computer.) They have also informed me that it is running extremely well now, and faster than it has been in a year… (I guess I must have done some of the things right)

My wife has often told me that I should contract my services out because there are a lot of people out there who need my expertise. She’s right too, I don’t know how people can survive without knowing someone who is willing to give them a hand – for free… Yes, for free. Because if I had contracted myself out for this repair – let’s see…. a paltry $20/hr (which is less than half of what it should be in reality) times 24 hours is $480… Almost the cost of a new low end laptop!

The only place that can afford to spend real money on real repairs is big business and government. They need people in-house all the time to not only maintain upgrades but do the odd repair such as mine. But even then, most techs would replace first anyways (it’s more cost effective for large organizations!) I retired to get away from big organizational computer support – there is way too much politics involved!

So how does the average person support their own computer… I really don’t know! Plus with the rapid pace of new releases and crappy software that is being put upon the consumer, I am amazed that people are still buying… I guess there are enough of us – people willing to help people with their computer problems – to keep the systems rolling.

Which of course reminded me of this great and very true quote with which I will close…

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. – Weinberg’s Second Law

End Article

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