Thursday, August 18, 2011

More computer problems

I can't imagine how we managed without computers, but sometimes, I just want to take an axe to mine.

About three weeks ago, I lost my internet access for a few days. But that was only a bad modem. I had to wait for a new one to be shipped to me, but it wasn't a big problem or a huge expense. At the very least, the problem was relatively easy to diagnose, at least with the help of my ISP.

Then this week, on Tuesday, my uninterruptible power supply crapped out. But that was obvious. I don't know why - or even what, exactly, happened - but it was easy enough to buy a new UPS, so I was back up within hours.

Yeah, I didn't like the extra expense, but the hardest part of these things is usually just discovering which piece of hardware or software is causing the problem. (The howling alarm from the UPS, combined with the complete lack of power coming from it, was a pretty good clue this time.)

The rest of the afternoon, and all evening, my computer worked fine. But the next morning, I got the dreaded "blue screen of death" when I started the computer. And although I got it running a few times, and even ran a successful checkdisk, I kept getting that BSoD every 20 minutes or so.

So on Wednesday, I took the computer to the repair shop. Late in the day, I got the news: a bad motherboard. But wasn't that still under warranty? After all, this was the second time they'd diagnosed a bad motherboard. (Last time, when I just had an intermittent problem, it took them five weeks to finally repair my computer, and they installed a new hard drive first - without actually curing anything.)

"Oh, no," I was told. "I'm sure we didn't install this motherboard. I would have remembered ordering a board like this."  I was really sure that they had installed it, so I made him check his records. "No, I don't see it."

Well, I needed to think about what I wanted to do, anyway. But after I hung up, I checked my records. Yup, they'd installed the motherboard in December, 2009, so surely it was still under warranty. I called back and told them I had the invoice right in front of me. They'd definitely installed that motherboard only about a year and a half ago.

So OK, they found their records then, but there was a new problem. It was going to take up to two months to get the motherboard repaired or replaced under warranty. Now I was getting a little bit pissed. I didn't blame them for the faulty hardware. But on the other hand, I didn't buy the motherboard myself. I didn't even choose that brand (the computer had come with a different brand of motherboard).

I'd taken my computer to the repair shop a year and a half ago, and they'd diagnosed the problem and ordered a replacement motherboard they'd thought was of comparable quality. Maybe I was being unreasonable here, but I expected them to stand behind their choice.

To their credit, they agreed pretty readily to install a temporary motherboard - a cheaper one - while mine was being repaired or replaced. And although I had to pay for it, I'll get the cost of the motherboard back when they remove it again in a few weeks.

I'm still spending a couple of hundred dollars for labor, but even this lower-end motherboard would add a hundred to that. And I'm not going to be missing a computer for up to two months, either. So I'm quite happy with the deal...

...Especially since this does seem to have fixed the problem. My computer seems to be working fine, so apparently it was the motherboard. But what's going to go bad next?

This is like repairing a used car. How much money do you want to put into a used car before you finally decide to buy a new one? OK, maybe it's not quite like that. This was a high-end gaming computer when I bought it, but that was five years ago. And since then, I've had to replace everything but the case and the DVD burner (the power supply, the monitor, and the motherboard twice now).

Oh, well. I'd love to get a new computer, but I really don't need one. This one still does everything I want. And I've had major construction work done on my house twice so far this summer (not to mention needing a new furnace last winter). And given the way the stock market has been crashing, maybe I should be saving my pennies right now, huh?

I'm basically just bitching. If you can't gripe on your own blog, where can you? I seem to have computer problems about every six months or so, on average. And even when the parts are still under warranty, there's an expense. And the aggravation factor.

Really, it's hard to do without a computer these days. I've got my old Windows 98 machine, but as of three weeks ago, with this new modem, I can no longer use it to access the internet. I can still play games - old games, at least (but those are often what I'm playing, anyway) - but that's not the main reason why I need a computer.

It's amazing how quickly computers have become indispensable, isn't it?


Jim Harris said...

I build my own computers. It's actually not that hard - a bit nerve-racking but it means I can repair them myself. I even built my computer at work for less than $350 - but I let them pay for the copy of Windows.

I've learned to use standard parts so I can replace anything easily.

You can often find DIY kits at NewEgg for under $300 (minus the OS). A system builder's version of Windows 7 Home Premium is $99.

WCG said...

I haven't built my own PC, though I used to do a lot of my own repairs, Jim. I even replaced the motherboard in my old Windows 98 computer. Really, there's not much I haven't done, at least once.

But it's just not worth it to me these days. For one thing, yes, it is nerve-wracking. It's just not any fun for me, not any longer.

And these days, I just want my computer to work. I used to be fascinated by computers in general, and I wanted to know all about them. But now, I just want a computer that works, and I don't care about the rest of it.

So I'm pretty quick to take it to the repair shop these days. Most of this work I can do (assuming I know what's wrong, which is usually the biggest problem), but I don't want to.