Monday, May 4, 2015

Your Own Computer Is Always In the Worst Shape

Michael Salsbury
In my day job, I'm a Windows Desktop Administrator.  There are certain things that tend to be true of the people who do this job, though they're not all true of every administrator or all the time:

  • Our computers tend to get broken trying to reproduce someone else's problem
  • Our computers tend to hold the latest bug-ridden version of software and patches released by every vendor we use
  • Our computers probably perform worse than most in the company's fleet
The main reason this happens is that we spend most of our day trying to reproduce the problems our co-workers are stumped by, and when we're not doing that we're being asked to prepare to upgrade this software, patch that software, and replace some other software.  We test this stuff on our own PCs, so that we don't (hopefully) break our coworkers' around the company.  At least, that's what we try to do.

Occasionally, the work lets up and we're able to put some time into fixing the problems on our own systems.  Those are good days, but rare.  Sometimes we get new PCs, or screw up our system so badly reproducing a problem that we have to reimage or rebuild it.  In those cases, we actually have computers at our desks that work.

After you've spent all day fixing everyone else's computer problems, often the last thing you'll want to do when you get home is fix any problems you or your family have with their computers.  In fact, I actually own a shirt that says, "No, I will not fix your computer."  If I do, there had better be cash (or some very good craft beer) involved in the deal.

My home system is somewhere in the vicinity of three or four years old.  I built it with high-end components at the time, so it's not terrible by today's standards but it's not "high-end" anymore.  Recently, it's started to show its age:
  • If the machine went to sleep, one of my monitors would refuse to power on.  The other powered on but displayed a shaky, distorted image.  Eventually, both would sort themselves out.
  • While playing certain games, I'd get warnings about components overheating.
  • The other day I rebooted it to apply some patches.  When it came back up, one of the hard drives (which had lots of important stuff on it) showed as blank.  When I rebooted again, the drive disappeared completely.
  • While copying some files from an external hard drive, the machine apparently overheated and powered itself off instantly.  When it came back up a few hours later, that missing hard drive was suddenly back - and working.
  • While playing a game, I noticed that the graphics started getting worse.  What should have been a highway trailing off into the distance became a shiny gray plain with no detail at all.
  • The VPN software I use for work stopped functioning when Windows 10 decided to update.
I replaced my monitors, since they were having such a hard time waking up.  Today, after the machine woke up from sleep, one of the monitors (a brand new one bought to solve the first problem above) stopped working.  As near as I can tell, the video card's burning out.  It's able to drive one of my two monitors, but not the other. I've ordered a replacement from Amazon at a cost of over $300.

While poking around in the machine trying to fix the video problem, I realized that the liquid cooling setup was making some funny noises.  That probably explains the overheating and instant shutdown last night.  So, time for a new CPU cooler as well, and another $100 out of pocket.  (The motherboard I'm using tends to only work with liquid cooling systems because of the component layout.)

What I still don't know at this point is whether that one hard drive stopped working because of the overheating on the CPU and motherboard, or whether there's something really wrong with it.  Needless to say, the next step is a backup of that disk.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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