There are some days that you help a hundred newbs. There are days that you are a newb.

This weekend, I was a newb for a number of hours.

My hard drive has been acting up lately. It would randomly reboot itself and report a “Hard Drive Error” that required a human to press the power button twice before it would recover. My XP installation was also acting up over the last few months… it would randomly refuse to unlock itself from a TS session. The task bar started to resize itself at random. It had been through a number of testing scenarios for different applications… it is due for a cleaning.

My original plan was to wait out for a solid-enough-for-home-use instance of Vista, but my crashes are getting worse and more frequent… Beta 1 has been fun to play with, but it’s in a quasi-state for home use. I would have liked to have waited for Beta 2, but with the machine in it’s current state of health, that’s not an option.

Given the HD crashes, and the fact that it would be easier to install a new instance of XP on a new drive – talk about a safety net: I could go back to the old drive at any time! – I decided that it was time to get a new one… my 160GB wasn’t too old, but what the hell, right? I could always put the old drive in an enclosure for backups. It was time for a speed bump, too, so maybe it was finally time for an SATA drive. After all my Asus P4PE motherboard has supported SATA all this time… CompUSA had a 160GB listed for $40 after rebates, so I run out to CompUSA. My bad: the $40 drive was a Parallel-ATA drive; the 160GB SATA there was $129. Boo.

Came back home and hit the websites again… oO, ComputerStop had some decent drives. I run out there… Maxtor 300GB SATA, $159. Good enough for me, since the 160GB SATA was $119! Run home with it… need some SATA cables – search for the original box. yay! Grab the cables, install the drive, nothing. Disable the Master IDE drives. Still nothing. Did some searching online: there was a limitation of the original BIOS that refused to see a 150GB drive…

At this point I realized something odd: I haven’t upgraded my home computer since 2002. November 16th, 2002. This machine is over three years old. I’ve never had this happen… even my Vic-20 didn’t last 18 months. I think my Commodore 64 was the longest term PC I’ve ever had and that was 2 years. I think. Close to that anyway; it was a long time ago – those memories have gotten fuzzy. Three years? Unprecedented. It was always cheap enough to upgrade: I would replace the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and possibly the video card. Case, FD, HD, CD, DVD, other cards, etc. – all moved forward with the new stuffs.

I’m guessing that this is Microsoft’s fault, from two different angles: the installation of an Xbox in my living room and the stability of XP. Since I’ve been getting my video game fix from something other than a PC, I didn’t have to upgrade the hardware to keep up with the gaming demands every few months. And with XP becoming a stable platform, I didn’t have to upgrade anything to continue to run it. Obviously, this is going to change with Vista: a notebook upgrade is already in the back of my mind… so is a wide screen monitor at some point. It won’t be required, but I’ll want it to truly appreciate the new features.

Back to the hard drive: I upgrade the BIOS from 1.005 to 1.007 – scary that that was released in November of 2003 and I hadn’t gotten it yet. Small wonder that the Asus website has little new posted on this board, too given its age! At some point throughout the BIOS upgrade, I noticed that I had turned off the RAID controller when I was just using the IDE drives, so I turned that on again. Restarted the Windows XP installation. Nothing. Oh, wait! I was installing a RAID-esque controller. Did some looking online: had to do the “type ‘F6’ during the installation to use a custom hard drive driver” dance while I was watching the blue installation screens go by.

This got me further in the process: brought me to the “select a hard drive” screen but it was also telling me that it couldn’t find a HD to install to. Odd. Did some more searching online: oops. The “new” SATA cables, while thinner and smaller than PATA cables, are just like PATA in that they don’t supply power. Oh, make no mistake: I looked for the standard 4-pin power plug but this drive didn’t have one. It had a 2 pin plug, which looked like a jumper… a 15-band pin thingy that looked like the SATA plug… and then the SATA plug. A quick trip to Maxtor confirmed it: SATA drives had a new style power plug.

Another quick trip to the store for an adapter and $7: I was in business again… the HD is formatting now. 300GB takes forever to format. Feh!

What a newbish moment!

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