Throwing caution out into the swimming pool, I powered on. And miracles of miracles, the blue lights on the case front started blinking, I had hard drive activity! Some white letters flew by on the monitor and I was at a prompt. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, but right then reality and my wife dictated that I go do something else. So I unpowered and left while I was ahead.
Returning to the project later that day, I had my advisor on the phone as I powered the machine on, but it ran so fast through the boot process I didn’t click the F-something key in time to divert to the bios setup. So, I rebooted. And it didn’t. Reboot that is. The lights still flashed, but nothing was onscreen. I began to feel a sense of despair. Now came the frustration and the trouble plus the troubleshooting. I was skilled at the first, lousy at the second.
Days of trial and error ensued. At one point, and for no apparent reason at all, the machine fired up and I breathed a sigh of relief. With my friend’s step-by-step guidance, we configured the bios, then installed Windows XP Home. I was back to feeling confident, the hours of troubleshooting over. We configured Windows for an optimal gamer’s system, which is what this machine was all about. One of the last steps was setting a screen resolution. I did that, and… OH NO! The machine locked up. Cautiously, I rebooted, but once again, it did not work, would not reboot. Doggone you Hal, do you remember that song, Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer, Do?
Back to trouble and troubleshooting mode. I seated and re-seated the DIMMs, the video card, sound card, power supply connector, checked jumper settings, the power LED and reset headers. Still nothing was coming up on the monitor. I started to consider backing out nonessential components to bare minimum necessary for starting and see what I had. Just before I did that, and more as a reflex “try it more time” thing than anything, I made a half-hearted push on the video card. It moved downwards very slightly and clicked. My pulse rate went up and I couldn’t contain the “oh boy, I’ve got it!” thoughts, even as I cautioned myself that I’d been down that road before, only to be sorely disappointed.
This time though, it was for real. I pushed the start button, the monitor came alive and before I knew it I was in Windows. I just stared at the screen for a few moments, as if in a dream. But it was real, my very own personally built personal computer was operating. I called my buddy, who had sweat through this with me, and listened to some heartfelt angry frustration, and we completed the Windows configuration. I left the system on all that night to burn it in. In the morning, half groggy as usual, and half scared at what I might find, it was still running just as it was the night before. Success. I powered it down, normally for the first time and declared victory.
I unplugged everything, moved it gingerly down the hall and into it’s new place of residence: The half and half computer room and junk yard room. There, I plugged everything back together, powered it again, and it worked. I registered Windows XP Home and then promptly lost the card with the ID key. Oh well.
All was not completely sweetness and light, but pretty close. I had another discussion with my computer consultant, whereupon he asked me about UPS.
“UPS?” I said, “They’re fine. They delivered my computer parts you know.”
“No, no, no. I mean uninterruptible power supply” he replied, “You know, battery backup plus real surge protection. Don’t tell me you’re protecting this new PC with one of those eight dollar power strips?”
“Why, uh, no,” I said, eyeing the dust covered power strip on the floor in front of me, the one with all the power cords running out of it,“Of course not!”
“That’s good”, he said, “You wouldn’t want to trust your new build to some yahoo who gets drunk and slams into a power pole just down the street.”
“Certainly not!” I exclaimed, “I’m too smart for that. Plus, you never know, you could get power surges, outages from storms, all kinds of weird electrical happenings. It would really torque me off to have this ruined by something like that just because I wouldn’t spend… Uh, how much do these UPS things cost these days anyway? Mine is, you know, pretty old.”
He told me I could get a pretty decent one for about sixty dollars. The next day, I had yet another reason to visit my favorite store in the whole wide world. And sure enough, they had all kinds of UPS systems, and what looked like a pretty decent one for sixty clams. I bought it and a few other things that caught my eye walking the aisles. It felt good actually having a local computer parts store that had what I needed and where I didn’t feel like such a stranger after all.