Sunday, June 12, 2005

These are the Pros and Cons of... Scrounging

Life support
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Last week I took in a stray computer; a little HP Pavilion that one of my co-workers brought in. His daughter got a new machine, and was looking to dispose of her old one. I didn't need it for the office, but I figured it would make a worthwhile upgrade to my home PC; like the shoemaker's kids, I "go barefoot" at home technology-wise. The PC it was was replacing dates from 1997 - the Late Jurassic, in computer history.

So I happily dismantled the HP, and rebuilt it with the best of what I could find in my scrapyard. I filled the memory banks with castoff RAM, added my old HP CD-writer and four extra USB ports; and, though it irked me, I had to part with $14.00 for a network card. I formatted the hard drive and installed Windows XP Pro. Then I spent the next few days installing all of my favorite software, and transferring my old files to the new machine. I was able to import my email archives too, which are complete back to November of 1996!

This was a major step up. Even though obsolescent, the 600 Mhz Pavilion was far faster than my relic Gateway - and at last I could run the latest software, access my digital camera, and use the HP printer that Gail and I bought.

So it was with some chagrin, then, that I switched on Saturday morning and was greeted with an audible pop and a puff of smoke from the back of the new machine. Damn.

The power supply - I hoped. I hadn't switched on the PC, just the surge protector. I dismantled the machine and, sure enough, the power supply was scorched; it was also filled with dust. Apparently it had been living in a dusty environment - I cleaned the motherboard when I rebuilt it, but I didn't think to look inside the subassembly of the power supply.

So after a sweaty day of home repairs at my Aunt's house (and a final Greek meal at the church - mmmm!) I went by the scrapyard again to look through the carcasses for a compatible power supply. I couldn't find one that would fit the microtower case, but I took home a larger unit with a built-in cooling fan. With this unit spliced in externally, I was relieved to see that the HP booted up normally; so I went online to look for a proper replacement. Apparently the original part is only a 100 watt unit, and notorious for failing. I found a 240W replacement for $24.00. So now I'm in for $38.00, but I'm still pleased with my windfall.

Didn't I just write a long post about fixing things? Ah, yes - my weekly irony supplement.