Hard Drive Tales for a Rainy Day

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Eddie Ciletti

YOUR DATA IS KEY, SO MAKE SURE YOU'LL HAVE IT IN THE FUTURE

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Between my wife, my kids and myself, there are 10 computers in our house — three Macs, six desktop PCs and a lapdog. My wife, Polly, and I both work from home, so that explains why we need so many — one for her, the rest for me and the boys. Despite having dedicated audio and video workstations, my desktop PC sees the most use — and abuse. It's where the daily business gets done. While far from optimum for audio and graphic editing, it conveniently does more than its share of both. With two internal and at least one external drive, it's also where my Website, articles, schematics, data sheets, fave music and class materials are stored. So when that computer isn't happy, I'm not happy.

ON THE ROAD TO GREEN

One of my good or bad traits — depending on your perspective — is that I hate to throw things away. A perfectly functional computer can be “recycled” to perform a lesser task — the kids' G3 iMacs and my dedicated Pentium 2 scanner being prime examples — because it is still quite usable (though this is a bad idea if you interpret Feng Shui strictly as uncluttered interior design).

The good news is that everyone is becoming more “green” conscious. This past fall, a locally sponsored electronic recycling event at the Mall of America parking lot yielded so many “contributors” that it overwhelmed and shut down the system. That so many people were saving their old junk and waiting for a free and convenient recycling opportunity sent a message that was heard from the big box stores and waste-management services all the way to government agencies.

WIDE SCREEN

For all the different jobs I do, dual monitors are essential. And while a dual monitor card should minimize potential conflicts, it was actually at the root of a problem that plagued my office PC several years ago. Nothing makes us feel more helpless than the blue screen of death, which happened every few months for about a year. Through this experience, I figured out a recovery trick that's as simple as connecting the boot drive to another computer. Windows immediately recognized and fixed the “security descriptor” problems, after which the drive was as good as new. I did nothing but introduce one piece of hardware to the other. Next time a blue screen makes your day, try it; there's nothing to lose.

It wasn't until migrating to another motherboard that I accidentally stumbled upon the true cause of the problem: The OS install was done with a single monitor card. Everything seemed fine until the dual monitor card was installed — a more obvious conflict than before — but at least it happened right away.

Last summer, the analog monitor died on my scanning PC after 13 years of service. My office PC gladly gave up one of its own “tubes” in trade for a solid-state LCD upgrade, a stunning LG L226 22-inch, wide-screen display that was quite a bump up in terms of resolution and brightness. With its 3,000:1 contrast ratio, 2ms response time and 1,680×1,050 resolution, I was amazed at how small things could be made and still retain clarity — not a strong suit for analog but a piece of cake for the L226. The transition to an LCD screen took some getting used to; I'll explore more about monitor technology next month.

DOS BOOT

Trying to bring your computer back to life? A common PC fix is turning off all resident programs that invade the Notification Area of the taskbar. This also applies to Pro Tools, which is particularly intolerant of background programs, especially anti-virus software.

When my current PC became sluggish, I immediately went on a search-and-destroy mission for viruses and adware to no avail. For a while, I even considered whether the new monitor's significantly higher resolution was taxing the system. Whenever a computer is unhappy, my first inclination is to pull the boot drive and start fresh. I'm no fan of trying to fix a boot drive while it's online and I don't know many people who can. A fresh install on a new drive can solve a lot of problems. In this case, the computer was too new and I wasn't ready to rebuild the desktop from scratch as there were just too many programs to load.






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