Computer Woes (and Fixes)

I’m pretty handy with computers. However, I am also a bit of a tinkerer, which means that may tend to be a bit harder on my hardware than the average user. For example: my current laptop, which is now about 5.5 years old, can triple boot into three different OSes. I’ve got Windows 7 for day-to-day use. Ubuntu is there for playing around in Linux and occasionally modifying things that I can’t do through Windows (like shifting and resizing partitions). I’ve also got Windows XP on yet another partition, that I set up in an attempt to play a single game (GTA IV, if you must know, doesn’t play well with 64-bit operating systems). I’ve even got a separate partition set up for my documents and files separate from my operating system(s).

Needless to say, my laptop’s hard drive has seen some wear and tear over the past few years. I’ve installed multiple operating systems from scratch, resized partitions, moved them, and copied a lot of data to and from it throughout grad school. So imagine my chagrin when after a restart Windows popped up with a message saying that my hard disk had failed.


My first reaction was to ask “How could it have failed? I’ve been using it, and it’s been fine!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had been experiencing quite a few quirks lately. Admittedly, any old computer is going to end up with “personality,” but I was experiencing weird hangups and sub-optimal performance during times that I shouldn’t have. It may be over five years old, but my laptop was quite a beefy gaming computer at that time!

I did some research online, and found a tool that confirmed that yes, my hard drive was giving up the ghost. I’m just glad I had some warning: the last time a hard drive failed was on my previous laptop, and I lost all my pictures from my study abroad in France. No backups, of course. I’ve since gotten better (all my grad school work is on network storage and burned to multiple DVDs), and while I did manage to recover my files from the last crash, it was not a pleasant experience.

The last time I wrote about my computing habits I mentioned my long-term plan to build a gaming desktop. The means to do so are still a ways off, and my laptop needed updating now. However, there was no reason I couldn’t combine the two: if I did it right, I could re-use any replacement hardware in a future desktop. And since I had a gift card to Micro Center (from last Christmas), why not have some fun?

So long story short, I picked up a fresh new SSD. I had to compromise on the size (250 GB instead of 320), but it probably won’t be that big a deal. And I’m hoping that the speed increase over a hard disk will breathe a bit more life into my aging laptop.

I’m excited.

I haven’t had a chance to install it yet; the past two days have been spent doing backups and taking stock of what programs I have installed (I could just take an image, but I feel that this is a good opportunity for a fresh install to clear out the cruft). I’ll definitely keep you posted; I have tomorrow off, so I plan to be neck (well, finger) deep in updates and installs until I go cross-eyed.

Wish me luck!

2 thoughts on “Computer Woes (and Fixes)

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