Back in Action

Submitted by C B Wright on

The laptop is still non-functional, but my backup is in place and Help Desk returns!

I've received some good advice from people who have suggested that rather than assuming my troubles stem from a loose connection on my motherboard I should consider whether or not my hard drive is dying. I hadn't thought of that simply because the laptop is new, but I have to admit it's doing exactly what an old desktop computer did when it's hard drive was about to die.

If this is the case, it makes the whole thing easier to fix (though it requires the purchase of a new hard drive). Thanks to those of you who emailed in with your advice.


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Almost fixed

Good luck, Chris.

The tech came out for my laptop today, and replaced the motherboard. That fixed the problem, but the new motherboard didn't have a spot for my external graphics card on it. Everything is working for now, but the tech had to order another motherboard and will be coming back later this week to swap it out again.

For some reason, the current one has a setting somewhere that makes it click every time a key on the keyboard or media controls is pressed. This is outside Windows, even muting the sound doesn't stop it.

You have an external video

You have an external video card for your laptop? How does that work?

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.


External as in not integrated into the motherboard and not sharing the system RAM. It still uses the motherboard's graphics ports, just processes everything on a separate card in the system.

And yes, the card did come from Dell, it's not something that I just stuck into the system.

It's not a coincidence...

I had to go out and purchase a new laptop last Monday -- totally dead system -- and compared to me, the computer was just a youngster (three years old). My hard drive was totally non-responsive. You are now another victim among about 10 people I know personally who were hit with failing hard drives and/or motherboards in the past week. Coincidence? I don't think so! Where's Binky these days? And how many of the Help Desk fans have had catastrophic failures this past week? Verrry suspicious if you ask me....

HD Failures

Hard Drives fail because:

They are used frequently(!)

They are running hot all the time (130F +)

They are a sucky brand

My Compaq Presario 2100 is a notorious hard drive eater. I would buy new hard drive every year! Good ones, too! It's the heat that the laptop hard drive has to endure during its life cycle. A desktop drive can run cooler due to ventilation and surface area, but a laptop drive is tiny and can dissipate only so much heat through the laptop's casing.


And possibly also because the computer demons that run the big companies get into your computer and smash it to bits with a hammer. Metaphorcally speaking, of course. I've had no problems with my computer lately, but I'm putting off installing this new video card I just got for precisely that reason. I don't WANT to have any problems with my computer, and I know that something is going to irreparably break the moment I try to change anything.

It May Not Even Be The Drive

If you have a Windows CD - particularly XP - you can use the BIOS to try and boot from the CD rather than the HDD. This allows you to isolate the HDD from the rest of the computer.

Don't re-install Windows, when given the chance, quit to the recovery console - it's a pseudo-DOS shell.

Once you have logged into DOS, run the command "chkdsk /r" from the command prompt.


Wait some more.

Go to sleep.

Wake up, check the notebook.

Hopefully, it was just some partitioning corruption, and the disk is repaired. To test, run chkdsk /r again - it should be significantly shorter.

If you see a lot of messages about bad sectors - time for a new drive. It sucks, but it's easy.

If it locks up (and you will HAVE TO leave it overnight to tell - badly corrupted but salvagable drives take forever) then you have a bigger problem, and it's likely RAM.

If your system is either always on, or if you use hibernate, bad RAM can corrupt a HDD nearly instantly.

Also, if all else fails... by a Mac :P