The Adventures of the “Personal Computer”

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About a year ago, my speakers started doing something strange. They started crackling. It was a great annoyance to me, as I watch a lot of video and listen to a lot of music on my PC, so most of the time it was difficult to hear. I had thought at the time that it was my speakers that had gone bad. But then, the crackling subsided due to what it seemed like to me at least at the time, cold weather. Not sure how that worked, but I was happy with the temporary quiet that my speakers served me, only to find that as the season changed back into summer, the problem returned. However, this time I determined it was not my speakers, it was my soundcard. (I had attached a pair of headphones into the soundcard’s headphone jack and lo and behold, crackling!)

That told me that I needed to get a new sound card, but I was not happy with this prospect either ( though much cheaper, given that I have a nice 5.1 setup). The computer that I have is a Dell 8400 P4 3.2GHz. It has served me well for almost 5 years, and I had loved it for most of those years, but it seemed to get slower and slower to me in the past six months, even after a reformat. Problem is, I use many applications all at once – Photoshop, Lightroom, 20 browser tabs open, sometimes multiple browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and Opera), in addition to watching a movie in the background. It got to be all too much for my poor computer. Plus, .mkv video files have started being so popular that I found that I couldn’t watch those files without turning off every single application.

With my growing frustration, I started researching what kind of computer I wanted. I knew that in the past five years, dual core and quad core processors started being popular, but that was about it. I felt pretty much in the dark, given how quickly technology moves. I started off looking at Dell computers, since my past two or three computers have all been Dell. They’ve treated me very well. One thing that was mandatory though for me, was a requirement of being expandable and supporting four hard drives. No can do.  I was not willing to turn to Hewlett Packard, or other companies, so I decided to build my own computer.

Besides having built a couple PCs back at my first job, my experience in building a computer was next to nothing. However, I knew that I wanted a fast processor that would last me many years, a case that was expandable, and a new hard drive. I do know that if I can do it, anyone can, as long as you research.

Once I had gotten all my parts, it took me a good couple of evenings + half a day during the weekend to put my computer together. Here in Southern California, we were going through a heat wave, and with the lack of air conditioning, I was sweating all the while figuring out which cable needed to go where on my motherboard, so my head was half functioning.

Once all my core components were put together, I plugged in the power cable into the power supply, flipped the power switch on the back of the power supply, and voila! Nothing.

Yes, nothing. At this point, I started to panic. What possibly could go wrong? Nothing was lighting up. Was my power supply bad? All these thoughts started running through my head. I called my boyfriend, the expert PC builder. “Is your power switch on?” “Of course it’s on! I turned it on and nothing happened.” “Is your other power switch in front of the computer on?” “…………….Oh, huh, let me get back to you on that, I’ll call you back later!”

Yes, I forgot that all computers had a power switch on the front of the computer to turn it on, as you know, computers are not usually on 24 hours a day, with no other method of turning off the computer except turning the power switch off from the power supply. So, once I turned the power switch on, my computer whirred happily and I saw my motherboard start-up screen display. All was well with the world.

The moral of the story: Even self proclaimed nerds have moments of idiocy.

Since then, I’ve had a few bumps here and there, with a high pitched noise being emited with the motherboard, with Windows acting up (due to some application I had installed), which was fixed with a quick re-install, and an issue with one of my old hard drives.

Have any of you done similar “smack-your-head-duh” moment before? I’d love to hear your stories!

Note: It may be a challenge for someone who is not computer literate, but I will hopefully, in laymen terms, describe how one goes about building a computer in a future post.

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