The very good news A friend lent us his device that turns an internal hard drive into an external, usb device, and we were able to copy the data to a new one-terabyte backup drive. (Time out for a sigh of amazement. One terabyte? We used to do our backups on 5 1/4 inch floppies with a capacity of 110 kilobytes.) Losing the hard drive would not have been a total disaster, as I have several layers of backup, but they are a bit spotty and it was really, really nice to have access to the files as I had left them the night before all this started.
The related bad news What's the point of having backed up the whole C drive instead of just my own data, if one can't transfer all that information over to a new machine? Apparently the way the Windows Registry works, all the programs will have to be reinstalled anyway—which of course means not only a lot of work but that I lose whatever came preinstalled with the original machine. Oh for the days when they gave you the original disks—even for the operating system—when you bought a computer! I guess that will save me backup space from now on, unless someone can tell me there's reason for backing up anything other than my personal files.
The lovely news We've been studying The Five Love Languages in a class at church. Porter has been exhibiting "Acts of Service" at a great rate with regard to this computer problem: making phone calls, doing Internet searches, driving across down....
The very frustrating news The Internet search for the appropriate motherboard was fruitless. According to the people Porter talked to, that board is very popular right now; many people are trying to find it. I wonder if it had an expiration date and everyone's is going bad? Like sour milk or stale bread? Getting anything other than the correct motherboard would require getting a new case for the machine and kludging things together, as the Gateway motherboard is not a standard configuration.
The absolutely ridiculous customer "support" news So Porter broke down and called Gateway to see how much an out-of-warranty repair would cost. Guess what? Not only will Gateway not sell the necessary parts, they won't do out-of-warranty repairs themselves! I guess one is supposed to buy a new computer, but I don't see how that helps Gateway, since there's no way I'm buying another computer from them...unless all the major companies are in collusion. But I'm not a conspiracy theorist—yet.
The temporarily hopeful news The Gateway tech recommended a website for finding the correct motherboard. It was one Porter had found, and indeed they had the right board, but it was "out of stock." Buoyed by the Gateway recommendation, Porter called the company, which appeared to be helpful. Yes, that board was out of stock and they didn't know when if ever they would get it again. It was a very hot item, and they had another Gateway motherboard that was similar which several people had bought instead of the correct one. We could buy that and try it out, returning it if it didn't work—they'd even waive the normal 15% restocking fee. So Porter ordered one ($200) and we had a "party" at the home of the above-mentioned friend who lent us his hard drive enclosure. Now this is a guy whose life is in large part computers, both his vocation and his avocation. He had built every one of the uncountable computers in his house, except for the castoffs he as adopted, and I suspect he's done a lot to modify them, as well. So it was encouraging to see him and Porter settle down to installing the new motherboard.
The discouraging news At first it went well, thanks to our friend having some spare parts, such as ribbon cable, that had somehow been lost while the machine was at the repair shop :( , and despite the fact that the motherboard came with absolutely no documentation at all, and looked as if it is used, not new. :( :( But it was a case of "almosts." The board doesn't quite fit so some of the ports wouldn't work. One capacitor is too tall, so the heat sink doesn't quite line up, so they ahd to monitor the CPU temperature while working. If it ever works, we'll have to rout out the heat sink some. But we didn't get that far. After much twiddling, Windows boots! Sort of. But only in safe mode; otherwise it hangs. After much effort and frustration, they gave up and we went to dinner. So that's where it stands now: in our living room, in pieces.
The dilemma So what do we do now?
- Pour a lot of time and energy into trying to get Windows working, followed by making all sorts of kludges to get other things to fit/work, and (probably) reinstalling all my programs?
- Pay to send the motherboard back and hope we get some of our $200 returned?
- Buy an inexpensive new computer with space for good working parts (e.g. DVD drives, hard drive) from the old machine? Easier said than done—the "basic" computers I've looked at tend not to have a lot of expansion space.
- Invest (again!) in a fancy desktop computer and hope this one lasts longer?
- Take advantage of the opportunity to get a new laptop and hope it lasts?
- Give it to Jon as a Christmas present? After all, it has a (probably) working motherboard, a DVD read drive, a DVD write drive (both very nice), a 250MB hard drive, a high-speed, dual-core Athelon processor, a GB of memory, and a few other bells and whistles. (My suggestion)
- Don't give it to Jon, as a Christmas present for Heather. (Janet's suggestion)
- Use it as a boat anchor. (Porter's suggestion)
The interim solution I'm using our (old) laptop, having devised a scheme for keeping large quantities of data on the Maxtor 60G portable hard drive I take with me when travelling. The immediate reason for this is that the laptop's hard drive capacity is only 20GB (actually less) which is woefully insufficient to hold my data alone—and Porter and I share this machine. I think I like the idea, and plan to continue using it even when/if we get another machine, because then I won't have to worry about synchronizing data when we travel. The interim solution is actually working fairly well, my primary frustrations being (1) I can't burn CD's or DVD's; (2) I can't read DVD's; (3) there are only two USB ports, and (4) the USB ports are old and slow—not only does data transfer take forever, but I'm heartily sick of having Windows tell me, every time I plug in a device, that it would peform faster if only I had a USB 2 port, when it knows quite well that I don't.
Stay tuned. I believe it's time to write my friend Bill McCollum a letter. It's a little early for Christmas cards, but I think he's due one in his capacity as Florida's Attorney General. I need to vent about Gateway to someone besides my faithful, but small, blog audience.