Well, I’m on my annual vacation with my parents this week. The trip down was fairly smooth and most things are going okay. I’ve got some gaming to report on; things are piling up, as usual.

However, the computer is not fine. It’s amazing how incipient problems can suddenly turn into full-blown disasters just by moving the darn hardware. A little background first:

A few months ago, our house server (Argentum) started having trouble, and was randomly locking up while not actually involved in anything. I managed to make the problem better, so that it was locking up within a week, instead of within a day, but it was still having problems that I couldn’t figure out. We had been planning on retiring Argentum and just having all our files on Alexandria, a NAS with much more storage than Argentum, so I took the main data drive out, and attached it to my system (Horo), and it’s been the auxiliary house server ever since. (Trying to get Argentum’s data *organized* as we move it from one place to another has kept the project from getting finished of course.)

For the last month or so, I’ve been noticing problems with Horo wanting to get extra boggy switching from task to task, usually if it had been sitting idle all day (no excessive memory or CPU load despite long delay times). I also noted some problems with painfully slow startups, and occasionally it just didn’t want to start, but I had been able to eventually coax it into Windows, which would act fine. Generally, the restart seemed slower after Horo had been on for a few days and was being boggy in Windows. If it hadn’t gotten to that point, startup seemed fine.

As usual, I drove down to my parent’s on Thanksgiving day, and arrived in the early evening. Everything was fine, except that Horo now wouldn’t start at all. There are two places where startup fails: 1) blank screen, no cursor, right before Windows kicks off. 2) “Windows is Starting” screen comes up, but the four lights that turn into the Microsoft logo (Win 7 startup animation). Previously, it would just pause there for a long time before continuing, Thursday night it halted, and Windows eventually noticed that Startup had failed and started a recovery process (impressive!). However, that ran about 2-3 hours (claimed should be several minutes) before declaring that the recovery  attempt had failed.

I managed to contact Baron the next morning, and got my Windows 7 disk express mailed to me, and got it Saturday (I owe Baron $20, >.<). It’s tools for repairing Windows turned out to be the same as the onboard ones, and did no better. I ended up by having to do do an all-new install of Windows, which has left me without a bunch of programs, some of which I was planning to use while on vacation, but at least Horo was up again.

Once I had a working version of Windows, I was finally able to get at CHKDSK (which I had wanted to do in the first place) on Sunday and did a full scan on the main drive. It *did* find some file errors, and that was after I had cleaned off the bulk of the old Windows files (two of the three files it didn’t like were actually in the Recycle Bin). No bad physical sectors were found however.

Monday morning, I had a repeat of the startup halt, and Windows recognized the problem, and it was able to successfully restore to a previous system state this time. Which meant I lost my last software install, and had to do it over again (Acrobat Reader). However, that means that whatever the problem is, it’s not just a random bit of corruption, but either a drive, or the motherboard’s drive controller are having problems. I’m still not at all sure just which it is.

For those of you still following along, and want to offer advice on the matter, here’s the physical setup: Horo’s motherboard only natively supports SATA, but it also has ATA through a secondary on-board I/O chipset. The DVD drive and OS-hard drive (which had the errors) are SATA; my primary data drive and the one that came out of Argentum are ATA (in fact they’re the same model of drive). The SATA drive is obviously the newest, but it’s the one with trouble. On the other hand the last hardware change before I started things started going downhill is the second ATA drive.

I’ll have more general news of how the trip itself is going in a couple of days. ^_^;