Last weekend I finished building a new computer. I was forced into this by the death of Suckegg 7, which had been my main gaming PC for 2.5 years*. I’ll do a brief writeup of the new machine build shortly, but to start, I thought I’d share the befuddling tale of its predecessor’s death.
The first clue I had that something was wrong was about a year ago. Randomly when it booted it would forget what its boot drive was, and I would have to go into the bios and reset it to the correct boot drive. I tried a number of things to fix this (resetting the bios, replacing the bios battery, patching the bios), but nothing worked, and at a certain point it stopped letting me patch the bios alltogether. At this point I concluded I had corrupt bios and started thinking maybe I needed a new machine, or at least a new motherboard, after looking into what it would take to fix corrupt bios and deciding it was a no go. There were two problems with buying a new machine though. First, for about the last 15 years I’ve replaced my machine roughly every two years, but when we knew my son Brady was on the way I spent a bit more than I normally would and figured on the machine lasting me 3+ years. This meant I didn’t want to go and build a new machine, I had sunk money into the one I had and wanted to keep it. Second, they no longer manufacture the motherboard I had, and ‘new’ boards on the aftermarket were $300+ – at least $100 over what I paid, so I didn’t want to pay that much to try and swap out the motherboard in the hopes that would fix it. I actually bought a different model of the motherboard with the same chipset, figuring I could swap everything out and manage to get the right device drivers running on the thing, but chickened out at the amount of work it would take to do it.
Bottom line is I sat on my hands for about a year, dealing with the annoyance of sometimes not booting and having to muck about in the bios to get the machine booted. That was more or less working until December, when the newest and lightest used drive in the system died, causing one of those ‘the system is recovering from a serious error’ blue screens and a dead drive. When that happened I did a chkdsk on all the drives (there were 4 – an SSD boot drive, a 1TB game drive, a 2TB media drive, and a 2TB backup drive), and every one of them had serious problems. At that point I freaked and concluded I needed to write images of every volume as a precaution, despite having recent backups of everything, my theory being I would buy new drives and use those images to get me completely back up and running. I have Acronis, one of the best reviewed backup and disk utility packages on Windows, and thought that this would be easy, but then things got freaky. Imaging my 80GB SSD took 3 days. 3 DAYS!!!. The 1TB drive took over a week. Writing that image back out to a newly purchased drive then took another week. A freaking week!!! I tried all kinds of things to get around this – replacing all the SATA cables, pulling everything but the essentials out of the machine (boot drive, ram, cpu, gpu), booting to cd, to usb drive – nothing worked. Speed was abysmal. Meanwhile, during all this flailing about, the machine stopped booting – it would come up bluescreen of death, and could not even boot to safe mode.
At that point I became so frustrated I stopped touching the thing for a couple of weeks. Eventually I brought it into a local pc repair shop, figuring my time was worth more than the $50 they would charge me to tell me what the hell was wrong with the thing. That was only partly true as it turned out. They came back with a diagnosis of bad sectors on the SSD where a critical windows file was located (which I had already kind of sussed out), and offered to do a data migration for $100-200 depending on how complex that turned out to be. Worst case $200+150 for a new SSD, with me thinking the motherboard was the root of the problem and this money would not fix the issues caused me to bail on the machine. I bought new parts and built a new box. I’ll write that up shortly as per custom, but the spoiler is it was easy this go around, cost me about $850, and I’ll be selling off the remaining working parts from the old machine on ebay to subsidize the purchase shortly. I figure I can get around $300 for those, meaning my out of pocket is not much worse than the repair costs quoted by the repair shop ($350 vs. $550), for a repair I didn’t have confidence in. My one remaining question is, what the hell went wrong with the old one? My best guess is bios corruption introduced data corruption problems on the sata devices, but it’s really just a guess. Anyone else want to weigh in?
*(the name Suckegg 7 derives from when I first moved from Macs to PC’s oh so many years ago. That was in the Windows 95 era, and I joked with friends at the time that Windows sucked eggs in compared to Macs, which I then used as its network name (suckegg). Suckegg 7 isn’t the 7th machine in the sequence, but it was the first running Windows 7, so….)