It might have been made in 2002 but this ornery eMachines still has a lot of fight. We warred from early Sunday afternoon until 5pm today. Ultimately, after a near panic attack and a break to eat dinner and drink as much red wine as I could, I believe I have won.
Like most battles with my computer it started over nothing. I have an ATI Radeon 8500 video card with 128MB on-board RAM. I wanted to upgrade to a generic video card with 500MB on-board RAM, so I took the ATI card out, popped the generic card in, screwed everything back into place, plugged the computer back in, pressed the power button, and...
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP
Holy mother of God. OK. So I unplugged the computer, took the cover off, unscrewed everything, put the old video card back in, screwed everything back into place, plugged the computer back in, pressed the power button, and...
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP
Rinse and repeat for five minutes. I realized that maybe it was my hard drive(s), since I took those out while I was in there to replace a 30GB drive with a newer 300GB drive. I couldn't do it because I don't have the right "splitter" - the new drive is SATA and my computer takes ATA; you have to do a lot of fancy-ass shit to get SATA working that I can't do without the right accessories.
So I took the hard drives out and switched the cables around since I wasn't sure which cable went to what in the first place. While I was in there, with my head under the hard drive mount, I looked up and saw I'd knocked another cable out of place when I disconnected the hard drives. So I reconnected it, screwed everything back into place, plugged the computer back in, pressed the power button, and...
HALF MY MEMORY WAS GONE
At that point I gave up, waved a white flag at my computer, and promised it I would kick its ass in the morning. Except I overslept so I didn't get a chance until early this afternoon.
I tried to run Windows Memory Diagnostic, but it took me over an hour to find and download an ISO burner that works on my machine - that would be ImgBurn. After I burned the image, I spent another twenty minutes unable to boot from it. I checked my BIOS settings but there wasn't much to do; the computer already has the first three boot slots set as "Boot From CD-/DVD-ROM".
I went back to Microsoft's User Guide; it said to boot from the MemDiag image you need cdburn.exe, and to get cdburn.exe, you have to download the entire Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. At this point I was saying, out loud, to no one but myself, "You have got to be fucking kidding."
So the Battle of Mount RAM began...
My computer is designed so that to remove the memory sticks you have to first remove the video card, because it's in the way, laying right over the clip on slot 1, so this started out bad and got worse from there. I popped one stick out (the older stick), plugged the computer back in, pressed the power button, and...
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP
So I took the other stick out (the newer one) popped the older stick into the newer stick's slot, plugged everything back in (after I adjusted the video card, which may or may not have gone in right), pressed the power button, and...
IT "JUST WORKED" (for a second, it was like having a Mac).
I bounced the sticks back and forth for a few minutes to determine that a) both slots worked and that b) both sticks worked. Everything passed my archaic tests with flying colors. Windows was able to do successful RAM tests on both sticks, no matter which slot I used.
The strange thing is, the computer could recognize, test and use either stick when inserted one at a time but it could not do any of that with both of them inserted at once. And the only stick it could not successfully use was beyond my ability to figure out.
I have a program on my computer, Astra32, that I got for free on giveawayoftheday.com the other day, and it too found and recognized both sticks of RAM - one is an old 500MB Infineon stick, while the other is my newer 500MB Kingston RAM.
ASK THY NEIGHBOR
So I went to find my boyfriend, who was on the front lawn, helping a neighbor with his bike. Since I'm almost better at computers than he is - even though he's the person who taught me when I was all green and newb that pressing the power button would never hurt me - I expected to hear a litany of, "I don't knows". And I sure did.
"But ask him", he said, waving a hand at our neighbor. "He knows computers." I tried to
not burst out laughing remain polite; the neighbor doesn't look like he'd know his way out a paper bag, not even with a flashlight. "What's the problem?" he inquired.
Upon hearing it, he thought the motherboard was shot, since Windows recognized both sticks and both memory slots worked, but only one stick of RAM would work at a time even if both were in there together, and there was no way to parse out which, if any, stick had failed.
Upon further discussion he was convinced the north controller had failed. I wouldn't know a north controller if I fell over it but he says if it got cracked or damaged during yesterday's battles (Mount Video Card and Mount Hard Drive, respectively), that was it...pop a new motherboard in or do without half a gig of RAM, since adding new memory would not help.
ANYONE GOT A MOTHERBOARD?
I don't know about anyone else, but I don't usually stockpile old eMachines motherboards. So I did what I usually do when I'm out of luck: I gave my boyfriend my most un-seductive, "I will drill holes through your skull with my eyes" glare until he said, "I know I have more RAM laying around the house; let me go find it for you."
A few minutes later he was back, waving around a half gig of Kingston RAM. While he was gone our neighbor and I discussed my mismatched RAM (Infineon and Kingston sticks) which should not have worked together for the last two years but somehow did, so I was happy to see my boyfriend had at least produced the correct brand name. But I still didn't know if my other Kingston stick worked.
Under the grip of a full panic attack, thinking I cracked my motherboard yesterday during the first two battles, I popped the Infineon RAM out, popped the "new" Kingston RAM in, plugged the computer back in, pressed the power button, and ...
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP
"I can't take any more," I said, throwing myself on the floor and pounding my head. "I cannot do this."
I popped the RAM back out, reseated it, and powered up this cranky bitch of a computer one more time. Apparently I did not crack my motherboard, because both sticks of Kingston RAM work fine now.
That's when I took a break, had dinner, and drank until I was just tipsy enough to stop having flashbacks.
But the computer is still laying around in pieces; the cover is off and there are loose screws and cards everywhere. I don't care. I'm on strike until the memory of what led to my hard-won victory finally passes (or at least until tomorrow).