Wha.. Huh? What day is this?

I’ve been busy building a computer this week… I never intended to spend my time building a computer, of course, I’d planned to blog every day, but shit happens. It went like this:

My very good friend MH called me the week before last and asked me to come over to her house to hook up her DSL service. She just needed an ethernet card installed in her computer in order to connect to the DSL modem. Whoohoo! She was getting high speed internet access. Normally, I try to avoid working on other people’s computers because I’m tired of it and something usually goes wrong. However, since this was really a first request from MH, and we have been friends since the age of two, I agreed to help her.

Last Saturday I went to her house. I turned on her computer to find it had Windows 95 and 32MB of RAM. The machine was five years old, basically old as dirt as far as computers go. I unhooked everything and opened the case to double check what kind of ethernet card we needed. Fine, no problem… despite the age of the machine, this was do-able. So, off to CompUSA to buy the card. We were halfway there when she asked about upgrading the machine to Windows 98. Well, for starters, you’d need to put more RAM in the machine, I’d told her. Feeling indulgent, I turned the car around so that we could go back to her house to figure out what kind of RAM she needed so that we could buy some. Not that I’d be upgrading the operating system today, I told her, but that I would sometime.

CompUSA had the ethernet card we needed, but no RAM. We were told by the clerk they don’t carry it because it’s old. Okay, no problem. We were gonna deal with that another time anyway. Back to MH’s house. I popped the ethernet card into the computer, hooked everything up and turned the computer on. Hmmm… no picture. The monitor would not turn on. I unhooked everything and double-checked that the video card hadn’t become loosened. I re-seated it and we tried again. Still no video. In fact, the monitor wouldn’t even power on. It was dead. Unquestionably dead.

It so happened that I had a very nice monitor that I’ve been wanting to sell. I told this to MH and she agreed to buy it. It was 7 p.m. and we hadn’t had dinner, so we decided to go to my office where I’d been keeping the monitor to pick it up. Then we would stop at my house to let the dogs out, go to dinner, then go back to her house and finish the job. When we got to my house, I remembered that I had an old computer that I’d been planning to donate to an organization that refurbishes them for schools. Perhaps it had extra stuff we could use. Opening it up, I realized it was identical to hers so I pulled the RAM out and we took that, and the entire machine, along.

After dinner, we were back at MH’s house. I added the extra RAM from my machine, hooked up the ‘new’ monitor and turned it on. The monitor worked, but the machine beeped non-stop and wouldn’t start up. Nothing I did from that point forward worked… something was wrong and I had no idea what it was. How absolutely frustrating. In the end, I put her machine and mine back into my car and told her I’d have to work it out at home. Hopefully, between all the parts in the two machines, I’d be able to get her a working machine soon. I felt really bad because I didn’t even know if what I had done had caused the problem. MH told me she’d buy a new machine if she had to but that she really couldn’t afford it.

It turned out that not only had her monitor died but that her motherboard had kicked too. It was likely both got zapped by static electricity. It was very cold out, her house was dry and had low humidity. I don’t know what happened to the monitor but I’m sure I grounded myself before touching the motherboard. Even so, it had fried died.

I built her a machine using my old one, adding her CPU fan, hard drive and modem. She ended up with a better video card, a better sound card, a faster CDRom drive and a second hard drive, which made for a whopping 3.2GB! Hehehe. Her RAM and mine combined was 64MB, so I installed Windows 98 for her. She also got my ethernet card, so she can return the one she bought. I had to get a $3 battery for the motherboard. Everything works but the stupid computer is still losing time, even after changing the battery, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Still, it’s usable as is.

Tonight I will go to her house with the machine, hook up DSL and bolt. What an enormous amount of aggravation this whole process has been. I just want it to be over and done with. Admittedly, I probably went above and beyond for her, but she is a close friend. I did also feel somewhat responsible too, even though this could have happened to anyone at anytime.

The moral of the story? There are two: First, just say no! Second, never, ever attempt to put new technology in an old machine. Don’t even open the case. It will cause chain reaction snafus beyond your wildest expectations.


  1. That just sucks. I was going to have some friends build me a computer, but I’m going with a Dell instead because I don’t want to deal with friend-tech support. I hate being tech support for my mother-in-law when she can’t remember what the a: drive is. 🙂

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