Down The Silicon Rabbit Hole

I spent way too much time this week and especially today trying to untie the Gordian knot of my current computer setup. You need to fix “A,” but to do that you need to do “B,” but to do that you need to do “C,” which in turn causes a fatal problem with “D”…

What’s the old line? “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s important to remember that the original job was to drain the swamp.”

Windows 10 has been a bit of a problem on one system (A), and while it was behaving a little better after some tweaking, something still isn’t right. The other system can’t run Windows 10 at all due to old, old hardware and no compatible replacements being built any more. Which doesn’t stop Win10 from demanding permission to upgrade every time I sit down.

Then there was a viral invasion which hit my address book and started spewing virus-ridden spam (B). Given the number of systems here and how heavily they get used, I guess I’m lucky that this is only the second actual infection that I can remember. In trying to shut it down I ran into a problem with my anti-virus software, which should have prevented it in the first place.

Turns out that the anti-virus product I’ve used for years isn’t one of best on the market as it was when I switched to it long ago (C). It was great then, got lots of stellar reviews – but then its little company got bought by a company which got bought by a company which sold off just that product… Bottom line, if you go review it now, it’s “so-so” at best.

So, I’m off to find a really good virus removal tool and top of the line anti-virus program for today (D). It seems that’s Kaspersky, which got five-star reviews across the board on several sites that I trust. Downloading the virus removal tool rooted out the problem (I hope) and I started replacing the old program with Kaspersky. Which was simple and easy on the desktop that’s still running Windows 7 and the laptop that’s now Windows 10. But…

On the desktop that’s been upgraded to Windows 10, that problem with it crashing without warning (not even a Blue Screen Of Death!) has gotten much, much worse now that Kaspersky’s installed (E). In fact, every single time I try to run a full system scan, within a fifteen to twenty minutes the system will reboot.

Lots of Googling and digging deeper into the Win10 diagnostics than I ever wanted to indicates that it’s the video card driver (F). But that system is also pretty old, so there are no updated drivers, nor are there any video cards that will run on that old PCI architecture. Messing around with some suggested fixes has improved the situation to where it now crashes and reboots without warning after a half-hour or so instead of after ten minutes – but it’s still crashing and rebooting.

I then spent a couple of hours digging into the esoteric details of PCI, PCI Express, PCI Express 2.0 and 3.0, and running through the specs on half of the video cards on to see if anything will work (G). The answer is maybe, and the cards in question are only $70 or so, which is reasonable – but they will only support one monitor at a time. Both of the desktop systems are dual monitor setups and I’ll go nuts with just a single monitor.

The solution there is to put in two video cards to run two monitors (H). But the motherboards on both of these old desktop systems each only have one slot that I can still use for any modern video card. Back to square one.

So how old exactly are these systems? Go to the Dell Computer site and look up the original specifications (I) and manuals. One is from 2007, the other from 2009. Well THERE’s your problem!

Given how much time I’ve spent screwing around with this to keep two systems kinda sorta maybe stable and running, maybe it would be faster (and possibly even cheaper) to just look at scrapping them and getting new systems. Let’s see what Dell has (J). They have plug-and-play pre-built systems that have only marginal abilities to be upgraded or expanded, they have extremely expensive systems designed for gaming (I’m not a gamer – I’m trying to get some work done), and they have workstations. The workstations are the closest thing to what I’m looking for, but they start at about three times what I was hoping to pay.

What about Newegg (K)? Or Hewlett Packard? Or Costco? Can I get a system with a big tower configuration that I can expand (I like to be able to customize and tinker and add extra memory and hard disks) for a reasonable price and then upgrade in the future as needed? Maybe. It’s still about 50% more than I was hoping to spend, but it might work. On the other hand, you’re buying it sight unseen from an internet site, and if it’s not what I want I might be stuck.

Maybe I could go someplace where I could actually look at one and see what kind of capabilities it has (L)? Fry’s Electronics was always the go-to place for this, but they’ve gone so far downhill that I dread the very thought of stepping in the door.

So how do I get the systems I want at a price that’s not going to break the bank (M)? It’s been a few years, but I guess I could start assembling a parts list from Newegg and do a DIY system. Start checking on cases, motherboards, RAM options, CPU options, hard disks, optical disks, video cards, power supplies…

And this way lies total madness. I probably have the skill set, rusty as it might be, and I’m sure I could get it done, but the time needed would be way more than I have.

Remember the line about draining the swamp? In this case, the original job is to get my computer systems safe, stable, and functional. Right now they’re borderline and I need to fix that. But it’s NOT a good option to take on a job that could take hundreds of hours when I don’t have time to spare for breathing some days.

Yet I can’t stay where I am (N).

It’s late, I have to get up and go to work tomorrow morning. I think I’ll do the logical thing and go to bed, hoping that the computer repair and upgrade fairies will show up tonight and take care of this.

Or at least they can keep the one system from crashing and the other from spewing out spam.

That would be helpful.


Filed under Castle Willett, Computers, Paul

2 responses to “Down The Silicon Rabbit Hole

  1. berich56

    I hear you. Mine is a 2008 Dell with the first gen i7 and 6 gigs of memory. Remember when Bill Gates said all you will ever need is 640k of memory!! Let us know what you find for a good deal, I’m kinda looking myself. I think when I get a new box that I will turn this one into a server.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t find anything yet where my first thought isn’t, “Okay, I’ll have to upgrade this and this…” I guess the winner will be the one with the fewest things that I have to throw out and upgrade in the first hour.


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