Brand new used computer

Laptop computers are a fundamental part of my life these days. Over the summer I took a two week trip to Belize (25th anniversary with my wife), and I fought the urge to take my laptop. First because I would be scuba diving for a week, but second because the trip was supposed to be about us, and not the computer. (Okay, so I borrowed the resort’s computer a couple a couple of times …)

Anyway, my school has been generous enough to provide me with a laptop for years and years now, and the travel bag over my shoulder is definitely a standard part of my persona. So when my alter ego started acting strangely some weeks ago, it put me into a very strange place.

While I won’t mention manufacturer’s names, I currently have a Brand X laptop. I’ve used Brand X for years, and really like them a lot. (Which is saying something because a dozen years ago I worked for another PC manufacturer, NEC.) Anyway, a couple years ago, when the last Brand X computer was three years old, I was told that it was up for replacement, and that I would be getting a new Brand Y computer. Knowing how much I liked Brand X, I asked if I could get an X instead of a Y. As it turned out, my Brand X loyalty not only convinced them to get me an X, but five or six other people in the school got X’s as well. And other than a brief LCD noise issue, I’ve been happy for two+ years.

In the last month, however, strange things started happening to my system. The CPU fan started running at Mach speed (but the Task Manager didn’t see anything chewing up cycles). The LCD brightness would spontaneously change. The “Docking …” alert box would pop up while I was sitting in my easy chair. The system would not shut down completely when I wanted it to, forcing me to kill the power directly. The system would not (always) boot up nicely. When docked at school, it would suddenly forget that it was docked, and thus I would lose my mouse, LCD projector port, etc.

Suspecting malware, I gave it virus scans, spambot scans, adaware scans … which found a thing or two but didn’t fix the underlying problems. My tech at school and I concluded that something on the motherboard was malfunctioning, and that the system would need replacing. Curiously enough, most if not all of the other Brand X systems purchased at the same time were encountering other bizarre failures which couldn’t be tracked to any single point of failure. We concluded that, while Brand X is an otherwise fine manufacturer, we had obviously gotten a “bad batch.” Unfortunately, replacement systems (from Brand Y) were a few to several weeks off. I resigned myself to do whatever I could to keep the system alive as best as I could, and hope I could last until replacements arrive.

The past two or three days were getting very difficult. Boot-ups would take 15 minutes, if it booted at all; I could no longer connect an LCD projector to the VGA port (it appeared as though the VGA port lost the ability to hold the vertical sync). All but one particular mouse would not work. Blue Screens of Death were occurring several times a day. I would not, apparently, make it until November. So in desperation, I turned to my techie and asked if I could “borrow” one of the other systems that had been returned as defective. I swapped hard drives, and booted up my old hard drive in the new / defective system. It is working perfectly. (The techie and I are wondering if by “defective” the previous owner meant “virus plagued”?)

I figure, if nothing else, I would last the few more weeks before new systems arrive. But, if things work as well as the seem right now, I might just hold onto this, and let it last its full three years.


About Mr. I

After 17 years as a PC Software Engineer I gave it all up in 2000 to become a High School Computer Teacher
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