Apr 01, 2021
4 mins read
Welcome to a new section! Now more or less I´m reaching the point of having a basic structure for my blog regarding the retro-computers and computers part. After this post and the next will try to also finally add some citizen science content.
So, like the names indicates, welcome to my workbench, where I will write about some interesting experiences while fixing computers where I can give some advices to avoid headaches with your personal computers.
First things first, we are going to be dealing with computers running Windows, over here in Argentina things like Macintosh have a quite limited reach because they simply too expensive so the general public mostly only knows the iPhone regarding Apple with any luck.
So, first case for the blog.... what was wrong with this computer? Actually a lot of things! First... just with the first glance you can already tell...
Indeed, was pretty much a biohazard problem, specially taking into account the current situation. But first lesson people, if you remove your desktop computer side panel and looks like this, you really need to do a good clean up.
So, before doing a complete clean up, just did a quick a basic one to be able to power one the computer and started to see the rest of the problems.
The next problem was booting, I lack the proper equipment to film the process, but let´s say that taking 15 minutes to even reach desktop is a bit much. Why so slow you say? There were two problems, the first one was just lack of RAM, the machine was running with only 2 Gb of DDR2 RAM memory, that was fixed simply by updating the amount of RAM to 4 Gb that was the maximum amount supported by this motherboard.
"DDR2?!? That is old!!!" I hear a lot of people saying, and indeed, its old, but actually you have a lot of perfectly capable computers from that era than can work perfectly with current things like the latest Windows 10 version, they key there is RAM since you need at least 4 Gb and the video card that needs to have some kind of Windows 10 or 8 support to be able to work properly. This motherboard has a GeForce 6150LE onboard, so using a Windows 8 driver is the way to go there, the only detail to get it working is to disable the transparency option, otherwise is glitchy.
What was the second problem? Well...
The hard drive was almost dead, was fortunate that they brought the computer to be fixed, since that family has a lot of family phots and video stored there and all that was in the brink of being completely lost. So the first thing was to copy the content of those folders to an external hard drive. I love those two diagnostic programs Hard Disk Sentinel 1.00.5 and Test Hard Disk Drive 1.0, both DOS freewares, loaded in Hirens Boot, VERY practical for hard drives initial troubleshooting. The first gives you a quick glance of the general state of the drive and use information and the second gives a pretty accurate read about the state of the surface of the disk and overall performance.
So, time for a proper clean up and fresh parts!
For memory I usually prefer Kingstone, but using a generics ones in these cases because it was a miracle to be able to get those new for starters, in Argentina sadly the concept of "new old stock" don´t exist. For hard drive, Western Digital Blue Label is my go to given its performance, durability and flexibility in their troubleshooting that as allow me to recover a lot of those units in all these years, even counting the units I have and have working 24/7.
Not much else of relevance to share here, aside the detail mentioned above about disabling Windows transparencies to avoid a glitch in the GeForce 6150LE driver, the repair/hardware update for this machine went pretty smoothly!
There you can see it while I was copying again this people personal files from my external to their new hard drive. I almost always partition the drives, which is something a lot of people don´t do because they see it as unnecessary, but in my personal experience fixing computers since 2000 in a lot of occasions allows to save the information on faulty hard drives or using backup tools like the old Norton Ghost.
Also you can see the RAM usage sitting at 49%, pointing out to that need of having at least 4 GB of RAM to have a usable experience with Windows 10. Regarding performance in common task, this old machine works perfectly even reach 1080p in YouTube with Firefox (but not 60 fps 1080p). How much time they can keep using that computer in terms of usability? Well, if the motherboard doesn’t die and later on they buy a video card like lest say a GT 710 or GT 1030, it has a few more years of perfectly good use, you can update the processor but it’s not really worth it whit that hard 4 Gb RAM limit.
And that is! Here the specs:
Processor: DualCore AMD Athlon II X2 250, 3000 MHz
Motherboard: Biostar MCP6PB M2+
Video: GeForce 6150LE (on board)
Memory: 4 GB DDR2 Hynix
Hard Drive: 1 TB Western Digital Blue Label Sata III
Optical Drive: LG DVDRW sata (still works!)
Regarding the case, not much to tell, just a extremely generic and worm out "Noga Net" case that has even lost the frontal USB ports because the small kids of that house destroyed them, and generally small kids and computers can be a explosive combo.
I hope everybody enjyed and found this a bit informative!