Archive for March 1st, 2011


For crying out loud clean your damn computer.

I am essentially tech-support for my partners family and friends.  When one of their PC’s dies it usually winds up on my table where it will be lovingly coaxed back to life.  In fairness that is a specialty of mine, bringing lifeless PC’s back from the abyss.  My last PC for example died so many times I started to call it Daniel Jackson, it was brought back from beyond the river Styx that often.  Now I have no problem repairing any PC.  It’s a fun thing to do.  Almost nothing beats stripping off the casing and spending an afternoon tinkering with the poor things innards.  It gets even better when after all the tinkering I flick the power switch and I get to hear that sweetest of sounds, the happy whirring of properly functioning case fans.  Actually I’m just as happy to spend an evening digging through the registry to fix all the little screw ups any well used PC gathers over time.  I actually enjoy watching a defragmentation program work.  It’s almost hypnotic watching the little boxes flicker as the pieces of data they represent are moved around on the hard drive.

Anyway the point is that I actually enjoy maintaining and fixing computers.  But one thing drives me up the wall.  Please allow me to share with you a short tale of woe to illustrate.

A few years ago one of my partners exe’s gave her his PC so I could have a crack at getting it to run properly.  It was taking eleven minutes to boot up.  Let me repeat that at a loud shout.  ELEVEN MINUTES TO BOOT UP!  Now needless to say the fact the it did boot up at all meant that it was probably recoverable so I went into my patented Amanda Harper MD to PC’s mode.  I spent a few hours working on the software side of things and with a lot of effort I managed to knock about four minutes off of the boot up.  But now it randomly shut itself down.  After about ten reboots I realised that it wasn’t random at all, it shut down after about 6-7 minutes of runtime.  Weird.  Must be a cooling issue.  Maybe the extraction fan isn’t running so the hot air isn’t moving through fast enough.

This is very much like the inside of your vacuum cleaner. Only it's your PC!

So out comes my little tool kit of PC specific tools.  Now like any dyke I’m proud of my tools.  I have woodworking tools, metalworking tools (lots of these since I make armor as a hobby) and I even have some tools for making tools.  But I was proudest of my PC repair kit (that “was” is another story which I will share at a later date when I am internally accompanied by half a bottle of vodka).  It had everything you would expect.  A set of screwdrivers to handle any size of screw I could ever encounter in a PC.  Tiny files and brill bits for modifying casings when needed.  Pliers both metal and plastic for when your fingers are just too big and metal would lead to a hair styling by 220 volts.  It had everything I could possibly need or so I thought.  You see I had foolishly forgotten to include an industrial sandblaster with the screwdrivers and what have you.

So back to the tale of woe.  I took out my tool kit and removed the casing.  When I take off a casing I’m kind of focused and blind to everything else.  I hate damaging the heads or treads of case screws.  I also hate it when I drop the sides of the case and end up with cuts on my toes from sheet metal hitting them from a height.  I’m also a little OCD so I always do these things the same way every time.  That means I take the side underneath the motherboard off first.  It also means that for a few blissful moments I was shielded from the horror that waited within.  Off went the first side.  Nothing too untoward, a little dust but nothing excessive, no loose wires shorting on anything and more importantly no smell of the smoke which all electronic devices run on.  So far so good and best of all I haven’t lost any of the screws, look at them all sitting there safe and sound in the green lidded plastic jar on the table.

Right then off comes the other side.  The screws are removed and carefully put into the green lidded plastic jar.  I put the screwdriver to one side so it won’t damage or be damaged by anything.  Finally I slide the side panel back a centimetre and lift it off.


Is the first thought to hit me immediately after the huge cloud of dust settles on my clothes, my face and in my lungs.  Nothing could have prepared me for the horror represented by this degree of abusive PC ownership.  Everything is covered in a one centimetre thick layer of dust, skin flakes, hair and I dread to think what else.  There might even be things moving in there though I dared not look.  It is a PC fans Lovecraftian nightmare made flesh complete with a dust wrought eldritch horror.  I bet the dimensions of the PC innards could only have been defined using non-euclidean geometry and that outside even the moon was waxing gibbous.  No wonder that poor thing had been running slow and randomly shutting down.  But believe it or not this was not the worst of it.

See? I told you so only definable with Non-Euclidean geometry.

No dear reader I must now give unto you knowledge so disturbing that you may well end up living out the rest of your days in a Victorian asylum.  For you see the CPU heat sink was completely filled with…MOSS!

I am not joking there was a solid mass of moss in the heat sink.  The PC had obviously been left somewhere damp for quite a while and with the large number of cooling vents there had been just enough indirect light to allow a small enterprising colony to start-up.  It had undoubtedly reached the point where it’s population density would force it to make an aggressive land acquisition in other parts of the PC.  But unfortunately around then someone dried out the computer and switched the thing on.  Thus ending what may well have turned out to have been an epic tale of conquest and imperialism to rival that of the Greeks and the Persians.

It took me an hour to get all the dust out of the casing.  I had to dismantle the power supply unit and managed to give myself several nasty cuts trying to get the last of the dust out of some of the tighter spots.  But it took me almost that long again to clean the bloody moss out of the bloody heat sink.  A lot of time and my spare toothbrush.

Afterwards that PC ran like a dream.  A very slow dream it must be said seeing as it was I believe the same model of PC used by Hammurabi to record his laws some time in the 1700’s BC.  But it was still a dream.

So dearest reader what is it I wish you to take from this recounting of horror when you leave my webpage and continue with your day?  Only this.  It is somewhat difficult to kill a PC by accident.  Of course liquids spilled on its innards will bring its lamentable suffering to a quick and smokey end.  A large power spike might just give it a massive stroke thus bringing it to a quick and smokey end.  A large sledgehammer brought heavily down upon it with the force of an enraged midget titan will probably bring it to a quick and smokey end.

Makes me wonder what sort of filth was being downloaded.

These are all sad ends to noble machines.  But nothing is more pathetic than a PC that once downloaded vast amounts of porn when it wasn’t filling the internet with equally vast numbers of  lolcats dying of electronic consumption or tuberculosis.  It’s a needless agony suffered by too many of these wonderous thinking engines.

So for the love of them and out of fear of my right boot for crying out loud clean your damn computer once in a while!

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