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Well, hell. (PC help needed)

Great. I'm typing this on my laptop as we speak, because it looks like my desktop PC may be truly borked.

I was trying to download something off a trusted site (well, like 95% trusted anyhow) when my computer kinda froze up, music, download, and everything. I went away for a minute to get my tea, figuring it was slow starting the download (it was one of those "your download should start automatically in a moment" dealies), and when I came back, I had BSOD, which almost never happens with my computer. (Freezing up or what have you, sure, but not the actual BSOD). I wish now I'd written down the exact error, but it was some sort of kernel error, and said that it shut down Windows to protect the computer, and if it was the first time, please restart the computer, etc etc.

So I restart.... and now it goes to the "Dell" loading screen, and then after that... nothing. A blank screen with a blinking cursor in the upper left corner, and if I let it sit there long enough, a message that pops up saying to press F1 to retry the boot, F2 for setup. I've tried restarting a couple times (and shutting off, turning off the actual power supply for all the equipment, and after minute turning everything back on), and no change.

So... help! Anyone have any suggestions of anything to try? I'm really really bad with computer hardware stuff. I know, bad geek. Is my system totally borked? Anyone? The only thing that's changed today, if it helps, is that I got a new (to me... used actually) monitor just this afternoon, since my old one was fritzing out. Again. I couldn't see how a monitor would cause that sorta problem though... but then, like I said, really bad with this sorta thing, so I'm throwing it out there.


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Nov. 30th, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
It's not a monitor thing. Get your Dell System Utilities CD out of where ever you keep it (you DID keep it, correct?), and boot from that. Once you've loaded the diagnostic tools, run a full system hardware check, because that looks like a hardware problem from here, 150ish miles to your southeast.

If it won't boot off that CD, it's definitely a hardware problem.
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, I kept it, now I just gotta find it. Yowch. Haven't used that sorta thing in.. well... forever.

Time to dig!
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:46 pm (UTC)
You may have to hit F2 at the Dell logo to change the boot order in the BIOS. Make sure the DVD/CD ROM drive is first.
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
Well, damnit. I've found the original Windows XP disc that came with it, the monitor set-up disc (for the original monitor), after some digging I've even found the diagnistics/utilities disc for the Aptiva I used before this computer. But guess which disc I haven't yet been able to locate...?

Damnit, I have a feeling I'm going to be spending the weekend cleaning/reorganizing the computer room until I find the damn thing, and probably computerless, since I live in the boondocks and most places are closed for the weekend anyhow. I could go ahead and try to run my computer down to the nearby computer place today, but I dunno if they could do anything without my disc, and damnit, I'm gonna need to sleep soon.

Why does this shit always happen when I'm, for instance, trying to get my sleep schedule un-borked?
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Get the service tag from the back of the desktop, go to http://support.dell.com/, and download the latest Utilities CD ISO for your desktop and burn one if you can't find it in a reasonable amount of time.
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)
Which would be great except that I'm pretty sure my laptop doesn't have a CD burner. -_-

(Just shoot me...)
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Meh. Found a diagnostics and utilities disc for the Dell, but it apparently doesn't help much since it says basically on it "oh hey, all this stuff is already installed on your computer, this disc is just for reinstalling it"... which would help if I needed to install it and run it, but for running from the disc, apparently not so much.

I have, however, started actually getting a message when I try to boot the thing up now. Which is that "Drive 0 primary parrallel EIDE controller is operating outside of normal specifications" and stuff about backing up your data (hah!) and replacing your hard drive. -_-

So... dead hard drive? And about how long and painful a process is that probably to get done somewhere, how expensive, and all that? Other than the fact that all my, y'know, data and shit is probably history that hasn't been backed up to my laptop. -_-

Nov. 30th, 2007 02:07 pm (UTC)
The drivers are already installed from the factory, yes, but that is a bootable CD, and if you boot from it, it has hardware diagnostic utilities on it. If your IDE/SATA controller is the problem, however, you won't be able to boot from it. The good news is that if it's the controller, and not the drive, you can plug the drive in to another machine and get the data off. The bad news is that if it's the controller, the only fix is replacing the motherboard, which is Dell proprietary and not cheap.
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:15 pm (UTC)
So in other words... I'm gonna have to ship the damn thing to Dell and probably pay out the ass?
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)

Boot the Cd already. If it's the drive, you lost your data, but drives are cheap. You might have to unplug the drive from the controller to get an accurate result (it could also be the optical drive that's failing and causing the problem, but you won't KNOW until you do some diagnostics).
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:08 pm (UTC)
blarghle, finally got the damn thing to boot up via the F12 boot menu, it's running an extended test now. Now to go babysit the thing...

(Thanks a ton for all the help, btw... be back with some answers soonish, I hope)
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
Alright, the tests are giving me problems when it tries to test the "IDE Disk", it's giving me an error code, then "Msg: Block 0: Uncorrectable data error or media is write protected", rinse and repeat for Block 1, Block 2, etc., until I give up the test. Does that tell ya anything?
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)
It tells me you need to power the machine down, unplug the data cable from the drive, boot the machine off the cd, and run the tests again. It should be able to verify whether the controller has or hasn't failed without a drive plugged in. If you had a known good drive from another machine that you could put in its place (an old drive with nothing on it you care about, just in case), that would be optimal.
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
Which means I'm probably going to have to take it in to a computer place on Monday, unless you want to hold my hand more or less and walk me through that - I have no idea which thing inside the case my hard drive is, or how to interact with it. (Yes, I'm one of them there total ignorant non-hardware people, sorry - the most I've done to a computer is install a bit of extra RAM).
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
I might try to give it a go and figure it out after sleepy-time... but I'm seriously falling asleep. Thanks for the help so far!
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
I agree, I can't see how it could be a virus. Judging from where you're saying it's freezing up, the hardware wouldn't have begun to access the OS (or even the hard drive) yet.
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
What model Dell is this? It almost sounds like it could be the IDE driver, if your hard drive is controlled by IDE and not SATA.
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:01 pm (UTC)
it's an ooold (like, probably 3 years or so now...I got it just around the same time FFXI was launching in the states) Dell Dimension XP (or whatever the letters are...)
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
My first Dell Dimension (the 4600, the model that has the distinction of being one of the worst computers of all time according to PC World) had a bad IDE driver. It crapped out on me. hisgrouchyness was able to find a fix and get me limping until Dell could ship me a warranty replacement. The "customer service" call I got from Dell trying to pin the blame on me was a very erm, interesting conversation.
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
Meh. Well, considering how old the damn thing is, I doubt it's still under warranty anyhow. Feh feh and triple feh.
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Also: see a couple comments above.
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
If the IDE controller was totally shot your CD drive wouldn't work either (I'm assuming since it's a 3 year old PC that both the CD and HD drives are on IDE.) You might try disconnecting the CD drive and connecting the hard drive to it's IDE cable. It's fairly straightforward, the hard drive is the rectangular metal block with a flat cable (this is the IDE cable) connected to it, which is most likely the same type of cable hooked up to the CD drive.

Try swapping them.

It might also be, as noted above, a bad HD.
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