New CPU and motherboard up and running

My computer had never worked properly since I put in together in late 2005. I got random static bursts, and most USB devices would crash the system if left plugged in. I replaced the motherboard in desperation six months later, but it didn’t help much – the same problems came back. Research suggested the CPU and motherboard (both of them!) conflicted in some bizarre way, but no solutions were forthcoming, and I eventually gave up removing this or that piece of hardware every few weeks to see whether it made a difference. I didn’t have the money to replace both, so I lived with it. This happens sometimes with technology – it just never works right, and you end up having to buy something new. I got used to working around the problems for a couple of years, but a confluence of problems last month finally did me in. Before February it would have been a luxury, but it crossed into the sensible-decision bracket, so I didn’t have to feel guilty. I was going to need more RAM and a new hard drive anyway, so I finally gave in and ordered a totally new system, this time based around Intel rather than AMD.

New motherboard, with trusty enormous ninja heatsinkI’d decided early on that my priority would be processing and editing photos. I’m not bothered about playing games – I’d like to be, but nothing other than guitar hero has grabbed my attention for ages now – so I concentrated on RAM and CPU power at the expense of graphics. My friend Ben helped me choose the most appropriate equipment, and we ended up with a Q6600 quad-core processor with 4gb of RAM, plus a larger HD. It all arrived yesterday morning and I put it together in the afternoon.

The hardware setup took a few hours, after which it worked first time, which is a rarity! I then spent as long trying to talk the XP install into understanding the SATA drivers, and my twitter followers will know how frustrating that became – sorry! After that, though, everything was smooth as Captain Jack. XP is now all installed and I’m nearly done getting it all configured.

Lightroom and Photoshop are mind-bogglingly faster. Adobe products are one of the few that can take full advantage of four processors, and the extra RAM1 means much less hard-drive thrashing. I can switch between the two programs without having to shut down everything else, and this morning I was happily editing in both programs with Firefox and iTunes running in the background. This is exactly what I wanted – editing photos should be much less frustrating now, and for the next few years of my uni course.

A couple of weird little problems have solved themselves, too. I was having issues with a) my mouse double-clicking when it should be single-clicking, and b) my router dropping packets so random bits of websites would fail. Both have Just Gone Away.

I’ve also seen a significant speed boost in Google Docs, of all things – I guess it relies heavily on local javascript processing.

I tried not to get too wound up over the old problems – there are worse things in life than the odd crash, or having to remember to unplug a card reader – but *tempts fate* it’s really very nice to have a stable system. Totally worth it.

  1. only 3.5gb is accessible as I couldn’t stretch to a 64-bit OS []

Up and running

My computer is now back in working order, hooray! The whole process took about a day, which isn’t bad going. Unfortunately the Network Connection Just Dropping problem still occurs, but I’ve discovered that dis-and-re-enabling the interface solves it without requiring a restart, which is a start. There’s no sign of USB-related crashes, which is very pleasant. I miss my dual-core processor, though. This morning I’ve had Picasa, iTunes and Firefox all go mental with 100% CPU usage, to the point that after 20 minutes I gave up waiting for Task Manager to appear. With my old processor this could – and occasionally did – happen all day without me even noticing. Ah well, it’s worth it for the extra stability.

Off to break my computer

Since I’m getting nowhere fixing website problems, I’ve decided instead to finally sort out my computer. Based on the theory that it’s the X2 processor causing many problems, I’m downgrading to an old single-core model. This will hopefully let me use USB devices without everything crashing every few hours. I’ll lose a huge amount of power and speed, of course, but it’s the only option that doesn’t require new hardware. It does involve reinstalling Windows, though, and this procedure’s historical everything-going-to-plan:everything-going-tits-up ratio is about 3:2, so we’ll see…I think I’ll install Ubuntu Linux at the same time, just for fun. Wheee.

I may be back later, I may not. In the meantime here are some excellent fan people.

Still Broken

Found a floppy drive, but now I can’t boot from CDs, so can’t install Windows. It did work, but has now stopped for no apparent reason. This is just silly. It’s either the DVD drive or the motherboard; if the latter I’ll be offline for quite a while. Ho hum. I’m taking somewhat longer to reply to emails at the moment, so please don’t think I’m ignoring you.