Buddy, I feel like my life is just a long running series of computer freakouts.
The first major one probably happened while I was playing around with the Jazz Jackrabbit 3 leaked prototype. Even though the prototype was running on Unreal Engine, a stable, retail-ready codebase, one time the prototype crashed SO HARD that it killed Windows. The system just straight up refused to boot after the game crashed. So I had to reinstall Windows.
In 2007 (four or so years after the JJ3 incident), my cousin offered me some spare parts from an old system he didn’t need anymore. If I bought the stuff that was missing, he’d help me build my first custom system. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, once we got everything all put together, the system straight up refused to boot as in the process of putting everything together, we’d apparently corrupted that HDD’s Master Boot Record, which was impossible to repair. All the data on that drive was basically lost forever.
But once I got that system up and running, it really began to feel like trying to build my own system brought a curse upon me.
The first problem was that, apropos of nothing, in the middle of the night, the system would just freeze. Hard lock. Everything would stop responding. It took me two years and replacing nearly every single component inside the system to diagnose: it was a bad capacitor on my motherboard. I’d replaced the HDD, the graphics card, the RAM, the PSU, and the CPU until a friend noticed that right before it would freeze, the mobo would begin emitting a faint, incredibly high pitched buzzing sound – electrical discharge. Replaced the mobo, and it stopped happening.
About a year later, the next problem emerged: one day while using Windows, I clicked to open a folder only to be met with the exact same file structure I clicked away from. I could essentially enter infinite folders, down and down and down and down, so for example,
But never actually get IN to C:\Windows. This happened on all folders across the entire system. I could type in the exact address, but opening a folder via the file browser did not work. Eventually under this state, I’d start getting errors about not being able to read data. It happened on both HDDs I had installed at the time, but I figured it meant the HDD Windows was installed on was going. (Later, after I’d replaced the drive and reinstalled Windows, I began to wonder if it was something with Avira Antivirus, because the problem went away when I closed Avira; but the drive was four or five years old, anyway)
A year or two passed, and for some reason I had to get rid of THAT HDD, too. I don’t specifically remember what the problem was, but I just know I came home on my birthday to my system not booting up because of a HDD issue. This was 2012, and a tsunami had negatively impacted a lot of factories that assembled HDDs, so prices on new HDDs had more than doubled since the last time I bought any. I couldn’t afford to buy a new one. A friend had a couple extra 1tb drives lying around after a Black Friday sale and offered to send me one for free.
That turned out to be a mistake. Once I got back up and running on that system, immediately I noticed something was wrong. Windows was pitching a fit about data corruption. I ran all kinds of diagnostics, for months and months and months, but all of them would come back and tell me that no, the drive was healthy. Windows didn’t care. Data was getting corrupted. Eventually, entire files began to disappear. Still, diagnostic tools said there were no problems with the data structure. It wasn’t until core Windows components began to vanish (including chkdsk, the program Windows uses to detect data corruption) that finally, HDDTune and other diagnostic tools began showing that yeah, the 1tb HDD from a friend wasn’t any good. It only took six months for them to tell me what was plainly obvious all along.
Thankfully I had a laptop to fall back on, but at that point, that laptop was also so old (6 years!) and so sluggish that it, too, kicked the bucket. If it wasn’t for another friend swooping in and delivering another new HDD for me for Christmas, I don’t know what would have happened to me (2012 was a very bad year for me in general; car accidents, pets dying, etc.)
In 2013, I decided it was finally time to start saving up for a new system. By late 2015, I finally had around $1000 to spend, so I started buying pieces of a brand new system, in the hopes that if I got away from the cursed old system I’d get a fresh start.
By May 2016, I had no choice: the old system had once again completely shit the bed and refused to boot (or, more specifically, it’d boot, but would reset itself after a few minutes). I HAD to put the new stuff together, because I literally had no computer to work off of anymore.
I figured everything would be fine. And everything was fine, for about a year. Until we moved from Colorado to Nevada, and I had to ship the entire PC across two states in the back of my brother’s moving trailer. Needless to say, I’m writing this from a laptop, and yesterday I spent $133 on a replacement motherboard for a problem I’m currently embroiled in right now. All that really happened was that I came back to my desktop, woke the system up, and all hell broke loose – broken wifi drivers, broken GPU drivers, and endless, constant Blue Screens of Death. Maybe it was a power surge? Maybe Windows just needs to be reinstalled? Given I’m technically homeless still, I’m in no mood to even TRY diagnosing what’s wrong.
I have been living a nightmare of constant computer problems for almost a decade now. I’m lucky if 12 months pass without a new problem dropping in to my lap. I hate it; at this point every time something else goes wrong, I am on the verge of tears. Back when we’d buy pre-built systems, these kinds of constant problems never happened. But now that I’ve built my own systems from scratch, and even though I am OBSESSIVELY CAUTIOUS about putting things together, these sorts of problems persist, and persist, and persist…