Clicking is never good

So I have my shiny new Dell Inspiron 9300. A few weeks after I had it, I heard a click noise and then I had a BSOD (blue screen of death). I convinced myself that it was a one-time thing, reboot and went about my business. Of course, I’m doing all the right things…up-to-date spyware protection, virus protection, firewall. I defrag once or twice a month, using the disk checking thing in Windows XP when I think something’s acting funky, run [TuneUp Utilities](http://www.tune-up.com/) on it every night to correct registry issues. I backup to external drive every night using Retrospect. So I’m good, right? Wrong. Once again. **Clicking is never good.** Never. I’m not talking about the little pitter patter of a noisy hard drive. I know the difference. This was a “uh oh” click. When you hear it, you know. I should have been on the phone to Dell on that first click, insisting that they replace the drive or do *something* to head off the coming disaster. But I convinced myself that I must have imagined that it was a “uh oh” click and everything worked fine after that.

And disaster it was. For the past few days my machine hasn’t been quite right. Can’t put my finger on it, but when you use something that often you just know when it’s not on its mark. It *felt* different. I was thinking I needed more RAM.

This morning I was working in Outlook when the drive made a “uh oh” click sound and froze. The drive access light came on. A few seconds later the machine came back to life but I wasn’t taking any chances. I immediately shut down all open applications and ran a check on the drive, letting it repair whatever it found and isolate any bad sectors. It took an unusually long time to finish. But finish it did. Came back up and seemed to work okay but every time the access light went on I got nervous. I was chatting via IM with a friend who knows these things about this very subject when the “uh oh” click happened again. This time, immediate BSOD:

>`KERNEL_STACK_INPAGE_ERROR`

No idea what that means. But I don’t think it’s a good thing.

So I call Dell. I paid for the 4 year ultra tech support plan and now’s the time to put it in action. I unplug everything from the computer except the power and network. I want to make sure the external hard drive is not hurt in any of this. I reboot again, and now BSOD says the drive is unbootable. So not good. I boot into safe mode (F8) and the drive comes up which I hope is a good sign. I use System Restore to go back to an earlier date. Works, but dies 1/2 way through the boot. By this time, I’m back in safe mode and I get a support technician. She runs me through resetting the computer by removing the battery and reseating the hard drive. Now the computer is totally officially dead. On boot I just get a message that there’s no hard drive. This is a family blog, so let’s just say…**dang it all.**

So Dell is sending me a new hard drive, which should hopefully arrive tomorrow (Thursday at the latest) along with the Windows XP install CD since my computer didn’t ship with one (restore functions are on a drive partition which doesn’t help much on a dead drive). I had a bit of a panic moment when I realized I didn’t know where my original OEM MS Office CD was, but I found it.

I have Retropsect 7 and my license code ready to go. So if all goes well I install XP on the drive, bring it up to Service Pack 2 then use Retrospect to restore all my stuff from my external WD 250GB USB drive. I’m seriously considering taking the opportunity to clean house and reinstall applications and use Retrospect for data only, but we’ll see how much time I have.

I had a bit of a complete meltdown, but I’m okay now. Truth is, I’m better than most. All of my client project files are safe and sound on my Mac (which also backs up nightly), so nothing lost there. I rely on instant messenger to keep in touch with everyone and Adium is no Trillian but it’s filling in nicely. I have my mail accounts set to leave mail on the server for 7 days, so it was easy enough to get Mail.app checking messages via IMAP with the most recent messages easily accessible (webmail isn’t good for more than an occasional mail check). All of my logins, passwords, contacts, tasks and appointments are on my Axim PDA sitting right here for easy reference. I use [Basecamp](http://www.basecamphq.com) for most of my client communication and project review, and my very most important client is set up on [intranets.com](http://www.intranets.com).

The only truly horrible thing I would lose on the PC if goodness forbid my backup doesn’t work (besides nearly 2 years of saved email ::shudder::) are my Quickbooks and Quicken files. I choose to be optimistic and know that it’s all right there on that external hard drive waiting for me to copy it back over.

So what are the lessons learned here for someone who works from home:

1. No hardware should be indispensable. Look at everything on your desk and think “if this died, what would I do?” If the answer isn’t “just replace it” as in your scanner, cable modem, keyboard, printer, etc. then have a plan. How would you check email? How would you go about your business? Could you go to a local Apple Store and log on to a intranet somewhere and get what you need? Be ready, just in case. Everything on your desk has to be the spoke of a wheel, not the hub. Everything has to be replaceable without breaking a sweat, because it’s not a question of *if* it will be replaced but when.
2. Trust your inner voice. If you know that a click doesn’t sound right, it isn’t. **Clicking is never good.**
3. You can replace the hard drive in a Dell Inspiron 9300 by simply removing two outside screws and sliding the drive out. Neat. Just too bad that the thing is [not all that reliable](http://www.buzzmachine.com/?tag=dell) to begin with. Refer to lesson #1.

Hopefully the update on this entry will be a “all is right again with the world” sometime late tomorrow. For now, I have to get back to work (on my G5, of course) because I killed a whole day on this.

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6 thoughts on “Clicking is never good

  1. I hope you get everything figured out, but I have to strongly disagree with the statement “Adium is no Trillian”

    Maybe it’s just me, but Adium blows Trillian out of the water. I bought a Mac Mini at home and use it as my secondary computer, mostly just for IMing because Adium is so much nicer for it (plus it’s nice to have for website debugging). I especially like how I don’t have to deal with different services, all my contacts can be listed by my own categories, rather than seperated by who uses MSN vs Yahoo vs AIM. And the UI is much cleaner and makes much more sense.

    I know that was just an off-hand comment of yours, but I have to say I love my Adium since I first discovered it a month or two ago.

  2. One thing to add to your lessons learned: make sure your removable storage is cross-platform compatible, especially if you’re bi-platform.

    (Now onto the (mostly) off-topic…)

    I’ve been using Trillian for years. So long in fact that I finally guilted myself into buying a license.

    Although there is a differentiation between services, it’s quite easy to lump everyone together into non-service categories.

    The history function in Trillian 3 can’t be beat. I’ve used it countless times to retrieve info that would be lost on clients like Messenger.

    Does it have too much other stuff in it? Yup. But I ignore all that nonsense and stick to the IM stuff. 🙂

    I’m strictly peecee, and though I had a loaner iMac for a bit and I did use Adium, it’s been so long that I can’t recall much about it.

  3. Jesse, you know I meant no disrespect. A lot is a matter of personal preference. I have my contacts sorted by relationship (Family, Friends, Clients, Online, etc.) and not by service.

    I’ve been playing with customizing Adium and it’s very nice. Really nice as a matter of fact. The biggest difference between the two (besides the audio and video in Trillian which I never use anyway) is in the message history. I love the way Trillian does that.

  4. Funny, the thing I really enjoy about Adium is the way it handles message history. =)

    I love how I can customize it so that when a message pops up, it already has the most recent message history already there in the window… perfect for those people you only chat with once in a while and sometimes forget who they are. =P

  5. Trillian does that too, Jesse. Very handy.

    I’m getting used to Adium. Just in time to go back to Trillian as Retrospect is restoring to my new drive as I type.

    One thing that Adium seems to be missing is feedback when the other person is typing. I got very used to that which tells me, “don’t walk away from the screen, they’ll be answering in a sec” vs. “They walked away so I’m sitting here like a yutz staring at a window waiting for an answer that’s not coming.”

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