Compfilter: My PC is almost six, and getting a little creaky - how do I keep it chugging on?
May 14, 2009 5:00 AM   Subscribe

Compfilter: My PC is almost six, and getting a little creaky - how do I keep it chugging on?

I'm reaching out to the other geeks here, especially ones like me who cling onto their old hardware for too long.

My PC has been faithful to me for almost 6 years, but she's starting to get creaky now. I've given her more RAM, more memory and replaced the power supply, but what scares me is the day she shuts down and the only answer i get from the techies is "oh dear, your motherboard is borked" or something else I don't know how to ressusitate her from.

There is a lot of software on her that I can't afford to replace, so I really want to keep her going for as long as I can. A new machine is not an option - some of the software is no longer available so I really just want to do what I have to to keep this old baby alive.

Any tips?

PS. Sorry for all the anthropomorphism, but she really is like an old friend now, albeit one who takes a while to get ready, yells at me a lot when I do something she doesn't like, and gets a lot of attention from my boyfriend.
posted by greenish to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tell us about your computer's hardware, operating system, and what software you cannot replace. Also tell us what specific problems you have. How much drive space do you have? When was it last defragmented? Please run autoruns and paste a list of startup programs here.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:25 AM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd download http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/ and print out all your microsoft product keys (if you don't have them on hand) in case your hard drive fails, and by creaky does it sound like this?

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/323388/hard_drive_failure_test/

If it's still your original hard drive there is a good probability it will die soon since it is not solid state, all moving things tend to fail over time. So I'd backup any pictures or songs or whatever you treasure. Your old software could possibly be independently ran without registry settings with just the files and folders from c:\program files\ - it's worth a shot.

I know I am going on about this but I'd also remove some startup items from automatically booting with windows by clicking start>run>typing msconfig and hit enter. Click startup tab, and uncheck most of the stuff you don't need running when you boot up. This should stress your hard drive less.

Buy canned air from a office supply store, and blast out all the dust in the chassis, motherboard, fans and everything in between. Make sure all your fans are spinning, heat could really kill a machine.

If the fans are the creaking culprit (while system is started put your finger in the middle to stop it from spinning to see if it goes away) peel the sticker back put ONE drop of 3-in-1 oil, clean any excess and replace the label
http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5034842.html

I can't stress it enough but if cherish any of your data, back it up to CD, DVD, flash drive, another hard drive, internet or external hard drive.
posted by glenno86 at 5:28 AM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


In any case, regularly back up your important data on that machine, so you will be able to get through a hard disk failure.
posted by Glow Bucket at 5:31 AM on May 14, 2009


In such a situation (irreplaceable? software, inevitable hardware demise), I would buy a large external hard drive, make an image of the entire hard drive as of today, and create a virtual machine from that image on new hardware. Today's machines are remarkably good at virtualization. You will be guaranteed that the virtual machine can always be restored to today's state, and won't be wearing out the old girl unless absolutely necessary.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:46 AM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Once you have a backup, it stops being irreplaceable.
posted by devnull at 6:11 AM on May 14, 2009


I don't think OP meant literally creaky. Just FYI.

I'm going to look like an idiot if he/she did.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:28 AM on May 14, 2009


Dunno about Greenish, but mine is literally creaky and I'm actually thrilled that Greenish asked this, because now I know I have more to worry about instead of hoping it will go away. Special thanks to Glenno for the audio link. I'm at the "prepare for hard drive failure" stage. Sigh.

Good luck, Greenish!
posted by scratch at 7:20 AM on May 14, 2009


One of my favorite programs to fix an aging system is Tune Up Utilities. It has a number of helpful functions, including a great registry cleaner, registry defrag, hard drive defragmenter, and it can auto-tune a lot of your settings for the type of system and its primary usage. Their website offers a 30 day trial.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:30 AM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


InsanePenguin, you're right I didn't, but on reflection my PC *does* actually creak, so all these responses are helpful!

I know what that is though, it's the fan, and compressed air is definitely on my to-do list.

Thanks for all the suggestions guys!
posted by greenish at 7:31 AM on May 14, 2009


When I run msconfig how do I tell which startup items I don't need? Most of the names are pretty opaque.
posted by LarryC at 7:40 AM on May 14, 2009


You could try running a utility that will examine your hard drive and try to determine the severity of its health problems. A couple of choices are HDDlife - which is free for 14 days and HDD Health which is freeware. Both utilities make use of the Self Monitoring and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) technology which is built into hard drives. The technique is by no means 100 per cent accurate - but a red flag is a clear indicator you should be taking action soon.
posted by rongorongo at 7:43 AM on May 14, 2009


Since you seem to like my solution, here is the tool for this in VMware (which is an excellent commercial virtualization solution) and here are some tips for virtualbox, which is also popular. I haven't used Microsoft's product, but presumably it should also be able to do this. I assume the old machine is windows, if not there probably are similar guides for Mac and Linux. Search terms are create virtual machine from physical $your_OS.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:10 AM on May 14, 2009


but do the backup first - don't know about HDDLife or HDDHealth but my experience of hitiachi SMART testing is that it can be the camel snapper.
posted by fistynuts at 8:10 AM on May 14, 2009


Take that fan thing off your to-do list and put it on your do-it-right-now list, or, better yet, your things-I-just-did list. Clean it, at minimum, but consider just buying a new fan. They're pretty cheap, very easy to install, and few things kill hardware as fast as heat and vibration.
posted by box at 9:41 AM on May 14, 2009


Snug up all the screws on the bottom of the case. Don't overtighten, but they do get loose. You can usually make the screen hinge snugger, too, if needed.
posted by theora55 at 10:32 AM on May 14, 2009


Regarding Microsoft Virtual PC, if you choose to use this (rather than VMware, VirtualBox or any of the other virtualisation technologies) here is a blog post that describes how to take an existing hard drive and migrate it to a virtual PC:

http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2004/11/22/268225.aspx

If I was in your dilemma, I would definitely virtualise. That way as long as you have a backup of the file that represents the virtual PC you have everything you need. Power supply dies on your host PC? Get a new pc, install Vmware/Virtualpc/virtualbox or whatever and copy the file in and its there again. Flexible, scalable, resilient, whats not to love?
posted by Admira at 5:30 PM on May 14, 2009


If I was in your dilemma, I would definitely virtualise. That way as long as you have a backup of the file that represents the virtual PC you have everything you need. Power supply dies on your host PC? Get a new pc, install Vmware/Virtualpc/virtualbox or whatever and copy the file in and its there again. Flexible, scalable, resilient, whats not to love?

AND you can do it all on a Mac! And be free of the Windows taxes forever (virus scanner, removing malware, continuous rebooting and rebuilding)
posted by lamby at 8:40 AM on May 15, 2009


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