Diagnose a computer-death, and advise on migrating the dead one to an imac?
March 27, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

My desktop computer is dead dead dead (I think -- can you help me be sure?). I was going to get a new iMac anyway, so now I'll just move those plans up. I understand there's a utility to migrate all my files from the old Windows machine to the new Mac -- how can I make that happen when the old one won't start?

We came back from 2 weeks away to find that the desktop Windows 2000 machine a buddy built for me back in 2001 doesn't boot anymore. Nothing. Push the button, all systems are silent. I suppose that means the power supply is dead. (Maybe we had a lightning strike while we were away? Though the cable modem and wireless hub are fine. Anyway.) Any suggestions for a more accurate diagnosis, short of taking it to some people somewhere?

And as for the switch/migrate process, is my best move going to be buying an enclosure for the hard drive(s)?
posted by gleuschk to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Assuming the HD's intact, yes, your best bet is to pick up an enclosure, pop your HD in it, and copy files over as needed to your new machine.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:34 PM on March 27, 2008

An enclosure will work or if you or a friend has another PC sitting around you can just stick the drive in there and save some money.

The negative of that being that you can't really get the new iMac to access the drive directly. With an enclosure you can plug it right into the new system.
posted by tarthur at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2008

n-thing the buy an enclosure route. If you feel comfortable opening your case and disconnecting the hard drive to connect it to an enclosure, then this is the way to go. Otherwise I would suggest paying a local tech shop something reasonable (under $100) to take the hard drive out and copy the data over once you have your new iMac.

Good luck and drop a MeMail if you need more help or you have other questions with this.
posted by onalark at 1:04 PM on March 27, 2008

Throwing it in an enclosure will work fine, however, if it's formatted as NTFS, you'll need to install NTFS-3G, as OSX cannot natively write to NTFS partitions (it can still read though).
posted by booticon at 1:06 PM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: Have you tried simple things, like unplugging the power cord and leaving it unplugged for 30+ seconds, or if there is a power switch on the back of the power supply, flipping it off and back on? Power supplies sometimes have an internal "breaker" that trips when there is a small power surge, and things like that can reset it.

There are inexpensive power supply testers, but I doubt you'd want to buy one for a one time use. If you have a friend (perhaps the one that built your computer?) that can bring over another power supply and plug it into your board, that's generally the most straightforward method of figuring out if it's the PS or motherboard that fried.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 1:23 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, if the power supply is bad you can just get a replacement. Everything "should" work if it was just the power supply.
posted by Yorrick at 2:32 PM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: I agree with the power supply diagnosis... Power supplies are actually fairly cheap, so maybe you shouldn't give up on the machine yet? Pop down to your local computer store and pick up a new power supply (maybe $40 or so?) and plug it in and see what happens... If it doesn't work, then I'd give up on the machine (probably something more serious, like a problem with the motherboard), but you might find that a new $40 power supply gives your machine new life, rather than replacing it..

If you do decide to go with a new machine, definitely the easiest approach is to buy an enclosure and put the HD into it (you could try the power supply thing first and then, if it doesn't work, take it back to the store and ask for an exchange to an enclosure! Is that cheeky?).

As booticon notes, Mac's can't write to NTFS HD's (which yours probably is), but they can read them, so you should be able to plug it into the Mac, copy ALL the data you need onto the new machine, and then use Disk Utility to format the HD as either FAT32 (if you want to use it on windows machines) of HFS+ (for just Mac machines). The bonus of this approach is that you score a good working external HD, either for extra storage, or for talking files to your mates house... :)
posted by ranglin at 3:41 PM on March 27, 2008

Best answer: A PC not responding in any way to a power-on indicates that it's not getting power - either the outlet, power strip, or power supply (if you take off the side door of your PC, you'll see a gray box with a fan where the power cord goes into - that's the power supply) is off, had a circuitbreaker trip, or is just busted. Find the fault and/or replace the power supply and you should get that computer back working.
That said, if you're just going to get a Mac anyway, you just need the hard drive, since that's where all your information is. It's a box the size of a paperback book inside your PC, probably on the "shelves" towards the front. If you take that box out and put it in an enclosure (another box that supplies the power and data connections to make it run) like this one, you can connect it to another computer with a USB cable and copy your data from it to the new computer. It can be tricky getting the right enclosure for your hard drive's connectors - the one I linked can take both of the two major ones.
Your new Mac should be able to read the data on your Windows hard drive and copy it over without any problems - if you want to Write to that drive from the Mac, there are some extra hoops, but it's also doable. Keep in mind that you can take your music/photos/documents from there to the Mac, but almost certainly not any of your software applications or Windows 2000 itself. You can then put the old Windows hard drive away for safekeeping, or wipe it clean and use it to store whatever you want.

Just don't bang your hard drive around in the process - the disk is like a LP record with an arm & needle that reads it; disturb it in such a way that the "needle" scratches the "record", and you'll have problems.
posted by bartleby at 4:44 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was going to get a new iMac anyway, so now I'll just move those plans up.

May I suggest you consider trying to replace the power supply as suggested, and wait a few more months.
posted by terrapin at 4:57 PM on March 28, 2008

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