Sunday, November 6th, 2005
8:26 am - Rebuilding Speedy - Episode 4 - Coming Back Different...  
Final construction and OS install notes:

When last we left our hero, he was trying to decide whether to install Windows 98SE or Windows XP Pro on the mostly rebuilt machine. There were still a few hardware bits that either had to be found or purchased, particularly a proper IDE cable for the optical drives. The old IDE ribbon cables, although perfectly serviceable, tend to block airflow, which just won't do with all the additional heat being generated by the newfangled stuff I'd installed in the case. So one night this week it was off to CompUSA, where I discovered that no one has ever heard of a ruler. At least that's how it seemed when I looked at my cable options. A 24" cable whould've been fine, but when I examined the packaged cables labeled as such, I noticed that they were folded in three, and that each segment was about 6" long. Now, I was never a math major, but I do know that when that cable is unfolded, it's only going to be 1½' long. Which is too short for what I needed, so I bought a 30" cable. It wasn't really 30" long either, but it was long enough, so it was just as well.

The other thing I needed to do on the hardware front was find a bunch of pieces to the case that I'd removed on earlier machines. I took out the 5¼" floppy, so I needed both the metal RF plate and the external plastic bay cover that I'd removed back when I'd originally installed it (some nine years ago). Also, since the new motherboard has onboard audio, LAN, and Firewire ports, that's three cards I wasn't going to be installing, so I had to find the little metal covers for the open card slots in the back of the case. This was a lot easier said than done considering the box I'd thrown all this stuff into all those years ago was now buried somewhere up in the attic. It took some serious searching, but I did eventually find all the bits and pieces.

Yesterday morning I finished the construction. I closed up the hole where the 5¼" drive used to be, then installed the optical drives and cabled them up with the not quite 30" long IDE cable. Next I had to connect the audio leads from the optical drives to the connectors on the motherboard. This was tricky because the connectors were in a bad spot, tucked between the PCI slots and the back of the case. I had to thread the cables from the drives down through the case, around the CPU, and underneath where the video card was going to go. They just barely reached. My snazzy new video card went in next, and it's the first card I've ever installed in any machine that actually needs its own power lead to be attached. Normally they just get the power they need from the slot. Fortunately, the power supply has way more power leads than I needed, so I tucked the extras up in the open part of the case above the power supply, and looped a velcro cable tie around them to keep them out of the way. I put in a cooling fan that vents out through one of the card slots. The intake faces the heat sink and fan of the extra power-needing video card, so that should help keep things cool there., and the additional USB and Firewire ports. Search the attic for the slot covers that weren't needed last time. The motherboard came with a slot cover replacement fitted with two more USB ports (for a total of six), and two more Firewire ports (for a total of three), so I screwed that into one of the empty slots, and connected the cables to the connectors on the motherboard. Finally, I put slot covers on the last two vacant slots, and closed up the case.

Time to make a decision on the OS. I'd already tried a test install of XP, and it went well enough. It's more stable than 98, and it works better with big drives. Also, I finally did think of a program that I like to use that requires XP to run, Google Earth. So that was that. The test install had been done with a Dell reinstallation disk from work, and there were a couple of minor problems. First, it had added a couple of Dell specific items to the start menu. Second, it was unable to load a couple of setup files, suggesting the disk was scratched. Third, I hadn't finished installing everything yet when I'd done the test, particularly the video card. Fourth, the install routine had been different from what I was used to. It asked me a couple of questions I wasn't expecting, so I'd put in generic answers without thinking about them. Anyway, I had a spare non-Dell upgrade version of XP Pro available, so I figured a clean install of that was the way to go. I stuck it in the CD drive and off we went.

Sort of. I repartitioned and formatted the drive to get rid of the test version, then let it set up, but I got an error telling me that it couldn't load one of the files it needed. I looked up the file in question on Google, saw that it wasn't critical, so I skipped it, figuring that I could load it manually later. Then it happened again for another file. I exited the routine, pulled out the disk, and looked for scratches. I didn't see any, which is what I expected, because it had never been used before, but I have one of those disk repair kits, do I stuck it in that just in case it might need cleaning. Tried another install. This time it was a different file it couldn't find. Then I though, that's three times in a row this has happened. Maybe it's not the disk, but the drive. I put the disk in the DVD burner, and tried installing from there. Worked like a charm. So, something is amiss with the CD-ROM drive, which shouldn't be. It's fairly new. I got it sometime within the last year to replace the original drive, which had failed. Bother.

Anyway, once I figured out the drive problem, the XP install actually went easier than any install I'd ever done at work. Then came the moment when I had to tell XP what the name of the computer was. Thinking about it, I decided not to call it Speedy II. Virtually everything about the machine was new, including the OS. I'd done a lot of modifications to the machine since I'd built it, not to mention all the new stuff I'd just installed. The only original parts left from the original configuration were the case and the floppy drive. So time for a new name, Suzily, my father's nickname for sister #2. (I'm running out of machine names, just as my father started running out of creative nicknames for my sibs.)

Anyway, once the OS was in, I installed the chipset and other assorted motherboard drivers (audio, LAN, etc.), followed by the video drivers. Then it was off to Windows upgrade to install a zillion patches, as well as SP2. I was up an running by mid-afternoon.

Now I just have to reinstall all the apps. Which has already gone somewhat awry, which is why this post showed up last night unfinished. Stoopid LJHook default settings.
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Pinwiz: Francispinwiz on November 6th, 2005 - 11:38 am
At least you're making progress. I purchased a barebones system on eBay to build my new monster system and something apparently went awry with the mobo.

It's on the way back to the company for analysis. Feh. I just want to play my Sims 2 without crashing!
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