Wherever the Road Leads

Computers: I Love to Hate Them

The Surreptitious Upgrade

My (now) previous computer would probably have lasted me a lifetime. Its 2.6 gig processor was fast enough to get everything done in a reasonable time – the blink of an eye.

Then along came Adobe After Effects, the program that I have been using to make my recent ‘movies’… the Countdown to Christmas, Christmas in the Moon, the New Year’s Balls, Georgia Bound and the Shepherd Village Gold/Black logo. The 2.6 gig processor did not have enough horsepower to be able to see an effect on-the-fly, and the ‘rendering’ time – the time it took to output it from After Effects to a little movie for the internet, was taking up to an hour for a twelve second project.

Time for an upgrade.

I learned when I was working in Huntsville Alabama at a plant that manufactured HP computers, that there is really nothing to a computer. There is no mystery. It is a power supply, a motherboard, a processor, a processor cooler, memory, a hard drive and a DVD drive, then a chassis (case) to assemble it all in.


What could be easier?

What I wanted to do was upgrade my processor to a 4 gig, which meant a new motherboard as my current one would not support the new processor. I had read that this processor runs hot, almost too hot for the supplied heat sink and fan. This report came from the serious gamers, who want to render ultra-high graphics very quickly to get the most out of their Dungeons and Dragons. I decided to buy a sophisticated cooling system.

Time was spent doing the research. Should I do the upgrade in Canada or wait until I get back to the US? Canada has an onerous 13% sales tax applied every time a dollar changes hands, and products are more expensive here. However, $1 US = $1.20 Canadian. I priced the components on Canadian websites and on Newegg.com out of Florida, where I generally get my computer components. I decided that it was pert near a warsh – the same price – so I would get instant gratification and buy my parts from Canada Computers, about two miles away.


I mentioned to my mother that I was going out to ‘browse’ at the local ‘electronics’ shop – with ‘browse’ and ‘electronics’ meant to be deliberately misleading. Trust Wilma. Through her recently acquired cold, stuffy nose and blocked ears, through the pain of Shingles and the fact that she spends most of the day in bed, sleeping a great deal of the time, she managed to quip, “For more stuff that you don’t need?”

This would be as opposed to the two-week – because one-week is really not enough – Caribbean cruise which she apparently does need.

I don’t smoke, drink or buy lottery tickets. I don’t buy cokes or Tim Horton’s coffee. I don’t eat fast food. I don’t even chew gum. I walk across a freezing cold parking lot to the pharmacy to save $.50 on a dozen eggs. I line up with the Chinese and Iraquis for the ‘bargains’ at Food Thrills.

So, yes, for stuff I don’t need. However I wasn’t going to flaunt it. The computer packages were left at the front door. The only thing she saw from the bedroom was the bag with groceries – coffee and cat food.

I started working on the upgrade the next day. Some time ago I remember mentioning to a friend, a friend who must have been much more computer astute than I am as he wondered why, that I generally dedicate two days to a computer build. The first day to assemble the hardware, the second to load the software. My opinion and method has not changed.

It was my intention to simply swap out the old motherboard and processor with the new. When I disassembled my ‘rig’, as the gamers call it, I decided that I wanted a new chassis (case)… a slightly bigger one as this water-cooling system, complete with a fan and radiator, was going to take up much more room than I had anticipated.

That afternoon, it was back to Canada Computers for a new case, then a stop at Food Thrills for bread, once again, the food package being all that she saw. With much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth, including a break to cook dinner then clean up, the computer was put back together, including the side-panel access, in a sign of confidence that my upgrade had been completed perfectly, first try.

I plugged all the wires and peripherals back in and with great anticipation, pushed the power button. In a portending sign, nothing happened. Not a sausage. No hum, no lights, no power.

Let me say that the list of parts in a computer is not extensive, however, connecting them allĀ  – correctly – can be a bit tricky. I pulled the power plug, removed all the wires and peripherals, then the side access panel to assess the situation. Fortunately, it was an easy fix. I had not properly seated a connector from the front panel of the case, to the motherboard. While the computer was laying on its side, I plugged in the power cord and pressed the ‘On’ switch. Success… lights, humming and whirring.

I reassembled everything and hooked up the monitor. Among the first screens to appear was an error message saying that the processor fan had failed. Well, I knew the cooling system had not failed because I could see it glowing and whirring and blowing cool air through its radiator. I studied the motherboard’s manual and saw that this board will support the processor fan plus two additional chassis fans. I had plugged my cooler into a chassis-fan connection. The cooling system worked but the motherboard thought that there was no processor fan.

That as well was a fairly easy fix, although a step that should be taken long before all the other wires and components get in the way. I put everything back together again, not bothering with the side access panel this time, plugged in the power cord and turned it on.

Windows 7 is already loaded onto my hard drive. the process from this point should have been simple. We should have been off like a prom dress. Instead, it was off to bed, too tired and too frustrated.

I strongly believe that you cannot build or upgrade a computer unless you have a second computer with internet access. The next morning using my laptop, I searched for comments, help and advice from people who had successfully(?) done what I was trying to do. The general consensus was that with the Windows 7 Operating System, it was best to start from scratch and re-load Windows.

villageFirstly, I don’t have my Windows 7 disk up here with me. Secondly, no way. That would mean I would have to re-load every other program as well, like PhotoShop, After Effects, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many programs I have loaded. Programs like Subtitle Editor, so that I can watch “Un Village Francais”, a (France) French television program about a small village in France that was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War.

I download the episodes, download the French Subtitles, use Google Translate to translate them to English then clean them up and match/time the English subtitles to the French dialog. The old joke about how it takes a man two hours to watch “60 Minutes”… I can associate!!

It took me the better part of the day to figure out how to match my motherboard to Windows 7 and it is not a task for mere mortals. It involves components of Windows that no sane man has ever heard of, and risky changes to the Windows Registry.

The good news is, I have met with success. I am running at blazingly fast speeds and my processor is as cool as can be. I rendered my FaceBook Announcement of a New Post in under two minutes, a chore that would have taken four or five times as long with the other processor.

Ah, success! “There’s nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning…”




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  1. Mike G  January 8, 2015

    Gordon, for a second I thought you were going to type up that you bought a liquid cooled fan system. Like the kind that has tubes running through the computer you can see on the outside and watch it glow. Glad everything worked out though. Not something I am looking forward to do, but its inevitable.

    Like this one.

  2. elayne  January 9, 2015

    you definitely have way too much time on your hands Gordon but kudos for smarts and persistence.. Who said you didn’t have patience. lol

  3. alistair Mair  January 13, 2015

    Impressive skills.


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