C is for Computers

C is for competent computers when they do what you want them to do and C is for crappy computers when they don’t. My computer has been crappy recently which is a bummer because I paid a premium to have an Mac instead of a PC. I was hoping the purchase of an Apple product would keep my computer safely in the competent column. I’ve come to realize that hardware is hardware and at some point it will fail regardless of brand.

I’m familiar with computer hardware. I bought all sorts of components when I started my career at Teradyne. Things from screws and stiffeners to fans and thermal couples. I visited suppliers of these parts and toured their manufacturing facilities. Later I moved into account management and sold these printed circuit board assemblies to Lucent Technologies where our components got assembled into massive rack assemblies the size of telephone booths. The reason these units were so big is that they were two units in one system: engineered redundancy just like our own bodies. Slice us down the middle and you get a mirror image. Lose hearing in one ear and you have a back up. The concept is the same in the world of high stakes electronics. These behemoth towers move internet traffic, connect cell phone calls and store data for financial institutions. Total failure is not an option so when one side fails the backup comes online.

Unfortunately this is not the case with personal computers. There is no redundant internal hard drive that will mask a system failure. So I found myself standing at the counter of the Geek Squad while a sales technician gave me the pitch, “For only $199 and the cost of the hard drive we will replace it and service any problems for one year. pause – he looks for my reaction…. This also covers two other devices you might have – we’ll cover those too! ….pause – looks for reaction ….  Did I mention we’ll install antivirus software?” …. still no reaction from me….  He tried his best to get me to slide my credit card through the machine. All totaled this “deal” was going to run me $260. I decided I had nothing to lose by trying to install it myself. If I screwed up I’d bring it back to the Geek Squad. “I’ll just take the hard drive.”  Poor guy.

I found a tutorial on ifixit.com and set to work. First I needed to purchase glass moving suction cups to remove the screen and some torx set to remove the screws. With the requisite tools in hand I set to work. This would be pretty rewarding if I actually pulled it off. I held my breath through the entire assembly only to find out the BestBuy had sold me the wrong hard drive. I repeated the process and was back in business reloading software and data from my backup. Yay! I just saved myself $200 and moved my computer from crappy back to competent.