One Of Those Days

I often lend some technical and musical assistance at a local church. In today’s case, the DVD drive in an aging computer they leave in their chapel was failing. So, I ordered a cheap replacement and went to install it today. A theoretical twenty minute job. If only…

The first things I noticed on opening the old desktop were the connections used on the drive: Molex power and a huge data bus for which I can’t even think of a name. It’s been so long since I’ve replaced components on older equipment that the fairly recent transition to SATA didn’t even occur to me. Fortunately the motherboard did have SATA ports available for data, but SATA power from the PSU didn’t exist.

One quick trip to RadioShack for a Molex-SATA adapter later, the drive was installed. I boot the machine, but there’s no DVD drive to be found in the system. After a visit with Google, I boot into the board BIOS and eventually find and enable the SATA connections. Round two booting into Windows now shows the drive and everything is working. Well, except for one minor issue.

At this point, Windows notices that “significant hardware changes” have been made, and decides that its own installation may not be genuine. It gives me a friendly ultimatum that if I don’t activate Windows in three days, it will no longer be usable. My twenty minutes is at about two hours by this point, by the way.

Now, to activate Windows you must be on an admin account. Reasonable, yes? Problem: no one around knows what the password is, and the only other account is a locked-down “Guest” account. So, back to Google. There’s a hidden, backdoor-esque “Administrator” account that often gets left without a password on installation. As my luck today would have it, whoever set up this machine was actually paying attention and locked that account as well.

I tried weaseling my way in through Safe Mode and Command Prompt, but couldn’t even select those options because the USB ports for the keyboard weren’t active on that prompt. Hello Google… again. Back into the BIOS, legacy USB support gets enabled. Now I can boot into Safe Mode, but only admins can actually use that mode.

Four hours later (Hey, remember that twenty minutes?), we now have a computer with a working DVD drive that in three days won’t be working anymore. Our options are down to someone miraculously remembering the magic password or someone uncovering a Windows XP Pro installation disc (no luck so far). Alternatively, what I’ve suggested is to forget the whole Windows nightmare and install a lightweight Linux distro like I’ve done with my aging hardware at home.

Needless to say, today has done little to improve my already low opinion of Windows these days.