Tonight’s fix-up project has been an Acer Extensa 4220. My friend tried to format the hard drive and reinstall Windows XP, but in doing so he deleted the recovery partition as well as the OS one. He then tried to install from an XP installation CD, but couldn’t make that work either, as the hard drive was not recognised. I was able to realise that the problem was the SATA drive (Windows XP doesn’t have built in drivers). With no floppy drive and no real wish to cook up a custom installation with added drivers, I found a quick easy fix was to edit the BIOS settings to set the SATA controller to use IDE mode. Strictly speaking this isn’t as good as AHCI, which is the default, fully featured setting, but seeing as XP can’t take full advantage anyway it and a small price to pay for making the installation which and easy. It’s a surprisingly quick machine for a Celeron with 1GB of RAM, but then I suppose people used to count memory in megabytes when XP was new!
For the past few nights I’ve been working on a broken Dell laptop, an Inspiron M5030 which can best be described as a pile of junk. Due to a serious design flaw the case flexes due to overheating. As it flexes and gets hot some of the connections on the motherboard lose their solder, which causes the computer to fail to start with a series of seven beeps. This is a very common fault on this model, I’ve dealt with two personally and found dozens more cases mentioned on internet forums. A temporary fix can be made by deliberately causing the laptop to overheat by wrapping it in a blanket, blocking all the cooling vents and leaving it switched on in a warm place for an hour or so. This will often get the machine working again, long enough to rescue any data, but tends not to last more than a few days. Speaking of getting at the data, this horrible machine does not have an accessible hard drive slot, one needs to take the case apart to get at it, and the drive screws directly to the case plastics. This is a truly nasty computer, and the lack of quality is not a good sign for the future of Dell.