Not Quite a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

This girl had a computer. It consisted of some new parts and some hand-me-down parts, and while it wasn’t cutting edge, it did its job well. When some of the parts migrated from the old case to a newer, faster, shinier one, the hard drive went too.

For reasons the girl doesn’t remember, she decided to purchase a new hard drive somewhere along the line. Once, long ago, the concept of filling up her old one seemed preposterous – when would she ever have sixty gigs worth of anything?

Somehow, though, she did, and perhaps it was for this reason that she went and bought a new hard drive. It had quite obviously been a Very Long Time since she’d last purchased one. The new one could fit one hundred and sixty gigs, and she had a hard time imagining she’d ever fill that.

Reflecting on it, though, as she created partitions and named the drives, trying to put some order into the chaos that was her machine, the old drive had to be at least five years old. That’s, like, a million in computer years, and on that ancient drive were all of her various writings – things from games, short stories she’d abandoned, two or three projects that might even become novels… not to mention years’ worth of MP3s, including some rare Counting Crows songs she’d had since college.

The girl made a wise decision, and moved all of her precious information from the old drive to the new.

As time went on, she forgot she’d done it.

Sometime later – maybe a year on, maybe more – the girl came home from a long day at work and turned on her machine. Motherboard splash screen, diagnostic splash screen, operating system splash screen… black.

She pushed the power button – maybe it was a glitch. Same thing.

She went to the wizard that lived in her house, to whom she was conveniently also married, and tried not to whimper as she delivered the news. “It won’t turn on,” she said. She said a few things that sounded vaguely smart, like, “It’s posting,” and “I rebooted!”

The wizard took a look. At first, being a fan of Occam and his Razor, he thought the problem might be dust on the motherboard. Off came the case, out came the vacuum cleaner.

No luck.

He reseated the video card. (The girl couldn’t help thinking that if something had to go, it wasn’t so bad if it was the video card. I mean, really, what better excuse to buy a new one than “my old one broke?”)

No luck.

He took out the memory, to see if the motherboard was even paying attention. The computer screamed, shrilly and frequently, alerting the world to its missing brain. That was a good sign, at least. He put the memory back in.

He unplugged the newer hard drive, the shiny 160 gig master, to see if it even recognized the old drive.

The computer saw it, but it hung, and hung, and hung.

He unplugged the old slave drive and left the master on its own.

It took a while, because something mysterious called a Jumper Setting was left in place, so the master drive was casting about frantically, trying to find the suddenly unresponsive slave drive.

But boot it finally did.

Login screen! Startup sound! Pretty desktop background picture! Gtalk letting the girl know that, even in her (brief) absence from the internet, she had not been forgotten!

And the fear that had crept in, that maybe she’d been lazy and left all of her old stuff on the old drive, the worry she didn’t want to speak out loud for fear of making it true (for, remember, she’d forgotten her long-ago forward thinking), was quickly assuaged. The wizard looked, and lo, there were her stories, and her songs, all safe and sound on the new drive, where they belonged.

Still, no time for distraction.

The wizard shut it all down. Plugged the slave drive back in. Booted up. “Give it time,” he said. “It has to try to find the old drive.” The went down into the dungeon and he showed her the work that had been done during the day. They took their time with the tour, giving the computer a chance to think.

Once the girl went upstairs again, the computer was only just getting around to the log in screen. She sat and tried to look at what might be left on the slave drive, but the old drive had gone silent, now. She shut down, and unplugged it one last time.

Well, the wizard unplugged it. The girl for some reason couldn’t get the cable to come off. He also removed the Jumper, and put the case back on for her.

Another boot – the fastest boot in months and months – and the girl was back in business. Gmail! IRC! Intarwebz!

And they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

So, yeah. Let me tell you, it’s no fun to sit there, half sure that you moved all of your important stuff over, and half sure you didn’t, with no way to tell until you can figure out why your machine won’t boot up and then figure out how to get it to actually boot.

It also probably couldn’t have been all that fun to be Greg, with me sitting over his shoulder trying to be helpful. I pretty much know my way around the guts of a computer. I’ve put one together before, and can follow along relatively well when the conversation turns to computer geekery. But when it comes down to “OMFG WHY IS IT BROKEN WTF?” I’m not so great at diagnosing the problem, aside from asking questions that are most likely obvious ones.

But, all is well (for now). Funny thing is, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed what I thought was one of my fans getting awfully loud. I figured it would just be a matter of cracking the case and either cleaning the dust out of the offending fan or replacing it.

Now that I think about it (and considering how quiet my machine was last night), it must have been the old hard drive, whirring its last.

Alas, poor hard drive. Tonight I shall drink something alcoholic in your honor.

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One Response to Not Quite a Fairy Tale

  1. Grizz says:

    Awesome story. Would read again.

    Err… I’d read this one again, I mean. Don’t feel like you have to kill another hard drive just to write up an awesome story. 😉

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