Lessons Learned From Troubleshooting My New PC

Recently I upgraded my computer and got into all sorts of issues. I first ordered an Intel Core i7 based desktop and a 24’ monitor from Costco website. I know desktop is not the most popular one these days, but for me it’s still the most effective one for programming, writing. For one thing, the tablet even laptop screen is way too small to be productive for coding and blogging. Tweeting may be a different story. But then why would you need a tablet if you can use a smart phone for tweeting? Anyway that is a different topic that doesn’t belong here.

When the desktop arrived, I found its fans were way too noisy like a server, and became a big distraction. I searched the Internet for a solution, hoping it may be just a configuration issue. After changing the BIOS settings for fans, I could not lower the noise at all. The next few days, I found the monitor went black screen occasionally, but wasn’t sure whether it’s an issue with the monitor or the video card.

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After one week of effort, I decided to return the computer to a Costco store nearby. This turned out to be a big, although rarely used, benefit to buy from a site with local physical presence.

I still needed a replacement. This time I decided to go after a brand name and carefully read people’s comments. After returning the first desktop, I found that people actually complained about the noise problem of the first brand in some forums. But that’s too late.

Having studied different alternatives, I nailed down to Lenovo K330 due to most commenting it being “absolutely quiet.” I just order one from Amazon’s website.

The new desktop worked great but still had issue with the monitor which went black unexpectedly multiple times with “no signal” flashed for 2 seconds. Most times it just came back after several minutes, but occasionally never and I had to reset my computer. For this problem, I searched numerous forums and read through many discussions.

Initially I thought it was a monitor or display card driver issue. So I downloaded the latest drivers from both vendors’ websites but they didn’t address the problem. I also tried to lower the monitor resolution with no luck either.

Then I emailed the monitor’s support who suggested me to reset the monitor to the default settings. Still the issue came up as before. I decided to pick up a phone and called support line. The tech support told me there were 3 possibilities: monitor, cable, and video card. Absolutely common sense there. Luckily I still had the cable from my old monitor, so I just replaced the new one with it. Then the problem disappeared even with the highest resolution, and never came back.

I never had any problem with video cable before, therefore never thought it could be the cable especially when it’s brand new.

Lesson #1: Don’t assume the least possible is impossible. It could happen.

This was not it yet.

I found my wireless adapter getting me trouble as well. The Lenovo K330 came with a built-in wireless card therefore I just returned the external wireless card I bought for the first PC. The built-in wireless worked for two days – at least I downloaded several really big files before it started to fail.

The error message I got were “limited access” or “unidentified network.” I researched for similar issues and found many suggested solutions from re-installing the driver, to re-creating network and so on. None of them solved my problem.

I was about to give up. After all, it doesn’t worth my time to keep trying while a $30 external card worked just fine although I don’t like the duplication. In my last try, I moved my desktop to the kitchen table which is several feet away from the wireless router. A little pleasant surprise, it worked like charm. It’s clear that it’s just a signal issue even though I could see 4 out of full 5 bars in signal level before. I wish Windows 7 could have told me that so I could avoid all these troubles I had gone through.

Lesson #2: What you see is not necessarily what happens. Don’t trust Windows 7 blindly.

Keeping the PC in kitchen was not a solution, at least not a good one. So I had to find a way increase the signal so that I could move the PC back. While there are solutions like wireless extender which typically costs $100 or more not to mention extra effort to mount it, I decided to go with a much simpler solution I found from the Internet. It uses foil as panes which can reflect signals back to my PC.

Also helpful is to elevate the wireless router up the table. A small Kleenex tissue box can do the trick and fits well with surroundings in kitchen. The problem was solved at almost no cost.

Lesson #3: Cheap solutions can sometimes be just as effective as, if not better than, expensive ones.

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One Comment

  1. systembuilder1
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    This is why I still build my own primary workstation/desktop. I choose the components that I know will work. I make sure they are all secured properly in the system, and I take my time so everything works well the first time.

    All that effort means I never have to troubleshoot loud fans (I don’t buy them), cheap vga/dvi cables (drop shipped from mfgr instead of retail goons throwing boxes around), or terrible wi-fi signal (primary desktop has cat-5e run through the walls).

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