POWER USER

Loss of Internet access puts PC repairs in limbo

John McCormick

Never have I felt as isolated'neither by Appalachian snow nor power failure'as I did recently when I lost Web access.

Since about 1980, I've been offline for no more than a few hours, except by choice. But it wasn't by choice when a hard drive began to fail, shutting me out of the Internet.

The outage came at the worst possible time, just before the top business and social event of my year: Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa. As a member of the chamber of commerce and owner of www.punxy.net, I was deeply involved.

Not only could I not access the Web, but gigabytes of my business data on a year-old Compaq Presario PC also became inaccessible. Most of it was duplicated online, if and when I could get back on the Web.

My favorite utility, Norton SystemWorks from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., reported that 11 percent of the 20G hard drive was fragmented. So I began running Norton Disk Doctor, rescanning with SystemWorks and defragging as new faults kept appearing on the Bigfoot drive from Quantum Corp. of Milpitas, Calif.

I felt reassured that GoBack from Roxio Inc. of Milpitas was installed and could revert the system to a previous state.

After a dozen restarts, SystemWorks showed no further problems, so I shut down. But the next morning I could not access my scanner. Then Microsoft Windows 98 locked up.

Now I was worried. At reboot, Windows wouldn't start at all. I rebooted again and hit the space bar to launch GoBack before Windows started to load. The fix seemed to work, so I rebooted again. But a half-hour of disk churning later, I was without Windows or even a cursor.

So I rebooted the Presario yet again to get setup information. That failed.

My last three computers came from Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and IBM Corp., so it was time to try Dell Computer Corp. I ordered a $375 reconditioned OptiPlex, monitor included.

In a couple of days, I was back online. Even with the best recovery tools, Windows software had bitten me big-time.

The day after I ordered it, a 20G Seagate hard drive arrived from Dirt Cheap Drives Inc. of Richardson, Texas. I installed it and a dozen essential applications'now the Presario works fine.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at poweruser@mail.usa.com.

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