Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I had a hard drive crash last Sunday in my media PC (or HTPC, PVR, or whatever the hell you want to call it). Anyway it's the PC I wrote about building in Make magazine (see my profile for a link to it).

It's my pride and joy and it really bums me out that it is down. Since I also run my FTP, HTTP, SSH, and streaming mp3 servers off of that machine it definitely cramps my style. Plus I can't watch any of my recorded TV shows and since I use that machine to play DVDs I can't watch those anymore either. You never realize how much you'll miss something until it's gone.

On the other hand it was probably partially my own fault that it failed (although it DOES seem as if every hard drive crash I have experienced is at the hands of a Maxtor hard drive; note to self: don't buy those anymore). I do have far too little ventilation in the PC's case so the drives get pretty warm. Hopefully I can fix that.

I'm still in the process of replacing the drive and getting everything installed again. So I'm going to use this time as an excuse to do some upgrades that I've been meaning to do for some time:

1) Install WinXP instead of Win2K. It's really hard to justify doing this when the machine is running beautifully with Win2K, but now that I'm reinstalling everything anyway I might as well upgrade. I had a copy of WinXP Pro on an old PC that I haven't used in a couple of years so I just transferred that copy to the media PC.
2) Improve the ventilation in the case. As said before, the drives get pretty warm in there so I'd like to improve that a bit. I thought I was going to have to buy some fans and figure out how to rig them in my already-tight case, but after examining things a bit I figured out a way I could move the drives around to drastically improve airflow so I shouldn't even need fans now. Woohoo!
3) Replace the power supply. I was using a stock Dell power supply (250W) that was woefully under-powered since I had a Pentium 4, a Geforce 3, 2 TV tuner cards, 3 hard drives, and a DVD drive. Frankly, I'm amazed the power supply was able to power all that stuff at all. It did get pretty hot when I was doing much drive access on the machine... So anyway, I went ahead and threw out a little cash for a good power supply. I got an Antec SmartPower 2.0 500W supply from my local Fry's. It was pricey but it should be reliable. To install it I had to actually cut away part of the metal on the back of the case to get it to fit correctly. Man, the Dremel I bought years ago has turned out to be one of the best investments I've made.
4) Buy a copy of Norton Ghost 9.0, so I can image the drive so if this ever happens again I can just replace the hard drive and throw the image on the new drive. I already backup my data files onto a USB external hard drive but for some reason it didn't occur to me how much of a pain in the ass it would be to reinstall all the programs and OS. I'll also be able to use this to image my main PC's drive so I can upgrade it from the always-full 40GB drive it currently has to a larger 160GB or 200GB drive.
5) I recently got a really good deal on a Hauppage PVR-150 at Circuit City. I was a little worried about installing it with my old power supply (I figured it might be the straw that broke the camel's back). But now that I've got a new power supply I'm gonna throw the new card in there. Now I'll be able to record 2 shows in BeyondTV at the same time!

Well this experience has sucked, but I'll probably have a much better machine when I'm all done.

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