I spent about nine and a half hours today working on my computer. No, not using my computer do to work – that wouldn’t necessarily be all that noteworthy. Instead I mean I spent the entire god damned day working on my computer in order to get it running again, even though I would have rather taken it out back and shot it. Repeatedly.
What was the problem, you ask? Well, I’ve been having issues with the computer locking up on start-up. Sometimes it would be fine, other times it would take about three or four (or five) restarts to get the thing to the desktop, as it would get to the little Windows 7 startup logo it would just freeze and stare at me, taunting me. Sometimes it would get to the user login screen, just to fuck with me and give me false hope, but most of the time I was left staring at that little multicolored window as it stubbornly sat there.
Luckily for me (you’d think it was luck, anyway) I managed to figure out the problem: Windows 7 does not play well with certain Nvidia video cards, especially older ones like my EVGA 9800GTX+. The problem strikes quite a lot, and the only surefire way to avoid the problem would be to replace your video card with a newer one, according to the research I did, which involved swearing profusely while I sat in Safe Mode, downloading iteration after iteration of Nvidia drivers in a vain attempt to find the one configuration that might actually resolve the problem. Since that proved about as helpful as a submarine with a screen door, I disabled the Nvidia drivers and just used the generic plug-and-play drivers that cone with Windows; while that got me back to my desktop with no problem, it postage-stamped my monitor and made my computer run like shit.
At this point, I decided to try an upgrade-in-place for Windows 7, which is basically just re-installing the operating system without touching everything else, as several other people who had encountered the same problem I was experiencing recommended it. That turned out to be huge fucking mistake, as Windows 7 automatically defaulted to the old video drivers, making the installation hang on the final step. Not only that, but I couldn’t get into Safe Mode to disable the drivers, as the installation wouldn’t complete that way, leaving me in the kind of flying idiot box that John Yossarian would have identified with.
Finally, I had no choice but to go with the nuclear option: full format and clean install. This worked like a charm! Especially if you replace “worked” with “fucked me over” and “charm” with “pack of ravenous hyenas.” I had essentially bricked my computer at this point, as the thing was going through a constant restart cycle whenever it hit the startup screen, and I was only a hairsbreadth from utter chthonic madness as I was faced with the prospect of having to use the 8 year old laptop with the busted LCD monitor for the next six months before I could start saving up for a replacement video card. Yeah, I know they’re relatively cheap, but you try saving for a wedding at the same time.
At this point I knew I had pretty much nothing to lose, so I got out the screwdriver and popped the case open, trying my best to not forcibly rip the video card from its place on the motherboard and shake it like a baby interrupting my FarmVille progress. I even went so far as to pull apart my old computer – the one that’s been lying fallow since the last epic battle of man versus machine I engaged in – in order to see if I could rip out the video card from that one and plug it in to the newer computer as a replacement, but the new motherboard doesn’t out-of-date technology, funnily enough. Useless goddamn AGP architecture.
Finally, I said, “fuck it, what do I have to lose?” and completely disconnected my video card. On a whim, I switched it to another expansion slot – and the son of a bitch worked. Perfectly. Leaving me sitting there wondering if this was some sort of cosmic joke at my expense – and also whether or not the problem was that I had an ailing video card or that one of the PCI-E slots on my less-than-six-months-old motherboard is burnt out. I also briefly wondered if we had any alcohol in the house.