How Big a Difference can One Piece of Hardware Make to a Computer?

My poor rig was around a year overdue for a clean out. I evicted at least two families of dust bunnies from within its case on the weekend.

A few weeks earlier, I uninstalled the beta client for an upcoming MMO called Firefall. Much as I wanted to keep it handy for when I interview Crystal Graziano for the Paid to Play Podcast, I was running out of room on my 130GB Windows partition and it had never run well for me. I always chalked it up to having a computer below Firefall’s minimum specifications and intercontinental lag.

While I was cleaning my PC out, though, I decided to removed the Audigy 4. I started using the sound system built into the motherboard a while back, so it was redundant. On a whim, I also decided to reformat my hard drive and re-install Windows XP.

When I got to the XP setup screen, though, a surprise awaited me.

That 130GB partition? It’s on a 300GB Serial ATA hard drive, and the only reason it’s so small is because in the past, it’s all Windows would recognise (I tried installing various flavours of Linux on the remaining space, but they all proved flaky). I thought it was just new hardware incompatible with Windows XP’s default drivers, even when friends assured me XP ought to pick up a Serial ATA drive with no problem.

Rob Mid-Podcast with Marcus.
Me in the middle of chatting with Marcus. The Beast is in the background.

Yet now, Windows was seeing the whole drive, Linux partitions and all.

I removed all the partitions, set up a new 240GB one (leaving 60MB free so I can fiddle with Linux should the urge strike) and reinstalled.

Surprise #2: Windows boots up a lot faster every time.

With the extra space, I decided to reinstall a bunch of games, including Left 4 Dead which had always run glitchily at maximum resolution (1680 x 1050 on my monitor and an Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS video card), with lots of tearing and pauses as the sound looped for no apparent reason.

Surprise #3: Left 4 Dead runs nice and smooth now.

At the moment I’m re-downloading Firefall to see whether it runs okay now.

Borderlands (no, not Borderlands 2) is also singing its siren song.

Yes, that one.

But I wonder: Just how did one piece of hardware cause so much grief?

Are you curious?

What’s the most annoying and / or hardest to diagnose hardware fault you’ve ever had?




Left 4 Dead