Hard Drive Problems with a Solution

There are times when I really love technology, but there are even more times when I hate it. Like most things in life, things are great until something goes wrong. This time around for me was a pretty big wrong.

TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 5TH

I had just gotten home from work early on a Tuesday, ready to stream some more Splatoon 2 that I had beenrecently getting into. When i was getting things ready, I noticed my computer was off. It’s normally on all the time, but sometimes Windows 10 loves to just update and shut down the computer whenever it wants. Only this time it wasn’t turning on when I pressed the power button. Hmm. This computer has done this once before, and I had to dig it out, unplug everything, and it magically restarted when I plugged everything back in. Thinking it would work this time around, I was let down.

With the computer lying on its side and its beautiful components looking back at me, I tried to figure why it refused to start. I first tried different power cords and different outlets which didn’t make any difference. When I put my ear closer to the PSU, I can hear two rapid, faint clicks. I looked through the manual and online forums for any indicators, and most pointed to dead PSU or a failed component. Since it was early enough still, I decided to run to Fry’s Electronics and pick up a new PSU. I brought home and hooked it up, and bam. The computer started! All looked good except the loaded programs looked a bit odd. I went to toggle through the various drives and noticed the C and E drive were there, but the D drive was absent. My SSD happens to have two partitions that I call drive C and E, but my D drive is a separate mechanical drive that holds all of my data. I must have not connected it completely or perhaps it came loose on its own. Further inspection revealed that it was indeed plugged in. I restarted the computer and fired up the BIOS which showed no signs of a second hard drive. I felt the side of the hard drive for any heat or any signs of life. You can imagine what I had discovered. The absolute worst situation you could possibly imagine. All of your data, gone in a flash. And of course, I am not one who is crazy about making routine backups. Though I should, and we all should. But when it’s a 2TB drive, the motivation is difficult to come by.

I remove the HDD and attach it to an enclosure just to see if maybe some cables had gone bad, but still nothing. The drive wouldn’t even spin up. Was this the end? I am not one to panic right away about anything, but this was beginning to be too much. Always being the optimistic one, I tried to search for some answers. I’m not new to HDD problems, and I’ve had several break down to mechanical failure, but this particular case was just new to me. I had to dig deeper. I browsed many forums and videos related to my particular problem, and all seem to boil down to this; a power surge sent from the power supply possibly zapped the HDD. However the drive has on-board diodes (5v and 12v typically) that will sacrifice themselves in order to protect the rest of the drive. The downside is the drive will not work again unless they are removed or replaced. To check them you need to remove the PCB from the drive using a special torx driver. I have a bunch of weird tools and various sets of screwdrivers, so I went digging to see what I had, and sure enough I had a nice set of torx drivers. There were four screws holding down the board and three came off nicely. Except. One. It just wouldn’t break. And because the screws are so tiny and the head was a star shape, any amount of pressure would destroy the head of the screw, and that’s just what happened. How I have a drive what a rounded off screw head that refused to come off. Further research says to buy a Dremel tool and cut a line across the top and use a flathead. Sounds super risky, yet super fun. I’ve never used one before, but hey why not. I ended up going to a 24-hour Wal-Mart and picked one up. I decided to wait until the next day to try it since it was already well into the middle of the night and the noise would be pretty loud.

WEDNESDAY – SEPTEMBER 6TH

The next morning I decided to just go for it without any practice. Pretty ballsy considering I had no idea what I was doing and the screw was so close to the PCB. I was amazed how quickly it went. It took a few sparks, sharp, piercing metal-cutting sounds, but after about 10 seconds it was all over. I used a nearby flathead screwdriver and got it off. Then I flipped the PCB over to examine the damage.

No apparent damage. No signs of burning, busted components, destroyed traces or anything. I also tried removing the diodes but I didn’t have the necessary tools to get them off without potentially destroying the rest of the board. Everything was so ridiculously tiny. I really wanted to believe it was just a busted PCB. All signs seem to point to that. And the more I looked into it, the more daunting it appeared to me for me to do it myself. On newer hard drives, including this Western DIgital, there are soldered ROM chips on the board the contain specific information about the mounted hard drive that, without it, would render the HDD unable to read itself if swapped to another board. Which means if I wanted to swap the board with a donor board, I would also have to swap the ROM chip. It was then when I soon realized I should seek a professional. I looked into several options. Some ranging into the $1,000+ for data recovery services. Yuck. Luckily I came across a site that offered a PCB swap service. Basically, you remove the PCB pff your hard drive, you mail it to them (you keep the actual HDD with you), they will find a donor PCB and swap the ROM chip over, and send it back to you. All of that for $50. Sounded incredibly reasonable to me. I decided to go for that option. And if that didn’t work, then I would try something else. I sent off an email to the company explaining my situation, then went to bed.

THURSDAY – SEPTEMBER 7TH

That morning I received an email with their diagnosis. They believed it to be due to a PCB failure and a donor board was recommended. I went ahead and shipped off my board to them. They would find the donor board for me and do all necessary swaps and send back the new one. Unfortunately I wouldn’t have it back in my hands for another 2 weeks or so. SO…

…MANY DAYS, LOTS OF SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, HORROR-FILLED DREAMS ABOUT HARD DRIVES AND SEVERE PANIC LATER…

TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 19TH

I had been checking the mail every day since Saturday (I never check the mail regularly). Unfortunately they did not send me a tracking number so naturally I was on my toes every night. Well tonight was the night. Inside this tiny little package was a shiny new PCB ready to be mounted to my hard drive. I worked slowly and remained deeply hopeful for a good outcome. I’ve had enough bad dreams through the weeks of it not working or something else going wrong, but I put those beside me for a moment. When the drive was back together, I slowly connected it to the external hard drive enclosure, connected it to the computer, and gave it a few moments before I decided to press the power button. I was a bit nervous about it! I pressed it. And I heard that signature buzz, the slow whir and some light disk activity. It turned on! So far it’s working! However, the drive did not show up in the explorer. I loaded up Disk Manager and it didn’t show up there. Hmm. I waited a few minutes, but nothing. So I powered down the enclosure. I loaded in a different hard drive. It turned on and loaded up the drive information. So I powered down and put the repaired drive back in. This time, I powered up, heard all the familiar sounds, and there it was! D Drive, Data Files all there. I felt so relieved. All the work and stress and finally paid off and I reconnected it to my main computer.

After starting up the computer, certain Windows programs were still confused and erased a lot of my customized settings in favor of some basic layout. It would take a lot of work to try and fix this. OR. I could try a Windows Restore point sometime just before the 5th! Luckily, and conveniently, one was made on August 29th, merely a week before the inevitable. After restoring, it was almost like nothing had happened at all. It was finally over, and I can move on.

Even though I did replace my power supply for around $130, I also picked up a backup hard drive, but I plan to return it. All in all, I think I figured out what went wrong, in case anyone is interested: When the power supply surged and fried my HDD, I think it felt bad and went into a sort of lockdown mode where it would refuse to startup again as long as the HDD was still attached. Possible? It may also be possible that the power supply is still good? It’s only about two years old, so I don’t really know. Either way, after what happened, I think I’ll stick with my new power supply. I still wonder why it only got the HDD and no other components. I’m both grateful and horrified to think about it.

In fact, let’s stop thinking about it. Now to try and schedule some backups!

13 Days Until Shocktober

As many of you might know, my favorite holiday of all time is Halloween. That being said, I typically consider the Halloween season to begin on October 1st and end on November 1st. During this month, I try to only watch scary movies, halloween television specials from the 80s and 90s and of course, play scary video games. It’s been a running tradition of mine for as long as I can personally remember, but since I discovered streaming video games back in 2008, it’s been a month-long tradition every year since.

This year, we will be celebrating our 10th consecutive month-long celebration which I call “Shocktober”. I’m super excited for this year. We have so many new games to get to, as well as some good ‘ol traditional games I always lean on, such as Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. We have a dedicated forum area for any gaming ideas or other related themes that you would like to share with us. We’re always looking for more ideas! => http://www.tombobblender.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=73&t=1661

We hope to see you during Shocktober! Visit us on tombobblender.com to check it out!

The SNES Classic Preorder – My Story

It was a Monday night and I had gotten home from work around 9:30. A long day for me, and I was pretty tired. I still hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I made something for myself. I decided to stream some more Splatoon 2, so at 10:26p PT I went live and started to get ready. As I was setting the YouTube live stream titles, I toggled over to Twitter to see if my auto-tweet went through. It was then when I saw a tweet announcing that pre-orders were still up on Best Buy. Still up? I never knew they went up at all today! It didn’t matter to me, instead I flew to the Best Buy website and tried my best to just pre-order. I had pre-ordered my Switch with them and it went swimmingly. As you checkout, you can decide whether to have it ship to the store or to your home. I opted to have it sent directly to me, but when I went to finalize, an error showed up saying my address was outside of their range or whatever, which has never happened before. So I back up and try it again. Nothing. Eventually, I just told it to send it to a nearby Best Buy location. That worked! After taxes, it came to $87.19. Out of curiosity, I refreshed the page. The Pre-order button had changed to a grayed out ‘Coming Soon’. I just made it. I later learned that the pre-order window was only 20 minutes before it was gone. Moments later, my friend Neko walked through my front door with my very own Famicom Mini! At around 10:51p PT, I announced on my stream that I was able to secure a pre-order! Now I’m really excited! After the torture I went through to get my NES Classic Edition just a few months ago, I’m happy that is over with. Now the wait begins!

30 Years – The Legend of Zelda

This is the year where we are going to start seeing most of the original NES games reach their 30-year Anniversary. On this particular day, we are reminded that the original The Legend of Zelda was released 30 years ago today.

A game like this simply cannot be forgotten. Of course for me, I remember when it first launched in America, and hearing about it just about everywhere. Although my memories are pretty thin, I do have a few specific stories I do recall from my past.

First, I just have to talk about the title screen. A title screen that was so memorizing and eerie. It was quite theatrical. The waterfall cascading down the rocks, the music sounded a bit haunting to me, like an eerie flute echoing far away. The game fades to night time, and then the music kicks up to a more adventurous tone. The story is laid out, and we’re introduced to all of the items in the game. I remember the sense of feeling scared when the Magical Sword scrolled on because the music would change as it happened. To this day, it’s almost criminal to skip the intro without sitting through it at least once.

When I was in first grade, I remember talking to my friends about having difficulty finishing the Legend of Zelda. I was stuck inside level 9, not knowing where to go. I forget how it all came together, but my female teacher overheard the conversation in class and told me how her daughter was also struggling, but got some help with a full map of level 9. She said she would give me a copy. I remember feeling really excited. The next day, I remember getting a xerox copy of that infamous level 9 skull map, indicating the locked doors, item locations, lock door traps and staircase solutions. I seem to recall it being being a very dark copy, barely making out any specifics but I didn’t care. I remember being so excited that I gave her a big huge hug. When I got home from school, I remember finishing the game.

Another memory I have was lending our copy of Zelda to my neighbor Chris. When I had asked for it back some time later, I loaded up the game and found that he had erased ALL of my save files, and each one was named CHRIS. Oh my gosh was I upset. Not only that, the other two had barely any gameplay on it. But that was okay. It gave me a reason to play it again. And again.

I will celebrate the anniversary by playing through the entire game tonight. Each time I replay it, it almost seems like the first time all over again. I’m okay with that. The game is truly timeless.

10-Year YouTube Mario Paint Videos Anniversary

Today’s my 10 YEAR Anniversary of Mario Paint videos on YouTube. My life changed forever through this silly idea.

I have met some really fascinating people both on and off line, and many of those people I still talk to today. It was never something I expected, and was something I was completely new to. Talking to people online seemed so strange to me, let alone making any meaningful friendships. It all seemed silly to me.

Around this time, MySpace was a thing, and Facebook was pretty much limited to my college friends. Everyone I knew online was someone I knew in real life. Until YouTube. Posting videos on YouTube and having a complete stranger leaving messages for me felt very different. It took me a while to get used to the whole idea. It followed by people trying to get in direct contact with me, starting with the YouTube inbox. Sometimes for just simple questions, a few words of praise or the desire to learn more about me. Was this normal? Should I tell my personal friends know about this? Or was this some kind of second-life thing. I didn’t know what to do, but I tried my best to see where it would go. I created an AIM account and a Skype account and before I knew it was having actual voice conversations with people. Whaaaat. It took a year to really let it all sink in. Fast forward 10 years, and it’s become a huge part of my life. HUGE. Almost necessary. Most of my friendships I made 10 years ago are still active today. I can’t even think of any real life friends who have stuck around that long. I guess all I can really say is thank you. Thank you to everyone, for everything. You all make me smile in different ways. I am so grateful for everything.

Jeff Day is Best Day

A wonderful friend of mine, Jeff Benson, someone I’ve known of for nearly a decade but became fast friends with about 3 three years back, happened to be in town this weekend. I really wanted to see him, so he made some time to come hang out with me today after I got off work. He’s one of my most unique friends, where we both share a common obsession: Mario Paint. I’m more of the music aspect of the game, where he’s definitely on the visual side of things like drawing elaborate artwork and animations and going into great detail about his art style and techniques with the Mario Paint mouse. I’ve never known of anyone who loved Mario Paint as much as I did. I’ve played it so much growing up. Nearly everyday after school. Countless hours. When Jeff visits, we always make a joint effort to create a Mario Paint masterpiece, and I love every minute of it. I love every minute I spend with him a well. He’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever talked to, and wish I could talk to for days. He’s always welcome here, and any chance I ever get to see him, I will find a way. On top of all that, he’s also a fantastic human being.

I miss him already.

Happy Nintendo Switch Day

Today is the day the Nintendo Switch is released! Believe it or not, this was first system that I have ever preordered. It was also the first system that I went to pick up at midnight the night before and stand in line for. It was actually quite fun, and it only took me about 40 minutes or so to get it. I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and play it yet but I loved watching my friend Eevee play Zelda Breath. I still have so many questions about the system and what’s coming for it. I hope it does well, I really do. I loved the Wii U so much too, and I will continue to use it for a long time. For the record, I currently own every home console Nintendo has ever produced in the US market, and they’re all set up in my entertainment center.

Hi-Def NES Review

I stopped by my Post Office today to pick up my package. I was already annoyed with the USPS so I just wanted to get in and out of there quick, and luckily I did.

The packaging of my NES was the best I’ve ever seen from a modder. The NES itself was individually wrapped in bubblewrap and secured with clear tape. It was then wrapped some more with this brown tethered paper bag material; I’m not to familiar with it, but it provided a bit more cushion. He also sent back my 72 Pin adaptor which he also put in its own little pink baggy.

Upon first inspection, I was floored by the professional work done on the machine. The cutout required at the back of the machine for the HDMI port looks like it was meant to be there by Nintendo themselves. If you didn’t know any better, you would have believed it was stock. This is  my original system from the 80’s, and though the case itself has a few blemishes on it, it’s still in great physical condition.

I also purchased the Blinking Light Win and sent it along to be installed, which he also did for me. No longer do you have to press down when inserting a game and bending pins; it’s a straight-on cartridge slot now, much like the N64 or SNES.

I also had done some expansion audio mods on this system, and the job I did on it was, to my standards and with limited resources, decent enough. He also took it upon himself to rewire what I had done and professionally wire it up. He also sent me pictures of the work he had done on the inside of the system.

When I first turned it on, it wasn’t powering up. The power light would show for a split second then turn off. I tried a different outlet and still the same problem. I think I knew what the problem was. At the time, I was using a third party power supply that has two leads coming out of it to power an NES or an SNES. It probably requires the original NES power supply. Well, thank goodness I’m always prepared and had it in my storage bin! Once I hooked it up and powered it on, we were in business!

I loaded up my PowerPak and decided to try Super Mario Bros. 2 first. I was blown away by the picture quality, and I had not even toggled through the settings yet. I had to play the game though. Right away, I can tell you, the input lag from the controller to the TV was non-existent. I couldn’t believe it. Over HDMI. One of the worst things about the Wii U Virtual Console is the input lag. It’s awful. That and the super dark picture quality. To really test out the input delay, I tried Mega Man 2. Flash Man was easily defeated!

After trying a few more games, I started to mess around with the menu features of the mod. There are so many customization options. One of my favorites is the audio options. You are able to individually pan each audio channel of the system, including all of the expanded audio channels, as well as manipulate the volume. It also has a waveform viewer, pitch viewer and memory address viewer. After seeing this prompted me to contact the creator about a possible addition to the audio viewer. I’ll see about doing that this weekend. I still have a lot more to do with the system, but once the weekend is here, I can really start to become more familiar with every aspect of the mod.

I highly recommend anyone who loves their NES and desire to include it with modern gaming/TV setups AND get the best possible audio and video signals from the machine. It is NOT an upscaler. The good news is you can still use your composite connection to play your light gun and ROB games, which was important for me to have as a feature since I still do enjoy to play those games from time to time.

If you would like more information about this particular product, visit this link: https://www.game-tech.us/mods/original-nes/

 

USPOS

Today is March 1st and it could have been a good one. A GREAT one! It was the day I was going to get my long-awaited Hi-Def NES in the mail. Priority. Two-day delivery through the United States Postal Service. I knew I had to sign for it, so I was sure to monitor the door today. Eventually I had to leave for work, so my friend Eevee volunteered to door sit. I set it up so they would text me on the delivery status, which informed me in the morning that it was out for delivery today. YAY! Around 2 PM, I received a text saying that the package was unable to be delivered because nobody was home to sign it, and that they left the re-delivery slip on the door. I asked Eevee about it, and he said no one had knocked or anything. He looked around or a delivery slip, and there was absolutely nothing. What the hell. When I came home tonight, I decided to check my locked mailbox. Guess what was in there. THE PACKAGE SLIP. Claiming no one was home to sign for the package, so they had to return it to the Post Office. Yeah. More like you DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO DELIVER IT TO MY ACTUAL DOOR AND JUST THROUGH THE SLIP INTO THE MAILBOX.

Fuck you, US’POS’PS.

Glad I paid to have it priority and with a signature for safety. The same thing happened with my NES ROB. I’ll just pick it up tomorrow morning.

One Month of Blogging!

I completed my first month of daily blogs! Thank you very much, February, for the shortcuts! All I have been able to think about today was getting my Hi-Def NES in the mail tomorrow, which also happens to be March 1st! I just hope I’m around to sign for it when they deliver it. And then of course March 3rd is the release day of Nintendo Switch, and I’m all preordered for that and for Zelda Breath. Lots of good stuff to start off the month already!