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Acer Aspire One Netbook hard drive issue

I recently worked on an Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AOD150). The netbook was no longer able to boot, as the system could not find an operating system. Booting the netbook up onto a USB drive, I was able to see the problem. The hard drive had two partitions, one hidden recovery partition and one active system (C:\) partition that had become corrupt.

The only solution was to use the recovery media. Only the owner did not have an external CD / DVD writer, so she could not create the recovery media. I contacted Acer, and they sent out new media for free. I got the media and reloaded the netbook, and all was well. I had a chance to work with it a little bit and liked the size, battery life, and cost. So I decided to pick one up.

I purchased an Acer Aspire One Netbook (Model AO571h). After allowing the system to restart a couple of times for set up, it was ready to go on first boot. I proceeded to connect a DVD writer and created the recovery media. I then decided to look at the hard drive partitions, so I put a bootable cd in the external optical drive I just used to create the recovery media and reboot.

Booted the netbook up on a PE (preinstall environment) cd, and all looked fine. The netbook had two partitions, one hidden recovery partition at 8 gigabytes and one active system (C:\) partition at 141 gigabytes, for a rough total of 149 gigabytes. That was correct for a 160 gigabyte hard drive once formatted.

I turned off the netbook and external DVD drive, disconnected the DVD, and restarted the netbook. What happened next was deja vu. The screen displayed cannot find operating system error. I turned it off, reconnected the external DVD drive, and proceeded to reload the system with the disks I had just created.

I reloaded the netbook and then checked the hard drive. This time there was only one active system (C:\) partition at 149 gigabytes. The system works fine and has had no problems since.

Remember, if your new laptop, netbook, or personal computer does not come with recovery media (disks), you probably have to make them yourself. This is the first thing that should be done. Luckily for me, that's just what I did.

Detecting and repairing disk errors in Windows XP

You can use the Error-checking tool to check for errors and bad sectors on your hard disk.

  • Open My Computer, and then select the local disk you want to check.
  • On the File menu, click Properties.
  • On the Tools tab, under Error-checking, click Check Now.
  • Under Check disk options, select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors checkbox.

Notes

  • To open My Computer, double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop.
  • All files must be closed for this process to run. If the volume is currently in use, a message box will appear, prompting you to indicate whether or not you want to reschedule the disk checking for the next time you restart your system. Then, the next time you restart your system, disk checking will run. Your volume will not be available to perform other tasks while this process is running.
  • If your volume is formatted as NTFS, Windows automatically logs all file transactions, replaces bad clusters, and stores copies of crucial information for all NTFS volume files.

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 3)

I started by taking the side panels and top off. It was at this point I decided to go excessive. Since most computer peripherals come with black finishes, I decided to change the case's color to black (this is where Home Depot comes into the picture). So I took off the face of the case and gently removed all of the buttons and lights.

A completely empty case.

I then proceeded to install the motherboard, processor/fan assembly, and memory. Next came the expansion card (wi-fi) and onboard connections. Note: Since I have some spare parts, I did install back panel connections for one serial port, one printer port, and four USB ports (for a total of eight on the back). These did not come with the motherboard. Then came the power supply and the drives.

The brand new system.

Here is a photo of the finished system, less the face and sides. I did add two more items into this $164.98 machine. Anybody who knows me knows I'm not particularly eager run onboard video cards. It uses a part of your system memory, which can be detrimental to a system's performance with a small amount of RAM. Say you have a system with 512 MB of RAM, and you have to have 128 MB for your video card. You have now cut your available system memory by 25%. Also, the memory on internal (opposed to onboard) video cards is faster. So I added a Microstar NX-8400GS with 512 MB for $43 and an Antec 80mm Tri-Cool case fan for $5.

So here's what I ended up with:

Intel Celeron 430 1.8 GHz with 4 GB's of DDR2 memory running with an FSB speed of 800 MHz, Microstar video card with an NVidia GeForce 8000 Series GPU with 512 of GDDR2 with a Western Digital 320 GB SATA Hard Drive.

Total for the whole system, $213.97, excluding labor. I will post a picture of the finished case when it's done.

Side note: My younger daughter decided she wanted to change her case too. This one is cool! Faux stone and chalkboard! Stop back by and see how this turns out.

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 2)

Before we can go shopping, we need to see what we can reuse.

An inside view of the 'old' system.

The motherboard and hard drive need to be replaced. The new motherboard will require a new processor and memory. So here's a list of what we can reuse:

  • Mid-tower case
  • CD-ROM
  • CD-RW
  • Floppy drive
  • Internal wi-fi card
  • Power supply

Usually, you would also have to change out the power supply to accommodate the new motherboard's increased electrical requirements. This power supply was replaced within the last two months, so that it can run the new configuration.

Time to go shopping. We can go online and local retailers. I prefer to go with local retailers, as returning items purchased online can be a hassle. But if you're sure that the possibility of returning the items is slim, it's a great way to get a bargain. The first item is a new motherboard, and what type of CPU (Intel or AMD)?

I'm going with Intel this time. O.K., an Intel processor may not be the most frugal way to go (AMD processors cost less), but for this system, I think it's the way to go. I went looking locally and found a Biostar G31-M7 for $50. It has an LGA775 processor socket. The array of processors available for it is broad.

I found an Intel Celeron 430 1.8 GHz (Retail box) on-line for $35. This is something I am relatively sure I will not have to return. Geek tip: Intel warranties are different for retail (boxed w/ cooling fan - 3 years) and wholesale (no box or cooling fan - 1 year). The price difference is the cost of a cooling fan. So unless you are going to overclock your processor (which requires more cooling than the standard fan provides and voids the warranty), go with the retail version.

I found a deal on memory locally. Got a Corsair twin pack of 2gb DDR2 PC-6400 memory for $50. It came with a $25 mail-in rebate, making the final cost $25 for 4GB of memory.

I also got the hard drive locally. It's a Western Digital 3200AAKS 320 GB SATA hard drive for $52. I could have gone with a smaller size to keep down the cost, but this is the time to think about storage requirements (now and future). The larger the drive, the less the cost per gigabyte.

The total cost at this point is $162 (if you get the feeling I'm not done yet, you'd be right). We have an Intel Celeron 430 running at 1.8 GHz on a Biostar G31-M7 motherboard with 4 GB's of memory. The system has been running on a preinstall environment for over 24 hours and passed several stress tests. So it's time to...

Outside view of the 'old' system.

'Pimp my Box' (sorry MTV, just had to use it).

The next time I write, we'll start building this system and take a trip to Home Depot. (Note: I am going excessive at this point).

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 3)

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 1)

Just the other day, I got a call from my daughter about her computer. It was acting strange, so I told her to bring it over. Sure enough, her system is starting to fail. The hard drive has bad sectors, and the motherboard has only one working USB port —a pretty good life for a computer I built nine years ago.

So now I am looking at the options available for upgrading her system. In the next few blog entries, I will give you more insight into the process of undergoing a system upgrade. The options that I am looking at are:

  • Completely brand-new
  • Used / Refurbished
  • Partial rebuilt with new parts

At this time, I would like to explain my two theories on computers:

  1. "Infant Mortality" is the belief that if it runs for a day (24 hours), it will run for its lifetime.
  2. A computer "Lifetime", from my experience, is three years from the start of service. At three years or older, it's not if it will break down, but when will it break down. Just like a car, the older it gets, the more repairs it will need.

With these in mind, you can see where a used system over three years old would not be recommended but can come in handy in an emergency. Refurbished systems can be good deals, but remember, they have been returned to the manufacturer and had something repaired. They still have their full warranty, software, and documentation, so a refurbished system may be right for your particular needs.

New systems can be found starting at $299 and up. These systems can come with and without software, so always read the specifications before buying. But if you already have a computer, you already have software too. And in most cases, you can install it on your new system.

Since this article is about upgrading your computer cheaply, I will do it in the most frugal way possible. I will disassemble the system and rebuilt it from the case up.

The next time I write, we'll go shopping for parts.

Upgrading your computer cheaply (part 2)

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