On nearly the same day that my quarantine started and I began working from home, my desktop computer started acting up and would refuse to boot up into Windows after any restart or shutdown. It would start up perhaps once out of 50 to 100 attempts. My only recourse to either leave it running or put it to sleep.

While all of us dealt with the pandemic, I was also trying to figure out why my computer wouldn’t recognize that it had Windows installed. Over the course of the last three months, I tried to diagnose what was wrong. I tried different hard drives, different cables, different slots where the cables would, different BIOS settings, and pretty much anything that made sense to change and sometimes things that didn’t make sense. Nothing seemed to work or give me any indication of what was wrong.

I was very close to buying a new motherboard, CPU, and perhaps even a new power supply, to start nearly fresh several times. I stopped though because I didn’t want to give up entirely and computer component prices are a bit high right now due to supply issues for some parts. In the end, I thought I could try two last things: take the computer to a repair shop (this is now possible with recent public health changes) or buy a new hard drive that use a different interface compared to all the other hard drives that I’ve been trying.

I oped for the latter solution. So, previous to this, I’ve been trying to use hard drives that connect with a cable to the motherboard. This is known as a SATA connection. Newer solid-state hard drives use a completely different interface known as M.2, which is basically a slot on your motherboard which you plug in your hard drive directly, with no cable required. Such drives internally use a different “pathway” to talk to the rest of your computer’s components compared to the SATA connection. My hope was that whatever was wrong with my system would get bypassed with a M.2 drive.

I ordered a 250 Gb M.2 drive on Amazon for about $50. It took almost half a month to get here due to the current shipping environment. It was easy to install and it took less than ten minutes to clone my existing SSD to this new one. I made what I thought was all the necessary changes, turned off my computer, took out my old SSD, and turned it back on… to find myself facing a Windows blue screen which indicated a serious error. It took some Googling but it I had forgot one critical change in the BIOS and after that my Windows booted up fine. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a fluke so I just restarted Windows ten times in a row just to be sure.

As I write this, everything appears to be fine. I don’t want to jinx it but I believe my computer is now in a state where it will allow me to shut it down or restart without any problems. I recognize though that I still haven’t diagnosed my original problem. I can’t say what caused it to go wonky in the first place. My solution was to bypass the problem, not fix it directly. I’m ok with that because after dealing with all this frustration over the last three months, I settle for what I have now.

It will be an odd feeling tonight when I’m able to go shut down my computer before I sleep and know it will reliably turn back on the next day.

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