Day 141 – The Zero Dollar Victory

Today I effectively saved my computer from imminent hardware demise through tenacity, forethought, and hard work, and NOT through excessive spending.

A few months ago, I noticed my computer began to make strange noises.  These strange noises soon became horrible, loose-change-in-a-blender sounds.  After a bit of sleuthing (I have a clear panel giving me ample view into the guts of my computer), I found out that a fan on my computer was chugging and barely spinning at all.  Not good.

I went to my local computer shop to see if I could get it replaced.  No dice.  The guy said that not only did they not have the fan I was talking about (he thought I meant replacing the power fan), but no branch of the store would stock it.  Dead end.

I went home to do some research, and was only met with more disheartening information.  The particular fan I wanted (northgate chipset fan) was no longer manufactured.  The only ones available were used, on e-bay, for hundreds of dollars.

It was at this point I felt like just giving in to the financial squeeze, throwing down hundreds of dollars either for buying a used fan and paying more to install it, or just getting a whole new computer.  I decided to give it one more shot.

Enter: Hollywood research montage.  I used an ebay photo to get the exact model number of the fan, then began going through a series of phone lines, submenu references, and word-of-mouth phone number references from other phone-people.  I felt like I was tumbling down the service line rabbit-hole.  At one point, I was literally getting my request translated into Sinhala to a guy in the same lunchroom as the phone operator, who “new more about this thing.”

Things seemed hopeless, until by twist of fate I was referred to a computer chop-shop in the midwest.  I was met with drawling southern voice and, after explaining my plight, the guy said (and I still have no clue how this happened) he would send me a used chipset fan FOR FREE hiding under the warranty of a different component.  I was giddy, but still cautious.  Really, how often do your needs get so perfectly met with computers, over the phone?

Weeks later I went to my mailbox and found a small carboard package that looked like it had been through a laundry machine.  There was road dust underneath the packing tape.  I tore it open to find not one, but TWO chipset fans.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I immediately went to my computer and tried to unscrew the faulty fan attached to my motherboard, but something was wrong.  It wasn’t budging and the whole thing seemed to wiggle when I touched the screw.  Research revealed that the fan is actually attacked to the back of the motherboard, and in order to replace it I would have to dissemble my computer almost fully.   Damn…

I stewed over this for about a month, my computer continuing to grind and chug with a malfunctioning fan.  I knew that summer was around the corner, and not having that fan to cool a delicate component of my computer would spell certain death as the temperature rose.  After consulting a tech-savvy friend of mine living in Quebec, I was emboldened enough to tackle this feat.

I tore apart my computer with acute attention to detail, labeling and photographing every step of the way.  As I put it back together I wondered if this wasn’t just a dumb idea that would send me crawling to a tech-shop to get them to undo my mistake.  I pressed the power button and-  SUCCESS!  The new fan I got for free was installed correctly – also for free!

So that is the story about how I grew as a person by forgoing the money route, and took a task into my own hands.  In retrospect, this wasn’t even a “Zero Dollar Victory”  I actually gained more from doing it myself!

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