Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Brain transplant

My two housemates this year have two very different computers. One has a rather nice Carrera machine, custom-specified, with 5.1 sound card, good graphics card and all that jazz. The other has a 300Mhz Pentium II with a 6.4GB HD, which I reckon is now about 7 years old and is still on Windows 98. (See this rant from last week).
The latter of these two machines now won’t turn on. I’m pretty sure the problem lies with the power supply (it has, to used the politically correct term, “deferred success”), which is good in one sense because it means the disk and all the data on it is fine, but means the computer isn’t exactly usable. And that disk contains a dissertation which needs finalising and printing. By Tuesday.
So I did a brain transplant – opened up the two computers and put the hard disk of the old computer into to the new one. It took a couple of attempts to get the jumper settings right, since they weren’t labelled and I don’t have a huge amount of experience in that area, but eventually the computer booted and the drive appeared in Windows Explorer. It was then just a case of copying the all important word file onto a flash drive and we were done.
If you’re using an old computer – or any computer, really – it pays to ensure that you save multiple copies of anything important, so that if one location becomes inaccessable then you at least have one or more backups. My dissertation was always saved 3 times – on my hard disk, on my flash drive and on the university system via FTP, plus an occasional fourth backup on my parents’ machine in York. That way I wouldn’t fail my degree if my computer packed itself in days before the deadline.


  1. My brain transplants seem to be cascading. My current computer has three drives… the current HD, the HD from my previous Mac, and the HD from the Mac before that!
    I am nothing but surprised that the drives keep going, as they are quite old now. They’re backed up (just in case) but, in the meanwhile, it’s nice to have direct access to those old files when I need them. 🙂

  2. and an email to google is quite handy too. When I was doing my java course I had a routine that would zip up all my java data and email it to work and home at the end of the night. That way i had a backups by date too.

  3. When I wrote mine floppy discs were still all the rage, flash drives were unknown and hardly anyone had access to the university servers via FTP. Windows was on 3.0 (or was it still the version before that?). I had a PowerBook with a tiny display and a huge trackball (anyone remember those?), can’t remember which version the OS was. I think MS Word was 4.0, somewhere around that.
    You have it all so easy now…

  4. MSWord? Why when I was young we were lucky to have a piece of paper and used a hole in the ground as a desk 🙂
    Actually I remember using some wordprocessor on the Amstrad pc that predicted what you were going to type. It was great for speeding up text entry. I also found the first work project that I was involved on which recommended using AmiPro (remember that?) instead of Word….and the servers were going to be 386’s.

  5. Paper? Writing slate not good enough? 😉
    I remember the Atari 1040ST, everything was on floppy discs apart from the OS. If I remember correctly you started the word processor (can’t remember what it was called) from the floppy as there wasn’t anywhere to install it to. Then you swapped to the floppy with your documents…
    Never used AmiPro, although I vaguely remember the name.

  6. Writing slate? Eee, when I was a lad tha’ counted y’sen lucky if tha had a stick t’ draw shapes wi’ in dirt on t’ ground!
    I once wrote a GCSE project on a BBC B using Word Wise which was on a ROM and 5.25 inch floppies which really were floppy. which was a massive improvement on the magnestic audio tapes we used to use. Oddly I only have a hard copy today. 😉
    Having always built & re-built my own PCs transferring HDDs is second nature. It’s pretty unusual to find ones that don’t mark the jumpers settings on the drive though often rather cryptically. If i was a professor I’d put practical skills like that in computing BScs… 🙂