Fixing Old Computers

Did you miss me? Sorry I didn’t get a blog post put out last night. I was without my computer for the whole day, due to the fact that I am working on fixing my mother-in-law’s computer. She basically inherited her son’s old Pavilion desktop, and it is chock full of all sorts of performance-degrading software.

Of course, before I wipe the whole thing, she wanted me to back up all of his old stuff, in case he ever needs it. I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to work on it.

For those of you that had blissfully forgotten the old days the way I had, let me give you a little refresher on what an old Pavilion 8500 includes:

  • The OS is Windows 98
  • The tower includes two (2) USB 1 inputs
  • There is a 3.5″ floppy disk drive
  • There is a CD-Rom drive (when I say ROM, I mean it. This is not a burner, it just reads CDs)
  • There is a modem
  • There is no network card of any kind besides the modem
  • The computer came with 64 megs of memory and a 10 gig hard drive (between 1 and 2 gigs of which are unallocated for some reason)

Needless to say, those specs can make it somewhat difficult to back up one or two gigs of information.

My first thought was to install a CD burner on the computer. Unfortunately, though, any CD burning software that would work on Win98 easily is too old to recognize the burner I tried to install. Any newer software that would work with my burner will not install very easily on Win98.

My next thought was to try to hook it up to my network, but that’s when I discovered it didn’t have a network card.

Then, I decided I would try to hook up my external hard drive to the machine and copy the files over to it. Unfortunately, however, Win98 wasn’t able to locate any drivers for my hard drive. I dialed up to the Internet using the AOL account that was stored on the computer, and downloaded some drivers from Seagate’s Web site. Unfortunately, those didn’t work for me, either.

Finally, I threw my gparted live CD in the computer and booted up to that. I used it to copy the entire hard drive from the computer and paste it as a partition on my external drive. That seems to have worked.

Unfortunately, though, it took the better part of the day to actually perform that task (working with a 750 gig external drive over a USB 1 connection can be somewhat slow), so I didn’t even hook my computer back up until this morning.

While I had the old Pavilion open, though, I went ahead and swapped out the memory, so it has 256 megs instead of just 64, though. That’s one good thing. Now I get to tackle the daunting prospect of trying to wipe the computer and get rid of all of the “pictures and movies”, video games, adware, spyware, etc. without a recovery disc to use and no real access to the Internet.

I have tried to determine if the recovery disc is possibly stored or hidden on the hard drive somewhere. It does not appear to be. There is an option to perform a “recovery” from the Win98 menu, but it says it requires a CD. I don’t know if the recovery disc was lost at some point over the years (most of the rest of the stuff that goes with the computer was still around) or if this is one of those Pavilions that didn’t come with a disc. I did some research on the Internet and found that, for a while, HP was distributing Pavilions without recovery discs (although the articles I read seemed to imply that that was only during the days that Pavilions had XP on them), that they were charging customers $9.95 to obtain a recovery disc, and that they would only provide them under certain circumstances.

I suppose it could be worse, though. I could be dealing with a computer that doesn’t even have a CD drive.

Tech Tags: HTMLCenter win98