Even Technicians Get Fooled

(Originally published on 17 April 2002)

Some background, if you please. I’ve been and done MCSE (I didn’t write the upgrade, so I’m back down to MCP). I’ve been doing tech support for several years now, and know Microsoft Windows well. My hardware knowledge is good (I have a certificate to prove it), but shaky when it gets too complicated. So this last week I was completely stumped.

Microsoft Certified Professional
My MCSE Status is now revoked

About two weeks ago, I had put a (legal developer) version of Windows XP Professional on my Celeron 400-based PC. It’s an old box, but I’d just popped in an additional 128MB RAM DIMM and the machine was cruising nicely. Then all of a sudden, the PC started rebooting every so often. It could not be reproduced, so I assumed I could live with it. Then it did it seven times in one morning.

My beloved PC
My beloved PC

So with Windows 2000 Professional CD in hand (still legal), I decided I’d install that. Last time I’d had Windows XP (RC1) installed, it had given me problems, so it was probably just an old machine giving grief. Anyway, the Windows 2000 installation went along fairly smoothly, although the PC did reboot itself at one stage.

Windows 2000 CD

After a couple of days, with the PC running properly again (the house runs on an Ethernet network with up to four connections into my SMC 10/100 switch), I breathed a sigh of relief. After all, it must have been Windows XP. Then the unthinkable: the PC started rebooting itself again, at random intervals, but always with someone at the PC doing important work. Go figure.

Then around the beginning of the week, a nasty smell seemed to come out of nowhere, and honestly, we all thought it was a rat that had crawled in somewhere to die. I thought it was in the ceiling, and everyone else thought it was in my room. I was a real personality with the rebooting and unstable PC, and a rotting animal smell somewhere in my room.

Mr Personality

So tonight, when my PC rebooted again, I said “Enough is enough”, and turned it all off. I thought it was the new memory, so first I swapped around the DIMMs, and checked all the connections. Then I hit the power button, and nothing. The switch and scanner, running off the same power strip, also didn’t want to work. I wiggled the plug, at which point I noticed that someone (probably me) had plugged in another adapter, which happened to brush against the little reset button on the power strip. So now I found out why my PC was rebooting.

Pesky reset button

Then, on impulse, I checked the wall socket. After burning my fingers on the metal plate, I knew something was not right. I recall when we first moved in that the plug got hot, but I wasn’t too worried back then. I was worried now. I thought my PC and all attachments had been fried. So I set about unplugging everything from the power strip so that I could get it out.

Imagine my surprise after trying to remove the plug from the wall socket. As you see from the picture, it did not want to come out. Why? Because, oddly enough, it had fused itself to the wall socket. The smell emanating from my room was not a dead animal after all, but twisted burning metal and plastic. It’s a wonder the house didn’t trip out often. Or maybe it did, and we just accepted it as something else. All really quite sinister.

Fused wall socket

So now what? Well, I have now run an extension lead through from another bedroom, and am using another power strip to run everything. Hopefully, I won’t get any more trouble, but you never can tell …

My new solution