A truly magnetic quality

Although I’ve worked in IT for about 20 years now, my most interesting experience actually came about as a result of being the ‘technical friend’ of a home computer user. A friend of mine, with 2 children, purchased a new computer some years back, at about the time that tower cases were replacing the flatter desktop style of case. As with any of the computers he owned, he relied on me to help him set it up, show him its new features, etc., etc. Although the system was under warranty, he always called me for a reliable friend’s opinion before taking his system back to the dealer.

After about six weeks’ time, he called me up and described very strange behavior from his desktop. Clicking on some items would do nothing. Clicking on others would open whole different programs, some displaying garbled documents. He was constantly getting General Protection Faults or Read-Access errors. He was losing files. I suspected the integrity of his hard-drive so suggested that he run a defrag. After waiting about 45 minutes for the defrag to analyze his hard-drive, he called me back and informed me that it was reporting his hard-drive to be about 75% fragmented. After confirming that he was not doing anything terribly abnormal as a user, I suggested that he take the system back to his dealer and have them replace the hard drive. This he did and everything was fine . . . for about another four or five weeks . . .

He called me again, saying that the whole thing was starting again, that he had talked to the dealer, and that he was taking it in, but wanted me to come over and take a look at it first. Apparently, the hard-drive manufacturer had not found anything wrong with the original hard-drive returned to them, other than somewhat scrambled data! He wanted to show me how he was using the system, in case the dealer refused his claims. I obliged him and went over to see the strange phenomenon for myself. Indeed! His system was messed up royally! I have never seen such strange behavior and such haltingly appalling error messages in my life! So, he took his system back in, and the dealer begrudgingly replaced both the hard-drive and the controller, cables, and anything else that may affect the data stream to and from the drive. They returned the hard drive to the manufacturer, asking for a detailed analysis of what the problem might be.

Anyways, my friend took his computer home and it worked like a charm . . . for another month or so. Then, another call from a very frustrated friend! The report on the second hard drive had come back negative as well. The dealer had told him that was it for their assistance! So, I went over to see what I could determine. I walked into his office area, and immediately discovered the source of his problems! Having all of that real estate on the side of his new tower case that required decorating, he had allowed his kids to place fridge magnets all over the side of the case! Apparently not enough magnetism to wipe a hard drive . . . just enough to really mess it up over a few weeks’ time! Who knows what the uninitiated might do?

Alvin Murray, Regina