People sometimes perceive as me some sort of technical whiz, and perhaps that’s true if you compare me to, say, my mom, who had trouble with the concept of double-clicking when forced to use a computer at her job. (She’s been retired for a number of years now.) And my co-workers certainly think I’m a miracle worker when it comes to writing scripts that cut a three-day manual job down to 30 seconds.

But when hardware breaks down, I’m dumb. I own my dumbness. I am not an electrical engineer, and after years of working with computers, I couldn’t begin to tell you what the hell happens inside the damn thing.

So this morning, I turn my computer on only to hear the fan whir like it’s about to take off the runway. I cut the power and plug it back in. Same thing. I conclude it’s a bum hard drive, although I have this nagging suspicion it might be something on the motherboard itself.

The drive was purchased nearly a month ago, so I took the old one and put it back in the computer. Luckily, I hadn’t wiped anything off of it. The computer started up with no problem — no fan sounding like it’s about to fly out of the room. Conclusion: hard drive.

I brought the drive to work to format it before I took it back to Fry’s for a refund. It did seem odd to me that the drive would have no issue running from an enclosure. But I didn’t pursue that line of thought. (Perhaps because I knew it would lead to the idea of something more serious than a bum hard drive.)

I was a few days shy of missing to cut-off date for a refund, and I looked around the shelves to see if anything was on sale. Nope. I knew Best Buy had 500GB drives for sale, so I got one there. The drive I returned was $108.24 (also on sale). The one I bought cost $130.50.

When I got home, I re-cloned the drive, which took a number of hours, and put it back in the machine.


Shit. It’s been the heatsink all this time. But I didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate as such. There’s 42 days left on the computer’s warranty, so I called technical support. After describing the situation, the guy told me what I kind of suspected — need new heatsink.

So what did my lack of hardware savvy cost me? An addition $22 for a new hard drive, when the previous one probably wasn’t broken in the first place. And $27 for a new heatsink.

Being dumb can cost you money.