Reader Bulent’s comment gave me some ideas. I unplugged the existing power cable from the hard disk, and plugged in another available power cable, to see if that would make any difference.
It didn’t. Frustrated, I left the computer on and busied myself with other matters, probably doing dishes. When I came back, lo and behold, the computer was booting up, albeit very slowly.
Look at the above picture, it took about one hour for the bar to become all the way solid, which I believe is some kind of process that involves the hard disk. Afterwards, it booted up, and I was able to finish Windows XP SP2 install. Time for another reboot.
I kept my fingers crossed. It didn’t help. I saw the same thing shown in the above picture. It was getting late, so I powered it down, and went to bed with a strong suspicion of the existing hard drive. In addition, it was very dusty inside the computer. So I also wondered if the dust is somehow to blame.
The next night, when I was free, I gave my computer a half-hearted blowjob and sent some of the dust inside flying. It didn’t help. It was time for the next step of elimination: determine if the hard drive was the problem.
Fortunately I have another computer at home. It was a HP Pavilion 4455 that I bought about 10 years ago in 1997. Believe it or not, that was my first computer. I still use it occasionally, mainly for playing with different Linux distributions (Red Hat 7.3, Mandrake, and then Red Hat Fedora core). So I decided to put the old computer’s hard drive into the problematic computer, and see what happens next.
I didn’t even swap the hard drives. As you can see from the picture above, I opened both cases, unplugged power and cable for the 4455’s hard drive, unplugged power and cable for the problem computer’s hard drive, and hooked them up with the drive from the 4455, and then gave it a go. It worked!! It booted up at normal speed. I was able to put Windows XP SP2 on it. So now I know there are definitely problems with the hard drive. Time to get a new one. I bought one from Micro Center the next day. This is a Seagate drive, 100 GB, 50 bucks.
Time to install the new hard drive. Now the computer case design has improved quite a bit over the last few years. I had fun tinkering around. I took off both side panels of the HP Pavilion 513x, pushed the tabs of the front panel from the inside, and was able to pull the front panel off. After taking off a few screws, pushing down the tab on the side of the case where hard and floppy drives are housed, I then pushed the case from the now opened front panel. The hard drive case just slid off on the side. It was quite clever: there was a little curvy track at the bottom of the CD-ROM case, where the top of the hard drive case fits into.
I then connected the new hard drive as the master drive. I actually kept the troubled drive as secondary. Now I am back in business. Strangely, the old drive now works happily as a secondary drive. Anyway, I had fun fixing the problem, and am pretty happy with the results.