Two lifeless machines are pushed in on the cart. In my office laboratory I replace dead parts with used components to make the computer usable once again. Can I fix these new ones?
I start my analysis of the first computer. Nope, this one is not going to make it – the motherboard has failed.
The dissection begins. Video, network, and sound cards are removed. I look over the RAM stick. Yes, that can be reused. I dig it out.
I look around my computer graveyard. There are skeletons of old towers. Stacks of useless monitors block the floor. Soon I will need to properly to dispose of this mess. But I have more important things to do.
My attention returns to the problem at hand. I begin troubleshooting the second machine. This one has a failed hard drive. I rummage through the tidy plastic drawers that hold vital computer parts. I grab a gently used hard drive and pop it into the machine.
I plug in the computer. No lightening is required (although that would be cool). It’s alive!
It is time to reformat this computer and get it student-ready.
Technical issues can derail a lesson in the computer lab.
When a math teacher tells students to turn to page 32 in the textbook, there is confidence that the content will be the same in every book, the page will not be missing, and the questions will not disappear half way through the lesson. Unfortunately, the computer teacher cannot operate with that same level of confidence. This is because often there are technical issues when teaching lessons that use the computer.
In the ideal world, there would never be any computer-related problems. The machines would always work properly, programs would not freeze, and the network would never crash. However, since this is not the case, it is a good idea to be prepared.
When a problem occurs, follow a three-step process to manage the issue:
- Step 1: Move the Student and Continue to Teach
If you are in the middle of teaching when the issue occurs, you should not stop the lesson to fix the problem. This is because the other students will become off-task while you are busy working on the computer. In addition, you will waste valuable instructional time repairing the computer instead of teaching the students. It is better to move the student with the broken computer to another machine or have them pair up with a partner. Once they are situated, you should continue the lesson. When you are finished teaching and your students are busy working on an assigned task, you can then study the problem in more detail.
- Step 2: Log Information about the Problem
Your immediate response to the problem might be to restart the computer, as often this action will temporarily resolve the issue. You must resist the urge to seek a “quick fix.” Although restarting may solve the problem temporarily, it is a good idea to log the problem first. This is because computer related problems tend to be intermittent. This makes them particularly difficult to solve. For this reason, take a minute to record details about the problem. Record the computer number or other identifier, program the student was using, action the student was initiating, and the error message on the screen. This information will help to troubleshoot the problem later.
- Step 3: Troubleshoot the Problem
Even if you have limited computer knowledge, there are simple steps you can take to try to repair the computer. For example, it is a good idea to check for power or loose cables and then restart the machine. If you know a bit more about the computer, you may also want to conduct a virus scan, run disk defragmenter, and check for Windows updates. If you have an advanced skill set, you can research the error message using the Internet, check for software and driver updates, inspect for recently installed programs or updates, study the computer hard drive to determine if storage space is limited, or look at the amount of RAM to see if there is a memory problem. Once you have exhausted this list, you will need to contact a technician.
Store salvaged computer parts in clear plastic bins.
Don’t throw it out! You can extend your IT budget by salvaging components from old computers. These parts can be used to repair other equipment, saving you from having to make a new purchase.
I regularly repair computers using hardware from other machines. When a machine is no longer useable I will remove the network, video, and sound cards, as well as any RAM. These parts commonly fail and can easily be used to fix other equipment. The extra RAM especially comes in handy when I need to upgrade the memory on a donated computer.
I have a simple system for keeping everything organized. It is a portable clear plastic shelving unit. It has three drawers that are see-through. In each drawer I organize the hardware. To make it easier for me to find things I have labeled the drawers. (I love my labeler!)
I don’t keep motherboards, computer cases, or cd drives. Those parts I usually throw out. I only keep the good stuff!
Do you Salvage Computer Parts?
Am I the only one that saves old computer parts? Let me know if you also fix computers using salvaged parts? What is the downside to making a repair with used computer parts?