My Toshiba computer got altitude sickness and trashed Microsoft Windows.

Seriously. I live and work at 8,400 feet above sea level. The view is great, here, but the air is kind of thin. The lower air density means that the same volume of air is capable of removing less heat from heat sources like the microprocessor in my computer. (Those things put out some serious heat, with an energy density similar to what an electric stove burner produces.) That means that the internal component temperatures rise higher than they would if I weren’t so high up in the mountains (or if I were in a pressurized aircraft cabin). This overheating was happening even at rather cool room temperatures (around 21 C or 70 F). This electronic fever does nasty things. It can cause some circuitry to malfunction. To prevent permanent damage, there is a thermal shutdown safety mechanism that kicked in many times before I figured out what the problem was. This sudden shutdown, without benefit of such niceties as finishing pending write operations can damage programs and data. This can be painful when the computer recovers, and tries to make sense out of what happened. It took a while to figure out what was going on, though, because the system blacked out and fainted while running Microsoft Windows XP Pro, but not while running Linux. I’m not sure if that is because Windows works the processor harder, or because it was trying too hard to conserve fan power on my notebook computer, even when running on AC power.

So, how did I figure out it was a thermal problem instead of viruses, spyware, software bugs, or yet another in this particular Toshiba computer’s long history of hardware failures? Actually, I didn’t, at least not all by myself. God told me. 🙂 So, I set the computer up on some of Rachel’s wooden blocks and move the computer farther from the wall for more air flow from the existing fans, and suddenly it didn’t glitch and faint on me so much. Before doing that, I couldn’t even get past the hardware scanning in an attempt to reinstall Microsoft Windows XP without the computer fainting, but after that, it worked without a glitch. Of course, the previous crashes had really messed things up on the hard disk to the point where I pretty much had to wipe it out and reinstall the operating systems and software and restore my important data from backups, but at least it worked, now.

For a little extra safety margin, I just replaced Rachel’s wooden blocks with a cooling pad designed for fever-prone notebook computers like mine (as well as to protect laps and furniture from overly-hot computers). There are several such things available commercially. The one I chose, a Targus Chill Hub, has two fairly quiet fans and 4 USB 2.0 ports in it. It was also reasonably inexpensive. So far, the computer is running cooler to the touch than when it was on blocks but without the 2 extra fans, and it has not glitched on me, no matter which operating system (Microsoft Windows or Linux) I boot into. Of course, it doesn’t seem as portable, this way, but at least it works, and should tide me over until my new desktop computer arrives. 🙂

Thanks go to the Lord, who let me know how to get some more useful service out of this computer, serving Him. 🙂