Bossman calls me up with a problem. He's at our main offices and a user's computer won't work. When he tries to boot it, he gets the warning that the case has been opened (a "feature" on old machines) and nothing else. It won't boot. It won't go into BIOS setup. It just sits there and looks at him.
My initial thought is that the PC is kaput. As I've just gotten another user back up and running with her laptop, I have a spare desktop in my car I can bring over and test out.
I get on site and check things out. Sure enough, the symptoms are as described. Since the PC in question has a program installed that's not on the substitute, I decide to try swapping out the hard drives first. Tools are found and I successfully cut a finger on one of the chassis.
Hard drive swap does not take. I didn't really expect it to, but sometimes, XP decides to cooperate. I swap the HDDs back, and hook up the substitute machine. Which boots up, but with no access to the Keyboard or Mouse. Not good. I notice the mouse keeps falling out of the PS-2 port, so I'm thinking the substitute machine may not be so great (it's of similar late 90s vintage as the first one).
Finally, after the third or fourth attempt to boot without a mouse or keyboard, I decide to grab a machine I know is working from an unoccupied work station and throw it in. It's the same model Dell as the original machine. I plug everything in, power it up, and...
It won't boot past the "Cover Has Been Opened" alert.
But it just worked in the other room. I take it back, hook it back up and it boots up fine.
More pondering. Monitors and network cables don't cause problems like that at the boot level. But peripherals can, and the machine worked fine with one set and not with the other. Therefore...
I run downstairs, grab a spare keyboard and mouse from the phone room. Put the original machine back together with the new peripherals and try to boot it. It gets past the cover alert, but wants me to run setup mode. Fine, bitch, show me the BIOS. I go in and it's still acting weird (the system clock is running at about a million miles an hour and the machine thinks it's 2019) but I get it under control and tell it to boot for me.
And it does. It comes back up. The user can log in. Her profile is there and everything is sunshine and lollipops.
It's also almost 2 PM by this point and I hadn't had lunch, but the job was done.
And that's how I know I'm in the right career path.