Thankfully I know a few things about computers (especially the piece of garbage known as "Windows") so was able to poke around and figure out what was going on. Well, try and figure out what was going on.
A low-level disk scan revealed a number of bad clusters. They happen from time to time, usually as a result of shutting down a computer in the middle of an I/O write. One or two is not unexpected. Ten or more is a problem. Which is exactly what I found — about 15 of them. That struck me as being "bad".
It struck me as being more than just software at issue. It sounded like hardware. It sounded like a drive failure.
I dislike jumping to the worst-case scenario when it comes to strange things on computer. I know there are a million things that could potentially go wrong before things go really wrong. But I seem to have almost a sixth sense for stuff like this.
I first noticed it when I worked at Ark Computers back in high school. Back then, I was installing and supporting RLL and MFM hard drives. 30 megabytes. Big stuff for that time. Loud, too. Installing them meant using an obscure debug command to open the low-level formatter before you could even think about using fdisk to set up the drive. (I screwed up one of the original IDE drives because I low-level formatted it by accident.)
Customers would bring their computers in thinking they weren’t behaving correctly, and I could tell just by listening that something was wrong. Generally, I was right, too. I could hear sounds that just "didn’t sound right". It freaked out Rob, my boss. He couldn’t figure out how I did it. But I was right every time. Backed up the hard drive. Turned the computer off. Boom. Dead drive.
I thought that years of not longer doing hardware support would dull and eventually kill the experience. Little did I know that it would remain. I was validated when just afternoon, I got the call: the hard drive needed to be replaced. It’s amazing how happy I was about the fact that my hard drive was dying. (Thankfully, not dead.)
The bad part: It took me almost four hours to restore my files and settings from the old hard drive to the new. I’m going to be configuring this lousy thing for weeks to come...