Or…lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.

So last week Wednesday we had some big-time lightning and thunder here in NYC. Of course, I got caught outside (walking from Montague to Sackett Street along Court Street in Brooklyn–no need to discuss why), and I got soaked.

Not such a big deal, I got home and dried off. But when I (dry) sat down at my computer, I discovered something very troubling.

I have a wired/wireless network with two desktops (the wired part) and one or two laptops (the wireless) sharing an internet connection with a Netgear MR314 router.

While I was out in the rain, I left the two desktops turned on and connected, but the laptop was with me at work. This has been my common practice for two or three years. Everything is plugged in to surge protectors.

But after the lightning and thunder, the first thing I saw on my computer was a ZoneAlarm message that a new network had been detected, with IP address and that it had been added to the Internet Zone.

“That’s weird,” I thought, and tried to get on the internet to check it out. My system froze. At the same time, my wife, in the other room with the other computer, said “my computer’s not responding!”

So I power-cycled the router, the DSL modem, and both computers.

On my computer, I got a message “PCI configuration error–BIOS disabled” and it wouldn’t boot. My wife’s computer booted–but it said “network cable disconnected” even though, of course, the cable *was* connected.

So I suspected the router was the problem.

Now, the MR314 has 4 wired ports, and I had two of them not in use (I use them sometimes–they go to other rooms), so I switched the cables for the two desktops to the two previously unused ports.

Voila! Everything worked fine.

So it looks like I have a router with 4 wired ethernet ports, two of which are completely fried. The wireless is still working fine–and I can use a switch to make up for the two fried ports.

It certainly seemed like it was lightning–especially as I started poking around and found that every component in the whole system was plugged into a surge protector–except the router.

Well, lesson learned, I thought, and not too big a tragedy.

But then, Friday, I started noticing that my desktop was not responding sometimes when I clicked on links. And other times even when I wasn’t on the internet, it would just slow down to almost nothing. I could restart–no effect. I realized, too, that the hard drive activity light was lit pretty constantly at these times.

I went back and forth, thinking and fuming, troubleshooting everything, assuming that the lightning strike had also hit my NIC (which is onboard on the motherboard) or possibly the motherboard itself.

But after mucho troubleshooting, I decided “hey! maybe it’s the c: drive!” I did a scandisk and found…bad clusters! lots of them!. “Oh ho!” I thought “This drive is dying!” But almost before I could even get that thought out of my mind…boom. It died. My system would not boot. I was pretty convinced, but I tried some other steps first (switched the drive to different IDE channel–booted into Linux with a Knoppix disc, even switched the drive to an IDE controller card)–all no good. That drive (it was an IBM Deskstar 60GXP) was totally dead.

So, some quick shopping around found me a Maxtor 80 gig (the old IBM was a 20 gig) for just 60 bucks at Staples.

After a long day of reinstalling first Windows, then all the Updates, then all my software, I’m back in business with a new, shiny, fast, 80 gig C drive. I even got smart (finally) and Ghosted it as soon as it was all set up, so I have a fresh image to go back to if necessary.

No real loss…all my data is on a separate drive (not just a separate partition), so it was good–and I had made a good backup of that drive just a month ago. But you can bet I’m going on a more regular backup schedule from now on!

Now I’m left with the question…does lightning strike twice in the same place? Was that drive just due to die (it was at least six or seven years old–and heavily used)? Or was it affected by the evil bolt from Zeus, too?

So far, my suspicion is…coincidence. (Had to balance out the good luck–I just won a nifty fleece jacket from Sloan-C, so something had to go wrong!)