It’s just data

Hard Drive Failure

It started with a hard drive failure.  On a machine that is between three and four years old.  It ended with me spending a half day installing not one, but two operating systems.  And being pleasantly surprised how smoothly it went.

In the decades that I have used PCs, I have known other people to have hard drive failures, but have never had it happen to me.  Until last week.

Sometime late in 2002, I was assigned two NetVista desktops.  I had a laptop that I used mostly for travel at the time; these were to be used daily.  Both had Windows XP preinstalled.  2.0 GHz CPU, 768 MB Memory, 40GB hard drive, 133 MHz memory bus.

One was to be my primary workstation, and would continue to run Windows XP.  The other was destined to be wiped, and get Debian Woody installed on it, some parts stable, some parts not.

Over time, my plans changed.  I installed wifi at home, and migrated to my laptop as my primary machine.  As I was running XP on the laptop at the time, I swapped the machines in my office so that the Windows machine was in the back corner, and the Debian machine was more accessible.  Eventually, I swtiched to Ubuntu on my laptop, and my office was rearranged again.

As luck would have it, the hard drive that failed was on the XP machine.  For the past year, the primary use of that machine has been to run virus scans and download updates.  And occasionally to check my Notes calendar or to access the Online Travel Reservations website as it is the one remaining web site that I visit that requires IE.

So, the primary thing of value on that machine was the Windows license.

I asked for, and got, a replacement hard drive.  The ginormous (at the time) 40GB hard drive was to be replaced with a modest (by contemporary standards) 80GB hard drive.  Unformatted.

Installing Ubuntu Breezy Badger on it was a simple matter of booting off of CDROM, telling it I wanted to format the hard drive, and answering such simple questions as what time zone I was in, and what my name and password were going to be.  Once up and running, I got an indication that there were 75 updates to download, which I did with a few mouse clicks and three minutes.  As this included the kernel, a single reboot was required.  I then set up Cups and Samba, as well as Apache and ssh.

While I had blown away the Windows XP partition on the other machine, I had taken care not to touch the “hidden” recovery partition.  Unfortunately, GRUB had overlaid the MBR.  Mounting /dev/hda2 as vfat and poking around, I found a recovery directory with loaddskf.exe and rrdisk.dsk files.  I was able to copy these two files to a USB drive, and build a floppy.

Booting from that floppy gave me the option of restoring my hard drive to the factory contents, which I then proceeded to do.  This took quite a while but was completely automated, with multiple reboots.  Eventually, this settled down, and I was asked similar questions about time zones and user ids and the like.  By default, the user created did not have a password, something I quickly rectified.

Then came the mind numbing cycles of going into IE/Windows Update, installing all the high-priority updates, agreeing to the EULAs, submitting to GenuineChecks, rebooting, just to repeat the cycle.  Eventually, this runs out of things to install, and I start to pick up the optional updates.  A few more cycles and I’m done.

Then onto VPN software, and from there to virus checkers and firewall, and IBM mandated compliance checkers.  Oh, and Lotus Notes.

And Cygwin.

Over the next few weeks and months, I’m likely to find more things to install.  But all in all, it is nice to be running the latest versions of everything again on freshly formatted hard drives.

It sounds like you’re like quite a number of us. We don’t really want to stick around with windows. But there’s just enough programs we want to run that are windows only. Or maybe we’ve got a thing about downloading, installing and testing new stuff that seems all too often to be windows only, at least initially.

It feels like we’re getting close to a point where it really doesn’t matter which OS we run on an X86 machine, we’ll be able to run the programs from other OSs in windows on the same machine without re-booting. At that point the choice becomes OSX on a MacIntelTosh plus Parallel or Linux plus Wine. Or something. And it becomes really hard to see why we would stick with XP/Vista as the primary OS.

Posted by Julian Bond at

Hmm... Deathstar?

Sam Ruby: In the decades that I have used PCs, I have known other people to have hard drive failures,......

Excerpt from at

Repave Periodically

Bill de hÓra:  That’s scary.  When was the last time you installed any version of Windows?  For me, it was April. My biggest concern is an involuntary need to reinstall that comes at a time that I can least afford it. My kids are constantly... [more]

Trackback from Sam Ruby


I have a IBM NetVista and just got a “ERROR 0200:  Failure Fixed Drive  0”.

Is this what happened to you?

I feel I have just lost five years of creative work.

Posted by Bill Garnett at

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