Arman's stuff
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Laptop FAIL

(Sun Aug 22 19:39:17 2010)

This has been a bad few weeks for laptops

A few weeks ago, I got a laptop to work on - it wasn't booting up, said there were damaged files, and so on. Obviously, the hard drive was failing; no wonder, either, as it's a fairly old computer. Since then, I've been running ddrescue (not to be confused with dd_rescue), and have managed to get all but about 70 MB of the 40 GB drive. The first partition was more damaged than the second, which is good, as the second one had lots of pictures and stuff. Better still, I think almost all the damage on the second partition was in an empty area of the drive. As a side note, it would be awesome if ddrescue could check the file allocation table or equivalent, and determine where data actually is. That way, it could just ignore the areas that have no data, saving time if there are damaged spots there...

The second laptop is currently "under the knife," as it were; it's running Windows Vista, which means several things, including "This OS sucks," "I don't know how to restore this OS," and "'no cryptic error messages' is only good if it HAS error messages." I have decided that if anyone gives me a computer to trouble shoot, I will first ask if it's a Vista computer. If so, I may very well turn them down it's it will involve reinstalling anything. I wans to save the data on this computer, I really do, and as far as I can tell the only thing that happened was a badly installed update/driver/whatever. But the complete lack of anything useful AT ALL makes that very difficult.

However, I'd like to start by saying that I have completely lost all respect for Best Buy. Yeah, Best Buy isn't exactly the glorious pinnacle of computer repair, but they said the problem was the power cable. THE POWER CABLE! Seriously? I can tell it's not the power cable within three seconds; I plugged it in. Yeah, it was that easy. It's like taking your car to a mechanic, and having him tell you that clunking noise you've been hearing is your battery cable, and offering to replace it for $120. Trust me - it's not the battery cable. If it were the battery cable, I would be able to tell, because when I plug it in, THE LAPTOP WON'T TURN ON. Gah!

Ahem. Enough on that note, now to turn to bashing Vista. When the laptop turns on, it boots quite nicely. After an interminable wait, it manages to get past the Vista boot screen and start loading. Or, well, not. After the Vista boot screen (which is the lamest boot screen I've ever seen - it makes Windows 3.1 look fancy), it shows a black screen with the mouse cursor on it. And nothing else. After sitting for an hour, it still shows just that. Dell, Windows, and amateur and professional support sites list absolutely nothing useful. Oh, there are plenty of questions, but none of the answers seem to work. Best bet in reinstalling. Not that I'm afraid of a little reinstall, so, it's off to the install CD.

And therein lies the next problem. See, Windows XP came with two different repair modes - one that reinstalls the whole OS over the old files, and will fix any problems (with the downside of needing to reinstall all your programs, though the data is still there, so you're safe), and one that just installs over all the really important system files (with the downside of occasionally severing important links). The Vista install disk gives you these options: "restore from the backup you made", "restore from an earlier restore point", and "let us fix it." It all sounds good until you realize that nobody makes a complete system backup (strike option one), there are no system repair points (strike option two), and the system thinks it booted just fine last time (strike option three). Leaving, tada, nothing. There isn't an option between "do nothing" and "nuke and pave." Nuke and pave is always an option, but at this point, I think I'd rather not.

So, here's a warning for all: back up your data, especially on old hard drives. Don't use Vista. And when your computer fails? Don't take it to Best Buy. Just... don't.

<< Finishing touches are... boring.Vista = Hell >>

This blag is tagged: Laptop, Problem, Vista, All