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XP hell - Ramblings
September 11th, 2011
05:08 pm

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XP hell
Ok possibly an overstatement, and yes it's the first journal post in... years? (if you don't count comments).

Anyway one of the 'joys' of life is being family tech support. And this one's a dilly



Sister has a nearly four year old Dell laptop running XP SP3 and otherwise in good shape (Yes it running antivirus - MacAfee), Windows is necessary for school (custom Windows only software) otherwise would happily replace with Linux as they already use Firefox, Open Office, Thunderbird, GIMP etc (I'm cheap!)

two days ago when my sister attempted to boot it came up with a blue screen of deathe withe the error being described as UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME.

When she attempted a reboot she (and afterwards I) got the screen (photo 1)
Non of the available options gets me more than about three seconds into the boot sequence before we're back to the BSoD and the UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME.

Tried the repair installation option from the XP install disk This claimed that only readable volune was F: (?)

Used the repair console partitioner to look at the disk structure Picture 2)
but did not repeat did not alter anything using the partitioner.

Exited XP setop then rebooted using Ubuntu on a USB and gained access to the 'unknown volume' then spent over four hours copying all data files to an external hard drive before doing anything else.

What's really frustrating is that I can't get near safe mode! Am I now stuck with complete nuke and reinstall or can it be salvaged?

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From:murphys_lawyer
Date:September 11th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
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Salvaging is possible. There are programs like SpinRite that can dig down and do their best to repair tables. You can also check for disk errors using Windows Recovery Console.

However, if you and your sister are sure you've got off all the information she needs, and you've got the OS installation and laptop driver disks (very important for laptops) and the XP serial key (as well as those for McAfee and any other software that needs it, then whatthehell archie, nuke and reinstall from scratch.

I'd also seriously recommend backing up the portable hard drive to another PC, even if only temporary, and start herself on a backup regime if she's not doing one already. There are nine and sixty ways of doing this, and every single one of them is right, but the ones that work automatically have the better change of saving the really important stuff.
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From:watervole
Date:September 12th, 2011 06:44 am (UTC)
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I can't resist a good Kipling quote, even when heavily disguised!
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From:johnrw
Date:September 12th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
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Definitely got the driver disk and the OEM XP install disk. The reason for contemplating salvage is the nagging fear I've missed something.

Windows recovery console claims no disk errors just an unknown file system. Giving serious thought to spinrite

The 'portable hard drive' I copied the (54Gb) data to is actually my network (mirrored) NAS. Which, admittedly, I ought to back up!

Agreed, she needs a backup regime and one which only requires her to plug in an external drive to operate is favourite Any recommendations bearing in mind there are two user accounts - my sister and my niece. Niece is user, sister has administrator privileges?
[User Picture]
From:murphys_lawyer
Date:September 12th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I don't use a USB drive that runs backup automatically, so I can't recommend one of those. There are several types on the market, as well as various backup programs.

The one I use on PCs is the late Karen Kenworthy's Replicator - point it at the important folders, set the time to backup, and let it go.

If your sister sets it up as Admin, it should run for both her and your niece. They may both need to set their own directories though.

I'd also consider some form of off-site storage. This could be getting two drives and someone (you?) looking after one at your place while the other's being used for backup at your sister's. Once a month or so, swap the drives over so if, heaven forfend, both the laptop and the backup drive at your sister's go, then they can at least get something back.

There are also online backup services which are useful for smaller amounts of data. DropBox and Spideroak are both worth a look at, and I've heard good things about Skydrive. They'll have to balance the ease of use against security and availability though.

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From:johnrw
Date:September 14th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
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I'll take a look at your suggestions. At the moment I seem to acquired a reputation for raising the computer dead! better use the moment in the sun to set up a backup strategy.

Thanks for the steer to Spinrite. It did the job, but given the age of the drive it's only a matter of time. So I'm actively looked at replacement drives. Given the cruft on this setup I'll probably go for clean install rather than use Ghost (also my copy is old and I haven't kept up with the upgrade cycle).

Anyway, assuming I see you at Novacon I owe you a drink.
[User Picture]
From:murphys_lawyer
Date:September 14th, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
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Good to hear you've got the drive back, and all the best with the drive replacement and the backup regime.

I aim to be at Novacon and will be glad to catch up with you then.
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