Today, I'm going to tell you a story for the more technical side of my life. This means there'll be a lot of random software names floating around, so please ignore them. To help make this transgression more bearable, I've unleashed my inner tumblr fangirl and sprinkled this post liberally with GIFs. Hope you enjoy.
Just to make it clear: all the work done below refers to my freelance work repairing PCs, and has nothing to do with my day job in IT.
I fix computers for a living. This makes me the resident 'computer person' among friends and family, so broken machines go to me. I quite enjoy fixing broken machines - it's a bit of extra money, and it's something I'm good at. But there's one operating system I've avoid touching, because of all the horror stories around it.
The name sends a shudder down every techie''s spine. It sends grown code monkeys running for the trees. Because we know, without a doubt, that if it runs on Vista, it's horribly broken.
Luckily, we're mostly safe from the Vista menace these days - cautious businesses stuck with the solid Windows XP system, and home users have mostly moved onto the excellent Windows 7. I thought I was safe. Until a Windows Vista machine arrived in my house.
Okay, it was going to be a challenge. But I could do it. Of course I can. Most technical issues can be resolved by a clean reinstall of the operating system --
Wait. They want all the data recovered from the PC as well. Oh, this is where it's going to get tricky..
Diagnosing the Fault
The main issue this PC has is that, after the user enters in the password for the only account on the PC, it loads up to a black screen and goes no further. I enable the root admin account, but the fault remains.
A bit of Googling informs me this Vista issue is known as the KSOD or Black Screen of Death. I load the PC up in Safe Mode with command prompt, forcing Explorer.exe to start - this brings the PC back to life a bit, but everything is still ugly-looking on a black background. So I go into the registry and try a few common fixes for the issue - but there's no dice. The PC still won't load.
It isn't looking likely that I can resolve the KSOD - I'm going to have to reinstall the operating system, which means backing up the data.
Backing Up the Data
This is time-consuming, but usually not too difficult. But this PC refuses to allow me to create a copy.
Copying data under the force-started Windows Vista install throws up a load of odd error messages. So I try to remove the hard drive from inside the case - it's under layers of brown dust that coat the inside of the case - but the drive is screwed in and the screws are blocked off by RAM, motherboard connections, and the CPU cooler. I try removing the connectors to no luck, and if I start removing the CPU fan things are going to get complicated fast. I abandon this route.
Using Hiren's BOOTCD, I can view the data under a portable Windows XP install, but every time I copy the files (using Teracopy) it locks up. So I try to clone the disk, but it freezes after about 4 gigs transfer. I load up Linux and try to clone the disk image (using Ghost4Linux), and again it freezes a few gigs in - but this time, it also corrupts the external hard drive I'm putting the data on.
It just refuses to let me fix it!
Frustrated, at 6pm I reformat the drive. Still using that portable Windows XP install, I drag across the user's most important data - documents, pictures, music, and personal folders for the family. This takes a while.
I plug the external hard drive into my desktop PC and drag the data across. Though it was behaving fine before this back-up started, now external hard drive is behaving oddly - power keeps cutting out, and I need to adjust the cable to get the PC to recognise. While the backed up data is transferring, I need to find a way to install Windows 7 on this machine - but my Windows install disc has been borrowed by a friend, and I don't have a USB stick large enough for it.
Luckily, Dave has a USB stick large enough for the job (hehe) - so after avoiding roaming packs of loud, abusive teens on the streets of Nairn, I meet him on his break at 8pm and grab the flash drive. Setting it up for Windows 7 installations goes smoothly from there.
But my external hard drive cable seems to be struggling to make any connection, so I check the side of external hdd (a 500gb Seagate FreeAgent Desktop). The usb port inside my external hard drive has disconnected itself. The actual metal connector has drifted out of place and is now floating around aimlessly inside the case.
Also, for no clear reason at all, at this point in time my desktop PC locks up and has to be restarted. I've been working on some writing while the data is transferring -- luckily, none of the data in the documents is lost.
It's now 11pm on a Sunday night. Using the Windows 7 installation usb stick, I copy across the data again and transfer it to my own PC - luckily, most of the data transferred earlier made it, so that cuts down on the time I need to spend here.
(Alternatively, as suggested by my friend Allan, I could have used the xcopy DOS command to copy the data here - but I didn't go for that method.)
Installing Windows 7 (and Destroying the Vista Demon)
FINALLY, AT MIDNIGHT, THE DATA IS BACKED UP AND WE ARE READY TO ROLL.
And by roll, I mean wait a few hours for Windows 7 to install.
This should be simple, but yet again, it isn't. When I try to load Windows 7 I'm confronted with this:
Info: The boot selection failed because a required device is inaccessible
This site informs me that my Sources\Boot.wim file is probably missing. They're right. I try to convert the Windows 7 ISO file to the USB drive again, which takes about 45 minute.
The next hour blurs past: I've got to go clean out Tea & Coffee (the ferrets), grab a shower, then alternate between cooking escalope and pasta 'n sauce for the fiance and running into the living room to start the Windows 7 installation.
At 2am, the install finally starts and I GET TO SLEEP. With a little early morning help from the fiance to get the files installed, the PC is fixed.
Alongside my payment, I'm given these as a gift:
And suddenly it is all so worth it.