Catastrophe struck my notebook computer.
No, I didn’t drop it. They physical hardware is not hurt, I don’t think, but I spent all weekend backing up the hard drive partition image with Acronis True Image Home 2009, and backing up files with Replicator — and even some copies using Windows Explorer (bad choice, since any problem simply stops Windows Explorer — Replicator logs the problem and then proceeds with the next file), reinstalling Windows and reinstalling software.
What? Wait a minute! Why did I do all that when I had Acronis True Image?
Well, I’d already been through the alternative solutions in earlier attempts to solve the issue.
It all started early last year — one day, my hard drive would not boot. It told me that the boot sector on the bootable partition was bad or corrupted. I got out my Windows XP CD, booted it, selected "R" for Repair. Then, I used the command Fixboot try to solve the problem (it didn’t). The next step was the more significant FixMBR (fix Master Boot Record) command. That solved the problem — for a couple weeks.
Then, the situation repeated itself a couple times. That’s right — a couple times across a week or so. At that point, I knew it was either the Windows installation or something wrong with the drive.
I decided that the drive was going bad, so backed up the drive using Acronis True Image Home 11 (the current version at the time), replaced the drive, and then restored the drive from the Acronis True Image Home 11 backup file.
The whole process took about 2 hours, and preserved my copy of Windows, all my settings, all my programs, and all my data.
Well, about a month ago, it happpened again. FixMBR solved the problem until last week.
Last week, my notebook failed to boot about 10 times, requiring the FixMBR step at least daily. By Friday, I knew it was either Windows — or perhaps the notebook computer itself.
Friday night, I backed up both my C: and D: drives to my external hard drive.
Saturday morning, I started by formatting some of the unpartitioned space on my notebook’s drive (160GB, of which I had set up C: and D:, totalling about 80GB. My plans were to copy critical data (e.g., email and Firefox bookmarks) to the new partition and also to copy install files for free and purchased software that I routinely used.
Then, booted my Windows XP Professional CD. As part of the installation process, I deleted my C: and D: partitions, intending to remake them as larger partitions.
Windows XP doesn’t cooperate well like that. If there’s an existing partition, Windows XP will call it C:. Then, it tried to install itself on D:. But, it installed some of its files on C:, anyway, because Windows and some other programs always want to use C:.
Fortunately, I knew I had already backed up the rest of the drive, since I had to delete that newly created partition, too.
My next disappointment, well, really a shock, came when Windows did its first reboot during the installation.
The Windows XP Pro CD is set to boot from CDROM only if you press a key within about 10 seconds of it asking — or the program diverts the boot to the hard drive. Unfortunately, the program just hung at that point.
I tried installing again (the only choice at that point). When it got to the reboot stage, I pulled out the CDROM. The computer kicked into the reboot — and I got the same error about a corrupted boot partition.
One more time, I decided. This attempt to install went ok, and I’ve been loading Windows Updates and software since then, until time to write a couple articles for today’s online newsletter nad email newsletter.
I still haven’t finished installing all my software after spending Friday evening, all day Saturday, and then Saturday evening, and some of this afternoon installing and configuring software. Even worse were the times when I had to install software A before software B before software C, when I really needed to use C.
This time, I made a system backup with Acronis True Image Home 2009 before I got a lot of the software installed, just in case. Once I get more set up, I’ll start my routine every-3-days incremental backups. I do a full backup once a month and incremental backups between the full backups.
Bottom line: that Vista computer is getting closer and closer. I really want to hold out for Windows 7. I think I’ll get a cheap Vista model and then a "Desktop Replacement" once Windows 7 is released.