Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Riddle, or This Just In: I'm Screwed

Here was my Saturday:
7 a.m. system freezing up…%*$&…can’t boot into Windows now…*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%&*&^%.

Oh, hell.

I'd suspected that my system was rebooting at night after Bit Defender did its scan (or something), but it didn't seem like a high-priority issue. Clearly, though, something was going wrong.

What I normally do when something like this happens is make a list first. Make a list of everything that might be causing the problem, and think about the most efficient approach to the problem. With us leaving for Shreveport on Thursday, though, and every day jammed full until then, I was trying to skip steps.

That’s foreshadowing.

Here's the short version. XP tried to run chkdsk and puked at 44%. Oops. So I tried to run chkdsk from a command line after booting from a floppy, but you can't do that with an NTFS volume. The recovery CD from Norton was able to examine the hard drive and fix a slew of errors. After, that I booted right into Windows. And that only took four hours.

Not so fast.

We were leaving for our annual walk through the Trail of Lights—uh, Trail of Tears (I’ll tell you about that later)—and we’d be gone for several hours. I decided to shut down the system instead of leaving it on, which was a tough call. So when we came back and I turned it on, it puked. More error messages. Couldn’t get into Windows.

Oh, and even better, now the drive wasn’t even recognized by the bios when the system booted up. That meant Norton wouldn’t see it, either.

At this point, I figured I was dead. And even though the FIRST thing I should have done was replace the cables and check the power connection, it’s almost never the cause of anything, more of a check-off than anything. I decided to try it, though.

Now I’m not sure if the power cable was slightly loose or not. It seemed slightly loose, but that could have been my imagination. I took it out and made sure it gave a little click when I pushed it back in.

The bios recognized the drive when I booted back up. Good sign. Norton repaired a few errors. Another good sign. I could boot into Windows. Also good.

Now I just wanted to back up the damn drive. But the hard drive has developed a fatal attraction--as long as I don't try anything backup-related, everything runs just fine. But if I try to defrag the hard drive or run a full backup, it pukes. I get an error box and this message:
Disk Error
Disk failed!!!
Disk location (controller 0, channel 0, Master)

I get that same error message in both the XP defrag tool and if I'm trying to do a full drive backup in True Image. Then it goes to a nasty BSOD with a long, long message that goes by way too fast to read--something about critical processes being shut down.

Oh, and Diskeeper gives me that same message when it tries to analzye the hard drive--it gets about halfway and pukes, too.

So, bizarrely, I'm up and running just fine, but I can't do a backup, and I'm reasonably sure this drive is close to a horrible death. I was able to do an Outlook export to a .pst file, so that kind of backup isn't a problem, at least.

If I had built the new system as I’d planned, I would have missed out on all this joy, but that’s probably postponed until January because I just didn’t think I’d have time. So I’ve probably spent more time in the last two days troubleshooting this than it would have taken to build a new system.

So at this point, I'm in limbo. I could try the repair console on the XP install disc, but that might irrevocably corrupt something in the process of an attempted repair. I could just try reinstalling Windows over the existing install. But if I can't find a utility to mark off those bad sectors so that XP doesn't try to use them, I could be right back where I started.

I could also clone the drive to a new drive IF I could get an image run.

For now, I'm just doing more research. And I ran two different virus scans to confirm that I don't have anything nasty on the system that could be causing this.

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