How to recover from a computer failure

By: Bill Nadraszky
Hard drive failure. What I did

Yesterday I had to change my hard drive and had a few issues that I was able to fix.

The problems started in the morning when my wife called me and told me that the computer would not boot. We have been having trouble with our hard drive for a while now and I was able to fix each time by just reseting the PC. This time though the computer was not seeing the hard drive. Using tools and knowledge that I had I had to do the following:

Install new hard drive

First of all I had to install the new hard drive. I was able to do this by disconnecting my CDR and leaving myDVD drive, two old hard drives in the machine, plus a new 80 gig drive with a 16 meg cache. I was unsuccessful at loading Windows though as I kept getting an error as the Windows setup was starting, after loading the drivers I would get an error that it could not load the setup. I switched to my CDR from the DVD drive and had no problems.

Setup Windows

I successfully did a quick format of the new drive (thanks for that new feature Windows XP) and successfully loaded Windows XP. This is pretty basic as I use a CD that not only has Windows XP on it but also has Service Pack 2 for XP slipstreamed onto it.

Rebuild hard drive partition table

After I booted to Windows I saw that my old drive was not showing up as a drive or a partition. If I right clicked on the partition in Disk Management it knew that the drive existed but could no longer find a partition on it. Windows Disk Management said that the drive was healthy, My first attempt was to create a partition but not to format the partition as I did not want to lose the data for good.

I fought with this for a couple of hours as I did not back up lately and the wife would kill me if I lost all of her data. In the end I was able to use Test Disk from the Filesystem tools of the Dos Ultimate Boot Disk. It ends up that the partition table had a start but not an end and the program was able to fix this….whew I would have been in trouble….

Migrate Windows and Office data

After I had the old drive back I went into the BIOS and chose to boot from that drive. I was able to boot to the old Windows XP installation easily enough and did not want to keep any of the data there but thought it would be a good idea to transfer my Windows settings using the file and settings transfer wizard in Windows. I saved the settings using the wizard and chose this as the old computer and in the destination I chose a folder I created on the new hard drive called “transfer files". I then decided to transfer only my settings as I knew that I was going to have to reload my software and would be manually copying over the file structure from the old drive to the new drive.

I also moved all of my settings for MS Office using the Save my Settings Wizard from the MS Office 2003 tools section. I was able to copy the settings, which come across as an OPS file to the same place as my Windows Transfer Files and Settings.

After I had moved the settings and files over I rebooted and went back into the BIOS and changed my first boot to the new hard drive and it’s windows XP installation. I was very happy to see that after running the wizrds for transfering the settings and after reloading MS Office 2003 I was able to move over my mail folder and saw all of my email, contacts, and best of all my email addresses (Still had to fill in the passwords for email but that’s OK). After a relogon I also had all of my desktop settings back includig the background picture of my daughter and the animated Pingu cursors.

Copy data from bad drive

Next I just did a blanket move of all of the files from the old hard drive to new into a new folder that I created in the root of the drive. I did this simply to save time as I am not sure about the stability of the old hard drive and fear that I will lose it again.

Reload software

I have started reloading software but as usual I am going to be slow about the move this time. I will install some of my favorite freewares and will install Streets and Trips, Adobe AcrobatFree Web Content, Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop Elements and that’s it.

I have roughly followed about half of my Reloading Windows tutorial but since I have both drives functioning at the moment I have tried to cut some corners and make this work well as well as getting my wife up and running quickly for her work stuff this morning.

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