Monday (1/12/09) 4:17pm - ... wherein Peter has a new computer.
This past weekend, I set up my new computer. I figure I should explain how that went here on the blog, because otherwise there's a real danger I'll wind up telling you about it in conversation.
Every four or five years, I buy myself a new thudding-edge bottom-of-the-line desktop computer.
About a month or so ago, I turned on my desktop and it just sat there saying that it didn't have a hard drive.
This only happened sporadically.
Still, it worried me.
I figured I could (1) get a new hard drive, install it, and re-install my operating system etc. on that, or (2) spend just a little bit extra, get a whole new computer, and do that same re-installation.
I could have built one from scratch, but I figured it was worth the extra $50 or so to get something pre-assembled.
I opted to save about $130 by getting a computer with no OS. I set up the computer in the living room with a spare monitor, put in the old XP CD, and set it going.
A surprise: XP SP1 doesn't recognize partitions bigger than 130GB. So I wound up with an installed OS that was only using 130GB of my 500GB hard drive.
Plan A: go to a command prompt, run DISKPART, and tell Windows to expand the partition to 500GB.
Result: "I can't do that, Dave."
Some rooting around reveals that Windows doesn't let you monkey with the partition that's running Windows.
... which makes sense, but a real error message would have helped, no?
Plan B: create a bootable USB drive.
If I could boot off of a thumb drive, then I can run *that* 'OS', and do whatever I want to the XP partition.
So I tried setting up a bootable thumb drive.
I set the BIOS to give the USB drive boot priority.
I tried putting the thumb drive in various USB ports and rebooting the machine.
The machine never would boot off of the USB drive.
Plan C: okay, fine. Be that way. I'll burn a copy of Knoppix. (Knoppix is a version of Linux that runs off of a CD.) If I can run off of that, then (again) I can do whatever I want to the XP partition.
First step: download a Knoppix ISO.
Problem: home Internets are slow.
Solution: VPN into work and tell the work machine to download it.
Then: go to work.
Then: try to burn the CD there.
Problem: oop-la, the work machine's CD-ROM won't burn anything.
Solution: copy the file a USB drive, take it home, burn a CD off of my laptop.
(Not the desktop, because the desktop's CD burner no longer worked.)
Result: booted the new machine successfully off of Knoppix.
Further result: Knoppix wouldn't recognize the new machine's hard drive.
... it was at this point that I realized I had an external enclosure sitting around.
So I opened up the new computer, yanked out its hard drive, put the hard drive in the enclosure, and attached that to my laptop.
I ran DISKPART on the laptop.
I resized the hard-drive partition. Took all of ten seconds.
Put the hard drive back, and everything was hunky-dory.
(Yup, should have done that first thing.)
Unfortunately, it turned out that one of the 'bootable thumb drive' EXEs I had run had put a really nasty Vundo virus on the laptop.
I noticed this when the virus (1) turned off Windows Update, (2) wouldn't let me put the laptop in "hibernate" or "standby" mode, (3) slowed the laptop way, way down, and (4) occasionally popped up ads in Internet Explorer.
I found the process that was popping up IE windows and turned that off.
I messed around in MSConfig and turned my McAfee (virus-scanner) services back on.
Then I let McAfee do its thing for a while.
It found a bunch of infected files, but didn't fix the problem.
Then I ran Windows OneCare a couple of times -- Vundo cannily managed to kill OneCare about halfway through each time.
I brought the laptop to work with the intent of paving it and starting over, but I gave Malwarebytes a try -- it killed Vundo dead. (Hooray!)
I was surprised to find that the new computer didn't have WiFi built in.
Unfortunately, my old computer's WiFi USB dongle -- which was already a bit tempramental -- finally died.
So: went to Fry's and bought a $25 WiFi PCI card.
So. Those were the problems I ran into. Most everything else was straightforward. I let the XP install finish, then installed SP2 and SP3 from CDs, then let Windows Update do the rest. The software reinstallations went fine. Finally I put the old computer's drives in a hard drive enclosure and copied back all my data and settings.
Side note: iTunes for Windows found yet another way to suck. In order to get it to sort out that my mp3s were now on my C: drive, not my D: drive, I had to (1) do a universal search and replace of "C:" to "D:" in the iTunes XML files, (2) delete out the contents of the library files proper, and (3) once I got iTunes running again, dump everything from the "Podcasts" playlist into the "Podcasts" section, and resubscribe to everything.
Still managed to b0rk all my iPhone apps, but those were easy to reinstall and reconfigure.
Another irritation: I realized that something on the old computer (just on general principle, I blame Win!iTunes) had reset all the timestamps on my mp3 files to sometime in August. I mostly fixed this by reloading my mp3 directory from a backup and then using a demo of Beyond Compare to figure out which files that backup didn't have. Then I copied those extra files from the August-ified directory and called it a day.
Things I like about the new computer:
It's very very quiet. When I run my old hard drive enclosure alongside it, the enclosure is about ten times louder than the computer.
Of course my old computer had a bazillion fans and sounded like a small hovercraft.
It's much smaller than my old computer.
It's already noticeably faster than my old computer, even just rendering pages on Facebook.
There are nine external USB ports on the new computer. (At one point during setup, I was using six of them.)
Also: all of those ports are USB 2.0, unlike the old machine, which had a mix of USB 2.0, USB 1.0, and USB-busted ports.
I'm finally using a real backup solution.
With the old computer, I occasionally saved my mp3 directory to an external-enclosured drive, and I had a batch file that copied all my other data to a single directory that I burned to a CD.
When I bought the computer, I also bought a couple of 1TB drives and an eSata enclosure.
That's smart, posting here so you don't tell everyone in real life. I made the mistake of not doing that with my security system configuration, and have now bored several people relating how I finally got my security system to send me an email.