Old Hard Drive

Eric was moving all of his stuff out last weekend. I don’t think he realized how much stuff he had never taken back to his apartment, but he threw away or took almost all of it. He found his old laptop and a 2.5 inch hard drive that I said I could recycle next time I go to an electronics recycling day. After he left I opened up the laptop and there was a 120 GB solid state drive in there. So the 320 GB hard drive had probably been the laptop’s original hard drive and he had put the solid state drive in there to increase performance. I could sell the solid state drive. They seem to fetch $30-$40 on eBay, or I wondered if I could do the same with my old laptop that I am using as a desktop now. I had swapped in a 500 GB hard drive to get a couple of more years of life out of it, but after my desktop computer failed, I bought an external hard drive attached to my network, and the idea is that all computers will store their files in one place, on the external drive, so a large hard drive isn’t necessary in the laptop. I’m still working on a good way to back up that drive in case it fails, but I have quite a collection of portable drives that I could use. I recently got a 1 TB drive to use as the main backup. When I upgraded the old laptop I had bought a 500 GB portable drive and then took that drive out and put it in my laptop. So that enclosure had the old notebook drive in it for 250 GB of storage. It is pretty easy to take the drive out of the enclosure, so I tested Eric’s 320GB and 120GB drives in the enclosure and they both seemed to work fine. Because the laptop doesn’t work, I went ahead and formatted them both. All it seemed like I needed to was copy the 500 GB drive contents over to the SSD.

I did actually try that, but a lot of the files don’t come over. I don’t think Microsoft wants to make it easy to copy hard drives like that. I found out I could make a CD with some software called Clonezilla that would allow me to boot the computer off of the CD and then copy an external USB drive to the laptop’s internal drive. The only catch was the partition I was copying to had to be the same size or bigger than the one I was copying. I had a bunch of stored files and old documents on the laptop using about 400 GB of space, but I knew most of that had been backed up to the network storage, so I could get rid of it. I just had to make sure. I think I got everything I needed off it and got the used space down to about 80 GB. Then I started cleaning up the hard drive and got it down to about 40 GB. Vista lets you shrink a partition, so I tried that but was surprised that it would only let me reduce the hard drive by about 90GB which wouldn’t get me anywhere close to where I needed to be.

I looked around online and found that you need to defragment the hard drive to get system files out of the way of the partitions. However, defragmenting, it turns out, doesn’t move system files because they are system files and can’t be moved. So I got nowhere doing that. One of the biggest problems is the pagefile.sys file which is a virtual memory file. But you can’t even see it by default. Anyway, I found out a way to see the file, stop using virtual memory, and finally remove the file. I tried defragging again and then shrinking the volume, but still couldn’t break the barrier. I found another software package that defrags, but it couldn’t move the file either.

Looking around some more, I found some software by Paragon that lets you resize partitions. The only problem with it is that it moves the space to another partition rather than just leave unallocated space, so the tiny recovery partion of 10 GB is now going to be more like 350 GB. I figure I can fix all of this later, although Paragon says it cannot be undone. This actually worked. Paragon goes into some kind of BIOS mode so it can move files around while the hard drive isn’t being used by Windows.

Then I got my Clonezilla disk out and tried copying the files over. It boots from the CD into Ubuntu and runs its program, which isn’t all that user friendly. This didn’t work because I accidentally made an image file instead of just cloning the partition. Eventually I did get everything moved over and tried to boot the laptop from the new drive, but it wouldn’t boot up.

I knew that before I had to use the Windows repair disk to make the disk bootable, so I tried that, but I kept not hitting the F12 button in time during booting to make it boot from the CD. Finally I got it and walked away, but when I came back it had tried booting from the hard drive. I realized I had to stick around because it asks me to confirm that I want to boot from the CD. Anyway, it wasn’t able to repair the installation because it says it was already fixed. I looked all of this up on the internet and it turns out that unless you exactly clone the drive and it has the same attributes, that Windows won’t boot from it. So I gave up on that and decided to just install a fresh version of Vista on the new hard drive. This is very time consuming, but kind of nice because you get a clean Windows installation without a bunch of junk. But I then had to install all of the Dell drivers. Then Office, then Chrome, FastStone Image Viewer, Adobe Acrobat, some kind of anti-virus software, etc. Also I had to install a hundred Windows updates. But I was getting some crashes. I’m not sure what exactly was causing that, but I was also getting a Windows update that kept failing: KB929777. Just wouldn’t install. I found an article about it not installing but it just said try downloading the update separately. Nope. I tried installing it in Safe Mode, but it couldn’t be installed in safe mode. Then I read somewhere that it would not install if you had more than 3 GB of RAM, and I had 4 GB. That seemed crazy, but I found a Microsoft article confirming it. Their solution was to remove some of the RAM. But I think I have to put memory in my computer in pairs so my only options are 4 GB or 0 GB and I don’t think it will run without RAM. It turns out Eric’s notebook uses the same kind of RAM and he only had 2 GB. So I took the RAM out and put in Eric’s RAM. Now it doesn’t need the update. I think it’s a Catch 22. You only need the update if you have 4 GB of RAM, but you can’t install it if you have 4 GB of RAM. That’s some catch. I downloaded the update separately and tried to install with 2 GB of RAM, but that failed as well.

So I have a computer that mostly seems to work and it doesn’t have a hard drive with moving parts. But that was sure a lot of trouble for something that doesn’t work right. I’m hoping that as all of the updates get installed the problem with the computer crashing will go away. And I did go ahead and back up the network drive to my 1 TB portable drive, so that is a good start.

To fix the issue with crashing, I thought I might just go back to the way I originally installed a new hard drive and use Norton Ghost to copy the old drive onto the new one. However, I tried to install Ghost and I guess they were serious about only getting one installation because the three year old disk would not install again and the 30-day free version would not copy partitions.

I realized later that instead of waiting on Windows Update to install the hundreds of updates I would need, it is better to go to Microsoft and download service packs 1 and 2 directly and install those. That gave me a really good start on updates (but soon hundreds of security updates showed up) and seemed to help reduce crashes. But I got another random crash. I tried to research it, but crashes can be caused by all kinds of things. I changed the graphics properties from 32-bit graphics to 16-bit graphics thinking that maybe with the second monitor I was overloading the graphics processor. Seems to be holding so far.

One thought on “Old Hard Drive

  1. I kept having problems with this installation crashing. Sometimes it would crash a lot, sometimes it would go a day without a problem. I installed some more software and a flaky driver I need to read the Archos hard drive and it started crashing like crazy. I didn’t see a big performance increase using the solid state drive, so I put the old hard drive back in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *