Sunday, November 22, 2009

The computer from HELL

I often get people wanting me to fix their computers. For a while I was refusing as I find it just takes up too much time for nothing and is not worth it. I decided that since I need the money and now have a better setup in my own house, that I'd start again.

So a week ago I get this computer with Vista on it (ewww) and it's just acting strange and their net cuts off all the time etc.. so I decide to plug it in my external network and boot it up. After puking in my mouth a little while vista loads, I decide to try the internet. No go. In fact, I was not even getting an IP from the DHCP server. Since my cable installation is rather new I figured perhaps it's a cabling issue, so I start troubleshooting to make sure it's not my network. After about an hour of messing on the patch panel and routers I find out it's not since my main machine can talk fine to both routers. I also could not even see that PC's DHCP packets at all.

So I decide to try in an Ubuntu live CD for kicks. I get an IP no problem and can browse the net. After a few more hours have gone by I don't know what to do but figured what the hell, vista is on there, it has to be formatted anyway. So I image the drive (still unable to get an IP) to an external hard drive. For whatever reason this took like a while day.

I then mount the image on my PC to make sure I see all the files. WTF, can't even read "documents and settings". Bah, stupid vista and weird NTFS permissions. I try to take ownership of everything, but no go. Turns out Vista encrypts that folder on the fly. So if you have Vista and you can't boot your PC, say goodbye to your files!

So I decide to boot with Linux and do a full disk copy (at this point I did not figure the files were encrypted, thought it was just an NTFS thing). This took another day to do.

I did the mistake of starting the XP install before verifying the file copy. Then I realize, crap, still can't see "documents and settings". So I restore the image so I can just do the copy from the OS (this took a whole day to restore).

Guess what? Image wont boot!!! CRAP! After about an hour or so of troubleshooting turns out it was something silly. The bootable flag was not set and it was trying to boot off the HP recovery partition.

Finally I get it to boot - I have to admit I was actually kinda happy to see vista, ok, maybe not. Then I try to do the copy from within vista. (Eww). Each minute of using this OS makes me puke a little inside. So finally I got the files, and I'm ready to format.

I then load up my trusty Windows XP pro CD and start the install. I decide to leave the HP recovery partition just in case. So I install XP, load it up, start installing basics like Firefox, flash plugin, and restore the files and all that stuff. So far it's getting better. Then I start having network issues again! I figure it might be the nic, though it's weird that if I set a static IP it goes online right away, how can a layer 1 issue only be restricted to a certain protocol? But w/e, I try a USB nic anyway, it goes flawlessly. Then I say screw it and go buy another Nic for 50 bucks. Ironicly when I put it that nic then the old one works again. wtf? W/E it's not my PC, I just can't wait to get it done. Now everything is back up and running.

Then, I figure I may as well make an Acronis image of this and put it on the recovery partition. There's not enough space on it so I resize it with gparted. This is where things go to crap again.

Windows now would not boot. Somehow in this process Windows ended up INSIDE the extended partition. WTF? Why is there even an extended partition, there's only 2 partitions. No need for an extended partition. I then try to take an image anyway (thankfully must faster now that it's a XP install) and then wipe the whole partition table. I zero out a huge section of the drive (maybe I should have done the whole thing, but takes too long...) and then restore the XP image. STILL wont boot. I get the dreaded "NTLDR Missing" error this time.

So now I decide "Screw it" and reinstall Windows again from scratch, and that I will use a DBAN to totally wipe the drive first. So I load up DBAN and it "finishes" in like 1 second. Yeah, ok, impossible. There's some "non fatal error" about bad sectors.

So here I am running a full disk diagnostic utility... 1 week minus 1 hour later...

This 60 bucks is not worth the trouble I am going through!

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