Fixing Rachel’s computer & Tuesday night dinner (on Thursday :D )

Last Thursday, after I slept in ’till lunchtime or so :D, I went around to Gail & Paul’s place to check out Rachel’s old computer, which had apparently died. I’d picked up Sarah’s PC on the way down the night before, when I was under the impression that the dead PC in question was a desktop. It was a laptop, as it turns out, which means just pulling the hard drive and working on it in the comfort of a stable Windows installation was out of the question. That the first spanner in the works. The second was that I hadn’t brought any tools with me, given my previous expectations, so I didn’t have much to work with.

The key problem was that the laptop has (or had :/ ) a lot of photos on it, particularly those from Rachel’s deb, of which there are apparently no backups. >:( So the priority was to get data off safely, not just get the machine working. That’s a lot trickier; it’s relatively easy to recover a bjorked Windows install, but doing so typically involves a lot of writing to the disk. Depending on the nature of the problem to begin with, this can overwrite the very data you’re trying to preserve. I saw this happen with Roxanne’s computer a few months ago when I tried to get that going again.

So, ultimately I made little progress, and it was slow. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, ultimately… the machine would boot (very very slowly) up to the “Your computer was not properly shutdown” bit, with the usual Safe Mode boot options and whatnot. Unfortunately, regardless of which was chosen the machine would reset shortly after displaying the coloured Windows XP loading screen. There were a few error messages that flashed ever so briefly up, such as boot.ini being invalid, although it took a while to notice those because the laptop’s built-in screen has worn wiring and flickers and garbles a lot. I eventually plugged in an external CRT, which got around that, but it delayed things further.

Eventually, after realising there was very little I could do otherwise, short of buying a 2.5″ IDE converter – which are dirty cheap online, but always way too expensive in stores, where I’d have to go so as to get it quickly – I decided to chance letting the Windows XP recovery tool (from the boot CD) try it’s hand at things. Unfortunately, the only CD there was a SP1 CD. Presumably I’ve only ever used SP2, or whichever version it is where the “recovery tool” is an actual recovery tool; it fixes up corrupt files, replaces missing files, all the usual. On this particular CD the “recovery tool” was a weak DOS shell which had all of about three half-useful commands. chkdsk took a very long time to do anything, before failing about half way through complaining about irreversible errors. Unfortunately I had no idea what chkdsk actually does – whether it’s a file system consistency check, a surface scan, or whatever – so that didn’t tell me much. fixmbr told me the MBR was invalid, and although in theory there should always be an MBR for non-removable drives under Windows, I wasn’t willing to bet on it. fixboot also indicated the boot sector (or whatever it is it checks) was invalid. Again, I wasn’t sure what the partition configuration (if any) was, so I didn’t want to just randomly try things.

Thus, I was left with little I could do. A “dir” of C: failed, showing no files, just an error message, so the problem is more severe than a mere few corrupt or missing files. When I ran the BIOS’ built-in disk check it failed with error “#1 – 07”. Of course, there is no documentation anywhere that indicates even vaguely what this means. I spent a while Googling it, to no avail; I couldn’t even find a manual at all for the particular version of Phoenix BIOS. I found only one other reference to that error code via Google, which was a vague and rambling forum post which seemed to indicate the error was related to bad blocks. Or something. Who knows.

Anyway, in the end I had Gail take the computer up the PC store in Mt. Eliza. While I don’t think they’ll work very hard on it, they will presumably have the necessary tools to actually figure out what the problem is, and recover any remaining data. They charged $50 just to diagnose the fault, though, let alone actually do anything, which I thought was a bit cheeky. They bill at $85 an hour, too, which for a simple file recovery is outrageous. Unfortunately, I don’t think one’s likely to find a better offer, from an actual store. Sure, you could find some random guy to do the job, but in this case that had already been tried; me. :)

I really dislike PCs.

I recommended Bobo get a MacBook, given she wanted a new laptop, but she disregarded my advice without much apparent thought.

Anyway, it was good anyway to catch up with Gail & Paul (and Rachel a little, although she was in and out all afternoon). Gail also cooked pancakes – primarily for some party Rachel was going to that night – which she offered to me, topped with mountains of ice cream, syrup and sprinkles. They were awesome. :D It’s been a long while since she’s cooked pancakes for me – certainly at least back as far as when Sarah & I were still going out. It felt undeserved, given I hadn’t actually managed to help at all with their laptop – save talking tech with the guy in the computer store on their behalf, although he was a bit condescending and didn’t seem to really listen to what I was saying – but it was certainly nice nonetheless.

After that, I headed off to nana & pops’ for the Tuesday night dinner, which I hadn’t been to in weeks – probably months. That was good, catching up with them again, although of course I did see them last weekend anyway for nana’s birthday.

I had to leave quite early, though, because I’d messaged Bobo earlier in the day about something – probably just to detail my whereabouts for the remainder of the week – and she messaged me back during dinner asking me to come over. She sounded a bit upset, so I thought I ought to. As it turns out though, in the time between her message and me leaving my grandparents, Sket had spontaneously dropped by, picked her up, and taken Bobo back to her place. So, I ended up at Sket’s with the two of them, chatting away mostly to Bobo while Sket worried about the photos she’s getting framed for her sister’s birthday. :)

I left Sket’s fairly early, since she had work in the morning and couldn’t stay up late, so I actually got home at a reasonable hour – before midnight, maybe! :D – and had a relatively early night (I think… can’t actually remember; I may have watched tv for a while).

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