Thursday, February 21, 2008

System Rescue CD

Tonight I was glad I have a copy of the System Rescue CD. ("SRCD")

My mother called me tonight to let me know that Gondor, my old P-III/733 that I built about 8 years ago, would not boot. After turning on and displaying the POST messages it displayed a disk read error. (Naturally, she didn't say that "it halted after POSTing.") So, I headed over after dinner.

Sure enough, it wouldn't boot. I'm not sure if the master boot record just got hosed or something worse. The SRCD was able to boot the system and mount both internal hard disks, so it's probably the MBR. The XP install on Gondor is about 4 years old, so if it shit the bed I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

Earlier this week my father picked up one of the 8 GB USB flash drives Microcenter has for about $30 and had started to copy some of his data to it. Unfortunately, he hadn't yet backed up all his stuff to it, even after all my nudging. I was able to copy over their My Documents folder using Midnight Commander running off the SRCD. (FWIW, the SRCD recognized the first internal disk as sda, the second disk as sdb, and the USB stick as sdc.)

Incidentally, my mom fitted Gondor with a Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard. Aside from hating those things with a passion, it would not work properly with the SRCD. Not all of the function keys worked properly, which made using Midnight Commander near impossible. My work around for this was to login to Gondor via SSH from Rohan, my MacBook Pro.

While the data was copying over, I went online using my Rohan and ordered a NewerTech Universal Drive Adapter from Other World Computing. This will allow me to yank the drives from Gondor, plug them into my laptop or my folks' MacBook, and more easily recover data and run diagnostics on them. (I've been thinking of purchasing one of these for awhile and this gives me an excuse.)

Before leaving I stressed the necessity of copying the contents of the flash drive over to their MacBook, seeing as how easily a thumb drive could get lost. As it is, they will probably have to recreate things like browser bookmarks and email addressbooks.

I'm trying to convince them to dump the PC entirely and migrate over to the MacBook as their primary computer. They can plug in their Sony flat panel monitor to make it easier on their eyes, and use an external mouse and keyboard. Additionally, I want them to upgrade the Mac to Leopard, buy an external hard disk, and use Time Machine so they don't have to think about backups. One less Windows machine for me to maintain would be damn nice.

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