Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Things Go Wrong

This a dual boot, MS Windows and Ubuntu Post, Ignore it you do not use these.

WARNING - Some things NOT to do.

The other day while Larry - KB7KMO, was here helping me setup and reconfigure my Shop/Shack computers - we ran into trouble.

Larry brought his new laptop (NotPad) and several additional peripherals, including USB hard drives and CD readers - we had lots of equipment, felt invulnerable and therefore we could experiment and do anything.

Larry dual boots his NotePad with both MS Window 7 and Ubuntu - where the original disk space was shrank to about 50% for MS Windows and the remainder for the Ubuntu 10.04 install. He was able to show me many neat things that he has found in the new Ubuntu 10.04 release.

So, back to the current Shop/Shacks problems or challenges that we wanted to solve;
  • Fix a non-booting Ubuntu upgrade Workstation 
  • Configure an old, but newly recovered, MS Window XP Workstation, given to me by my son 
  • Understanding of the new boot process of a good working Ubuntu New Install 
  • Fix a non-booting MS NotePad 

We were working on all of the above at the same time, between reboots and as time permitted.

While working with the MS Window XP Workstation, I mentioned to Larry that we (my son and I) were able to restore the OS to factory original, via booting from the RECOVERY partition (the D: drive) and answering a few question - the process was real simple.

Larry checked, he had a unmounted partition on his NoteBook in the same position as a that found for the D: drive on my WorkStation.

"WE" decided to check out what options it may provide, assuming that Larry, at sometime in the future, may want to reset or recover his MS Windows partition. The RECOVERY process has a menu that allow you to pick what you want to do, or abort. But, . . . .

BUT, as we found out, it modifies the Partition Table, and the Master Boot Record (MBR) on the hard disk before it provides a menu and a chance to stop or abort the recovery process!

** We BRICKED Larry's new NoteBook! ** 
** It would NOT boot **
Larry, did not have backups
nor does he have MS install disks!

We used an external USB Drive with Ubuntu 9.10 to inspect the damage - and yes;
  • the MBR was damaged or modifed, 
  • a new very small MS Windows partition was exposed, 
  • and the previously used Ubuntu partition was maked as "unused", 
  • the original MS Windows partition may have be foreshortened. 

Nothing we tried seemed to help the situation. We did not want to touch the MS partition if it could be recovered as it contains valuable data. The Ubuntu partition contains a lot of customization and some data that would be nice to retain, but it is replaceable.

After many attempts to repair the damage (and after sometime around 1:00 AM), we decided to reset the "ID" on the Linux partition and attempt to re-install Ubuntu into it's alloted partition, hoping that the process "would" fix the MBR for both it and MS Window. The install process is very slow from the external USB CD drive - I went to bed with Larry camping out in the living room.

The next morning - Great News - it worked! Both MS Windows and Ubuntu booted as expected (or as we had hoped)!

The very first thing we did was install the Ubuntu "Backintime" backup utility. We set it up to backup valuable data from each partition (MSW and Ubuntu) to it self and to the other. Larry will add additional backups to multiple external USB hard drives when he returns home.

Lessons Learned - 
  • Have backups of all customization and valuable data! 
  • Do NOT boot from the RECOVERY partition unless you really intend to Recover to the "Factory Install", especially if you have modified the system for DUAL boot. 

We were thankful that this had a happy (and/or more knowledgeable) ending,

Now. (when I have time) back to my continued Shop/Shack computer concerns.


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