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#313840 - 09/09/2008 17:00 Windows Flashing Cursor
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
I have an old Dell Dimension 8250 that I recently upgraded the hard drive in using a disk cloning utility. The OEM drive contains a Dell utility partition that it seems I have no choice but to clone along with the OS partition containing Windows XP Professional SP3. After cloning, all seems to go fine for a while. With Acronis True Image the system will work for a couple reboots and then upon subsequent booting gives me a flashing cursor and refuses to boot afterwards. I also tried DiskClone Pro which, after cloning had been working fine up until today which makes a week. I've tried replacing the hard drive but the results are the same. Each time I reclone, it works for a while but then mysteriously dies with a flashing cursor at boot. I've tried fixing the MBR with the Windows repair console but it doesn't help. I've also tried doing a repair installation of Windows but that also fails when it reboots to finish the installation, resulting in a flashing cursor. I am guessing there is some problem caused by the Dell utility partition that makes the clone ultimately fail, but no cloning utility I've been able to try gives me the option of selectively cloning one partition.

Does anyone know a solution short of formatting and installing Windows from scratch? I really want to avoid doing this because, aside from the major headache reinstalling everything would present, some of my applications were purchased and downloaded online and the installers are not readily available. I just cannot justify putting this much work into a system that that is going on 6 years old.

Thanks for any help!
Stu


Edited by maczrool (09/09/2008 17:02)
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#313842 - 09/09/2008 17:11 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: maczrool]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
The boot menu has an option to do a logged boot. What does it stop on?

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#313845 - 09/09/2008 17:37 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: tman]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14060
Loc: Canada
Assuming that the system still works fine when the original drive is reinstalled (does it?), then you can clone it to a new drive of the same or larger size easily with Linux.

Get a Linux LiveCD -- Eg. a Ubuntu Live/Install disc -- and boot from that with both hard drives cabled in.

Open a terminal window, and use sudo bash to gain full admin privileges within that window.

Now, figure out which drive is which: hdparm -I /dev/sd[ab]
The output from that ought to show tons of data for both the old and new drives, one of which will be /dev/sda, and the other /dev/sdb.

Make certain you know which is which, and ask again here if in any doubt.

Then, clone the drive: cat olddrive > newdrive
replacing olddrive in the command with /dev/sda or /dev/sdb as appropriate, and replacing newdrive with the other one.

This will take a while, so wait for it to finish.
Then do this to shutdown the system afterward: sync ; halt -p

If the new disk is larger than the old one, you'll want to resize the Windows partition (expanding it) after first proving that it boots and runs fine in the original amount of space.

That same Ubuntu LiveCD can be used to do the resize, as can other programs available.

Cheers


Edited by mlord (09/09/2008 17:41)

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#313852 - 09/09/2008 17:49 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: tman]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Originally Posted By: tman
The boot menu has an option to do a logged boot. What does it stop on?


I can't access the screen that initiates that. Pressing F8 would take me there but it does nothing now. I get a Dell screen with a progress bar that progresses and after reaching the end, it normally goes to the Windows XP booting screen but now gives me just a flashing cursor.

Thanks for the suggestion though.
Stu
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#313854 - 09/09/2008 17:52 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Originally Posted By: mlord
Assuming that the system still works fine when the original drive is reinstalled (does it?), then you can clone it to a new drive of the same or larger size easily with Linux.

Get a Linux LiveCD -- Eg. a Ubuntu Live/Install disc -- and boot from that with both hard drives cabled in.

Open a terminal window, and use sudo bash to gain full admin privileges within that window.

Now, figure out which drive is which: hdparm -I /dev/sd[ab]
The output from that ought to show tons of data for both the old and new drives, one of which will be /dev/sda, and the other /dev/sdb.

Make certain you know which is which, and ask again here if in any doubt.

Then, clone the drive: cat olddrive > newdrive
replacing olddrive in the command with /dev/sda or /dev/sdb as appropriate, and replacing newdrive with the other one.

This will take a while, so wait for it to finish.
Then do this to shutdown the system afterward: sync ; halt -p

If the new disk is larger than the old one, you'll want to resize the Windows partition (expanding it) after first proving that it boots and runs fine in the original amount of space.

That same Ubuntu LiveCD can be used to do the resize, as can other programs available.

Cheers


Hi Mark,

Yes reinstalling the old drive works indefinitely and it is larger than the old one. I may have to give your suggestion a shot although Linux is not my forte by a long shot.

Thanks!
Stu
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#313857 - 09/09/2008 18:16 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: maczrool]
siberia37
old hand

Registered: 09/01/2002
Posts: 702
Loc: Tacoma,WA
Did you do the ever handy fdisk /mbr from the repair console? That usually does it.

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#313858 - 09/09/2008 18:24 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14060
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: mlord
Now, figure out which drive is which: hdparm -I /dev/sd[ab]
The output from that ought to show tons of data for both the old and new drives, one of which will be /dev/sda, and the other /dev/sdb.

Make certain you know which is which, and ask again here if in any doubt.

Here's a simpler way to accomplish that, without having to scroll backwards through 100s of lines of hdparm output. Two commands to dump the model numbers:

cat /sys/block/sda/device/model
cat /sys/block/sdb/device/model


The first line above will identify /dev/sda, and the second line will show /dev/sdb

-ml

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#313861 - 09/09/2008 19:21 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
This is a total tangent. Just ignore me.

Originally Posted By: mlord
sudo bash

sudo -s works better in that it lets you continue to use the same shell you were already using. (Assuming your SHELL envvar is correct.)

(I hate bash.)
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#313862 - 09/09/2008 19:30 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
I can't imagine that what you're suggesting is significantly different from what the other cloning tools are doing.

However, it might be worth a shot to try copying only the Windows partition:

Boot into Linux. Partition the new drive into a single partition using fdisk or some equivalent. Set the partition type to whatever it is supposed to be for your version of Windows and filesystem. You can use fdisk to inspect the old drive for this information. Make sure that you mark that partition active. Then "cat /dev/oldx > /dev/newy" where "old" and "new" are "sda", "sdb", "hda", or whatever, determined by inspecting the hdparm output or the contents of the /sys/block... files Mark pointed at in a later post, and "x" and "y" are the partition numbers of the old and new partitions on those drives. That sounds complicated, but it should be reasonably obvious once you're there.

You can also download a trial version of Symantec Ghost to see if that would work better than the other cloners.
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#313864 - 09/09/2008 19:57 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: wfaulk]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Originally Posted By: wfaulk



You can also download a trial version of Symantec Ghost to see if that would work better than the other cloners.


Thanks Bitt,

I tried Ghost first, but the free demo does not offer cloning!

I can't understand though why the cloned drive would work for a while and then stop with no apparent changes. If I reconnect the original drive and leave the new drive attached, I can still access the files on the new drive, it just no longer boots. No amount of fiddling manually or using the recovery console with boot.ini,mbr, boot partitions, etc. will make it boot again once it gives me the flashing cursor.


I'm downloading Ubuntu now over a slow 768K connection so eventually I'll try yours and Mark's suggestions.

Thanks,
Stu
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If you want it to break, buy Sony!

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#313878 - 10/09/2008 00:33 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: wfaulk]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14060
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: wfaulk
I can't imagine that what you're suggesting is significantly different from what the other cloning tools are doing.

That's precisely the point: We (or I) have no idea what the other cloning tools are doing, or not doing.

But with cat, we know 100% that it's a simple byte copy from one drive to the other. No fancy monkeying under the hood.

And if that doesn't work, then we know what to do next (fiddle with the HPA settings).

Cheers

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#313880 - 10/09/2008 01:08 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
Shonky
pooh-bah

Registered: 12/01/2002
Posts: 1970
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
Those other tools often try to get a bit fancy allowing you to clone and resize at the same time. They often also go into the actual file system and copy file by file particularly if you are just imaging the disk - this allows them to ignore things like the pagefile, hibernation file etc. It probably makes them a lot fast with largely empty disks. Probably slower on a full disk though since there would be a lot of seeking instead of just raw reading straight off the disk.

I agree the cat (or dd) method would be the thing to try but it does rely on the new drive being bigger than the old one. Something this quote doesn't make exactly clear:

Quote:
Yes reinstalling the old drive works indefinitely and it is larger than the old one
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#40104192 120Gb (no longer in my E36 M3, won't fit the E46 M3)

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#313890 - 10/09/2008 11:22 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: Shonky]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Originally Posted By: Shonky


I agree the cat (or dd) method would be the thing to try but it does rely on the new drive being bigger than the old one. Something this quote doesn't make exactly clear:

Quote:
Yes reinstalling the old drive works indefinitely and it is larger than the old one


Sorry, by 'it' I meant the new drive. So the new drive is larger than the old from which I am attempting to copy.

Stu
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#313892 - 10/09/2008 12:11 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: maczrool]
LittleBlueThing
addict

Registered: 11/01/2002
Posts: 612
Loc: Reading, UK
aside: I suggest people use ddrescue instead of cat.
1. It provides flashing lights showing activity and speed (cf the cat command which just sits there for a few hours and then returns you to a prompt. Hmm)
2. It retries any bad sectors it may come across rather than just stopping (which is why it's better than dd)
3. It should be faster than either of them.

Downside: it may require a rescue disk like RIP:
http://www.tux.org/pub/people/kent-robotti/looplinux/rip/
Upside: RIP is small to download.

As you install the disks, I'd suggest noting down the serial numbers (just the last 4 digits is OK) and then using
smartctl -i /dev/sda
to show the serial number of /dev/sda
This gives you a lot more confidence that you know which drive is which.
Also, don't assume that it will be the same in different distributions or OS versions. Sometimes the drives appear in a different order so the serial number check is always good.


Stu; the copy won't make use of all the disk space straight away but that's OK, growing it later is fine.
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#313894 - 10/09/2008 12:41 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: LittleBlueThing]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14060
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: LittleBlueThing
aside: I suggest people use ddrescue instead of cat.
1. It provides flashing lights showing activity and speed (cf the cat command which just sits there for a few hours and then returns you to a prompt. Hmm)

That's useful, if one is baby-sitting the transfer.

Quote:
2. It retries any bad sectors it may come across rather than just stopping (which is why it's better than dd)

No, not really. Both the kernel and the drive firmware will already retry bad sectors (over and over and ..), so there's no need for userspace to do it. But what it will do, if there are uncorrectable bad sectors, is continue on after them. But bad sectors are not terribly likely here, or Stu would have already mentioned them.

Quote:
3. It should be faster than either of them.

Dubious.

The Ubuntu LiveCD is a far better way to go for this.

And if one really wants to learn/use ddrescue,
then just install it on the fly (into RAM)
after booting from the LiveCD: apt-get install ddrescue

Cheers


Edited by mlord (10/09/2008 12:43)

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#313903 - 10/09/2008 14:58 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Okay, I've initiated the cloning using your commands in Ubuntu. I currently have a flashing cursor in the terminal window on the next line after the CAT command which is all I've seen for the past 2 hours. Is this what should be there? I can't really tell what, if anything is going on with the hard drives although the HD light on the front of the case is on with some constant flickering. How long might this take with 2 PATA drives transferring roughly 100GB? I believe the cloning utilities were taking about 2 hours so I would hope this would be similar.

Edit: It seems to be done now. I'll do the sync ; halt -p and see what happens.

So far it's booting fine. I've expanded the drive to include the unallocated space. Only time will tell if it will keep working or fail like all the others.

Thanks again everyone for all of your help! If it dies again, I'll post here and let you know.

Stu


Edited by maczrool (10/09/2008 17:01)
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#313927 - 10/09/2008 20:01 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: maczrool]
mlord
carpal tunnel

Registered: 29/08/2000
Posts: 14060
Loc: Canada
Good. Now hang onto that Ubuntu LiveCD -- we can use it to diagnose things further if something mysterious happens to the clone again.

Cheers

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#314081 - 15/09/2008 10:48 Re: Windows Flashing Cursor [Re: mlord]
maczrool
pooh-bah

Registered: 13/01/2002
Posts: 1648
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Originally Posted By: mlord
Good. Now hang onto that Ubuntu LiveCD -- we can use it to diagnose things further if something mysterious happens to the clone again.

Cheers

Okay. Now I'm getting the flashing cursor again. Any other ideas on ways to fix this?

Edit: I seem to have found the problem. I feel stupid for not trying this earlier, but it turns out Dell has updated the Bios 3 times since I got this machine. Connecting the old drive so I could run the bios updater and then rebooting with the new drive worked! So if anyone else runs into this, make sure you have the current bios.

Many thanks!
Stu


Edited by maczrool (15/09/2008 16:33)
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