STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BSOD-ing Fun.

Today is the second-last day that Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 will run on the two machines I have it installed on. At the end of tomorrow, it will expire and will only be able to boot for 2 hours at a time to enable data retrieval - something I must admit I am quite glad about. The two machines are my work PC, and my home PC. At home, I plan to install a copy of Vista RTM that I have handy, and try and purchase a license within the max 120 days you can evaluate it for. At work, I have an install of XP on a secondary partition, so my plan is to simply roll back to that. However, fate would not have it that way...

This morning, I decided to get stuck straight into rolling back my PC. The next time I'll be in the office is next Monday, and I really wanted to have this resolved prior to Vista switching into "2 hours at a time" mode. So I copied across all the relevant data I could find, cleared my desktop and got to that point where I decided that I no longer needed Vista. So I switched the boot manager to default to XP, and rebooted my machine. On launching into my old WinXP install, I discovered there was a small problem that could make the system unstable on startup. So, I did some quick clicking and found a system update I needed to resolve the issue. At this point, someone in my office asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee. This is relevant, and in a moment, you'll see why. I downloaded the update, and clicked to install. It did it's system checks and started to install, when suddenly...

*click*

The screen went blank, and the coffee which had been noisily bubbling in the background went quiet. I hurried over to our switch box, and saw that the circuit breaker had tripped. Oh bugger. I look back - there's coffee everywhere. The coffee machine had gone somewhat mental and bubbled over, tripping the circuit breaker in the process. I quickly switched the breaker back on, and hurried over to my machine. As it moved to the XP boot screen I breathed a sigh of relief - but unfortunately, too soon. The system rebooted. And then it did it again. And again. I finally woke up enough to realise something was wrong, and set Windows not to reboot on error. The next time, I was greeted by a glaring great BSOD with the message "BOOT_DISK_UNMOUNTABLE".

Oh...

Crap.

So I boot into the recovery console using a copy of XP I have lying around, but unfortunately it won't let me. I can only log on to the Vista install, and by default Vista uses a random Administrator password. Useful.So I start hunting around for NTFS-enabled boot disks so that I can do a disk repair. Can't find any, but stumble across Bart's PE. Having used Windows PE before, I know this is my saviour, so I download it and use a Win2003Srv virtual machine on my Mac to create the CD. Once I boot it up on my Windows box, I start a disc check and the errors it's fixing start to fill up the screen. About half an hour later, it finishes. I reboot... I hold my breath... and...

WOOOOHOOOO!!!! IT LIVES!!!! :D

Anyway, moral of the story is that Bart is my new hero. And could be yours too. I recommend anyone who has vague technical competence and uses Windows beyond WinME should have a PE disk lying around, and Bart's is free and easy to use. Having a functioning (while very, very limited) Windows install on a bootable CD is just awesome, and allows you to fix stuff you otherwise couldn't.

Anyway, rant done. Computer works. Back to work I guess.

4 comments:

Nathan Zamprogno said...

Oh wise and sage Justin, where can I get myself a Windows PE disk? Would a customised one be better? Ta.

Justin Warner said...

Here is Bart's PE disc builder, which is very handy.

There's a plug-in page too that will give you lots of goodies to bundle into your PE disc to help fix up your broken Windows here.

The official MS one has a page here.

However, to get it you have to either have a VLA with Software Assurance benefits, or be a Technet member or volume reseller or something. Stupid really, since it's so handy. I have the disc with the build tools on it. If you'd like a copy, you're more then welcome, just let me know.

Justin Warner said...

Oh - forgot to mention. For Bart's PE or the Windows PE builder tools, you will need a copy of your Windows XP disc during the build process. It uses a lot of the same files.

Tam said...

The only flaw I can see is that you need a working optical drive. This counts me out with my drive that failed just outside of warranty, as without a working OS my usb external drive doesn't work....lol