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The Holmes Page THE SOAP BOX 1998/01/28



1998/01/28: Crash, Bang - Part 2  

Continued from Part 1.

Day 9, January 1 1998
I checked e-mail once again with Win31 Netscape 2.

I modified the Registry of the temporary drive I: installation of Win95 to point to the C: Win95 directories using RegEdit in Win95. A lot of work. I did this because the Registry always has to "point ahead" to the files, which have to be there already. Once these changes were made I copied the Registry files (*.DAT) to the drive C: Win95.

I finally ran the C: version! Got my desktop and menu back, although all of the shortcuts were still wrong. Fixed a few more references to G:/H: in the Registry and altered some LNK/PIF/INI/BAT files to point to C:.

Day 10, January 2 1998
Caught up on e-mail and moved more files. The goal at this point was to get stuff off the Fujitsu drive so that it could be re-partitioned as a single drive, to hold my "short filename" development files.

Day 11, January 3 1998
Installed the new 3.1 G HD, calling it "WD32". Partitioned it as 2G + 1G. I re-discovered why big partitions suck. Usage doubled or tripled, so more apparent space became less actual space... Moved data from Fujitsu to WD32 1 & 2, and also from WD_1 (old C:) to WD32_1 (new C:). Re-partitioned the Fujitsu drive.

Day 12, January 4 1998
Blew away the original problem drive (WD2100), finally. Formatting found the bad sectors, originally in the FAT of G:, now in the middle of the data region. Discovered that the 32-bit Windows version of XCOPY is different (and better) than the "DOS 7" version, so I used it to copy all files and attributes. That was the best bit of news so far...

Day 13, January 5 1998
Copied C: to E: as a backup, using XCOPY32. Made a "final" pass through INI files, app directories, and the Registry to point to new drive letters (although I expected to find more problems as time goes by).

Began the laborious task of changing all the LNK files in the Start menu. I was stunned at the incredible waste of space in the "Start Menu":

      3,486,716 total bytes in 734 files
     27,164,672 bytes disk space occupied, 87% slack
This illustrates how wasteful a cluster size of 32KB can be.

That waste of space was typical. My old Win95 was 450MB of files which took up about 500MB. Now it takes up 650MB for the same files. Some directories that were made up only of small (less than 8KB) files have quadrupled in size. The net effect is that I don't have anymore free space left than I did before, even with the new drive!

At this point, I was able to do the "paying work" that I had postponed. It is not possible for me to get back on schedule. The "data conversion" job has been cancelled until another holiday can be found. The "big$demo" is due tomorrow. I am starting now.

Day 15, January 7 1998
Still cleaning up the mess...

WinFax came up blank because it stores paths in proprietary CFG files with no way to change the SEND and RECEIVE paths. Used my TREP utility to change them. Could have had checksums, darn good thing that they didn't.

Day 18, January 10 1998
The battle continued, although it was now in the cleanup phase.

For example, many "uninstall" scripts and logs needed to be modified to point from G:/H: to C: instead. The "Stirling" ones could not be modified as they were in a binary format. Unfortunately, they were created by one of the most popular installers. Thus, "uninstall" will probably not work for those apps (if I ever get around to doing that).

Makes me think that there is a big hole in these applications (and Win95) -- how do you move programs when you run out of space on a particular disk?

Other programs used private configuration files, which are not in the standard text-based .INI format or in the Registry. These programs failed when they were run. For example, WinFax stored the locations of the SEND and RECEIVE folders in a binary config file. I was unable to accept faxes from a client until I could "hack" the format, which turned out to be too late... The costs kept adding up.

I expected to find more of these surprises over the next several months as I used various programs. I probably should have fixed them all at the time, but there were too many to check. Even my Start menu has not been completely dealt with. There were 733 shortcuts in there. I have fixed maybe 50 so far.

There is no automatic way of making these corrections, although Win95 does scan the Registry and warn you if you try to change the name of a directory that is referenced there. That is not much to help me.

Lessons Learned

As you can see, I highly recommend, no I insist, that all PCs be equipped with a duplicate hard drive that mirrors C:. Even my sister, who says that she doesn't really have anything "important" on her PC, would be very surprised how long it would take to get back to where she is now. In fact, she never would. Look at the trouble I had, and I am supposed to know what I am doing!

I reckon that this may have cost me around $5000 in lost work work, if my clients (and potential clients) get in a bad mood. I think that $350 for a second hard drive is worth it.

Advice to you: Go out now and buy another (identical) hard drive and install it in your machine. Then copy all files from C: to D: on a regular basis, two or three times a day. This is poor-man's "mirroring" - it provides an almost "live" backup, which is the only kind that works. Bill Gates has given us this big stinking OS that has no escape hatch. You have to make your own.


Even one year later, I still have not fixed all of the dangling links. Microsoft now has a tool to correct the LNK files that no longer point to the right location. Their idea of "correct" is to delete the LNK files! Idiots! They should at least try to find the new program.

Technical Note: How to mirror everything and use it to get back up and running

Once my (old) drive C: was formatted as a 2.1GB drive E: and was made bootable (with FORMAT E: /s), I used XCOPY to copy *all* files from C: to E: with this command:
   xcopy C:\*.* E:\ /e /f /h /r /k
The "/h" options ensured that hidden and system files were copied, and "/k" copied file attributes which ensured that the copy was exact.

Note that this only works in Win95, because of the extended XCOPY options (/f/i/r/k...) that are not available in DOS 7.

The files in the root of C: are copied too, of course, and it is these that make the system a "Win95" system. In fact, it is possible (and quite easy) to make a system that was formatted for Win95 at the factory into a "dual boot" Win95/Dos6 system, just by tweaking the MSDOS.SYS file.

The "catch" with this mirror approach: DOS/Win95 only allows one partition to be "active" (bootable), so when the main drive fails and the cable is switched to the spare, you must run FDISK and make the new partition the active one. It only takes a second, and does not lose data. So make sure to have a bootable Win95 (or DOS6) disk ready with FDISK on it.

Keep the copy "fresh" by running:
   xcopy C:\*.* E:\ /e /f /h /r /k /d:1998-01-01
And change the date accordingly.

This is actually not quite good enough for a long term solution because it will not copy files that are older than the specified date. You may want to use a commercial program like Second Copy, which can be scheduled to run on a regular basis.

Previous: 1998/01/14 - Crash, Bang - Part 1

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