The Reinstallation Diaries Episode I.
This will be an ongoing series as I chronicle my recent reinstallation process.
For the last several weeks I’ve had one of those appointments that I dread. No, not the dentist or the doctor. Rather, I’ve had an appointment to do a rebuild of my Toshiba M200 Tablet PC. Why?
Several reasons for this:
I think it is a good idea to do a fresh install about once every year or so. Computers accumulate lots of junk in the every day running. They accumulate lots more if you’re a software geek and like to try out new apps the way I do; some of which I keep and some of which I don’t. Many times it’s the programs I uninstall that cause the problems, due to poor uninstall routines by developers which leave stuff lurking in corners that gum up the works.
I had noticed that things just weren’t as snappy as they used to be which is an obvious sign. Shutting down and rebooting sometimes seemed to take an eternity, a even surer sign.
I’ve been a Norton user for years. I’ve becoming increasingly irritated with the system overhead Norton requires in order to protect a system and been toying with getting rid of the program and trying a new approach. Knowing that getting rid of Norton is like trying to quit the Mafia, I knew that the only way to really do this cleanly was the next time I did a reinstall.
The last time I had done a reinstall was after having a disastrous attempt at installing XPSP2 upon its release. I’ve been thinking about this new reinstall for about two months and finally decided to look on my calendar and schedule the time. Oh, you do need to schedule that time. This can’t be a spur of the moment kind of thing. The process will take time and the preparation will as well. So, you need to find or make the time to do it right, in my opinion. This past Saturday was the perfect day on my calendar so about a month ago, I scheduled the date and looked forward to it with trepidation.
The day arrived and I swallowed hard and dove in. Now, before the day arrived I had done quite a bit of preparation to make the job as easy as possible. Tablet PCs are not the easiest computers to perform a reinstall on. Toshiba’s are even more difficult. The ridiculous recovery disk process makes everything more difficult than it is, no matter what your make and model. Toshiba’s inconsistency with USB drives makes the process a risky one regardless. The Toshiba forum on Tablet PC Buzz contains several threads of users who can’t get their Toshiba USB drives to boot the recovery disk. Many calls for service, BIOS updates, and many workarounds later it is far from a simple process and can best be described as a luck of the draw as to whether or not you’ll have success. More on that later.
Back to preparation. Having reinstalled several computers I’ve learned many of the reinstallation lessons the hard way. You are bound to forget something that you want to transfer, lose a file, or misplace a software key. I know a lot of folks do disk partitioning and work with that method. I’ve never been in that camp. Don’t know why, just never have.
But in any case, the key to minimizing problems is to prepare ahead of time. Now, I might be a bit more paranoid about losing data than the next person, so that leads to a pretty rigorous routine.
- I go through any software cds/dvds that I have to make sure I still have what I need handy.
- I go through my archive folder I maintain on one of two portable hard drives to make sure that I have the appropriate software for apps I am going to reinstall.
- I print out any emails with passwords or unlock keys that I’m going to need.
- I use the program Belarc Advisor to printout an inventory of my system.
- I take several screen shots of:
- My desktop
- Email account config screens
- A few programs that have misbehaving toolbars so that I can get them back the way I want.
- The task manager processes that are running so that I can compare the new installation with the old one.
- I do a clone of my system using Apricorn’s EZ Bus System. Quick, handy, and it gives me the chance to come back to where I was before reinstalling if I need to. (I can’t recommend this solution enough, and I recommend it every chance I get. When I upgraded my HD, I purchased this hardware/software solution. A bit pricey, but it does work and work well. In the event of a total crash I have a second HD with a complete system on it that I could operate from if I needed to by swapping them out. I use the older drive I replaced as the cloned drive and it works like a charm.)
- I do a ghost image (Norton) of the system to one of those portable drives I spoke of.
- Using that portable drive, I also copy all of my documents (and any in the shared folders under all users) to a separate directory. This drive is usually hooked up to my desktop and I transfer files to it via wireless. But for this process, I hook it up to the Tablet.
- I also make separate backups of my .pst files (archive, backup and running file), Onfolio Collection, Active Words Profile, and OneNote files on the portable drives. I told you I’m paranoid.
- I create a folder on the portable drive with all of the latest Toshiba M200 drivers on it.
With these steps done I’m ready to begin.
Now for this particular adventure I had several options on how to proceed. After the previous reinstallation I had gotten a basic system working and then made and archived an image that would bring me back to that state. However, given the recent postings on Tablet PC Buzz with USB recovery problems on the Toshiba I thought I would go all the way and see if my previous luck with that method held.
For this process I’m using a Toshiba CD-RW/DVD-ROM PA3352U-1CD2 rev. 344. This is one of the drives listed as bootable by Toshiba and I have had success with it in the past. So, all should be well. Well, not exactly.
On the first attempt the system returned an error. The same thing on the second attempt. On the third attempt all went well and the recovery process proceeded apace without a hitch. Don’t ask me what happened between attempts two and three. I have no idea.
Being curious I thought I’d give a few other things a try while I was at this early state.
First, I attempted and succeeded in restoring the clone system using Apricorn’s EZ Bus system. No problems.
Second, I thought I would try the recovery process using a Sony MPD-AP20U Drive that I know is bootable on the next recovery. Worked like a charm. It’s a shame this drive is hard to get now (second hand and on Ebay only now, I think), it is a winner on so many levels.
Third, I attempted and succeeded in restoring the various Ghost Images (Norton Ghost) that I have saved in case of disaster.
And lastly, I went back to the Toshiba optical drive to perform the recovery process anew. This time it took four attempts to get the system to perform the recovery. Hmmm?
- Toshiba has a problem with their drives. It is well documented and depending on who you talk to in technical support, they are either clueless about the situation or in denial. Toshiba and other OEM’s need to wake up and realize that this is an important part of the experience for many and they need to provide reliability here.
- Finding a reliable optical drive (or some other solution) for the recovery process is a must. I purchased the Sony when I read it was bootable on the M200. I haven’t regretted it. In fact, I doubt I’ll use the Toshiba drive again for this process. Getting this drive to work seems to eliminate a problem with the Tablet and putting the focus squarely on the Toshiba drive.
- There is great peace of mind knowing that the other methods of imaging and archiving my system work and work well.
Next up: Checking things out and reinstalling SP2.