How I Half-Saved my Half-Dead PC

Posted On: October 6, 2008
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Comments: 3 Responses

My gaming desktop has been dead for a while now, due to the blue screen of MS death. It says that a problem has been detected with my NTFS system. Uh-oh, that really spells trouble, for those in the know. A quick Google reveals that I am not the first (of course) and probably among thousands of people who have encountered this problem. It is very likely that the NTFS file system that Windows uses has been corrupted. Like many of the folks out there, the symptoms are exactly the same. Blue screen with the cryptic message upon booting up, repairing with Resource Centre fails, booting from CD fails, reinstallation of Windows fails… the list goes on.

Well, short of going out there and crippling my bank account with a purchase of a new system, I decided to try giving my PC emergency CPR. It just happened that I am lucky enough to have purchased a new hard disk a couple of weeks ago, and that has a lot of free space in it. Thus, I swapped the cables and used the new hard disk as the primary hard disk, then unplugged the older hard disk which I suspect is causing the problem. Well, the problem is, this new hard disk is not bootable and does not have Windows installed.

So, how do you make this hard disk bootable, with Windows installed? Now comes the really techie stuff. I had to somehow boot up the system using a boot disk, then use a hard disk partitioning software to resize the existing partition that contains data, then create a new partition meant for the new Windows installation. Sounds easy enough? Not quite.

First, I do not have a hard disk partitioning software. Second, I do not have a bootable disk. So I turned to Google for help again (I love you Google!). I know that there are good, proven, industrial-strength software out there that can do the job, such as Norton’s Partition Magic and Acronis’s Disk Partition Manager. But these are expensive and frankly you only use them once in a blue moon during emergencies. First, I found the open source GParted. It’s free, it is able to create, delete, resize and copy partitions, and it lets me create a boot disk too! It was just want I needed! Unfortunately, upon eagerly trying it out, it hit some errors while it was trying to resize my partition. Naturally, I was disappointed.

Not throwing in the towel yet, Google then help me discover the site called which is a site with lots of information on free software. It was here that I found the Ultimate Boot CD, which is basically a collection of free utilities for system maintenance purposes. The boot CD actually contains the Linux OS which runs from the CD, and in it you can browse through the list of software to find what you need. Unfortunately, I find the documentation sparse, and I had to practically try out different tools to test their usability. Most of them are pretty useful in their own right, but I just could not get the disk partitioning softwares to do my bidding. One good thing came out of it though – I managed to browse through my faulty hard disks without the need for Windows, and it allowed me to check for existence of files later when the real operation began.

So how did I save my PC in the end? Well I finally relented and paid up for Easeus Partition Manager 2.0 Professional, which costs slightly less than Acronis’s solution and about half that of Norton’s. It managed to help me resize the partition just fine, but it could not help me copy the data from the old partition to the new partition, which I need to do if I am not to lose data. Luckily, my previous sleuthing work paid off, and GParted was used to help me do the partition copying. It was a little hair-raising, playing around with my files, but I did managed to finally re-install Windows XP again.

My PC is now half-saved, because the old hard disk is still dead. I need to somehow fix the NTFS which I suspect has been corrupted. Hopefully, everything can be restored to norm once the initial bumps are ironed out. I killed something else in the process though – the zoom trigger of my Canon Powershot G7 sort of snapped, and now the tactile feel is gone. Still usable, but I guess I need to bring it down to the Canon service centre soon. Bad luck just comes in threes… geez… 🙁