Hi all -
Just thought I'd update ya's on what happened.
I bought Partition Magic and a new 250gig hard drive. (Best Buy has 'em on sale for $159 - holy cow!! Only 1 year warranty - it's a Maxtor - but 7200 rpm, ATA133, 8mb cache, so I'l loving it
Comes with a pci ATA133 card if your mainboard doesn't already support it).
Anyway... so I decided to merge my 2 partitions on my main drive, then install the new hd, then load linux onto the new drive.
I ran partition magic with the following operations requested: make the C partition a primary one, mark it active, and merge E into C.
That went fine - no problems, but upon reboot, I got the error: "A disk read error has occurred. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart."
Well that sucks! After much research (thank god I have a backup computer online), I discovered a tiny little bug in Windows whereby if you install NTFS from the get-go in XP (which I'm guessing most people do, since it's the default), you can have this problem (caused by a million different things - including resizing partitions) of the disk read error. The solution? Convert your drive to FAT32, you'll be back in business, then convert back to NTFS if so desired. Well, Partition Magic wouldn't even boot off the CD while this disk read error was going on, so that wasn't an option for me.... yet.
I screwed around with the Recovery Console for hours, trying fixmbr, fixboot, re-configuring boot.ini, to no avail. I then tried the "repair" re-installation option in XP. It worked, up until the first reboot - then the disk read error.
Here's where I f'd up. I then decided, screw it, I'll just reload XP onto itself - it'll wipe out all my apps and settings but I'll still have my data. Same problem - upon reboot, disk read error.
What I SHOULD have done before reinstalling was this. (I found the solution one step too late). I decided to install the new hd as my primary, make the old drive my backup so I could at least grab the data off of it. I plugged everything in and accidentally had my Partition Magic cd still in the drive and.... wait a minute!! It is working!! Huh??? That disk read error was causing partition magic to blow up upon choosing the language to use, but now it was working. So I decided to convert my old drive to FAT32 and see if in fact it would become working again. (I figured, at worst, I lose it, which at this point was what I expected anyway, and at best, I'll be able to read/write to it from Linux, and maybe even get the Windows install booting).
Well, it worked - because when I shut down and plugged that old drive back in as primary, it came up into where I left off at the Windows install. Damn it! Why is that bad?? Because, if I would have tried this before the clean install - when I was in the middle of the REPAIR install - I wouldn't have lost my Windows installation. Heart is breaking now, mad at myself, oh mad, oh mad...
I got my drivers loaded in my "new" windows, loaded a couple apps over themselves (the files are all still there in Program Files, but the registry entries are missing, rendering most of them useless now).
I didn't spend too much time on that, because I figured I could still blow the whole thing up again loading Linux. So I plugged my new 250gb drive in as secondary, and popped in the Mandrake 10 cd.
Installed Mandrake - it found all of my hardware without a problem (had some configuration issues with my Linksys WUSB11 wireless USB adapter but found the solution this morning).
After spending 8 HOURS trying to fix that screwed up Windows install of mine, I am now swearing that because I'm starting from scratch anyway, I might as well start from scratch in Linux. May I never again have grief caused by bugs that have been known about for over 2 YEARS and not fixed. Oh, it just kills me, how Windows users are at the mercy of Microsoft. I guess losing entire operating system installs is not a big enough problem or inconvenience for Windows users for MS to bother fixing it. (Or maybe they CAN'T fix it - could they be that incompetent?)
At any rate, I'm typing this now from Mozilla in Mandrake 10. I just finished importing my mozilla bookmarks from my old Windows drive, and am on my way to becoming a former Windows user.
Ultimately I'd like to run Debian , but with the shaky Windows install I had, I feared the Debian installer. Once I trash Windows for good, maybe I'll take a shot at it.
Thanks all for your help and for listening to me ramble!