Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vista Hell, or XP Hell?

The lesser of two evils

As far as I'm concerned, using computers has one purpose in life: to get things done. Now, "things" is a very broad category, and "done" is a highly relative expression. But there are things you can do on your computer that you just can't do out there in real life. What's more, I think, are the things you can LEARN.

Anyway, for someone who sees his computer as a means to an end, rather than the end itself, I think I spend far too much of my time maintaining and fixing my computers.

At this present moment the issue is: which Hell do I want to go swim around in: Vista or XP?

It all started when I got my new computer. I spent 6 months installing and configuring everything exactly the way I wanted to get things done on XP. I had bought both operating systems with the idea of being dual-boot eventually. I wanted 64 bit Vista, becasue it should be faster, and I wanted to try out Halo2 for the PC.

Everything was going fine until I made my Vista dual boot. And, even THAT was going fine for a while.

Vista never did install correctly: the boot loader didn't get written right to my hard drives, and the only way I coudl boot to Vista was with a bootable DVD in the DVD drive (but not actually booting to the DVD.)

Well, along came one of MS illustrious patches, and suddenly every time I booted my computer, Vista wanted to run checkdisk on my XP drives, and XP wanted to run checkdisk on my Vista drives.

I carefully avoided this for weeks, but one day when I wasn't actually sitting at my computer when it started up, I came back to find Vista was running check disk on my XP drive. I crossed my fingers, prayed, crossed myself, and sat down to watch the fireworks. A few minutes later it said that Vista was changing file permissions on all the files on my XP boot drive. There was really nothing I could to about it until it was over.

I waited, rebooted, and sure enough: no longer possible to boot into XP.

Okay, I though, if Vista can do that to my XP drive, perhaps I can get XP to run checkdisk on it's own drive and it will convert everything back. So, I made that happen, and WHEW! I could boot into XP again.

Well, sort of.

XP never really "came back" - I could boot into it, log into my account, but half the operating system wasn't running. The only way I could get an explorer windows was to ctl-alt-del and bring up the task manager and launch one manually. I could launch programs if I typed them in at the run menu (knew the whole path) but not if I double clicked on them. And I had no taskbar at the bottom of my screen, so I couldn't get to any of the memory resident programs. Only bits and pieces of control panel worked, and one important one that didn't was the Services cpl!

So, I growled, and went back to using Vista for a while. I figured out what the bare minimum was I needed to use my computer, and installed those things on Vista. (I'm still not done, actually...) Meanwhile I contemplated two problems:
a) getting vista to boot without a DVD in the DVD drive, and
b) somehow fixing my XP install

Well, after spending about a week working on "b" I think I've given up. At this point, I even attempted a re-install of XP to the same drive, but decided against it. It is too risky. I will either rip that drive out and put it in some other computer, and THEN reinstall, and use remote desktop to manage that machine, OR I will install XP in a virtual machine. I only need XP for a limited number of programs that just don't work on 64bit Vista yet.

Meanwhile, there was problem "a" - well I finally fixed that, thanks to this web page here:

I'll let you all know when I'm back to happy computing once again. Meanwhile, if you've tried to email me in the past 2 weeks, you've been sadly out of luck.


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