Sunday, December 4, 2016

Recovering from a disc crash while cruising

That 3 inside the "U" is all important!
If you remember my computer troubles, you'll recall that my hard drive crashed midway down the ICW. Diving into Windows 10 and in reviving my laptop led me to several revelations on the current state of Windows 10 and SD cards. Since the marine environment is more challenging than staying at home (how dull...) there may be interest on my learning experience so here goes.

First off I discovered that unlike all previous versions of Windows, Win10 does not automatically create a restore point. In all previous versions of Windows, the operating system would create a restore point whenever a major update was installed. If you've ever had a computer crash or a blue screen (Win won't come up) you always had the option of reverting to a previous time when everything worked. Well, in Win10 that option is not automatically set to "On". I found this out the hard way when I suspected my laptop problem was due to a corrupted file. I thought, OK, I'll just revert to a previous, saved restore point but I had none stored. Furthermore Win10 also disables the F8 option of getting the Win10 repair screen to come up. All of this was in an effort by Microsoft to save a couple of seconds in boot time.

Part 2, a fast USB 3.0 reader
So what to do? Since I could not access my hard drive I made a bootable SD card in a USB reader. Naturally I had no Win10 disk (it's at home in New York!) but I did have a high speed internet connection at various marinas along the way. The steps:
1 - Even though I could not access the hard drive, I could boot from a USB drive provided the bios allowed that option. All laptops have some option to bring up the bios screen before booting to windows. On my Lenovo I have a blue button to push, other laptops have F1 or Del to hit, the instruction is usually part of the boot screen. After bringing up the bios screen, be sure to set the option of allowing a Win10 boot from a USB drive and put that option first in the sequence of booting.
2 - Now you need both a high speed USB 3.0 card reader and a 32 GB high speed SD card. See the links for details. There are bunches and bunches of SD cards with a confusing array of labels but there is only one label that matters. Look for a "3" in a "U". That denotes a high speed write capability. I didn't know all this stuff until I bought what I thought was a high speed card advertised at "80MB/sec" only to find out that it was very slow in write speed, it was not rated with a 1 or 3 in the "U", in fact the "U" rating was not even shown on the card. If you want to know more than you ever really wanted to know, just go here.
3 - Now you need a copy of Win10. Luckily, Microsoft provides one free for the download. They will want you to input a product key, just ignore it and proceed, it will work if your computer previously had Win10 loaded. Unfortunately for me, the download requires a Win7 or higher laptop which I did not have. I did have an old XP laptop and I won't go through the hoops I needed to jump through for that download to work, many hours. I finally used Rufus, a free tool that works with XP systems.
4 - Now plug in your Win10 copy in a USB 3.0 port (blue, not black) and Win10 comes up. You can start using you laptop at this point.

WD Black, what you want
I went further and bought another hard disk, A Western Digital 500 GB 2.5 inch drive. I removed the old drive (6 screws, easy) and slipped in the new drive. and rebooted with the USB drive still inserted with my new copy of Win10. Upon booting, I chose to install Win10 on the new drive from the inserted USB drive with the copy of Win10.

All drives were set to  "Off" at first
I then removed the USB drive and rebooted the laptop. I now had a functional laptop again with Win10. My first step was to save a restore point! To do so, went to Settings (left, bottom 4 pane icon and select Settings) and enter Restore in the search pane, then choose "Create a Restore Point". Turn on protection for your hard drives and click on "Create a restore point right now..."

But that's now enough. You also have to turn on the option to allow F8 to bring up the restore screen (if you can't get into windows). Look here for details on how to do that. With the last step you can now get to the restore screen (or repair, lots of options) upon booting. You'll have to sit there and pound away at F8 constantly to find the short window when the laptop will respond to the F8 command during the boot up cycle, but it will work (you may have to reboot several times to hit that narrow window of opportunity).

Just slip the old drive into this case
Now that I had a functioning Win10 computer, I put my old drive into a USB drive caddy, I used the
ORICO USB 3.0 External Enclosure. Inserting the USB drive enclosure into the blue (USB 3.0) port I found that my old drive came alive. So the old drive wasn't dead after all. There must be some corrupt system file preventing booting, I'm still working on that. I did not need the drive for old data since all my personal files are stored in the cloud, namely Google Drive which is free for the first 15 GB. It's plenty for all files except photos which I store in the cloud service, PrimePhotos. If you belong to Amazon Prime, which I do, the photo storage space is unlimited.

All this was happening in the background while I was doing my blog. I used my iPad at first until I got my laptop running again. The blog is much easier to do on the laptop but I can use the iPad in a pinch.

Meanwhile, it's really cold up here!! We arrived to 25 degree weather and 20 kts of wind, cold, cold, cold. Of course, I must have been used to it in the past. Ann and I have skied in much colder weather in Colorado but since then our blood has thinned. We much prefer warmer weather. Our plan is to return to Titusville on January 3rd and resume the blog on the 4th. Hopefully Finn, grandchild number three, will be with us for the trip to Key West.