Monday, November 10, 2008

More computer fun

So I went out and bought an external cd/dvd drive so I could use my XP startup disc to fix the boot problems, meanwhile I got the computer running enough (every now and again it booted instead of going into an eternal start/shutdown loop) to backup my documents and the programs file to an external hard drive. I'd had to reinstall the software to run that hard drive, since I hadn't used it in a while. I'd had a mirror copy of my c: drive on it, but I don't want to copy the whole damn thing over, just my documents and a list of my program files in case I have to reinstall everything - I've got a few cool freeware apps I'd found on the net a year ago that really make work more efficient and even if the backup copies don't work, I'll still have the list of programs so I can google them and reinstall them if the worst happens.

I get that done, then break out the XP disc and go into repair. It's not working well, and I figure out that the mirror copy of the c: drive on the external is throwing it for a loop. So I unplug the extra hard drive and try again. Nope. Everytime I get to a certain point in the repair I get the blue screen of death. Interestingly, however, the computer itself is now booting up just fine when I restart after the blue screen. Weird. Very weird. I know there's still an error there - I'd done a chkdsk, and you don't get the blue screen of death for nothing. But when I boot up without the XP disk in the external CD, there's no issues.

Then I notice, on the third go-round with the blue screen, that there's a reference to a USB device on the blue screen. I don't have either the printer or the external hard drive plugged in, so the only USB device connected with the thing at the moment is the CD drive that's running the recovery. Okay, I didn't want to push it by installing the new version of NERO that came with that device on top of everything else, so perhaps I need to do that. Or should I simply ignore the boot problem for now, since it doesn't seem to be a problem that's recurring and I've had to restart the damn thing at least six times, and focus instead on finishing a clean uninstall/reinstall of the printer, then install the new NERO software to run the external CD, and then use the XP disc to do another chkdsk and repair any problems? Or should I just say to hell with it and remove and reinstall everything clean now that I've got my stuff backed up? Decisions, decisions. I've now worked on this all day Friday, some Saturday, several hours on Sunday, and since I got up this morning.

It would certainly help if I had a better handle on the problem. I've got too many factors to work with. I also should've (hindsight) simply uninstalled the printer in the first place instead of messing around with the Norton GoBack. It seemed logical at the time, just take the computer back a couple of hours to before the update. But it's put a glitch in the system that I can't seem to isolate and is very, very weird. I mean, usually if you can't boot, you can't boot. It's not like you can't boot ten times and then suddenly it comes up fine. And then after messing around with backups and trying to uninstall and reinstall the printer (something that causes freeze-ups every time but only if you choose the "wireless" option, and still hasn't fixed the spooling error so I'm uninstalling it again) it suddenly boots okay. Unless you boot from disc and choose the "repair" option, in which case you get the blue screen of death.

I'm going to keep working at, but any suggestions are very welcome. I'd like to be able to get some actual work done today. It's a goal.

UPDATE: I decided the first logical place to start was to remove the printer entirely. Did so. And the boot loop returned. So I've isolated that the update on the printer must've altered the boot somehow to the point that if the printer's removed the boot loop occurs. This with an HP notebook and an HP printer. Hmm.

Went to "last known good configuration" and it started on the second loop. Tried installing the DVD/CD info, with a thought to getting those glitches fixed and then trying again on the repair from the XP boot disc. Unable to get a good install. Another try at just booting from the disc anyway and repairing - another blue screen of death. I'm coming to the conclusion I may have to uninstall and reinstall. And then download all the service packs. And then reinstall any add-ons. And copy back my documents. Then redo my settings. &^$^*&%#@#@!!!!

UPDATE UPDATE: Now it doesn't want to let me uninstall. Booting from disc to go through it's uninstall/reinstall or repair routine won't work, because it bluescreens me. Trying to let windows boot up, then running "setup.exe" from the disc doesn't work because it pulls up a polite little window declining my request to start the install program as my version of windows is newer than the disc version, from which there are no options available but to click exit. Restarting in safe mode with c: command prompt and using the C:\windows\system32\osuninst.exe command says I can't uninstall because there is a problem with the registry. Well, no shit Sherlock, that might be why I want to uninstall the damn thing? Kmacis - any suggestions? I don't want to call you at work about this. Meanwhile, I'm going to play around with booting from disc some more. If I can just avoid the blue screen of death. . . .

Nope. No avoiding it. I've now removed many programs via the windows installer cleanup route, but not even that has reduced the glitch rate, so I'm giving up on trying to somehow avoid the blue screen as it appears every single time. I've also now tried starting in safe mode with command prompt, and directing it to "format c:" After going through all the "are you sure?" language, it tells me it's in use, so I can't. So I did a change directory to d: and tried it from there. Same deal. Oh, it teases me with the idea that undocking C: might do it, but when I instruct it to force an undocking, it says it can't.

To sum: I can't start or do anything via the XP disc, 'cause I get blue screened. I can't go into windows and use the XP disc to install 'cause my version is newer than the disc's (which used to let you uninstall the newer version and go back, but I guess XP stopped allowing that. Nazis.) So far neither removing the OS nor reformatting C: from the command prompt has worked. WTF? Microsoft really doesn't want you uninstalling it's shit, does it? I've debated uninstalling each update via windows in the Add/Remove programs window, thus theoretically making my copy no newer than the discs and maybe the disc will then let me install and hopefully uninstall. But perusing the add/remove it seems to indicate some of the updates can't be removed. Oh, and I don't have a system recovery disc, just the original XP disc, so I don't think I can go that route. And clicking on system restore under administrative tools just gets me a bunch of error codes. I'm totally running out of ideas here and debating just grabbing a really big magnet and running it over the damn hard drive. The only thing stopping me is that I presume it would make matters worse.

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