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June 21, 2005

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I'm certainly not as tech literate as you are, so it's likely that I don't understand what's going on here. But can't you get access to the data by mounting the old XP drive to a system running Linux?

Also, get a Shuttle, build it out, and then post pictures. It's pretty much the least you can do for saddling us with this Administration for the next three years.

But can't you get access to the data by mounting the old XP drive to a system running Linux?

Yes, theoretically, if one had a Linux distro that could read ntfs. One has, but one apparently incorrectly burned the boot CDROM, which prevented one from copying the important stuff last night. And one's laptop lacks a floppy drive, which sort of limits one's ability to make a boot floppy.

And now one has to get back to work, before one gets too much further behind.

there are HD to USB adapters you can buy, if you just need to get at the stuff on the HD. not sure how much that will help, if the HD is encrypted in any way...

i have a dead Dell laptop in a closet - fried power supply. i called Dell and they said it would cost $800 to fix. I's all like "Talk To The Hand, B334TCH3Z!"

Two comments:

Having spent years doing tech support for various firms, I can confirm that most major PC manufacturers use proprietary hardware in their systems. If anyone out there elects to buy from one of the big companies you need to be aware of this. It's the tradeoff you make when you buy a preconfigured system for "ease" of use and nominally better support.

2nd, your XP license may be transferable to a new system if your old system is not functional. MS might ship you an installation disk if you call and explain the problem. I can't say for sure, as I haven't had to deal with any licensing issues for MS products in a while.

Good luck. I know what a PITA having your system go FUBAR is.

Oh, you can get a new DELL power supply for about $50, unless it's something bizarre and obsolete.

there are HD to USB adapters you can buy

Hmmmm...there's an idea. I'll have to check that out. The trouble with my Linux system is that it's dual-boot, and I've got the OSes on separate drives, and the Windows drive won't boot without the boot loader on the Linux drive. So I can boot it in Windows, but then there's no slot for me to put in another (the one from the Dell system) HDD.

BTW, I heartily recommend the USB drive caddies that cleek mentioned above. Even if you can't get the data off the drive, they make a great device for data backup.

Get the barebones system and don't look back. Just do a little research first to make sure you're getting components (motherboard, power supply, primarily) that will allow you some kind of upgrade path later.

Anandtech and Ars Technica are good places to get informed. Ars Technica's System Buyer's Guide is very helpful.

If you're going to be buying parts online, my experience with Newegg.com is that they are inexpensive and reliable.

Finally, regarding your hard drive, get a new one, make it the bootable drive, and then, when everything is up and running, plug your old drive into the motherboard. Your bios/OS (it'll be Windows, I assume) will assign a drive letter and you'll be able to retrieve your data (the file hierarchy will look kind of wonky, but you should be able to find what you're after). I've done this with Win2k plenty of times -- it should work fine with XP.

Good luck.

*runs backup*

Yeah, I'm definitely going to pursue that. It's only about thirty bucks or so, and I can get one today, probably.

I've heard about the XP license, but I was sort of looking to get get to the data this week. My wife is looking into getting a disk from work; I don't need to do an install, only a repair.

About proprietary boards, my Gateway uses a non-proprietary MB. I wouldn't be surprised at all, though, if it's a rarity these days.

Finally, regarding your hard drive, get a new one, make it the bootable drive, and then, when everything is up and running, plug your old drive into the motherboard.

Yeah, that was one of my plans for after-the-purchase. I was kind of thinking, though, that I could buy a system that included just the case, power supply, populated motherboard and graphics board, and use that same HDD as the boot drive. We'll see how that works out.

I was kind of thinking, though, that I could buy a system that included just the case, power supply, populated motherboard and graphics board, and use that same HDD as the boot drive.

That works, too (if it works). HDD's are so cheap these days (about a dollar a gigabyte) that I might grab one and account it as the cost of doing a clean Windows install. Afterward, the old drive becomes backup (an especially cool backup if you follow cleek's advice).

My condolences, slarti. I've heard people rant about Dell and now consider myself thoroughly warned.

I need a laptop and am being very cautious about being stuck with a brick that can't be easily upgraded. As far as I know, I can't get someone to build a generic laptop for me -- or can I? I'm tempted by the pretty VAIO line from Sony, too, but I don't know if they're robust enough.

The company I work for uses Dells exclusively for internal workstations and laptops, so we get discounts. Recommendation: build your own if you know how. You can get the parts from Newegg for amazingly cheap, with cheap shipping and excellent RMA responsiveness.

I built both my computer and Jess's--mine a tricked-out 2.4Ghz Athlon gaming rig, hers a 2.1--for under $1000. If you don't need to tweak yours for gaming, even better.

Did you find a Keylogger in your Dell? See Atrios' site.

Oh, splendid. A friend just gave me his old Dell, and now y'all have me shaking in my boots. When did ObWi become so scary? Can't we go back to talking about nuclear proliferation?

(We encountered the custom-parts issue already, trying to switch some RAM from my old HP into the Dell.)

Never mind, was a hoax.

Get at least a GIG of RAM, you'll need it.

I am on the fourth system I have built from the ground up and each one has gotten easier. They are now truly "plug and play". Five or six years ago there were a lot of compatability issues but if you buy a good, high rated motherboard and name brand components everything should work first time, every time. I have had very good luck with SOYO motherboards.

Slarti, I'm sorry to hear (read) your tale of woe.

Bare-bones systems: I have had good luck buying from JDR Computer Products. Their over-the-phone support is good and they ship things when they say they will. I could go to a local store (I'm in the Silicon Valley) but I prefer to deal with these guys.

Burning a bootable Knoppix CD: I have hit this one myself. You have to tell your CD burning software that you're burning from an ISO file. In Adaptec's "Easy CD Creator" this is "File | Create CD from CD Image" and select files of type *.iso (not .cif).

Wow. I consider myself somewhat computer literate and yet I understand almost nothing on this thread. I appreciate the info on Dell's proprietary parts, however -- because I had always assumed that they were PC clones into which you could plug anything.

My frustration, as I start shopping for a new computer, is that the manufacturers put huge hard drives on their systems, but offer paltry RAM. I don't store that many programs and I certainly don't save files on my hard drive, but I do like to (and often need to) run several programs at once. So, upgrades are a must and the base price never applies.

I would like to congratulate this thread for officially exceeding the previous record for number of comments in response to a PC-based technobleg without anyone launching into a Macist-Linuxist rant. (The previous record was three.) Way to go! Keep it up!

From knoppix.com: With the KNOPPIX-terminalserver (available from version 3.2 and later), KNOPPIX can also be booted over the network from a computer already running the CD.

Opus: RAM is important, but more or less so depending on what /kind/ of programs you run simultaneously. If you do a lot of word processing: sure, but not so much. Number-crunching: CPU speed is more important. Multimedia of almost any kind, such as video editing or graphic art: RAM, RAM, and more RAM.

Few hard-and fast rules here, but if you're on a budget you can save a lot of money by not buying the latest-and-greatest of a specific component if you don't need it.

Dell's tech support is a joke. They misdiagnosed a hardware problem on my laptop as software and had me reformat the disk, only to say, the next day, "oops, it's a hardware problem." That was after a tech had already replaced the motherboard.

And then they lost the computer; or rather, DHL did, but since Dell didn't bother to tell me it had been shipped back to me, it was 10 days (I'd been traveling on business) before I realized it was missing, and there was no way to trace it.

To give them credit, they did promptly replace it with the current equivalent (which was, in effect, an upgrade), but they still, a month later, owe me several accessories to replace the ones I have that are not compatible with the new system.

On Macs: they are so clearly a solution neither to the problem of computers being fried by lightning (as the empty shell that was once my G4 Quicksilver can attest), nor to the problem of being able to solve your problems with cheap, interchangeable parts available from a variety of vendors, that the only possible reason to chime in would have been sheer perversity. Some people bring out the sheerly perverse, nyah-nyah side of me, but Slarti is not one of them.

Definitely build your own. I tend to buy my parts from Newegg, although there are other good suppliers. If you buy any piece of hardware, you can also typically buy an OEM version of WinXP at a price far lower than the retail price.

I would go with an AMD processor rather than an Intel one; they're much better value. And get at least a gigabyte of RAM; it's less than $90, and you won't be sorry.

A few observations: All tech support sucks. Dell is peachy keen if you're wanting a commodity machine that like a bic lighter, you simply toss when it reaches the end of its useful life. Purchasing a "standard" pc from a mom and pop shop is just trading a known for an unknown devil unless you more or less know what you are doing, at which point get yourself to newegg and put the kit together yourself.

But the real lesson is to back up your data, unless there is absoltely nothing you would mind losing on your PC. Then you won't care when the pc melts down, because you know all of your documents and settings are safe on an external harddrive. You can even unplug it of a morning and take it with you, so you have all your stuff at work, and then you won't worry about losing your data if your house burns down, god forbid. Write a batch file that XCOPY /E's your my documents, outlook folders, quickbooks files, etc, etc, to your external harddrive, schedule it to run at 4am, and never worry again. It seems that 40gb external drives can be had for under a 100 bucks, so they are a wise investment if you don't want to mess around with DVD's or magnetic tape.

Slarti,

You may, in fact, have a full version of Windows XP.

This 'reinstallation disc' you got from Dell... let me guess, it specifically SAYS 'Reinstallation CD' on it, and has all sorts of things like 'this software is already installed on your computer' and 'only use this CD to reinstall software.' It probably is also purple.

I've worked with Dells on and off for about four years, and a LOT of those discs are full OEM versions of Windows XP with different labels on the CD and (sometimes) a couple extra Dell software thingies on them. Try installing it on a blank drive in a new system and registering it with the validation key (most likely found on a sticker pasted right on the case of your fried deimension.). I've done that... six, seven times with a variety of Dell discs, and gotten Windows installed perfectly well each time. It won't help with your other problems, of course, but you'll save 200 bucks for a new windows + liscence.

Also, re: big box manufacturers and standardization; with the exception of their new BTX-form factor systems and some of the mobos and cases, Gateway uses all stock, standard parts; memory, power suplly, everything. The BIOS is usually a standard one like Phoenix too. You can rip a Gateway apart and put the parts in any number of systems.

Gateway has many other shitty things they do, of course, but non-standard parts aren't one of them.

Thanks for the huge variety of wisdom, everyone; I think the last one (Mercutio) might be one that I'll actually use. But I think the most probable course of action is for me to drop by CheapGuys and pick up part of a system. Or even CBW, since they're on the way home.

I think the last time I was this torqued at a big computer company was when I discovered my system had a Winmodem. But that was before broadband.

I think the last time I was this torqued at a big computer company was when I discovered my system had a Winmodem.

i needed a new box to do some Linux development on, and i needed it fast. so, i popped into Circuit City to grab the cheapest system i could find. i ended up getting a floor model refurbished Sony VAIO laptop for under $600 (not much more than their cheapest desktop with monitor).

they don't ship VAIOs with recovery CDs anymore; you have to burn them from the computer itself with your own CD-Rs. no big deal. i start the little Recovery Disk Wizard and it tells me to be sure to use "good quality CDs". mm k.

it fails to burn six different Sony CD-Rs before i switch to these funky black-surface Memorex CD-Rs that I had lying around. they work OK.

so, i guess Sony either makes crappy CD burners or crappy CD-Rs.

Slart, if the time-critical issue is accessing the data on your current hard-drive, find out who in your area does data recovery, and have them do that. That way, you can spend more time choosing your components and assembling a computer. If it costs $100 to pull the necessary data, that would still pay for itself by giving you the time to avoid picking the parts in a rush to assemble.

Also, if the HDD is readable by an exernal system, could you just borrow a computer, hook up the drive, and read it that way?

Yes, and no. Yes, I could do that, and no, so far I haven't been able to. Details provided upthread; upshot is WinXP doesn't like it when you move the HDD to a new set of hardware, and you have to run repair or something like that. Not having done it yet, I can't really say for sure. I'm going to try the IDE/USB adapter, though; that'll let me load Quicken on my laptop and access the backup data on the HDD. That's the hope, anyway.

Thanks, [b]Catsy[/b]. I tend to run Word, SPSS, and IE simultaneously. My current laptop can do it for a while and then it just wheezes to a freeze. :-)

Slarti -

All vendors suck, they just suck in different ways. For a desktop, building out a generic box is as good a plan as any. Just make sure that the parts inside are standard issue parts from known manufacturers. And spring for a full gig of memory, you won't regret it.

Hmmm...a full gig? I don't even have that on my work machine, and I routinely have a dozen or so large-ish spreadsheets and a few word documents open, plus a couple of X-window applications. Come to think of it, though, the latter seems to just kill the system. But it seems to hit the CPU much harder than memory. But memory is cheap, so I'll probably do it up. I think you guys have swayed me, though: I'm going to hold off on the full-system purchase and try and read (and backup; that USB/IDE adapter can be used to park a CD writer on my laptop, too) the more important data from the HDD. The box can wait until I've come back from vacation.

I highly recommend the Shuttle Mini barebones computers,... I am on my second one and I love it. Get the SB81P, it's loaded with pretty much everything you'll need onboard.

If you in or near New Hampshire I will happily recover your data for you.

Thanks, BSR. I'd take you up on that but 1) I live way, way south of you (Florida), and 2) I'm going to pick up a $40 gadget on the way home that'll get it done for me.

I hate machines that don't work immediately, always, and without my help. One button. I would buy a new car each time the gas tank was empty just to avoid learning how to work the credit card thingy on the pump. That is, if my wife didn't supply all common sense to ur lives. So I'm no help.

But I have had two Dells. Have run into the same trouble with this proprietary scrambling crapola. George Bernard Shaw said "Every profession is a conpiracy against the laity". Thus the Pychonesque world I confront every waking hour. Which is why I liked Soviet Russia; nothing worked but you could be sure of it. Everything didn't work for the same reason.
Big time-saver.

But here's how I absentmindedly got my money's worth from Dell. While dusting the screen one day, I accidentally flipped one of the tiny toggle switches on the front. So nothing happened when I turned the computer on (hey, I don't know). After two lengthy sessions of sitar music from Bangalore over the phone and some confusing banter, a real human being was sent to the house -- twice. Stumped he was and in the process replaced all the shiny-weird-looking stuff inside the box, including the power supply, motherboards, fatherboards, some long lost cousinboards, video card, etc. Still, nothing. But I felt competent next to the incompetent technical wizard.

We gazed at the machine flummoxed. Suddenly he reached down and tried the toggle switch. Hey, look, Obsidian Wings. I was under warranty, of course, But it was free.

Try feigning ignorance. I can't tell you how to feign, because I'm the real ticket.

including the power supply, motherboards, fatherboards, some long lost cousinboards

Uh, funny you should mention...in some Dells there were found actual daughterboards. I am not making this up.

upshot is WinXP doesn't like it when you move the HDD to a new set of hardware, and you have to run repair or something like that. Not having done it yet, I can't really say for sure. I'm going to try the IDE/USB adapter, though; that'll let me load Quicken on my laptop and access the backup data on the HDD. That's the hope, anyway.

WinXP doesn't like it at all, but its just a stupid OS. You will get a nasty message along the lines that "it appears that this copy of XP has been installed on another machine" and it will tell you to call Microsoft to get it reactivated. Then you have to call Microsoft (I think it is actually an 800 number) and swear to the person on the other end that you are building a new computer and you smashed your old one with a sledgehammer, and if you're lying Bill Gates can come over and burn your house down. He then gives you a secret decoder number and you are good to go.

Hmmm...a full gig? I don't even have that on my work machine, and I routinely have a dozen or so large-ish spreadsheets and a few word documents open, plus a couple of X-window applications.

Most people think that they need more computing power at work than they do at home when the opposite is usually true, especially if you are running graphics programs or games at home, they are the memory hogs, not the spreadsheets and word processors most people run at work. Even things like Oracle uses more processor power than RAM.


in some Dells there were found actual daughterboards.

We few, we happy few, we band of brotherboards...

"But memory is cheap, so I'll probably do it up. I think you guys have swayed me, though: I'm going to hold off on the full-system purchase and try and read (and backup; that USB/IDE adapter can be used to park a CD writer on my laptop, too) the more important data from the HDD. The box can wait until I've come back from vacation."

Posted by: Slartibartfast


Good; I've made a few good deals when I was in a hurry, but they've been far outweighed by the many bad deals I made, because I needed something right now.

Must be a plague.
After finally capturing the final, essential golden key that would unlock the last car in my son's Hot Wheels racing game last night, the motherboard popped in a pleasant blend of smoke and ozone. I found a dead moth in there. Might have been it.

I'm considering not replacing it. I'm tired of games and have the FreeBSD box for email and web browsing. I just need to get all of our music and photos off of the drive.

Here's a problem which has recently been plaguing me (speaking of plagues):

When I searched for 'Shuttle mini computer' on Google, I got many hits. None for the company's homepage, of course; they were for product reviews or ads. None of the reviews (that I checked) had links to the company's website. This has been a problem which has happened more frequently in the past few weeks.

I've had problems with Froogle, as well, with the addition of fraudulent ads (ads which stick your search term in the ad, even if the company doesn't carry that product).

What are people using for online shopping now?

Umm...tigerdirect.com is one place to look. I think if you search on "barebones" you'll be more likely to find it. For some reason, the meaning of "barebones" has changed quite a lot. It used to mean a box that you have to add some things to the inside of; now it means sort of a minimalist box you add a monitor, keyboard, mouse and game controller to.

Oh, and many, many thanks for the tip to the IDE/USB adapter. I've bought it, unpacked it, installed Quicken on the laptop and accessed the files on the main computer drive via the adapter; took me about ten minutes total. So not only am I a happy guy, I've made my wife a happy woman. Plus we get to consider more carefully what we're going to replace the main desktop with. Good all around.

And that adapter might make you very popular amongst your friends. I dub thee 'Slarti-sure, for a case of beer I can pull your data out-bartfast'.

"200 bucks for a new windows + liscence."

That's just nuts. I mean, really.

That was the genius of Gates, way back when - he realized that market share in an O/S had positive reinforcement. The more you had, the more apps were written for it (first or only), and the more than it was needed, which led back to more market share.

That's why Linux is frightening, because it's impossible to drive it out of business - the best that he could hope for is obscurity, and he's not even going to get that.

Since tech support has been mentioned enough.

Anybody knows if Dell sells computers to the US or Europe that are assembled in China? Just curious. Because my computer is so much different from others of the same model bought in the US. I ordered mine online so I was execting I'd have one assembled here. But my I compared my Dell Inspiron with other Inspirons from friends. Seems like mine's a foreigner.

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