When Linux saved my day

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I have been experimenting a little with Linux on my PC for a while, this is something that is really easy to do since I once bought a Linux magazine which included a CD with Knoppix Linux. With this CD it is possible to start Linux directly from the CD without having to install any files to the PC. This Linux distribution is really ideal for people who want to test Linux without risking anything. 

So how did the Knoppix Linux CD save my day? 
I was editing some WAV samples on my PC one day when I heard some weird noises that came from my harddisk, the next thing that happened was that my PC rebooted and ScanDisk started to check my drive for errors. When it was finished, ScanDisk reported that it had fixed some errors that was found on the first partition on my main harddisk.

A couple of days went by, then the same thing happened again. But this time it was the secondary partition that was the problem, at this time I was really worried about the state of my main harddisk. So when Scandisk was finished I started Windows and immediately copied all files present on my main harddisk to my secondary one. This would later turn out to be a very good idea indeed.

The next day when I turned on my PC, it started to boot but it stopped after a while, then it rebooted and ScanDisk was started again. But this time ScanDisk stopped working after a while. After rebooting my PC, ScanDisk started again with the same result, it stopped working after a while. I spent the following hours with trying various methods of fixing this problem and I ended up with both trying to re-format the partitions and using FDisk to change them. But without having any success at all.

And as you have probably guessed by now, my harddisk was BROKEN!!! 

A few days went by, and I bought myself a new harddisk. After replacing the old drive with the new one, I started to think about what to do next. I could have installed Windows directly from my Windows 98 CD, but the thought of having to install all drivers and other software all over again sounded like too much job for me. Another thing was that I had used quite some time with configuring Windows to be exactly the way I like it. So this was really not an option for me.

Then there really was only one thing to do, I had to find a way of transferring the files from my backup to my new harddisk. It could have been possible to copy the files in MS-DOS, but this would have had some really serious limitations. The biggest one would have been the MS-DOS crippling of the file names (where a file called "This is an example.txt" could have gotten the name "THIS I~1.TXT"). So I had to think of something else.

And here is where the Knoppix Linux CD really comes into the story. After booting Linux from the CD, I tried to copy the files over to my new harddisk. It turned out that it is by default not possible to write anything to FAT partitions, so I had to enable this function first. After I had done this, it really was a piece of cake to copy the files over to my new harddisk.

The next thing that I did was to check if it was possible to start Windows, and it almost worked. The problem was that I got a message on the screen saying that a driver for the FAT filesystem was missing, this happened every time I tried to start Windows. Then I decided to try running my Windows 98 install CD just to see what would happen, I did this since I really had nothing to lose at this time. 

I'm not exactly sure what the Windows installer was thinking, but it found out that my Windows installation needed an update. After it was finished, I tried starting Windows again, and this time it worked! Windows started without a hitch. 

But later I found out that there still were some problems, one of them was that it was impossible to delete more than one file at a time, every time I tried to do this, Explorer would crash (this really is something that only can happen with Windows :-) . This problem solved itself after a while, but I don't know how this was done. 
Another problem was with Internet Explorer. Every time I tried to start it, a message appeared saying that a file called "" could not be found (this really was a weird problem). I fixed this by installing Internet Explorer again, I had to make the installer force overwriting existing files (that did not need an update according to the installer) in order to achive this.

I suspect that the main reason for these problems was that the Windows 98 installer copied some older versions of certain files over the existing ones. After solving these problems, I have not experienced any further trouble with Windows (well, nothing serious that is).

If you by reading this article have become inspired in solving problems you may experience by using the same method that is described here, I will advice you to be careful about it since it did not turn out to be entirely trouble free for me. And remember that the golden rule "Don't try to fix anything that ain't broke" applies here. 

All in all I must say that I'm really glad that I had my Knoppix CD when I had this problem with my harddisk, I would simply have hated the idea of having to install a fresh version of Windows 98 (with all the extra work that that would have involved) on to my new harddisk.
I really find it reassuring to have something like the Knoppix CD available for the times when things goes horribly wrong for my PC, I'm also considering to install Linux to my PC and have it as a secondary operating system (in addition to Windows).

You can find out more about Knoppix at http://www.knopper.net/

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