Monday, July 20, 2009

Fragile Vista

I don't know what is up with this computer, drivers, or Vista 64 itself, but it has been showing itself to be very fragile and resistant to change. In my other post, I talked about how Vista would get screwed up, such as the Event Log service not working and unable to start, internet access not working, my office VPN not working, unable to connect to the Ghost service running on this computer, and maybe other problems I'm not aware of. Back then, I thought it was due to driver issues, Windows Update, or System Restore, but now I know that is not true. Well, maybe it is true, but there are other scenarios that will screw up this computer in the same way. The last two weeks have been a nightmare of backing up and restoring my system drive over and over trying to make simple changes. First of all, I originally had the system files and our family and personal files all on the same C: drive. To reduce the time to make Ghost images of the C: drive, I decided to partition the Drive 0 into two drives, one 100 GB partition for Windows and applications, and 150 GB for personal files. There is also a 250 GB 2nd drive D: in this computer as well, though I want to keep it empty and only hold temporary files there. So the first task was to copy all of the personal files from the C: to the 2nd D: drive, and retain only system files on the C:. To be able to shrink the drive using Disk Manager, you need to have free space at the end of the drive. So I defragged the C: drive, but unfortunately, Windows has unmovable files, such as the swap file, the hibernate file, and shadow copy files (Restore Points) for System Restore. One can shrink a drive up to the point of one of these unmovable files, but no further. You can get rid of the hibernate files by turning off the hibernating feature using this command:
powercfg -h off
You can get rid of all of the Restore Points by turning off System Restore, and you can get rid of the swap file by disabling virtual memory from the Control Panel. I did all of this, then Windows wants to reboot. Guess what? After rebooting, the system is screwed up. Why? Oh I have a Ghost image I can restore, but only from a week ago. Didn't think to back up before moving all of the personal files and disabling those features. Didn't think I would need to. So I got to start all over. In fact, I got to start over several times. I finally realized that any time I remove the swap file, the system gets screwed up. It is probably something to do with a low-memory condition. But as I say, that is not the only thing that will screw it up. I finally got a stable configuration for the C: drive, including good Ghost backups of the drive on my TeraStation network storage. So, the next thing I wanted to do was to install a new 1 GBit network card to speed up backups even further. I looked at a bunch of vendors and decided on the D-Link DGE-530T because I just love my new D-Link DIR-855 router. This was a huge mistake. I think. After several attempts, I have not been able to get Vista to even SEE that it is installed in the computer. My motherboard does have an onboard LAN connection, so I was sure to disable this in the BIOS before installing the new NIC. The directions say that Vista should see it and then offer to install a driver for it. But nothing I have tried will cause this NIC to be seen, and worse, it screws up my Vista, like all the other changes I make, and I have to restore from a backup... which is on the network... which requires a working network card... which requires the new NIC to be removed... which requires the PC to be powered down... then requires the BIOS to be adjusted again... and the network cable to be reinserted into the original jack... and then rebooting from the Ghost CD... then restoring the backup which takes 1.5 hrs... etc. It is very taxing. When Vista is working, it runs great. But I hate how it can get screwed up. This has been a very long two weeks. Oh, and the D: drive... I am not using Ghost to back up our personal files. I am using XXCopy to make a duplicate image of the file structure on my 1 TB TeraStation, using the command

xxcopy d:\*.* \\ts1\data\Backups\ComputerName /D /M /E /C /F /H /I
/R /K /Y /ZY /YY /EX:c:\Misc\D_Excludes.txt

I have this in a batch file, and the D_Excludes.txt file is empty at the moment. This command will compare the source and destinations for new or deleted files, and will also copy files up that have the Archive file attribute set (the a bit), and will clear the a bit after copying the file. I like this because I have an exact duplicate of the files up on the network storage, whereas Ghost file backups are stored in a proprietary format. Right now, I have 50,122 personal files in 3,530 directories, and with Vista file indexing, it only takes 1:40 for the command to run if there are no files to back up.

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