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PC geek help needed - Jim Huggins
July 6th, 2008
04:09 pm
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PC geek help needed
Ok, PC geek help needed over here ...

One of our "gotta get around to it" tasks right now is to salvage the data off of our old WinXP laptop (a Dell Inspiron 4100, if it helps).  The HDD is slowly dying ... to the point that it takes about an hour to boot up because of numerous disk errors.  Data can be copied off of it reasonably easily, though it takes absolutely forever, because every attempt to change a directory takes about 5 minutes in order to read the FAT.

We discovered the last time we were working on this that if we knew the directory we wanted to salvage, though, it worked pretty easily ... just drop into a DOS shell, type the incredibly long copy command, and boom.  (Well, not quite "boom", but at least it was just the copy being done, and not a thousand directory accesses.)

I've heard (but of course have long since forgotten) of people who have bootable flash drives for such a purpose ... if I could let the system load the OS from the external drive, it would allow the system to run much more quickly, and I'd only have to worry about using the dying drive for copy purposes. 

So ... would this work?  How would I find out how to set up a bootable flash drive for something of this vintage?  (By the way, it only has one USB port, and I'm guessing it ain't 2.0, either.  I might be able to find that old USB mini-hub around here if I had to ...)

Current Mood: curiouscurious

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From:ext_109213
Date:July 6th, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
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Unless I missed something, why don't you just get a bootable Linux live CD, like Knoppix, Ubuntu, or Gentoo (had to plug my distro of choice :)? FAT support for Linux is very mature for both reading and writing. If it is an NTFS drive, reading from the drive should not be a problem. When it comes to writing to NTFS, things can be a little hit-and-miss. It depends mostly on which NTFS driver your distro of choice decides to use. And since you're a Linux user (at least at work), this should be easy to do once you find a distro that you like.
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From:jkhuggins
Date:July 6th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
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You probably overestimate my Linux skills ... yeah, I'm a *nix user, but hardly a power-user. (There's a reason I don't teach the systems courses ... :) )

But assuming that I can find an idiot-proof Linux distro, a Linux live CD might be a very good option. The laptop does still have a reasonably-functioning CD drive, so that would make things easier.

Thanks for the suggestion ...
From:gamerchick02
Date:July 7th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
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Knoppix is very good for this purpose. Ubuntu is my distro of choice, but it doesn't automatically mount drives (anyway. when I try it, it doesn't...).

I hope that helps.

Amy
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From:dxpenguin
Date:July 7th, 2008 05:42 pm (UTC)
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If you can get the Gentoo install CD, it should be pretty straightforward. The drive mounting is not automatic, but it's pretty solid. The biggest problem will be the format of the external hard drive. If the drive is running FAT, that'll be good, otherwise it might be better to use the CD for the OS, and a thumb drive for the data (these generally run FAT). Assuming that only these devices are on the system, the following should work:

mkdir /mnt/old
mkdir /mnt/new
mount /dev/hda1 /mnt/old
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/new

You may have to play around with the device name for the USB device. Some thumb drives don't comprehend partitions, so the device would be /dev/sda. Also, if you have any other SCSI devices (Linux treats USB/FireWire/SATA/etc as SCSI), it could be sdb or so on. Once that's done, you should be able to just cp from /mnt/old to /mnt/new
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From:jtyost2
Date:July 7th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)

Puppy Linux

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Puppy Linux works really well as a bootable OS from the flash drive. Here is the location of a page that has pretty decent direction to get it set up and running. http://www.puppylinux.com/flash-puppy.htm

I would also suggest why not just pull the hard drive from the laptop and plug it via a USB connection to a separate working computer and pull off all the data that way. That works really well.
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From:jkhuggins
Date:July 7th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)

Re: Puppy Linux

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The hard drive doesn't appear to have a USB-like connector. I don't recognize the type of connection on it ... I could look around for a funky connector, but that starts getting really annoying.
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From:jtyost2
Date:July 7th, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Puppy Linux

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Sorry, I guess I should have explained myself better, what you want is something like this.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817159076
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From:tukaro
Date:July 7th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
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Have you tried putting the drive in the freezer?

Seriously.
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From:jkhuggins
Date:July 7th, 2008 11:11 am (UTC)
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Not yet. I'm not sure I'm ready to try something that drastic yet ...
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