Computer help needed desperately…

Well, I’m going to be begging for help, so all you computer alpha-experts out there, please take note. I’ve also posted this to the gaygeeks community.

As y’all will know if you’ve kept up with your friends’ lists, last weekend I installed Windows Vista Ultimate on my Dell desktop computer as an “upgrade” from XP. It has a RAID 0 disk array with something like 400GB of storage space on two drives, 3GB of RAM, dual-core CPU, etc. and so on and so forth. If there is other information that you might find useful in assisting please don’t hesitate to ask. The current disk is a Samsung SP2504C, 232.8 GB

I have had nothing but trouble since I installed Vista. First, Microsoft put forward a flurry of Windoze Updates, which drove me mad for about 3 or 4 days before they stopped. Second, various programs do not function correctly in Vista. MailWasher throws up two or four error messages before it starts working; Eudora is not particularly well-suited to Vista and is not recognised as the email program; something called HP CUE was not working, and told me so, very verbosely. But all of these were software problems and, I presumed, after a few weeks’ running I’d find solutions to them all.

Yesterday I discovered that there are errors in one of the RAID hard disks. I very quickly took a backup using Norton Ghost to duplicate my C: drive on another drive. That seemed to work OK. However, last night, to my horror, I discovered that my Eudora inbox was empty. The file was zero-length. I copied the inbox over from my backup (and lost a few emails but not many; I can restore them from MailWasher if there are any that I really need). I then copied all of Eudora onto my 16GB memory stick, and will do so again today so that I have a current backup. I may transfer working to one of my laptops so that I will be able to preserve this machine.

The question is: How do I proceed?

1. I will need two hard disks to recreate the RAID array, I presume. Does anyone have recommendations for a good, long-lasting, durable hard disk that would work well in a system that is on 24/7? I won’t say that money is no object, but if I buy an expensive set of disks I want them to be worth the money.

2. I don’t have the option of moving to a Mac or a Linux system, really. Is there anything about Vista that’s poisonous to the kind of system I’m on at the moment and, if so, what can I do about it?

3. Is there any good way of repairing the hard disk or even diagnosing it for repair? I have used CHKDSK and that wasn’t too helpful. I’m prepared for a “no” on this one but thought I’d ask.

4. Does anyone have any other advice they think pertinent to my plight? I guess recommending a good backup system that’s robust and can work around disk errors would be good–in my opinion Ghost is crapware (ever since Symantec took Peter Norton over the Norton line of products seems to have suffered) but Windows Backup in Vista is even worse. None of these things seem to be disk-fault-tolerant and that is important when you’re doing an emergency backup.

Thanks for any assistance anyone can give.

15 Responses to “Computer help needed desperately…”

  1. dangtri says:

    Ouch, no good.

    I could probably help if it was Linux-based, or even XP or Mac, but haven’t worked with Vista. I imagine you Googled “HP Cue Vista” (that’s apparently a driver crash), “MailWasher Vista” and “Eudora Vista” (sans quotes) — there’s a lot out there about overcoming incompatibilities and hangups.

    Is it 32 bit or 64 bit Vista?

    Not much advice on hard disks either: I usually try to stick to Seagate or Maxtor, but that’s the “don’t change what has worked in the past” principle.

    As for hard disk repair & recovery, there are a few products being flogged by podcasts I’d like to trust, but again, no first-hand experience.

    Hang in there! It’ll get sorted! If you need me to give it a kick or yell at it, I’ll jump right on the bus!

  2. keith_london says:

    More info please:

    1. What was the error message that told you that you had a disk error?

    2. What did CHKDSK tell you?

    3. Why did you opt for RAID0 (which appears to offer no resillience)?

  3. xxpartyguyxx says:

    I’m sorry but I’m not too familiar with what Eudora is, but I just wanted to say,

    You do know that switching to Vista is actually a downgrade,no?

    haha. I was told that it’s only advisable to use Vista if you’re ‘starting anew’. =p

  4. bigmacbear says:

    What he said. In my experience, Windows is best left at the version that came with the machine until a) that Windows version goes completely out of support or b) the hardware breaks or otherwise becomes obsolete. This is because each new version of Windows is optimized for the latest hardware and uses all available resources, and older systems can’t keep up. Moving your work space to your laptop would therefore be a really smart move right now.

    Almost invariably, in this day and age hard disks are replaced rather than repaired. I’d say you can’t go wrong pulling the old drives out of the system and replacing them with the same size and interface format (IDE/SCSI/SATA/SAS/FibreChannel), perhaps from another manufacturer if available. But if you can afford the 50% cut in space, set up your RAID as a mirror (RAID 1). You may even want to consider getting the next size up of drives if available so you don’t lose the space. Mirroring makes the system that much more resilient in the case of hardware failure.

  5. chrishansenhome says:

    1. What was the error message that told you that you had a disk error?

    It comes from the Intel software that goes with the RAID controller.

    2. What did CHKDSK tell you?

    Not a hell of a lot. It didn’t seem to fix anything.

    3. Why did you opt for RAID0 (which appears to offer no resillience)?

    Because I didn’t know anything about RAID and just took what Dell gave me.

  6. skibbley says:

    I’m not sure I’d bother with RAID0 unless you have to. I’d suggest a single disk, particularly in a laptop where power might be an issue, or two in RAID1 if you really need resilience.

  7. chrishansenhome says:

    I’m now trying to repair it (see other entries in the gaygeeks entry) but I will set it up as RAID 1 if and when I get new disks.

    The machine is only 1-1/2 years old and it was indeed Vista-ready when I got it; they offered a voucher for Vista but I declined at the time, only buying Vista Ultimate a few months after I got the computer but not installing it until last week. It’s a low-end server from Dell.

  8. keith_london says:

    Not very illuminating answers! Might be able to help, but not when given such scant info. Sounds like an incompatibility problem (only guessing of course). I agree with the comment from bigmacbear.

  9. chrishansenhome says:

    The Intel software only says: “A drive in a RAID 0 array is failing. Try to back up immediately”. That’s not very illuminating, but it’s all I have.

    When I look at the C drive in “Computer Management” is says it’s healthy. When I try to do a CHKDSK, it says that it can’t do one while the disk is in use and I should schedule one when the computer is next turned on. When I did that it didn’t show anything the last time, but I will do it again.

    I agree that RAID 0 was a mistake, but I knew absolutely nothing at the time about RAID and decided that having a larger amount of space would be a good thing (remember, at that time disks were still relatively expensive).

    What I plan to do is tomorrow I will transfer my Firefox bookmarks and my Eudora directory to one of my laptops, and I will shut this computer off for the moment. I will then do a full backup (yet again) and then buy two 1 TB drives, which I will use in a RAID 1 array. Then I will install Windows Vista Ultimate 64 bit on that system, and then slowly start transferring items from the backup to the regular disks. It will take weeks if not months. But I don’t see any alternative.

    SpinRite is not compatible with this system; I can’t boot it up and I can’t use the software with Windows 98 SE DOS mode, as they suggested, as in that mode the computer can see neither the NTFS drive nor the CD/DVD drives, both of which are SATA drives. At least I can get my money back from that.

    Wotta world, wotta world, as Margaret Hamilton famously said while she was being melted.

    Thanks for trying anyway.

  10. chrishansenhome says:

    I think resilience is a good thing. I will buy two 1 TB drives shortly.

  11. runecircle says:

    Sorry, Ican’t help much, but Vista is horrible. I bought a new comp and insisted on getting an XP instead.

  12. chrishansenhome says:

    Eudora is a now defunct email system that I really like and am familiar with. Really pisses me off that I don’t seem to be able to get this right. Anyway, will start off with a new set of disks next week and hopefully it will work out OK.

  13. keith_london says:

    Interesting problem! Here’s some further thoughts

  14. cubziz says:

    From the sounds of it, you upgraded Vista on top of XP.

    Usually when an upgrade happens, you need to reinstall your applications. Typically on top of themselves. (Some will make you uninstall and then reinstall.)

    I haven’t done that, but I’d try that.

  15. chrishansenhome says:

    Well, my more recent entry confirms that the disk problem was actually a problem with Intel’s software clashing with Vista, and when the Intel software was upgraded, the problem disappeared.

    Since that post, Vista has installed SP1 (I had thought it was already installed, but it wasn’t) and that has taken care of the difficulties I was having with MailWasher, although not with other things.

    The computer is still a bit slow, but much faster than it was before. No reinstallation has been necessary so far…