Thursday, July 29, 2010

There's Nothing Worse Than...

...having a problem you can't fix. That's right, this is another installment of Vicki's Technological Woes.

Remember my post about backing up things because my external hard drive died? And my plan was to purchase another external drive to back everything up on? Well, it's been forever (3 months) but I finally did it.

Or, my dad did it for me.

Tuesday I got an early birthday present: a 2TB (2 TRILLION byte) external hard drive with automatic backup software. It's black and shiny and quiet and not too big and I love it! Or...well, I would love it if I could get the darn thing to work.

I plugged it in Tuesday night into my USB hub and about 15 seconds later I get the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) and my computer restarts. I go ahead and let it boot up, wait as all my start-up programs get started...and the BSOD comes up again and restarts - all before I can see the name of the error.

Rinse and repeat two more times.

The last time, though, I FINALLY get a glance at the error name:
Bad Pool Header
Okay! Now I know what to look for! I unplug the hard drive, let everything boot up, open Firefox, pop up Google and get to searching.

A few of the sites tell me it's a problem with my Registry, which is essentially the go-to guide for how a computer runs, and that if I purchase a Registry Cleaner software, it'll fix my problem. Luckily, I already have a free program that cleans my Registry (CCleaner is awesome), so I go to it. I clean the registry, plug in the drive and...

Bad Pool Header

Okay... Well, when I ran my anti-virus diagnostics program, it said I had low memory...and sometimes when I leave my laptop on for long periods of time (remember, Windows XP), like a week, it gets the BSOD from lack of memory...

So on the next restart, I go into my laptop settings and enable the slow-start Memory Test, which pretty much slows everything down, but should ensure a safer start. I also figure I should connect the drive directly to my laptop, instead of through the hub.

IT WORKS!!!

The auto-run software installs, I get through a back-up of my laptop in about an hour, and I figure now's the time to back-up my old hard drive. I "safely remove" the new drive and plug it back into the USB hub...

Bad Pool Header

Okay...maybe it doesn't like receiving the new drive except at boot-up? The computer restarts (with the drive plugged into the hub) and crashes again. I unplug the drive, and head back to Google.

This time I find sources that say the Bad Pool Header is specifically a driver error. Drivers are the software that hardware requires to tell the computer how to use it. So, that installation CD that came with your printer? In addition to the programs it had you install, it also gave your computer its driver information, essentially telling it how to run the printer. Or any other hardware you might want to tack on (web cams, wireless components, disk drives, external hard drives).

My external hard drives are both plug-n-play—they have the driver information in an auto-play format, so as soon as they're plugged in, they install the driver info automatically. But...apparently something isn't gelling, and the computer isn't liking the hard drive's driver.

Most of the advice is to uninstall the problem driver(s) and then reinstall it, since the old version was probably corrupted. But...I've done that about 5 times now and the computer still crashes every time the new hard drive is plugged in.

Another solution I thought might work was plugging the hard drive directly into the laptop again. My USB hub is old and (probably) isn't USB 2.0 compatible, which is what the new hard drive requires. So I've booted it a few times with it hooked directly in...and still only get crashes.

By now, you're probably all thinking it's something faulty with the new hard drive. Except...it works on my sister's computer just fine. Plugged it in, denied installing the software, copied everything from my old external drive onto it (with 1.7TB freespace still available), still works great.

So now I've come down to the decision of resetting my laptop—wiping everything and starting over with the factory CDs, then re-installing all my programs and transferring all my documents over from the new hard drive. Quick and easy, right? Well, not quick, actually, since it'll take many hours and many restarts to get all the Windows Updates taken care of, then a few more to install my programs and printers and...

And what if it doesn't work? And all my documents are still stuck on my external hard drive?

This problem has haunted me every hour since Tuesday night. I seriously worked on it all day yesterday (one of the only perks about being unemployed) but with nothing to show for it. I just can't fix the problem. Sure, I can erase everything and start at the top, crossing my fingers and hoping it'll be okay, but I'll never know exactly what went wrong. I wouldn't have fixed it.

On the bright side, at least I'm getting all this frustration out before my birthday.