The Dog Ate My Blog…Almost

In the “old days” of B.C. (Before Computers), blaming the dog for not turning in your homework was a classic excuse. But with computers, blaming the dog isn’t as easy as it used to be.

But it really is true that the dog almost ate this post. Almost…

The dog I’m referring to doesn’t have four legs. No, this dog’s name is “Windows 8.1.”

Less than five minutes after turning on my previous computer after returning from a three-week trip out west, my reliable 10-year old, XP-based computer hard drive, which had been ailing, decided to go on permanent vacation. I had hoped it would last until the Christmas sales but it didn’t work out that way.

The good news is that I was able to get a good deal on another computer that was on “clearance” because it was a discontinued model. The hardware was very nice, including a one terrabyte (1,000 Gigs) hard drive. Not that I need that kind of space since my old computer’s hard drive was only 240 gigs and I still had about 100 Gigs unused after 10 years.

The “problem” was the operating system: Windows 8.1, which is a dog. Microsoft essentially admitted that when it had to release 8.1 to satisfy the complaints about Win 8. And the fairly quick release of Win 10 is also prima facie evidence that Win 8 / 8.1 were fingers in a dike, a temporary solution to a “real” operating system, although I have a lot of issues with Win 10 based on what I’ve read.

I was hoping to find something with Win 7. Now there is a sleek, proven OS. It has an XP compatibility mode for legacy programs, for example. And I have a lot of legacy programs. I don’t need, want, or care for the “latest, greatest, etc.” software. If it does the job, then I’m happy not to have to learn a new program.

The most critical legacy program I have is FrontPage 200, which is what I use to create and manage many websites, including two Manila high school alumni sites, my personal alumni site, and a travel photo site. But Microsoft abandoned FrontPage years ago.

I had read that FrontPage is not compatibile with Win 8.1. But I wasn’t worried, I had picked up Windows 7 and saved it for my new computer. The plan is to install Win 7 on the new computer and then set up a dual boot option. I’d use Win 7 for the legacy programs.

First, I tried to install FrontPage using Win 8.1. Didn’t work. I received error messages at the every end of the install that a certain file it was looking for on the computer wasn’t there. Strange that it wants something that the program doesn’t itself include.

After hours of Google research, I was able to complete the installation after first doing three different steps, including downloading a free Microsoft program that has nothing to do with website design but has the file FrontPage is looking for. I did not have that program on my old computer but it must also have been included in another program I did have. Even then, the install wanted something more but after clicking “ignore” some two dozens times it agreed that I could live without whatever it was looking for.

And for enquiring minds, I did try some free website programs. But they were incompatible with what I had already done in FrontPage and so I’d have to start from scratch. Plus, it would have been a whole new learning curve, which I’m not interested in.

So for about a month, I was doing fine. I was having to get used to Win 8.1 though.

Then on Thursday evening, while I was online, I noticed a problem with my browser. It didn’t seem to be working. So I closed it (FireFox) and opened Chrome but it didn’t seem to be working either so I closed it as well and decided to just shut down and restart. That procedure often cures a lot of ills.

But before I could shut down, the computer went into “restarting” mode. And never restarted. I could not figure out how to get the icon in the lower left that allows a “shutdown.” I tried a “hard” shut down by pressing the power button, which is risky since that can damage the hard drive if it is in use.

When I tried to start up, the computer went straight to “restarting” again. Woof! Shut it down hard again and this time pulled the power plug before restarting but that didn’t help.

I’m guessing there was some sort of “automatic update” that was going on in the background, it was interrupted and the OS became confused and went into perpetual “restarting” loop. I called a local computer repair shop I had dealt with many years ago and found to be very knowledgeable. I was surprised when the person answering the phone was the one I had dealt with many years ago.

After I explained the problem, he suggested I take it back to Office Depot, where I had bought the computer. If it was a warranty issue, they’d fix it free but if he did it, the warranty might be voided. If it wasn’t a warranty issue, he could look at it.

Now Office Depot is not a computer store. They sell computers but it is not their bread and butter, so I was worried about how tech savvy their repair unit is. I was half-right…

A few hours after returning the computer, Office Depot tech unit calls back and says they cannot get into the computer because of the “restarting” loop. That doesn’t make sense to me.

They offer to replace the computer. But that raises the issue of reinstalling FrontPage (and all other programs) again and I do not want that hassle again after just a month.

So I called the local repair place I had talked with and asked if they would look at it. They too think the issue may be related to an automatic update gone sour and ask if Office Depot had completely removed the power to the hard drive by pulling the power cable from the power supply to the hard drive. I didn’t know and said I’d check.

When I called Office Depot back, the tech rep I had talked with previously had left and now it was Ryan. He said he didn’t know what had been done but he’d try it himself. Within 15 minutes he called back and said completely cutting off power to the hard drive had worked and the computer was now booting properly. Even when the computer is shut off, the battery continues to supply power as needed for the BIOS, clock, etc.  and so the hard drive still “remembered” that it was in “restarting” mode.

Now that the computer is working again, I’m taking preventative steps I should have taken earlier but didn’t because I thought the computer was too new to worry about it crashing this soon and because I was still catching up on being out of town for three weeks.

The most important of those steps is to make a “clone” of the C: drive. This is a mirror image of the OS and all settings made when a program is installed. If the hard drive crashes, I can install the clone, which is kept on  another hard drive, onto a new hard drive and not have to install anything. I have everything exactly as it was when I made the clone.

There are many free programs which will do this. Most hard drive manufacturers (Maxtor, Western Digital, etc.) have made a deal with Acronis, one of the commercial cloning programs, for a “basic” version of the program which can be downloaded for free from the hard drive manufacturer’s website. The program will recognize that you have one of their hard drives.

So there’s no reason not to make a clone, although if you have a lot of stuff on the drive it may take a few hours. Better to move data, photos and other such files to a second hard drive, which is a very fast procedure due to hard drive speeds, then just clone the OS and programs. Cloning involves some compression of the files and that adds to the time the procedure takes.

Don’t let that Windows dog eat your blog!

P.S. For enquiring minds, I do have a clone of my old computer’s hard drive. But a dual boot system is easier than having two desktops because I’d have to wire up my monitor, speakers, keyboard , and mouse to both boxes.  If win 7 doesn’t work with my legacy programs, I will install the clone, which is XP, and that will work for sure.

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One response to “The Dog Ate My Blog…Almost

  1. You’re way more computer savvy than I am. I probably would have given up long before you did. Glad you got your computer up and running again!

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