Hard Drive Woes Part 2

This post is a follow up to my previous Dead Hard Drive post.

I used to hassle with PC hardware a LOT more than I currently do. I’ve kind of worked my way out of that gig honestly. I am at a point where I can afford shit for starters, mostly, so I’m not trying to cobble together workable machines from random parts. I also got tired of doing tech support for people, so I basically just, sort of hide that I can, because when people find out you can “fix computers”, now you’re vacuuming out 50 years of dust from a Pentium 1 in your backyard for a neighbor who refuses to just buy literally any cheapest machine at Wal-Mart for an infinite performance boost.

“Back in my day!” (fist shaking), you could pretty much just slap any drive with an Operating system in any machine and it would boot. Sometimes it would boot into an ugly driverless environment because it was ripped from another machine, but that was fixable. Things seem more complicated these days. I’m not blaming UEFI, and all that more secure BIOS stuff, but it’s a likely culprit. I think that better security is good, it just, is also part of why I can’t more conveniently fix my damn PC.

I say Conveniently, because that’s the core issue. I can still EASILY do it. It’s just… not convenient.

Shortly after messing with Linux a bit for troubleshooting, I did a bit of set up to use it as the main driver but, decided to just go back to Windows. I downloaded a fresh recovery image, sliced the Linux partition down to 500GB and reinstalled Windows.

I like Linux. I use Linux, almost daily, if not daily. It’s great for automation tasks and running server software and all that. It, kind of really sucks as a desktop OS. Don’t get me wrong, it’s usable, especially for simpler needs (literally anything not Gaming or Video/Photo Editing). I have run Linux as the sole OS on many machines, mostly laptops, and lots of Pis and Servers. I’ve used Linux off and on for over 20 years now. The problem here is, the main use case for my “Kick ass gaming rig” is well, gaming. Half the games I had slated “to play” from Steam are not available in Linux. I set up Hero Launcher for GOG and Epic, but like, my cloud saves didn’t work, and Fortnite doesn’t work and the whole thing felt a little off. Graphics also felt a little off, even though I did switch to using the official proprietary NVidia drivers.

Anyway, I went back to Windows. I spent an eternity downloading drivers and doftware and getting things set up properly. Unfortunately, the secondary drive I was now using as my primary, is just too slow to handle the needs of a lot of games as well. I had to roll Fortnite back to DirectX 11 for example, because it would take like 10 minutes to drop into a match because it would load shaders or some shit. For anyone not aware of how Fortnite works, it’s online, in an arena of players. If you drop in 10 minutes late, your character will have already landed in the map and probably be dead or dying.

So I bit the bullet and bought a new NVME drive. I planned to eventually, I just, did it sooner.

I went and downloaded Clonezilla to just mirror the Hard Drive to the NVME drive, which worked, but things would not boot.

There are plenty of possible solutions online, with recovery mode. I tried a few of them. But in the end, I have opted to just, reinstall Windows, again.

Which means redownloading drivers and shit… again….

I might be able to pull the Steam Downloads over before wiping the secondary drive, but I am not sure Epic will let me do that. Unfortunately, the larger games are from Epic, with Fortnite, Death Stranding and Final Fantasy 7R in that list.

It’s all, very easy.

It’s just all, very inconvenient.

Also, just because, and maybe for future reference, the install needs:

  • Network Driver – For some reason it doesn’t work on the generic.
  • TUF Gaming Amoury Crate – The motherboard seems to load this, and it find and installs all the drivers, which is nice, despite the cheesy name.
  • Windows Update
  • Color Scheme to Dark, no transparency
  • Firefox – Browser of choice, then log into sync and let it pull all my stuff in.
  • Steam
  • Epic
  • Visual Studio Code
  • Change One Drive settings to not sync everything but only some things.
  • Log into the Microsoft Account so One Drive and Office work, since no network driver means local account log in only at first
  • Share X – For Screenshots to folders
  • Display Fusion – For rotating desktop wallpaper
  • Synergy KVM – So I can connect to my other PC\
  • EVGA Flow Control – For the cooler
  • Remove all the cruft from the start menu, remove the apps list and recent files
  • Add a dozen network drives to File Exporer
  • Discord
  • Firestorm Viewer

A Dead Hard Drive

I came down last night to drop some stuff off in the basement and shut the curtains, and sat down to check on something at my desktop PC, I don’t even remember what, and was slightly surprised to see that it was sitting at the BIOS Screen and not the Windows lock screen. My first assumption was, it did an update or something, and the cat was sitting on the keyboard, and cause it to enter the BIOS. They don’t usually sit on the keyboard, but it’s possible.

I rebooted the PC, and…. it just loaded the BIOS again.

Clearly something more than a cat issue.

Both the 1TB M2 NVMe drive and the 2TB add on drive were showing in the BIOS menu, but no boot options were showing available. In fact, it even specifically said something along the lines of “No boot options.” I tried resetting the BIOS settings back to factory default, I had toggled a few things so I could do virtualization, and it was no help.

I dug out a USB key with Linux and booted to that. I mostly wanted to see if I could access the drive still at all. This had to be done with an extremely weird and annoying bright yellow screen where everything was washed out. The Live OS would boot fine and look fine, until it actually got to the point of letting me do anything, when it suddenly seemed to give up it’s video driver causing everything to go wonky.

I managed to squint my way through it and the drive shows up, but it’s not accessible at all.

So I swapped out Ubuntu for a Windows Recovery USB Key. The recovery options (restore, recovery, etc) all failed. These gave a bit more information that the drive was “locked”. I tried a few more options at the command line that I found,

  • bootrec /fixMBR
  • bootrec /fixBoot
  • bootrec /rebuildBCD

But none of these changed anything. I could probably download and run a Windows ISO, but for the moment, I’ve decided on a different route. I booted back into Ubuntu, and just installed that on my 2TD spare drive. It would not take on the 1TB NVMe drive, and the 2TB secondary drive was just all games anyway, so nothing of value would be lost by wiping it clean.

I might, MIGHT just try running this way for a while, though it does have some disadvantages. Mostly, games. Almost everything I’ve been actively playing lately was through the Epic store. And a lot of the games I planned to get to in Steam, don’t work in Linux. There are ways to get them to work though, which I want to look into, but I have not had time yet. I do know Fortnite is flat out not going to work. Not a huge loss, I am kind of getting tired of it again anyway. It has some strict Anti-Cheat which won’t run in any sort of emulated environment.

I also still have my old desktop too I can use. So well, Fortnite may not be out completely, it just, won’t run quite as nice. In fact, I can probably run most of the stuff I want on that machine that won’t work directly in Ubuntu.

Another thing worth mentioning, I am not really out anything file wise. A handful of downloaded files for “TODO” projects that I could download again. I basically never work with files directly on any particular system anymore, it’s always files on the NAS or files in One Drive. The only thing I really lost were the handful of custom Stable Diffusion Embeddings I had created, and I have been meaning to try to rebuild better versions of those anyway.

It will be interesting to see how performance is compared to Windows though. This PC is a pre built gaming PC, so I am sure it’s been somewhat optimized for use with Windows. I have not had a chance to really test it out in a Linux environment at all yet, but I’m interested to see the results. I’d already been toying with the idea of running Linux on this machine but I was worried about how it would handle things like the water cooler. I already don’t have the ability to control the lights on my Keyboard and Mouse, but there may be software to do that available if I look into it.

All in all, I am irritated that the drive died, but I’ve taken it much more in stride than one might expect. I will probably poke at the Windows system some more as well though. The drive doesn’t really act like it’s dead, more like, it’s got some sort of software glitch going on.