Letters home from the Land of a Thousand Reformats. Just an update from the trenches as I just finished formatting and reinstalling XP Pro on my Dell. Strangely enough, Symantec reported that I had no boot sector virus on the .dat file I sent to their labs. They said, “Although it appears there is a virus in this file, it’s not illegal. In fact, you probably paid a lot of money to license it.”
(Actually, I said that).
Dell Support was supposed to have gone downhill in the past few years, but I didn’t experience that, at least with their email support. I’ve decided that phoning India for support on any product is probably an exercise in futility. Email them. It seems to go somewhere other than India. Also, then it’s in writing and they research their answer first so that supervisors won’t fire them. Anyway, the Dell guy sent me a 10 page treatise on running a debug app on my Dell, then FDISK, and then reinstalling Windows. That made the experience less of a Horror Show, and more of just following steps. It also destroyed any remnants of a virus that could’ve been lurking there. Long story short, I installed Windows XP from the Dell Recovery Disk and went to Windows Update to get just the security patches up to SP2. I had nothing else on the computer but Microsoft Windows on a freshly formatted and repartitioned hard drive. Running chkdsk before the security patches showed no problems. Running it after the patches showed the same bitmap volume errors I had to start with. I should add that someone else in my household who discovered the bitmap errors on his laptop (yes, 4 trashed machines in one household) installed Windows from the cd and didn’t get *any* security patches and found the same bitmap errors from chkdsk.
Running Windows defrag on the newly reinstalled Dell fixed up the file fragments, but again reported a Master File Table in pieces, which it couldn’t fix. So again, after ignoring the warnings from Microsoft Escated Support, I installed Diskeeper Pro 8.0 on the Dell to fix the MTF. After fixing the MTF, I got similar errors again running chkdsk. So at this point I stuck the Windows cd in, rebooted and went to the Recovery Console to run chkdsk /r from the command promt. Running chkdsk this way can take from an hour to a day or longer.
That fixed the chkdsk errors for now. I left SP2 off the Dell for now too. Next week I’ll do the same thing on the third computer running XP. Microsoft Escalated Support finally responded to me and said that they’re sending me a new XP Pro disk with SP2 already embedded in it. Hopefully that will help. If not, I’ll try to sell it.
Did we learn anything? We like to learn from major computer problems so that they can be avoided in the future. Unfortunately, we never learned the exact cause of the errors. But what did we learn?
1- See the title of this post.
2- volume bitmap errors almost always need a clean reinstall of a Microsoft OS. You can’t fix the bastards with anything.
3- I’ve never seen volume bitmap errors on a linux machine.
4- SP2 isn’t necessarily the culprit. On two of the 3 computers that have been clean-reinstalled around here lately, the volume bitmap errors occurred after installation of the OS, and before an installation of SP2 occured. On the other computer, it occurred after SP2 was upgraded.
5- Executive Diskeeper Pro isn’t necessarily the culprit, despite what Microsoft escalated support says. In every computer I re-formatted and found the same chkdsk errors, I had to install Diskeeper Pro and run a boot defrag to fix the Master File Table. If there were errors after that, I had to run chkdsk /r from the Recovery Console on the Windows CD. Indeed, Diskeeper Pro has been recommended by a number of Microsoft engineers I’ve spoken to. It was also recommended by the author of “Windows XP Inside and Out”, a Microsoft Press book. After running the above steps, my error-free status has so far been 100%
6- New Windows products and updates seem to prefer brand spanking new machines. If my sister and her family are indicative of “normal” Americans, they never see these chkdsk errors. When “the kids fill up the machine” (with virii, games and pornbots) the parents just throw it out and buy a new computer.