Replacing the hard drive on my laptop

Imminent hard drive failure

I got a worrying message on my laptop the other day.

It said that there was a fault on my 500GB hard disk, that I should stop using it and get it repaired or replaced.  A quick search on the internet revealed my suspicions, which was that this was a genuine Windows system generated message, that hard drive failure was imminent and that it probably couldn’t be repaired.

That was ok, I’d imaged my computer using Macarium Reflect and I’d also copied all of my files, music, pictures etc.  All of this was stored on my Seagate 1TB external hard drive.  I read that solid state drives have no moving parts so are less prone to failure, and boot up quicker than normal hard drives. So I ordered a new solid state drive (cost me around £50 for 128GB).

Solid state drives were more expensive than moving hard drives at the time of writing this post.  There again since I’d stored most of my stuff on the external drive and backed up some of it to the cloud, I really didn’t need 500GB anyway.  In fact I only needed 70GB, plus some room for Windows system updates.

I even found a helpful video from Microsoft explaining how to restore your PC after a hard drive failure using a Windows rescue disk (which I’d also created earlier) and an image from an external hard drive.  So I was all set.

Installing new solid state drive on my laptop

My new hard drive arrived, and so I:

  1. unplugged my laptop from the mains
  2. removed the battery
  3. removed the back panel covering the hard disk using a precision screwdriver
  4. removed the screws holding the caddy into the laptop
  5. removed the caddy and then used pliers and the precision screwdriver to get the hard drive out of the caddy.  I needed the pliers to turn the screwdriver because the screws in the caddy were stuck initially.
  6. put the solid state drive into the caddy and back into the laptop, then reversed stages 1 to 5 to put it all back together again.
  7. Booted up computer using rescue disk, told it to find the image on the external hard drive.

Problems during installation of new solid state drive

This is where it got hairy:

  • Windows told me that it didn’t see an external hard drive, and needed me to insert a CD for the driver which would enable it to recognise the external hard dive.
  • I insert a CD marked ‘Seagate driver’ which I’d created years ago.  Double clicked on an application icon and was told there was no driver there.
  • Went through steps 1 to 7 again so that I could reinstall my old hard drive.
  • Went to the Seagate website and was informed that there was no driver available on their website and that the device didn’t need one in any case.
  • Realised that I couldn’t copy the 30GB Macarium Reflect image of my computer to a 5GB dvd disc.
  • Discovered also that Windows refused to create its own image or backup due to what it called a ‘Server error’.
  • Went to Macarium website and learned the difference between cloning a disk and imaging one.

Cloning my hard disk

Cloning my hard disk I’d discovered, involved a number of steps:

  1. Got a USB hard disk caddy, unscrewed it and plugged the solid state drive into it.
  2. Connected caddy to computer via USB cable.
  3. Computer installed drivers for what it calls ‘Generic USB device’.
  4. I searched for what to do next as there’s no sign on my new drive in ‘Computer’.
  5. I clicked on Start, right-click on ‘Computer’ and clicked on ‘Manage’.
  6. On the left most pane of the window that pops up I looked under Storage and clicked on Disk management.  I found my ‘Generic USB’ disc and right clicked on the volume beside it, then clicked on ‘New simple volume’.
  7. Following the wizard I managed to rename my solid state drive as Drive F, formatting it in the process but that was ideal because the solid state drive was brand new and had nothing on it anyway.
  8. I used Macarium Reflect to clone Drive C and Hidden FAT 32 to Drive F.

Now all I needed to do once the cloning was complete, was take apart my laptop and swap the hard drives then put it all back together and boot it up again.

So what?

After all that, did it work this time?

Yes.

The computer took seconds to boot up from full shut-down status to the login screen.  Less than two minutes after booting my desktop was fully loaded and it was installing the device driver for my new hard disk.  After the computer restarted I was back up and running, again, in less than two minutes from boot up to being fully loaded up after logging in.  With the previous hard disk booting up to the login screen took two minutes and then after I logged in it took a further 10 minutes to load everything up and get settled.

Hardware and software involved:

  • Laptop: Asus K53E (Intel Celeron B815 @1.60GHz, 4GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics, 500GB Hitachi Hard Disk swapped for 128GB SanDisk solid state drive)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
  • Macarium Reflect v5.3
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Same dive, different day

Kowalski stood in the foyer with his arms spread open – cheap suit, filthy raincoat and limp fedora clashing with the shiny white tiles and glittering brass fixtures – a big grin on his fat ugly face.

“Listen Devine, I just want you to know that whatever happens, I got your back see?”

“Yeah right, we’ll be as thin as thieves hiding out and stewing after a bank robbery.”

His smile collapsed into a pout as he let his arms fall back to his sides. “Aw come on Devine, what’s done is done. You know how it was back then right? I had to look after myself just the same as everybody else did. Anyway, I wasn’t charged with anything.”

“Damned right you weren’t; you ran out before Internal Affairs could get you.”

“I retired.”

“Oh yeah? How’s that pension working out for you?”

Kowalski grimaced. “Whatever. What gives you the right to be so high and mighty anyway? You’re just the same as me; we’re both doing the same work for the same people. Hell, I even seen you drinking in some of the same holes.”

“Let’s just get this over with. What have you got on Fredrickson?”

“What, you think I’m into astral projection?”

“Not Mrs Fredrickson, Kowalski, you know who I mean – Peter Fredrickson!”

“Oh sure, I heard about him. Hits the bottle pretty hard just like you, liked spending his Aunt’s money in casinos until his Aunt cut him off. Now he’s a no good bum, just like you and he hangs around in the worst dives in town drinking himself into the gutter, just like you.”

I felt the blood rush to my face as I gritted my teeth to hold back the snarl I knew was coming. “Fine Kowalski. You know which dive he’s in now?”

Kowalski smiled, took half of a thick cigar from his raincoat pocket and put it between his teeth. “Sure Devine. Peter’s at your favourite place, the place where I said you’d end up, the place where you’d eat your last meal on Earth before you passed out for good. He’s at Clancy’s.”

Clancy’s. I used to sit there at my table in the corner every Friday night, darkness pooling at my feet while tobacco smoke swirled through the air like morning fog, listening as the saxophone slathered the room all over with honey.

Listening to Eva sing.

If Peter was there now then Eva already had a hold of him, and that didn’t bode well for the pockets of his Auntie’s lawyers if Peter was her sole beneficiary.

Or for Peter if Eva seduced him, the way she’d seduced me.

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My mind is constipated

It’s just as well that this first Writing 101 blog post challenge says that we don’t need to worry about what we’re going to say, because I’m probably going to rant a bit.

You see, it’s about my writing.

I’ve got writer’s block.

When I first started this blog I had the idea of writing a space-opera but then I realised that I was out of my depth; I really had no idea how to write science-fiction and I had no background in or understanding of science. Then a while afterwards I discovered that everything I thought I knew was stuff that I’d taken out of context and almost certainly misunderstood.

So then I decided that what I really should do was commit to writing a blog post every day – that was back in January 2012. I found a website called Creative Writing Prompts and went at it. When people started liking my posts I went and visited their blog sites and discovered weekly challenges that they took part in, and also some cool looking badges. I took part in these challenges with some gusto, collecting some badges along the way.

One of the writing prompts was a photo of a train station in Belgium, all mist shrouded with people wandering about in a courtyard, the challenge was to write 33 words (it was a Trifecta writing prompt, sadly that weekly challenge site has been discontinued but it had a great community). After I wrote my 33 words, somebody wrote a nice comment suggesting that what I’d written looked like it could lead to something else, and I thought that was a great idea so from then on I tried to use every prompt that came up to generate a story which would link up to that post.

My plan was that every flash fiction post I wrote would connect together into something the length of a novella which then I could rewrite and expand into my first novel, and this epic would be called ‘The Shrouded City Chronicles’, a fantasy story. I even used some of the posts I wrote as part of the April A-Z challenge a while back.

In addition, I started using some of the prompts from various challenge to kick-start ‘The Wickes Chronicles’ which was a steam-punk inspired fantasy story. I even had a go at writing a Western comedy in this way and I’ve been writing some detective noir recently.

The great thing about writing in this way is that I never really know how the prompts will affect my overall story, or what characters might pop up. The disadvantage however is the flip-side of that; I can end up with too many characters and sometimes the prompts don’t fit the overall story that forms as a result of writing these posts.

Hence the writer’s block.

Take Shrouded City for example, loads of characters which I hadn’t really fleshed out. One or two of them had a voice but the others weren’t really solid. In addition, I killed one of them off too early, in a fit of pique. I’m going to have to kill of some others probably. I haven’t really challenged any of them yet either, and the main villain isn’t really a villain. There are also too many plot threads, and the story is becoming unwieldy. To cope with this, I wrote notes on what I’d written and formed a plan for weaving everything together in a way that would also resolve some major plot holes.

I want to finish writing this, and I need to finish the Wickes Chronicles as well. Then there are the other stories. There’s more I’ve written, from before I started blogging. There are other stories waiting to be written.

I’ve read so much about writing; there are so many helpful blog posts and websites, quotes etc. I know how to world build and how to use the snow drop method to write a story, and how to create character bios and give them a voice. I know how the hero’s journey or mono-myth is the most popular plot line I can use and that most stories follow this. I know that this can be bucked however; Frank Herbert bucked that trend with his Dune series apparently.

Still it’s a lot to take in and a lot to think about. I feel like my head is full to bursting with ideas and good advice and that it’s kind of blocking my mind up, like my mind is constipated with all this stuff (excuse the analogy but it’s the most accurate one I can think of).

Something needs to change, something needs unblocking somewhere so that I can write and finish everything I started; finish one of the books I started.

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RUN!

Runners taking part in the 1896 Olympic marathon

1896 Olympic marathon. Public domain photo by Burton Holmes.

Run you dogs, RUN!

You’ll keep going if you know what’s good for you.

Number Three! No slowing down, keep up with the others or I’ll have your hide. Number One’s older than you and he runs as fast as Number Two. If they can do it, you can do it.

What’s that Number One? Did you say something Number One? Got something to say have you? Don’t mumble Number One, shout it out. What was it Number One?

Nothing?

Good, then shut up and run.

This is war lads; don’t let anybody tell you different. This is for your country, your people.

RUN!

FASTER!

Number Three, why are you limping? Got a stone in your shoe? Take your shoe off and shake it out, but keep RUNNING. What was that? Your ankle is sore? Want your mother to kiss it better? Well your mother isn’t here is she Number Three?

I’M here.

Now.

RUN!

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Kowalski

“Ms Abrams will take care of your fees, just drop by her desk on your way out” said Meyer as he stood up from behind his desk and strolled to the glass wall of a window looking out over the city.

“Sure thing Mr Meyer” I replied as I picked up my hat and stood up.

“Just one more thing before you go, Mr Devine” he said, before turning back to face me.

“I want this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible. To expedite our affairs I have therefore taken the liberty of appointing another private detective to assist you. You may have heard of him. His name is Berthold Kowalski.”

I felt my hackles rise and blood rush to my face.  I paused for a moment, breathed.  “Kowalski? You hired that no good bum? With all due respect Mr Meyer, he’ll just get in the way.”

“I’m aware that you’ve had your differences, but he does have some connections which you do not and which may be of use to us. I trust you can work together?”

Oh Kowalski had connections all right. That no good rat had connections with all the scum in this sewer of a town. I cocked an eyebrow and tipped my hat to Meyer, turned around and sauntered out of the office.

I stewed over Meyer’s words as I rode the elevator to the ground floor. Kowalski and I hadn’t parted on good terms last time we met; after all, it had been every man for himself during the internal detective wars which had brought the force to its knees.

Besides, I never liked the way he worked. He’d settle for intangible proof, a whisper in the wind; I needed hard evidence. He’d hang around the hardest, meanest, dirtiest places in town waiting for a clue to be revealed as if illuminated by the beam of a cosmic lighthouse; I was the flatfoot walking the streets, asking questions and taking names.

Damn that shylock lawyer. He knew something I didn’t, in fact he probably knew a lot of things I didn’t. He also knew I needed this job, badly, and that meant he had me over a barrel.

The elevator clunked to the ground floor and a bell pinged as the operator reached out and slid the cage doors open. No sooner had I taken a few echoing steps onto the marble tiled floor of the gleaming reception hall than I heard Kowalski’s greasy toad voice, and my heart sank.

“Devine! Fancy meeting you here!”

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Mr Meyer

I heard the sound of a car engine revving up and of tyres on gravel as I made my way to the front door of Mrs Fredrickson’s house. I jogged down the hallway and was just in time to see a black Voisin C7 roaring out of the courtyard, kicking up plumes of dust before fading quickly out of sight. Eva’s goons maybe, or some crooked cops; the services of the local toy patrol could still be bought for a price.

I sauntered down the steps to the yard and strode over to my car. One of the tyres had been slashed with a knife but they’d left the others, maybe I’d spooked them and they didn’t have time for the rest which was a good thing because I only had the one spare. They’d slowed me down some though which was the last thing I needed, and the last thing Peter needed.

Two and a half hours later I was cajoling my elderly Cadillac into dragging its sorry carcass to a parking space outside Betty’s diner. I was damned if I was going to leave it outside my office where some mook might be waiting to bump me over the head again and I didn’t have enough money for a mechanic, not yet anyway. It was time to see Mrs Fredrickson’s lawyer.

Twenty minutes stroll brought me to the offices of Finklestein and Meyer, in the upmarket part of town naturally. The place was swanky, all granite and glass outside and marble and brass inside, the kind of building which would always stay outside of time, ageless. I made myself known to the receptionist, sat myself down in the waiting area and picked up a newspaper.

Horoscope said there was trouble ahead – go figure.

It wasn’t too long before I was woken from my musings by the sweet voice of a smartly dressed woman, hair imprisoned in a bun of steel, and led to an elevator which took us all the way to the top floor. Mrs Fredrickson had probably been their best client and no doubt had them on a retainer, the largesse of which they were clearly still feeding from like carrion.

The elevator went ‘ping’ and the cage door slid open on greased wheels at the porter’s merest touch. A plush red carpet absorbed the sound of the iron maiden’s stilettos as she marched down a hallway towards a pair of heavy wooden doors. She grabbed a fat brass handle on one of them and pulled the door open to reveal an office bigger than my apartment, with a near panoramic view over most of the city. Nice. A wide oak beast of a desk crouched in front of the window on curved legs. The elderly man who was sat behind it stopped writing with his expensive looking pen, looked up and smiled at me before nodding at the woman who promptly left and closed the doors behind her on her way out.

“Good afternoon Mr Devine I am Mr Meyer, so pleased to make your acquaintance. The police have just informed me of Mrs Fredrickson’s unfortunate demise so I know that you’ll be here to collect your payment. Do take a seat, would you like a cigar? Coffee will be brought in shortly.”

That was quick. How did the police know to contact Meyer? Who had tipped them off? Maybe it was their corrupt friends down at the precinct. If the police had informed Meyer this quickly then he had good connections, and the money to keep them.

“Don’t mind if I do” I replied, taking off my hat and lowering myself into the comfy leather of the chair opposite.

“Before she was murdered Mrs Fredrickson told us of her concerns regarding Peter and informed us that she had hired you to find him. Might I ask if you, at this moment, have him in your care?”

Damn. If he was asking me that then I wasn’t going to get paid, not the full fee anyway. I might be able to get expenses, but this thing wouldn’t be settled until I brought Peter to Meyer’s office.

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Headache

English: Margam Castle The imposing and repute...

English: Margam Castle The imposing and reputedly haunted Margam Castle, built between the years 1830 and 1840 for the Talbot family (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

So I grabbed Peter by the scruff of his neck, hauled him up and pushed him out of the bar with him whining and protesting all the while.

Sure we attracted a few glances, but nobody called out or interfered.

I manhandled him out through the front doors, practically flung him out onto the pavement.

That’s when something heavy hit me hard on the back of my head and I was suddenly on my hands and knees, vision blurred as I watched Peter running down the street and round a corner. Then I blacked out.

I was woken up by daylight filtering through my eyelids and my skull screaming blue murder at me as if a demented child were drumming on it with steel hammers. Gritting my teeth I forced open my eyes and pushed myself up onto all fours, tried to stand and immediately collapsed onto my ass. I felt the back of my head gently then looked at the palm of my hand; no blood, that was something at least.

What the fuck had Peter gotten himself into this time?

He’d recognised whoever it was who’d hit me over the back of the head, that was for sure. Maybe if I asked around I could find out who he was in trouble with, or maybe if I asked around enough they’d find me, only I’d be prepared this time.

First thing was first though, I needed a drink.

Salomon’s was closed at this hour of the morning so I headed back to my car, slumped into the driver’s seat and took out my hip flask from the glove compartment. I took a deep swig of fiery nectar, leaned back and closed my eyes.

I figured he’d managed to get away from whoever it was since he’d had a head start while I was getting clubbed. Maybe he’d gotten scared enough to leave town, found a car and driven to his auntie’s house out in the suburbs. Since Mrs Fredrickson didn’t believe in owning a telephone I’d have to drive out there again to find out.

Well whatever, I was entitled to collect an instalment anyway.

Couple of hours later my car dragged itself over her gravel driveway, growling and wheezing like a decrepit dog on its last legs. I choked the life out of it with a twist of the ignition key as I wrestled with the handbrake.

The front doors of her mansion were wide open. I looked around, saw no gardening tools lying about or any sign of her ageing butler. My gut tensed up, and I knew it wasn’t because of my choice of breakfast.

Something wasn’t right here.

I reached into my glove compartment once again, took out my six-shooter, pushed out the bullet chamber and spun it to check for ammo. Four shots; should be enough to fend off any intruders while I retreated to my car if I needed to.

The house was silent, but I was damned if I was going to call out to see if anybody was there. I crept through the corridors carefully, ears straining for the slightest sound. I raised my gun as I entered the parlour, swinging it round the room and then round the back of the door; nobody there. I went back into the corridors and into a study. Mrs Fredrickson was slumped face-down over a desk, head cocked at an odd angle. I checked the room then walked over to her to take a closer look.

Her head was propped up by pencils, one up each nostril. Dark blood and gunk had run down each pencil and onto the desk, congealing there like blackcurrant jelly. Her eyes were wide open and bulging from her skull, the blue lips on her pale face contorted as if she had screamed.

That was one severe case of graphite poisoning.

It also meant I was going to have to go through her lawyer to get paid; besides, I’d need to speak with that lawyer to find out who stood to inherit her money and her mansion. If it was Peter, then he might be in more danger than I thought. I needed to get back into town, fast.

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