Windows Files Systems and Booting Woes

The battle is on. Me vs. the Windows disk structure.

It’s been brewing for some time now. It was only two weeks ago that I had to rebuild a server as the hard disk had began to fail. Quite phenomenally I might add. It was a race against time to copy all of the critical data away from the beast for all of the user accounts.

Of course, this in itself was quite a battle as backing up the system didn’t seem to be on some people’s primary agenda. Therefore the system that I recovered was about 1 month old. Not very good.

Oh, and restoring an AD that old creates a new problem as Windows expects the restore to be fairly recent. If you’re having trouble after a restore and the event log gives some cryptic message about Volume Shaddow Copy dates and updates, you need to roll-back the system clock so that it doesn’t think that you’re doing anything dodgy.

Then an arduous task of copying all of the data back into the relevant partitions ensued.

Anyway, that’s not exactly the latest news. The recent events occurring are that I now have another failed drive on my hands at a second site. This time, there are bad sectors appearing on the disk.

The story began with one of the staff performing a defrag on the server as part of a daily task. He also noticed that there were a startling number of errors in the event log that seemed to have to appear out of nowhere over a recent few days.

The defrag caused the blue screen of death and the server would no longer start. chkdsk /r was ran in recovery console and reported various errors.

ARGH! It gets worse. Bad sectors were bleeding across the disks like cancer. Time to act people!

Thankfully, there’s a damn nifty Linux tool for copying drives. dd_rescue. It doesn’t have a startling homepage, but it does come with most Linux distros, including Knoppix.

dd_rescue cloned the disk to another disk, ignoring all bad sectors. Once the system was copied we faced the next challenge. The Windows boot sector was firked. Bootcfg, Fixboot and Fixmbr wouldn’t work. Or more accurately, they did work – just not very well. In fact, booting into a Windows PE session showed that two of the drive’s partitions had switched letters. The system disk was now D!

Various trickery ensued, but the final resolution was to install Windows Server the existing disk (that was thought to be D:), under a folder called Win2k3. Unfortunately, Windows was still under the impression that the system disk is D:. I followed the instructions for reconfiguring the hard disk drives through the registry on the Microsoft site.

One final reboot later, allowed me to boot into the existing O/S and repair it with the setup disk. It’s such a shame that in the process – loads of MS SQL and Windows components were shot.

WSUS is completely messed up and the SQL engine has also knocked out McAfee’s network deployment tool. I think that it’s a poorly server now.

I just wish that clients would listen when I tell them that a backup device of any sort is crucial (as well as actually doing it). Alas, the attitude nowadays seems to be a mired philosophy of locking the door once the horse has bolted – and hoping that you never need to.