Tricky Computer Repair

I’m finally making some progress on a tricky computer repair I’ve been dealing with in my downtime basically this entire past week. The 10.5-year-old Pentium II computer that I have been using as web and media server in my home office started acting up. Initially, there were some kind of boot problems that made doing any disk access on the computer painfully slow. And I mean painfully. It would take days to open a folder. I haven’t figured out what it was, and repairs were impeded by the fact that the computer either rebooted straight away when booting in Safe Mode, or hanging with a blue screen when running Windows XP setup from the boot disk.

I decided to take out my SATA card, which allowed me to reinstall Windows. I was then finally able to make backups of most disks two days ago, but one of my drives had mysteriously shrunken from 250 GB to 33 GB. I found out that’s one of the magic BIOS capacity thresholds, but I couldn’t figure out how to reset the capacity. All tools I could find failed to reset the “host protected area” or change the “max LBA” values.

Today I finally found an old version of Seagate DiscWizard Starter Edition. It allowed me to remove the dynamic disk overlay that was there (unnecessarily, it seems) and change the “max LBA” to its native value. While I’m at work now, my computer is backing up those contents, and then I plan to wipe the drives and put my old drive image back on the system drive.

Computers. Helping you solve problems you wouldn’t have without them.

PS: I thought about just replacing the old computer, but it still works. After over a decade.


About Mathias

Software development engineer. Principal developer of DrJava. Recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
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