Never Bored with a PC

Right, so, a week after installing Service Pack 1 on my one month old Windows 7, Dell Inspiron laptop, after restarting and hibernating/waking up successfully several times, on Saturday evening it decided to die. It wanted to enter Windows Error Recovery which, since nothing else worked (i.e. booting Windows normally), I did. The process appeared to be under way. Unfortunately, it still appeared to be under way 12 hours later. I hit the big OFF button.

Like a good little IT professional (that I was), I had followed Dell’s initial guidelines and (rather painfully) burned two System Restore DVDs before messing around in any other way with my new machine. I booted from them to try restoring to the original state. It actually offered me a repair option before backtracking completely so I opted for that. After an interminable wait, though a lot less than 12 hours, it had begun the process but eventually reported that it couldn’t recover “because there isn’t enough free disk space”. “Bullshit, there’s 450Gb of free disk space”, I uttered. I rebooted from the disks again and tried the complete original system restore route. After another interminable wait, it had begun the process but eventually reported that it couldn’t restore “because there isn’t enough free disk space”. Bullshit, there’s 450Gb of free disk space, I reiterated.

Most OEMs don’t ship Windows installation disks these days. Thus, if the recovery tasks within their own bloatware don’t work, you’re stuffed. I phoned Dell support and explained my plight. To their credit they shipped me a Windows 7 installation DVD which arrived the next day via City Link. With that, I was impressed. They also offered to call back and “talk me through” a vanilla installation. I could do it myself but I wanted to go by their book in case it didn’t work as expected. I had a nagging suspicion about my hard drive.

They did call back, had me boot from the Win 7 installation DVD (which, incidentally, seemed to take another aeon – well 25 minutes anyway), deleted all existing hard disk partitions and install. Bingo, I had a working Windows 7 system, completely vanilla. Dell went away.

Now I’d got a working system, I thought I’d once again try my original Dell System restore disks. It failed again. Curious. I can’t remember the witty message this one came up with but I’m guessing, though, that, the original partitions having been deleted, my disk no longer looked the way the Dell system restore needed it to look. It is very much a guess.

I had a working system but none of the originally preloaded applications, like Office Starter and Roxio burning software. I went back to Dell and explained. They said they couldn’t re-install Office Starter on a machine that had already had it on (curious but maybe a licensing thing). After a heck of a struggle and some Citrix-powered remote driving of my machine from India, I had Roxio back.

I started going through my installation list. At about #8 I needed to put on a Java runtime environment. All was going well, I downloaded it and started going through the process and up popped the installation progress screen with a thermometer progress bar – which didn’t move. It continued not to move for a distressingly long time. I tried cancelling. No. I tried Task Manager to stop it.  No. Nothing was moving. I hit the big OFF button once again.

My reboot seemed to work; there was my personalized wallpaper and desktop icons for applications installed thus far. I clicked to open up a Goggle Chrome browser. Nothing. I clicked to open up a Firefox browser. Nothing. That curious Windows speciality, the <Start> button to get to “All Programs”? Nothing. A healthy-looking desktop but nothing working. Back to square one. I re-installed Windows 7 once again. Back to a vanilla system – Roxio was short lived.

Being a sucker for punishment, I started reinstalling the applications I did have. I noticed my touchpad was moving the cursor more slowly and that it didn’t possess any scroll functionality (emulating the wheel on a mouse). Dell had shipped a disk containing drivers, one of which was a touchpad driver. I installed it and rebooted. Phew, there’s my desktop. I went to move the cursor to an icon and was mighty surprised to see that the cursor remained completely stationary. Having installed the supplied driver, I now had no touchpad functionality at all.

Good job I’ve already lost my hair.

Having plugged in a USB mouse, I managed to drive the pointer, make Windows regress to a previous system checkpoint (which this time did work) and the touchpad returned, albeit slowly and with no scrolling functionality.

00:15 AM – I went to bed.

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