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The Case of the Disappearing Hard Drives

November 25th, 2014 · Linux, Windows

In the spirit of the The Case of the… blog posts by Mark Russinovich, I am going to post about a particularly vexing problem I had over the past few days.

It all started when I decided I wanted to try out the latest public build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, that being build 9879. I installed to VHD (it’s not really relevant to this story so I won’t go into details; it’s very easy to test and clean up while booting from a VHD though) and made sure my bootloader was configured to natively boot from the VHD. Then I rebooted.

I had some weird issues with setting everything up in Windows 10 but I figured I would resolve them the next day… I should have started earlier. I put the system to sleep and went to bed.

At 4:45am my computer spontaneously woke up, waking me up. It sat on a “Recovery” screen complaining it could not load winload.exe.  I did not want to deal with this at 4:45am on a Sunday and so hard powered the system off.

Next morning, powered the system on… I was met with the same screen.

Whatever, Windows 10 ate itself, I’ll just boot back into Windows 7. Thankfully even though this screen shows up before the Windows 8/10 GUI bootloader, it helpfully has an option to boot from the next OS instead. I chose it.

Windows 7 boots… and most of my desktop/taskbar icons are missing, most startup programs are missing, and the ones that do run either crash or scream at me that something on my second hard drive can’t be found.

I open My Computer… and two of my hard drives are gone. Disk Management… not there either. Device Manager… nope.

At this point I fear the worst, but I figure it is probably a weird Windows 10 side effect. One of the drives had hit a SMART error some weeks ago (and I had already replaced it, the data is now duplicated to another drive) but the other contained all my application files, user files, and plenty of misc files: downloads, photos, virtual machines, my website backup… anything important was backed up but it would still be a pain to replace.

First thing I tried was to use the bcdboot tool to regenerate the bootloader files. I did so and rebooted… other than the Windows 7 bootloader now popping up and allowing me to boot into Windows 7 directly, nothing changed. The next step was to completely remove Windows 10 (I was certain at this point I was no longer interested in beta testing it!) which was trivial with the VHD setup I’d used. Of course the problem still remained, most likely establishing Windows 10 had done something permanent.

Fortunately, a quick Google revealed this was not an isolated incident, and quickly got me up to speed on what had happened to me.

The summary is that Windows 10 9879 seems to like to enable Power Up In Standby, or PUIS, on drives even when the BIOS or motherboard doesn’t support it. When this happens the BIOS has no way to know the drive hasn’t powered up, and simply sees a malfunctioning drive it can’t query. Windows, in turn, can’t see the drive at all.

Ironically, Linux will automatically tell any spun-down drives to spin up, so Linux can use them just fine even without the BIOS support, it seems. However this solution only works until the next time you power off, when the drives will once again spin down until something explicitly tells them to spin up (most likely Linux).

I didn’t realize this at first and was just happy to get my drives back after booting an Ubunto LiveCD then rebooting into Windows 7. Next time I woke up my PC though, the Windows kernel bluescreened (likely because I kept a page file on one of the drives). A reboot later revealed the problem was still there. I didn’t have time then to fix it but I did enough research to find out the issue was with the PUIS setting on the drives, and that there were tools to adjust that. I also noted that the BIOS timed out querying the drives on boot, which gave me a quick way to see if any solution I tried was working or not.

That night after work I tried HDAT2 and Hitachi’s Feature Tool (both drives of mine that stopped working were Hitachi). I had various issues with the CD version of HDAT2 being unable to find my CD drive (an issue with MS-DOS bootable CDs, they need the proper drivers) and a USB-stick bootable Feature Tool hanging on boot. Eventually I got them boot running on a USB stick (aell, a 16MB SD card pretending to be one) and a CD respectively, however HDAT2 could not identify my hard disks and so refused to give me the option to issue commands to them. Hitachi’s tool couldn’t see my SATA-connected drives at all.

Then I was looking for any other tools I could use, I found a reference to hdparm, a Linux-based tool. Then I had an epiphany.

“If Linux fixed the problem originally, clearly I only need to use MORE LINUX for a permanent fix!”

Spoiler: It goes just as well as I’d hoped.

After booting from the Live CD I had used earlier, I found hdparm already installed. After 5 minutes of figuring out syntax and ensuring I had identified the correct block files for the drives, I cleared the PUIS flags from both of them.

Then I shut down the system… waited… and booted back up…

The BIOS happily identified both drives and booted back into Windows, where all my disks were available.

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Wii U doesn’t power on and the power light blinks red

January 24th, 2013 · Games

I have found a solution to this issue that doesn’t seem to be listed on the official support page.  I sent them a form thingy to add it, but regardless I think I will post it here too in order to get it spidered by Google.

First, check out that page and make sure you’ve tried the solutions listed, especially unplugging the power supply for 90 seconds.  You probably don’t need to do it that long, but unplug both ends and let it sit anyway.

If it still won’t power on when you plug everything back in, unplug the power cable from the Wii, and then unplug your video cable.  Plug the power cable back in and power on.  If it works, plug the video cable back in.

This probably hit me due to having a weird setup with a third-party Wii->DVI cable (which surprisingly handles 720p, but it’s also a PS3->DVI cable too) and a DVI KVM switch, plus my dad was fiddling with live electrical wiring on the same circuit-thing today.  So yeah.

Anyway that might help someone else, maybe.

Addendum: I just hit this problem again, with the official HDMI cable this time. Not sure how it resolved this time, but I would check ventilation to ensure the unit is not sitting on a carpet and to let it sit, plugged in, overnight.

Addendum Addendum: Problem ended up getting worse over the months, eventually the Wii U was dead and I had to pay $200 to get it repaired (one of the boards was bad). Moral of the story: Send it in while your warranty is still good. Also use the copy feature to backup your saves before it dies.

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But…

June 28th, 2012 · Website

probably not.

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I need to post more.

March 16th, 2012 · Uncategorized

So maybe I’ll do that.

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I haz a Chrome OS notebook.

December 10th, 2010 · Google Chrome Extensions

Hooray!

Also I released a new extension in the Chrome Web Store today.  It was ready last weekend but for some reason I had problems uploading it.  Check it out!

I will probably update my One Number extension this weekend; can’t load my unpacked trunk onto my netbook!

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New Chrome Portable

November 13th, 2010 · PortableApps

Grab from the projects page. Fixed DefaultData and Portable Passwords, new versions of Chrome.

It takes FOREVER for me just to update the Chrome versions. I need to make some scripts or something for next time.

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New Chrome Portable, New Chrome Extension

September 11th, 2010 · Google Chrome Extensions, PortableApps

Not just a version bump this time, but mostly small changes. I’m experimenting with Chrome SxS mode which disables the “default browser” feature (so, ideal for GCP) and uses some different registry keys I have to hook. Strangely if I don’t hook the non-Chrome-SxS keys too, Chrome breaks, so I have to hook them all. Oh well.

[Edit: Fixed a missing file in Stable and Canary.] [Read more →]

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Creating Linux .desktop shortcuts to Windows apps with the app icon intact.

July 24th, 2010 · Linux, Windows

Spent a good chunk of time figuring out Wine no longer has this baked in, but I figured if I could just find a Windows app that accesses the shortcut API I could get it to work.

This command line app fits the bill perfectly.  You might have to direct the shortcut to your desktop (“C:\\Users\\<linux user name>\\Desktop\\shortcutname.lnk”), not sure if Wine will create the .desktop file otherwise.  When it’s done you’ll have to delete the .lnk but your .desktop file, icon-ready, will be there!

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I need to post more.

July 21st, 2010 · Google Chrome Extensions

I got ScribeFire for Chrome so hopefully I can remember post more often on mah blag.  I’ve been too tired from programming with my job to really work on One Number as much as I’d want.  I do have free time but I usually just feel like playing Team Fortress 2. :)

I have done most of the framework for the core.  Most recently I added desktop notifications… they only show counts though.  Maybe I can eventually have services actually read summaries of unread items (currently all services could do this easily except my Google Reader class) and show them in notifications.  But that won’t be for the next version.

Next I need to work on audio notifications (a user-defined audio file to play when you get new messages), a few bug fixes, and then I can move on to new services like Twitter, Buzz, Google Calender, and maybe more.

Also a nice guy named Joris Van Hecke sent me a French translation.  I’ll have to have him update it with new strings for the next release, but this means French users will be able to install the “Seul Numéro”* extension! :)

* – Actually he left the name “One Number” but I like the way Google Translate makes it sound! :)

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Google Chrome Portable 5.0

May 25th, 2010 · PortableApps

Meh.

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