Windows XP Restoration

Although Thanksgiving is Update Your Parents’ Browser Day, I ended up rebuilding their old Dell Dimension 2350 PC over their New Year visit: it had succumbed to a nasty case of bit rot. It may have had the odd malware infestation, although booting with the invaluable System Rescue CD and unleashing a ClamAV scan didn’t turn up anything exciting.

I had full partition backups from August 2010, so I set up a new hard drive (well, an old drive from my heap, but new to them) with the restored partitions before they arrived, swapped it into the PC, then attempted to boot the Windows Recovery Console from their Windows CD to restore the MBR. Alas, I didn’t set the Dell Utility partition to type DE, thus throwing off the drive letter sequence, and the subsequent thrashing (including a steel-cage death match with fixboot and chkdsk) wrecked the Windows partition.

Figuring that situation out from a simple NTLDR missing boot message took a while.

But after restoring the partition again and doing the WRC dance, we had a perfectly serviceable Windows XP installation that inhaled a year’s worth of Windows updates in a surprisingly short process that required only a single (!) reboot. I tossed a bunch of obsolete & unused software over the side, emptied the Recycle bin, manually deleted a bunch of files in the various temporary directories, updated Firefox, installed LibreOffice, imported the Outlook Express address book from the rotted drive, did not import the email messages, and away they drove.

I had suggested it was time for a new PC, but … maybe next time.


  • My USB-to-SATA adapter cable injected occasional read errors (which partimage caught), but a klunky drop-in-the-slot vertical desktop adapter worked OK.
  • A CHKDSK fixed one or more files message doesn’t really prepare you for the discovery that it obliterated the entire directory structure and left a vacant drive behind.
  • The PC had 512 MB of DDR RAM in two 256 MB sticks. I swapped in a 512 MB stick (harvested from an old PC on its way to the recycler) and, as you’d expect, 768 MB of RAM dramatically improved the poor thing’s attitude.
  • System Rescue CD is invaluable for this sort of thing.
  • What is it with Firefox being stuck at V3 forever, then ratcheting instantly to V9? Version envy?

4 thoughts on “Windows XP Restoration

  1. “it had succumbed to a nasty case of bit rot.”

    A perfect patient for a rejuvenating injection with Mint or Ubuntu.

    1. a rejuvenating injection with Mint

      Well, I considered that, but there’s a user training issue involved… [grin]

      I’ll be more forceful should the thing rot out / get pwned again!

  2. Last year, Firefox moved to a rapid release schedule and now there is a new version every 6 weeks or so. Version numbers moved from version 4 to 9 in no time at all. Many of the versions have only minor improvements. In the old days, it probably would have merited nothing more than a change from x.1 to x.2. But it seems like the browser suppliers are in a version number race these days.

    1. Many of the versions have only minor improvements.

      When they get to Version 999, maybe they’ll start concentrating on quality…

      One can always dream, I suppose.

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