Monday, November 2, 2009

Saturday with Copying Files and Crazy Rebooting XP Funtime

I walked up to my office on Saturday to catch up on work (having been out at two conferences the whole week prior), and also to swap some hardware around. All because I really want an iMac.


I can't afford an iMac. The quad core 27" one costs about two grand, which I can't afford at the moment. My home desktop, where my iTunes library and all my graphics stuff lives, is an aging Gateway dual P4, a huge tower that sounds like a jet engine.  I hate it and I can't stand working on it for any length of time. What COULD I replace it with, without spending any money?

I had an MSI Wind CS120 Nettop sitting around doing nothing. I bought it back in March to use it for our living room entertainment center, but the setup never really worked the way I wanted it to. For the past few months it's been gathering dust in a corner. An Atom processor with weak video wasn't my idea of an upgrade.

I did have a Mac Mini, though. It was my web server/linux desktop at my office. Speedy little box, it'd do nicely (if weirdly) running Windows XP, managing iTunes and my graphics stuff. And the MSI Wind Nettop ought to make a fine webserver, considering that in the past, I ran 30+ websites simultaneously on a P90.

So, because I really want an iMac, which I can't afford, I spent much of Saturday transferring all my linux and web server files from the Mac Mini over to the MSI Wind, making the Wind my new XNND.com server, making sure I've backed everything up from the Mini, then taking the Mac Mini home, wiping it, loading a spare XP license onto it, and setting it up to be my new desktop computer at home.

Saturday was a day spent copying files. It was irritating to sit at home for hours installing XP, backing up the Gateway desktop (while the jet engine whirred), etc. But, there was happiness, in anticipation of being able to retire the beast, having a new, quiet, tiny, faster desktop in its place.

Everything was going swimmingly, more or less. Until Kate and I came back from dinner  out at RoPa. I came back to find that the Mac Mini had rebooted itself constantly the entire time. It would get through the XP startup screen, then dump and automatically reboot right at the end of it. Over and over and over, probably for about 900 times while we were out.

Turns out some driver or DLL had become corrupted or wasn't compatible with the hardware. I'm not sure what caused it; I had installed a bunch of different drivers and application. The Apple Boot Camp drivers, all of my various applications, and things like Open Office, SlingPlayer, iTunes, etc.

To make a very long story short, the whole point of this post is for me to write down what happened, to help the next poor soul that comes along. Here's what I did, here's what I figured out, and here's how I fixed it.
  1. XP is apparently set to reboot automatically if it dies mid-startup. Hit F8 a bunch of times as Windows begins to boot. You'll get a startup options screen. Disable "automatic restart on system failure" here.
  2. Start it up again and now you'll actually get an error message when it dies. In my case, it told me that "iertutil.dll is missing or corrupt."
  3. Don't bother trying to restart in safe mode. It'll just die after the mup.sys driver loads. You'll think the mup.sys driver must be to blame. You'll waste hours trying to figure out what to do. Don't bother. The mup.sys driver is not at issue; it's just where the startup process happens to die, whenever certain types of driver or DLL corruption occurs.
  4. Start up off of your XP install CD.
  5. Launch Recovery Console.
  6. Change directory to the location of the bum DLL.
  7. Rename it to iertutil.dll.bad or whatever
  8. Reboot. Your computer will work, sort of. Mine would get as far as the explorer desktop, but just sort of hang there, because it couldn't launch explorer.
  9. Read this page that guides you on how to replace a file on your computer when explorer won't launch. This is a clever hack, using the task manager as a mini-file manager. I used this to copy the DLL from my other Windows XP desktop machine to the Mac Mini.
  10. Reboot, and everything works! I can't believe it.
Lots of screwing around, all because I want an iMac. But, this is working well. The Mac Mini is faster than my old Gateway tower, and life is much better. The lack of the jet engine noise alone is worth it.

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