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Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops (Read 22753 times)
crbell
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Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Oct 6th, 2005 at 11:41am
 
Hello,

Here is the problem:
I have 5 identical laptops from HP. I have configured one exactly how I would like for the others to be set up (Let's call this laptop 1). All of these laptops have factory installed XP SP2. I have taken the hard drive out of laptop 1, and attached it to a desktop IDE cable using an adapter.

Here is some history:
In the past, I have always been able to boot to a ghost 2003 diskette, do a disk to disk copy to a spare hard drive, then continue to do disk to disk copys from the spare hard drive to the remaining laptops until they are all identical. Since they are sysprepped I name them accordingly and enter all registration info.

Back to the problem again:
I can successly do the disk to disk copy with laptop 1 to hard drive, then it LOOKS as though I can successfully copy the disk back to laptop 2 (3, 4 & 5), but then when I boot these laptops back up again... nothing. I can get to the bios, I can boot to cd, I can boot to USB floppy, but I cannot get them to boot to the newly copied hard drive. I have searched and searched and cannot find anything that has worked.

First I tried using a different hard drive, then switching the IDE cable, then switching to a different adapter. I thought I'd go back to square one. I decided to use laptop 2 for testing purposes. I used the restore disk that came with the laptops and tried to do the same procedure with it, just in case there was a problem with the way I configured it. The one good thing about it is that it will boot up now. So it's not like the hard drives are damaged now, it does seem that they are in fine working order. That still didn't work, I got the same results. So I did a little more searching... I've tried changing from PC-DOS to MS-DOS on the bootable floppy that I'm using. I've also tried making sure that the newly cloned hard drive is marked as active.

Again, I've done this successfully with Toshiba laptops in the past without a hitch. I thought maybe it had something to do with the new hp laptops. They are HP/Compaq nc6120's. I contacted HP support. They had me run the diagnostics on the hard drives, each of them ran successfully with no errors. What am I missing? Please help, I'm at my witts end!!
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #1 - Oct 6th, 2005 at 12:26pm
 
crbell

1.  Are you doing *everything* in DOS, and never re-booting to Windows with the laptop HDD still attached to the desktop system?

2.  Can you create an *emergency WinXP boot floppy* using this technique and boot the system after the cloning?:

How to use System files to create a boot disk to guard against being unable to start Windows XP


3.  Use TeraBytes *editbini* program to check *boot.ini* file to make sure it has not been changed from the original:

TeraByte Unlimited Freeware


Do any of the above help?


 

No question is stupid...but, possibly the answers are Wink !&&
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #2 - Oct 6th, 2005 at 12:56pm
 
Hi NightOwl,

1.  I am doing everything in Dos, and not rebooting.  When it is done I exit out of ghost to get to a c: prompt then turn the pc off, and remove the disk immediately.

2.  +  3.  I'll try them and post back.

Thank you thank you for your quick response!
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #3 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 9:58am
 
Nightowl,

Wow that was an experience.  I copied the Boot.ini, NTLDR, Ntdetect.com files to a formatted diskette from the source laptop, then tried to boot with that diskette to the 2nd laptop.  It took a LONG time, but it finally booted to windows.  I then copied the files to the c: drive on the 2nd laptop, removed the diskette (I'm using a USB floppy drive btw), and rebooted.  No results, it still flashes in the upper left corner.  So that was strange.  It was the first glimmer of hope I've had in a while though I'll tell ya!

As for your 3rd response, I will download and try that also.
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #4 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 10:42am
 
crbell

The cloned system booted using the floppy boot disk, but after copying the files on the floppy to the HDD on the cloned system--it would not boot!--as you said:

Quote:
So that was strange.


I'm still suspecting the *boot.ini* may be altered by Norton Ghost during the cloning process.

In theory, if the system boots from the floppy, the only file that should need replacing is the *boot.ini* file on the cloned system. 

Are you sure you were successful in transferring the copy of *boot.ini* from the floppy to the HDD?--*
boot.ini* may be set as a system, read-only file--you should *open* it with *Notepad* and check the text lines--compare the original on the source to the one on the 2nd system after booting from the floppy.

Using TeraByte's *editbini* should also give you the ability to look at the *boot.ini* file's content as well from DOS without being able to boot the system--but as long as you can boot to Windows, Notepad works just as well.
 

No question is stupid...but, possibly the answers are Wink !&&
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #5 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 11:18am
 
Just to be sure I cloned it again.  Using the diskette with the files from HD1, I was able to boot HD2.  Once it was booted I compared both of the boot.ini files and they looked absolutely identical.  Both marked system and hidden, both have same dates and times, file size.  Opening them with wordpad and comparing them makes it look as though they are the same.

I am running a scandisk on HD2 right now, and will do a defrag when done.  This has me perplexed!
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #6 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 11:34am
 
crbell

I do not use *sysprep* and do not know the steps involved in *re-registering* systems using that technique--so that may be an area that is somehow effecting the results.

Here's another idea--you could try using Ghost 2003 with a command line switch to see if there is something being overlooked by Ghost in the Master Boot Record:

Ghost
-IB


From this reference:

Switches: Alphabetical list of switches



Quote:
When creating an image or copying disk to disk, the -IB switch (Image Boot) forces a sector-by-sector copy, and copies the entire boot track; not just the boot sector.
 

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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #7 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 12:01pm
 
I will give the -ib switch a try. 

Have I told you how much I appreciate your help???  Smiley
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #8 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 2:40pm
 
Well, I've tried that and it doesn't work either.  It does work when I put that magic diskette in though.  I just don't get it.  I've been searching these forums because I thought I saw something a while back that said something about how hp/compaq laptops have a separate 8mb section that tells it how to boot.  I may have dreampt that though.  Grin 

Do I have any other options?  I was thinking maybe even creating image cd's.  At this point I'm really willing to try anything.
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #9 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 4:11pm
 
Here is something else odd that I just noticed.  I booted the 2 laptops up side by side.  Everything is identical EXCEPT when looking at disk management, HD1 is .01GB larger than HD2.  So I rebooted both to dos, then displayed partition info with fdisk, and hd1 is listed as 38154MB, where hd2 is listed as 38147MB.  Where is the other 7MB?  Both are partition 1, active status, and at 100% usage.
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #10 - Oct 7th, 2005 at 7:30pm
 
"I rebooted both to dos, then displayed partition info with fdisk, and hd1 is listed as 38154MB, where hd2 is listed as 38147MB.  Where is the other 7MB?"


To diagnose that, you need to look at the actual partition tables, not at DiskMgmt's or fdisk's reinterpretation of the partition tables.

Visit www.partitionsupport.com and download findpart (either the dos or xp versions).  Run findpart on both systems and cut/paste the reports here for review.  Note you don't need the full findpart search, so "findpart tables" should be sufficient.

 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #11 - Oct 8th, 2005 at 12:03pm
 
crbell

You could try another Ghost command line switch:

ghost
-ia
-ib

Quote:
The Image All switch forces Ghost to perform a sector-by-sector copy of all partitions. By default, when copying a partition from a disk to an image file or to another disk, Ghost examines the source partition and decides whether to copy just the files and directory structure, or to do a sector-by-sector copy. If it understands the internal format of the partition, it defaults to copying the files and directory structure.

Generally this is the best option. However, if a disk has been set up with special hidden security files that are in specific positions on the partition, the only way to reproduce them accurately on the target partition is through a sector-by-sector copy. If you use this switch to create an image of a dynamic disk, then the image must be restored to a disk with identical geometry.


Maybe the laptop's HDD has some *hidden security files that are in specific positions on the partition*.
 

No question is stupid...but, possibly the answers are Wink !&&
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #12 - Oct 10th, 2005 at 11:30am
 
Happy Monday all!

Dan:
This is from HDD1

OS:  Windows 5.1.2600 Service Pack 2     Partition tables:

Disk: 1   Cylinders: 5168   Heads: 240   Sectors: 63   MB: 38154

-PCyl N ID -----Rel -----Num ---MB -Start CHS- --End CHS-- BS  CHS
    0 1*07       63 78140097 38154    0   1  1 5167*239 63 OK   OK


This is HDD2

OS:  Windows 5.1.2600 Service Pack 2     Partition tables:

Disk: 1   Cylinders: 5168   Heads: 240   Sectors: 63   MB: 38154

-PCyl N ID -----Rel -----Num ---MB -Start CHS- --End CHS-- BS  CHS
    0 1*07       63 78124032 38146    0   1  1 1023 254 63 OK   NB
                                     0   1  1 5166 224 63  Actual


A little different, eh?

NightOwl:  I'll try the -ia -ib switches and let you know.


 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #13 - Oct 10th, 2005 at 2:52pm
 
Dan,
I see the difference, but what can I do to change it?
 
 
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Re: Mysterious Problem, cloning laptops
Reply #14 - Oct 10th, 2005 at 6:40pm
 
Aha.  That's what I half suspected when you said there was a 7MB discrepancy instead of 8MB.  I'd previously experienced this idiosyncracy with IBM Thinkpads, but didn't know HP/Compaq laptops also did this.


This is from HDD1

Disk: 1   Cylinders: 5168  
Heads: 240
  Sectors: 63   MB: 38154

-PCyl N ID -----Rel -----Num ---MB -Start CHS- --End CHS-- BS  CHS
   0 1*07  63 78140097 38154    0   1  1 5167*
239
63 OK   OK


This is HDD2

Disk: 1   Cylinders: 5168  
Heads: 240
  Sectors: 63   MB: 38154

-PCyl N ID -----Rel -----Num ---MB -Start CHS- --End CHS-- BS  CHS
   0 1*07  63 78124032 38146    0   1  1 1023
254
63 OK   NB


I've highlighted the problem area.  The cause is the way the computer's bios autodetects the hard disk parameters.  When any computer boots, one of the first things it does is query the controller firmware on the HDD to find out the disk size and parameters.  Put that HDD in an IBM (or, it seems, a HP/Compaq) laptop and it will report back cylinders/heads/sectors configuration of
5168/240/63
.  But put that same HDD in a Dell or Toshiba laptop and it will report back cyl/hd/sec =
4863/255/63
.  Note these are fictitious numbers anyway (and have been since we got beyond 528MB disks and started using LBA a decade ago), but it has serious ramifications in the way the partitions and partition table are consequently structured.  When you write your partitions and file systems using one geometry, it will not work if you try to read them using a different geometry.

Note this idiosyncracy is dependent on the bios, not the HDD itself.  Any autodetected HDD will always show 240 heads in a Thinkpad, and always show 255 heads in a Dell.  Since all that really matters is the disk size, you'll notice the cylinder count is adjusted to provide the same disk sizes under either bios, given the head count, sector count (always 63), and sector size (always 512 bytes).

You ran into this problem because you removed the HDD from the laptop and put it in another machine during the cloning operation.  That other machine autodetected the laptop HDD with a geometry of 255 heads and different cylinder count, so when the partition was cloned is was automatically adjusted to fit a 255-head geometry.  When you moved the HDD back to the laptop, which again autodetected 240 heads, the partition that was created with a 255-geometry was out of sync.

So how do you get around this?  In the old days we used to have a bios option to manually tell it what geometry to use.  But on modern computers that option has gone the way of the dodo bird, so you'll just have to restrict your clone-making to a machine that will autodetect 240 heads.  That means your imaging and restoring needs to be done from the laptop.  You should explore your options to image from the laptop direct to/from cd/dvd, external usb drives, a network share, or secondary partitions on the same hard disk.

P.S.: why was a 7MB discrepancy a clue?  Because partitions are always sized in 1-cylinder increments.  One cylinder under 255-head geometry is 8MB.  One cylinder under 240-head geometry is 7MB.
 
 
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