Our home computer crashed on Wednesday. It took me 20 hours of painstaking, stressful, ready to give up effort before I finally fixed it, loaded everything back, and could walk away.

Moral of the story: I hate windows.

This is the third time this machine has totally crashed in the last 5 years. The first time, windows wouldn’t boot past the “dell” screen. In case you unfamiliar, this is what shows up before the windows xp logo comes up. For that one, I had to use the dell/Win XP recovery console and do chkdsk /r about 10 times before I could get back into windows. Then, I wiped it and reinstalled.

Two years later, it happened again. But blue screen error. This was January 2010. I tried doing a parallel reinstall on it… 4 or 5 times. Gave up. Wiped it. And reinstalled and loaded everything back. Took a week— off and on to fix.

This last one happened exactly 2 months and a week after that. But for this one, we had some outlook contacts and Architect drawings we had to save. So that’s why it took me 20 hours of hard labor, pull your hair out work to fix it.

What didn’t work for me

I found lots of random resources online… and settled with the 9 ways to fix the hal.dll missing/corrupt problem.

I tried 8 of the 9, because the 9th one was to wipe it and start over… and if you remember, I needed a few important files on that computer before I was willing to wipe it.

What worked for me

Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a linux-based operating system that can be downloaded for free on the internet. If you are having a problem booting windows and want to see if you can access your hard drive and save a few important files, Ubuntu is probably your best bet.

So go online, search for Ubuntu, download it. Burn it to a CD (it’s an ISO file, so you’re going to have to find out how to burn ISO files to a CD). Then pop that baby in your broken computer and fire it up.

You’re going to want to make sure you select the option that doesn’t delete/affect your hard drive… it’s the first option. Then, once Ubuntu is loaded up and ready (it basically has a desktop like windows so you’ll know when it’s working), go under ‘places’ then ‘computer’ (hint: this is the walkthrough I used http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/use-ubuntu-live-cd-to-backup-files-from-your-dead-windows-computer/)

So… you’ve followed the walkthrough, save your files onto a floppy or usb or something, and now you can reinstall windows.

My special case

Turns out my hard drive was failing… but I also blame it on Microsoft because this all started as soon as we updated windows and restarted. And I think the culprit might have been the update to Internet Explorer 8… but what pisses me off is that we weren’t even using IE8 as our browser– we were using Google Chrome!

Trouble with Ubuntu.

I had trouble getting Ubuntu to display on my monitor. It pretty much loaded up but right before it did, the screen went blank and it said it couldn’t display our monitor display.

So I found someone who said all you gotta do is hit F8 when it’s just about to finish loading…. well, that worked for me- thank God!

Trouble with our new Hard Drive

Wow did we have a lot of trouble. Well this was the last big one. After we salvaged our important information, and removed the old failing hard drive, we went out and bought a new a Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA drive from best buy. It was only $69 after taxes! And our old drive was a Maxtor 250 GB SATA.

I popped it in, and put in our windows disc, then fired it up. First thing I had to do was partition it and format it.

I partitioned the whole 500 GB and did the “long-form”/”regular” format. This is because all new drives must select this option because it is the first formatting. Drives that have been already formatted can use the “quick” format option… unless you are having problems with it – then it is a good idea to do the full format because it can clean out the bad sectors. (I use “www.windowsreinstall.com/ to help me through the process)

Once formatting is done and the files have been copied, it restarts and finishes the windows install.

Problem was, we got a black screen right after the “dell” logo popped up. Fortunately, no hal.dll stuff, but it was still a black screen. I later found out that our bios didn’t support LARGE drives and I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work, other than re-partitioning it to 250 GB.

THANKFULLY, that worked.

I saved the day again!! Brand new computer! And trust me, I WON’T be updating to IE8!

Too bad it took so long to put everything back on the PC. That’s another kick in the pants for me.

And last, I’m just praying for the day when we can get rid of the thing and buy a Mac.

Peace and love,