onsdag, maj 24, 2006

Thinkpad Rescue and Recovery - part II

It's been a long time since the first part as I've been busy with exams and tests lately, but now it's finally here. As you might know I've had some problems with my Thinkpad R50e. After installing LILO in the MBR I couldn't access the special recovery tools you get with a Thinkpad instead of a CD. It turned out LILO had overwritten the special MBR that gives access to the Recovery tools when you press a special button during bootup.
I tried a couple of different things and ended up with the Windows NT bootloader in the MBR with Linux and Windows Recovery Console entries added, plus a guide explaining how to access the recovery tools using GRUB. I folowed the guide. And it worked. Beautifully. I can access the Thinkpad recovery stuff, called the Predesktop Area, with options for resetting the harddisk from a builtin image and browsing the web for solutions using Opera (killer feature :P). The solution isn't perfect, I have to select "Thinkpad Rescue and Recovery" in the GRUB menu instead of just pressing a button, but it works flawlessly.
If you've had a similar problem, I hope this was any help.

søndag, maj 21, 2006

Thinkpad Rescue and Recovery - part I

I am the happy owner of a Thinkpad R50e (the cheapest model, I'm a poor student). It has a 1.4 GHz Celeron M, 2x256 MB RAM, a 40 GB 5400 rpm harddrive, a sucky, but not that sucky, Intel graphics card, b,g wireless, 10/100 ethernet and a 56k modem. A nice, cheap, sturdy machine, not incredibly powerful, but enough for what I'm using it for.

Instead of recovery CDs the Thinkpads have a nice feature called Rescue and Recovery, which is a small (few GBs) partition containing an image of a clean windows installation + some special IBM stuff and some other recovery stuff (like Opera :)). The partition is a FAT partition disguised as a Compaq Diagnostics partition, so that Windows won't attempt to do anything with it. You access it by pressing the blue "Access IBM" button during bootup. The keypress is catched by the special MBR Thinkpads ship with. The MBR also changes the type of partition to normal FAT, Rescue and Recovery need that to work.

All that is good and fine, except one small detail: I've overwritten the MBR in order to dualboot Windows and Linux. That means that I can't access Rescue and Recovery and that I wouldn't be able to reinstall Windows on my computer without using another Waindows CD, which I haven't got. So for a couple of days now, I've been looking for a way to access rescue and Recovery.

After reading a lot of articles, forum threads and most of ThinkWiki, I've tried some different things:

  1. Reinstalling the Windows NT bootloader. I had a theory that forcing the Windows bootloader to reinstall would recreate the original bootloader. It didn't. It didn't even touch the MBR, resulting in a LILO menu pointing to Linux and a Windows NT bootloader menu pointing to Windows and another LILO menu. Status: Problem not solved and too many boot menus, but I learned how to add Linux to the NT bootloader.
  2. Forcibly restoring the MBR: At some point I fell over the command fdisk /mbr. That command will restore your MBR, I was told and was hoping that that meant access to Rescue and Recovery. Except that that command doesn't exist in Windows XP, instead there's a command called fixmbr in the rescue console on the installation disk. The installation disk that you don't get, because you have (the inaccessible) Resue and Recovery. Luckily there is a way to add rescue console to your boot menu, and it worked perfectly. Including fixmbr. So now I have the Windows NT bootloader in the MBR pointing towards Windows and the second LILO menu and the rescue console. But it didn't fix the Rescue and Recovery. Seems like it's some special MBR only IBM knows how to restore. Status: Problem not solved, but fewer boot menus.
  3. IBM must have a solution: At some point I thought about looking for a solution on the official Thinkpad site. I found something that might had been able to solve my problem, except that it was a set of floppy images. Floppy images to put on a floppy disk and put into the floppy drive that doesn't exist. This was the first time I thought about giving up. It all just seemed so stupid. Shipping repair floppies for a line of computers that you made without floppy drives. Status: Problem not solved and beginning to lose faith + 'couple of hours behind schedule on the last physics paper this schoolyear.
  4. ThinkWiki to the rescue: Then I finally found a way to gain access to the partition using GRUB. GRUB is able to change the partition type before booting, so now I've constructed a GRUB config that should be able to boot Rescue and Recovery. Wish me luck.

lørdag, maj 20, 2006

Trying it out

Hmm, seems like neither the blog page nor the feed exists before you have posted the first blog. So I'll have to post something just to try stuff out. How inconvenient. I could just make a garbage post filled lipsum, but I think that's too boring, so this is the post I've made up for the occasion.