Desperately needing to reinstall the entire system, I decided to do a double back-up of all my data, just to make sure nothing vital gets lost. One back-up of important data to CD-ROM, another of most of my data to a second, smaller hard disk.
I have an old pc, and an old old old pc, which had an old old hard disk. The web is full of advice for the case that you wish to put an old old hard disk (what “they” call “new”) into an old old old pc (what “they” call “old”), and aeons ago when I installed the then new Western Digital Caviar 6GB hard drive and disk into my 486DX, that advice came in handy. But now when I wanted to put that drive into my Pentium II, advice came not at all.
So I putzed about with format and parted and DOS and Linux shells, and got nowhere. Parted was convinced that something was wrong with the device. Format only wanted to format 500 or so of the 6000 available megabytes.
I gave up for the day and returned three days later with an oldish Knoppix CD. Knoppix is an on-CD Linux installation, which is very handy theoretically if you want to make an analysis of your system or repair it, but in practice this particular CD was set up as a toy, presumably so that people could see how much Linux really is like Windows. Hey! I don’t want Linux to be like Windows! Windows is a better Windows than Linux is! I want Linux to be like Unix!
Anyway, Knoppix did come in handy, because besides the BIOS editor it was the only tool that saw my 6GB hard disk as a 6GB hard disk, and as an added bonus managed to tell me that my old Linux partitions were still available there. Format had only managed to format around 500 MB, because that was the available FAT partition.
So I went back to DOS. A problem with the default Windows 98 DOS installation is that it does not have the HELP command, so unless you know the very specific DOS commands for this very specific task by heart, you’ll be groping in the dark. Luckily here too Google is one’s pal, and so I found out that fdisk might be able to help where parted had failed.
Fdisk refused to help at first, but perhaps that was just because I needed a system reset after deleting all partitions. Then, after checking to make sure that the BIOS would tell all parties involved that the second hard disk had a 6 GB capacity, fdisk managed to recognise this capacity, and everything went fine.
Except that fdisk, like parted, kept spouting error messages. This was fdisk’s: “error message 6 see header of FDISKC.MSG” (or something like that). According to one Google hit, some guy in 1999 “had the same error a while ago with a WD 6,4 Caviar disk […] There is no documentation on this error. Microsoft […] took […] 14 days to tell me that they don’t know what the error means […] Western Digital […] did not know the error and did not know the fdiskc file.”
Anyway, the system now seems to be able to see both drives, FAT32 formatted, at the right capacity. I was going to say something about correct documentation for low level tools, meaningful error messages, back-up routines that people are willing to follow, yada yada yada.