Last night, I had an external Firewire disk hooked up to my Windows XP machine in an attempt to back up my data drive. The file transfer was infinitely slow. I tried rebooting and deleting folders on the backup drive but nothing helped. I decided to use Partition Magic 7.0 to reformat the Firewire drive and see if that helped. I had done that before with no problems.
In typical XP fashion, I got a STOP error that hosed the operating system. On the next attempt to boot my computer, I was told that the boot.ini file was bad and that the operating system had halted since it couldn't find "hal32.dll" in the Windows/System32 directory.
I booted the machine up on the XP CD and tried to fix the problem using the Recovery Console. When I used the "bootcfg /scan" command to have it find and list all Windows installations, it only found the XP installation on the E: partition. That threw me off. According to the reference book I was using, the C:\Windows installation was supposed to also show up. I thought maybe the boot sector had been messed up and decided to reboot the computer using my Windows 98SE boot floppy. Then, I performed a "sys c:" to reload the Win98SE system files. Yes, I know XP takes over the boot sector. I was hoping that by reloading the 98 system files I could get the Recovery Console to see the Windows 98SE installation, and I could rebuild the boot.ini file and add it in. I tried "bootcfg /scan" again with no luck, so I decided to reload the OS from scratch. That seemed to me to be the only alternative.
According to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 330184, both symptoms (boot.ini corrupted and the hal32.dll error message) were due to only a corrupted boot.ini file. The proper procedure to rebuild the file was to command "bootcfg /list" to see what entries the file contained and "bootcfg /rebuild" to have it rebuild the boot.ini file. According to the article, as part of the rebuilding process, it will find the other Windows installation (C:\Windows) and ask me if I want to add it to the menu. I won't get the chance to see if that would work correctly right now; I've already started loading XP from scratch. Sooner or later, though, XP will crash again. I printed the article out and intend to put it in with a reference book I made for my computer.
I usually use the Microsoft Knowledge Base routinely. Last night, I did think about searching it for the problem by bringing up one of my Macs, all of which were up and running routinely. I didn't, and it cost me. I mention this because I have noticed that most computer "professionals" don't refer to the Knowledge Base when troubleshooting problems and therefore take three times longer and three times the expense than if they had they used it routinely. If you own a Windows machine, make the Microsoft Knowledge Base your friend.
Because I was reloading the operating system from scratch, I decided to change the operating system disk's file system from FAT32 to NTFS. I did this mostly as an experiment; I'm interested in seeing if there is a performance hit and if the system might be more stable. To get there, I did not "convert" from FAT32 but instead told it to reformat the partition with NTFS during the installation routine. I had read somewhere that the conversion process was not as clean and performance hits were more likely than if the disk was initially formatted with NTFS. I have my system up and running ATI Multimedia applications, Office 2000, and Norton Anti-Virus. So far, I'm seeing no problems.
I'm actually on my second installation of XP in the last twenty-four hours. I've been surprised I haven't had any problems with activation. I've done it twice. I'm also seeing no problems the second time around. On the first go, I installed XP, XP Service Pack 1, all the recommended downloads from the Windows Update website, Office 2000, and Norton Anti-Virus. The second time I installed XP, XP Service Pack 1, ATI video drivers and multimedia components, Office 2000, and Norton Anti Virus, in that order. It's gone a lot smoother.
The good thing about having to reinstall is that it will give me a chance to document how I'm setting up my system. I'll use that information here in this website. It also gives me another opportunity to re-evaluate what applications I'm going to install. Of course, I 've had too many of those opportunities running XP. My list probably won't change much. The bad thing is I will lose several days reconfiguring everything. That's time I could have spent writing or editing video, and just another validation for me moving all my stuff to the Mac.