Reanimation of dead laptop

Yesterday noon the girlfriend of my brother called me on my mobile phone telling me that her laptop computer died. At first I thought, it would be no big problem. Plug in a Windows CD and run a repair phase on the computer should be the last thing to do to bring it back to working condition. Oh boy, how I underestimated the problem...

Quite soon after I had my first looks into the issue, apparently some broken driver file which is loaded about two seconds after the Windows startup screen and caused the laptop to reboot over and over, the first signs of the complexity of the problem became visible. When all my previous tries failed and I wanted to start a Windows-CD repair it didn't find any harddisks to repair. It has never happened to me before that Windows was unable to locate the harddisks, so I've been very puzzled.

When I booted a Linux-Live-CD the harddisk was visible and the NTFS-filesystem was accessible, so there was no problem on this side of the issue. It took me several attempts and investigation on the internet to finally realize, that it was the SATA-controller of this laptop which is not supported by Windows versions until Vista. And without access to the disk from windows, I couldn't chkdsk it, install a new copy of windows or do something else from a Windows-like environment.

I tried a lot of different aproaches after this point. Loading additional drivers during Windows CD startup, live-CD with BartPE builder, live-CD with UBCD4CD, both with and without XP SP3 slipstreamed, with and without included SATA/RAID and network drivers... Without success, the disk refused to be accessible from Windows. It became quite late in the evening and I decided to continue today.

After some thinking and checking back with her brother I suggested to her this afternoon to try a switchover to Linux, where there were no problems with missing drivers for hardware components. I expected to have to do some convincing but to the contrary, she immediately agreed and wanted to switch over. She was already working with a lot of Linux-ready software (Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, ...) so a switchover would not be such a big change. She's been very curious of trying to work with Linux and this seemed to be an ideal opportunity.

Well. And that's what we did this evening. Following the backup of the data with a live-CD I installed an Ubuntu 9.04 linux. It went without any issues worth to mention and now the laptop is linuxified and ready again to be used. Setup of Printer and WLAN were the larger ones but these did not stay for long.

The next steps will be to install the remaining applications, copy over the individual settings (eg. Firefox favourites) from the backup and setting up Wine for those applications which have no linux-counterpart. I don't expect any serious obstacles there anymore.


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