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Windows XP and Rescue & Recovery
Factory Recovery Media
What medai? These machines don't ship with recovery media. You can purchase a set from Lenovo, but if you have a burner on your laptop you can and should make your own. Immediately. Make a CD + DVD set (if you have a DVD burner, otherwise it's a many CD set) once you have the machine up and running. The CD will hold the recovery utilities and the DVD holds the actual factory image.
Start->ThinkVantage->Create Recovery Media (Recovery Disks)
You only get to do this once. Some kind of silly MS licensing thing. Not to say you can't copy the resulting media - and you should. You will get to do it again if you upgrade the rescue and recovery software at some point.
What can I say. It's XP. To its credit, it isn't Vista. At least Lenovo makes these laptops available with XP installed and all the appropriate drives in place. In fact, they recognize that even folks who bought a ThinkPad with Vista installed may want to "down license" to XP:
This laptop should be pretty quick. 2GHz dual-core CPU and 2G of RAM and (now) a 7200RPM hard drive. It is reasonably quick once it is booted. Booting seems a little slow and shutdown is irritatingly slow. Occasionally really slow. Most of this is likely due to all the crap that Lenovo starts up at boot time. I'm gradually eliminating the useless garbage. The shutdown issues may be caused by applications that don't release resources correctly at logout. Microsoft has a tool that might help with this. It can force the release of resources (maybe) and log the bad actors so they can be dealt with:
On my T61 the XP event viewer application log consistently shows this at shutdown:
The following handles in user profile hive <....> have been remapped because they were preventing the profile from unloading successfully:
This points to the ThinkVantage Registry Monitor Service. I haven't been able to find out WTF this does. Things seem to run OK with it turned off...
I was able to improve shutdown times by editing the registry and changing how long XP waits for services to finish before killing them. On my P4 deskside box, this value was 20000, which equates to a 20 second wait. On the T61, it was set to 190000! No idea why. I have changed this to 30000 and it usually shortens shutdown to around 30 seconds. Occasionally not - and I haven't figured out why yet.
If you fiddle with this, beware. You risk hosing the registry. Making it too short could force terminate services that were still legitimately shutting down. YMMV.
Other keys that affect shutdown timeouts (but seem sane on the T16) are:
HungAppTimeout (5000) and WaitToKillAppTimeout (20000)
Disappointing. With the 7 cell battery - the largest available in this screen size - I can get 2-3 hours. Closer to 2 with the DVD drive running. The old R40 was good for 3+, and the T43 would go almost 5 hours. The all had the available discrete graphics option, so that's no excuse for the T61's poor battery life.
Rescue & Recovery
Preserve ability to boot the service partition.
Lenovo ships these laptops with a hidden partition that contains rescue and recovery tools as well as a full image of the factory drive configuration. On my machine it used about 5G of drive space. It is bootable, and has utilities that can (hopefully) access an un-bootable Windows partition. It can access the network for downloading repair files and uploading salvaged files. It can also access USB devices for those purposes. It can save the entire drive as a backup image; that can also be done from within Windows.
All that is wonderful, but it is rather fragile. In order to maintain the service partition's bootability via the ThinkVantage button one must not touch the MBR boot code. There is some kind of magic here that doesn't tolerate fiddling. If the MBR is replaced, even with a "vanilla" Microsoft-style boot record, the ThinkVantage button won't boot the service partion. It will still be bootable from other boot loaders - grub for instance. This gets difficult when arranging a multi-boot machine.
There are techinques for multibooting using the Microsoft boot mechanism in the Windows partition. Here's one. I haven't tried it.
I'm more comfortable with grub, the open-source "Grand Unified Boot Loader" so I fiddled with using that. If grub gets installed to the MBR, the ThinkVantage button's service partition boot feature is lost. If grub gets installed elsewhere (like in my Solaris partition) and the MBR is replaced with a vanilla MBR, this ability is lost. What does work is to install grub in a primary partition and set that partition active so BIOS boots it in the default case. This is easy when installing Linux - you can specify that grub goes only in the Linux partition's boot sector. With a Solaris install, it is necessary to set the Solaris partition active before the installation, or the Solaris installer will replace the MBR with a vanilla one. Solaris grub will boot OK, but the ThinkVantage service boot is lost.
After many re-images back to factory state, I figured out the Solaris trick above, and had a multiboot machine that could still bring up the service partition via the ThinkVantage button. But. The Windows rescue and recovery utility couldn't find it any more. I couldn't make restore images of XP from within XP. Braindead indeed. Presumably it was confused by the additional partitions.
Sadly, after removing the additional partitions and restoring the XP and service partitions to their original locations and sizes (using Gparted on the Knoppix Live CD) R&R in XP still couldn't find the partition.
Losing the ThinkVantage service boot ability wasn't a big deal, but losing the ability to make ongoing backup images of XP was. In the end, I went back to a stock configuration with an NTFS partition and sevice partition, and various unixen running as VMWare virtual machines within XP. Some notes about that here: T61 VMWare.
Using the Lenovo utility in XP to make bootable backup images of the running system - to an external USB drive - is really useful. It's fairly quick to save and restore (around 30 min each when around 50G of the drive is in use) and encourages good backup habits.
Rescue and Recovery rediscovers itself.
I was still running on the XP + service partition configuration (above) that the XP R&R tools couldn't find when the ThinkVantage System Update tool told me that there was a new Rescue and Recovery package (update) available for download. I let the updater download and install it and it seemed to find the service partition correctly. The updated R&R software suggests that a new set of factory recovery media be burned (it allows another one-time burn) so I did that. I also made a full drive backup to an external USB drive that included my current running XP configuration and the service partiton - or so I thought. See below.
Image from updated R&R left out the factory image
I have had occastion to do a full restore from the image I saved to USB drive. Both to recover from my experiments, and to move to another hard drive. It all worked fine, but for some reason the restored service partition has only the R&R tools in it. It doens't contain the factory restore image any more. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's now less than 1G. Since I have my home-burned factory recovery media, that's no loss - and is probably a benefit/.
I don't know where I lost the factory image part of the service partition in my saved image. It could have been during the update (I don't think so - I believe the new set of factory media burned after the update contain the factory image), I might have fat-fingered something in the image creation, or it could just be a bug triggered by my partion fiddling.f
Restored factory image confuses Gparted.
I observed a quirk when moving a restored service partition using Gparted. After restoring from the factory recovery media. Gparted reports an error when moving the service partition. In my case, the move was fine. The error is reported by the post-move partition check. dosfsck says:
running dosfsck on vanilla factory reimage /dev/sda2:
"There are differences between boot sector and its backup"
For some reason, the service partition image has a back-up boot sector that is different from the primary boot sector. They are both valid but they have different text labels. It's harmless.
Restore to some hard drives fails.
The T61 was delivered with an Hitachi 160G 5400RPM SATA drive. I upgraded to a 200G 7200RPM Seagate drive, then to a 200G 7200RPM Hitachi drive. Notes here. The full image I had saved to an external USB drive (using R&R from XP) made it quick and easy to move to the new drive(s). Just install the new drive, boot the USB drive, and go. Took about 30 minutes.
Well, it went that way with the Seagate drive, but not the Hitachi. Restoring to the Hitachi drive went OK, but when I booted to it all I got was a blinking cursor. Thinking I had done something wrong during the restore, I booted the USB again - or tried to. The rescue and recovery utility on the USB drive would start to come up, then the machine would reboot. There were two problems here.
First, the recovery tools saved on the USB drive have a bug. Restore to some empty drives can result in an unbootable system. Here are some Lenovo notes about it:
"When performing a Rescue and Recovery restore from a USB or second hard drive to a completely blank internal hard drive, the system responds with either a blinking cursor or an "Operating system not found" error."
(In BIOS, change the Serial ATA setting (SATA) from 'AHCI' or 'Enhanced' mode to 'Compatibility' mode. Run the restore process again. Go back into BIOS and switch the setting back to AHCI mode.)
Second, from experience with other machines, I know (or think I know...) that if I boot an IBM/Lenovo rescue or restore image (on CD or HD) on a machine for which it wasn't sanctioned, it will start then reboot. It looks like the failed restore left the hard drive in a state that made the restore utility think this wasn't a Lenovo machine - or something...
At this point even the Lenovo fix above wasn't likely to work. I spun up Knoppix and used dd to zero out the new drive's MBR. That let the restore drive boot successfully and I used the Lenovo suggestion to do the restore. I had my fully configured XP (including all my virtual machines) up and running on a new drive. Nice, once you get past the bugs...
Don't let Rescue & Recovery eat your hard drive.
The Lenovo rescue and recovery utility can save images to external media and to the internal hard drive. It can also be set to do saves automatically on some kind of schedule. That's a deadly combination. It will gradually use up all your drive space. Charles J. Keeme has a blog about this:
My humble opinion: use the backup feature but not automatically, and do it to an external drive. That way, it doesn't eat your drive space, and if the internal drive fails (not just Windows soiling itself) you have an external bootable full backup.
Preserve User ID and Password. Or not.
When doing a restore from an external USB drive (and presumably other media as well) one is presented with options. These options apply if there is already an XP installation (even if damaged) on the internal hard drive.
a) "Do not preserve My Windows(R) User ID and Password..."
The a) option basically scrubs what is already on the drive and replaces it with the saved image. The b) option leaves the existing user ID in place as a functioning user - but may rename it something like username.HOSTNAME if the user ID being restored is the same as the existing one. The XP installation is restored/repaired and all programs are restored. The user and user files saved on the restore image get restored but not as a functioning user.
NOTE: I have only tested the b) option in the case where the existing and restored user IDs are the same. It may be that any users in the restore image that do not conflict with users on the hard drive do get restored as functioning users.
IMNSHO, the b) option makes a mess. For my purposes, a "bare metal" a) restore makes the most sense. YMMV.