Sometimes stuff works


Storage? I am Storage!
Jan 15, 2002
27a No Fixed Address, Oz.
We had a bloke come in the other day wanting to hire a laptop for his ... er ... is 50th wedding anniversary, i think it was. Anything would do, just something to plug into the venue's projector system and show some pictures on. Nice bloke, good customer.

We didn't actually have anything handy, but it pushed old Tannin into stopping his dithering and making a decision about his laptops. As you know, he has a nice new Thinkpad T530 with 16GB and all the trimmings, but what about the spare machine? (You never, ever go outback without two of everything. Basic rule. If you only have one of it, it breaks. Or gets lost.) For the last five years or so, we have had a delightful little Asus netbook. Very small, battery lasts forever, slower than a month of Wednesdays, but who cares? It is enough to upload pictures onto (we stuck a 640GB drive in there a while back) and make backups onto external drives with, and check email if needed. Mostly, it sits under a ton of other gear and doesn't get touched for an entire trip. But it's there for if the T Series karks it.

It also serves as a (very) occasional use spare office machine at the side of the desk where it sometimes might run a web browser for a while (on a proper screen, of course) or test out a doubtful wireless router. And finally, it is the spare anti-virus machine: we plug suspect drives into it via USB and scan them (there is a dedicated desktop machine for this, but sometimes it's busy). It does remarkably well at this, quite extraordinary. It takes a while to boot and a while longer to get action after reaching the desktop, but it does OK once the scan begins. Specs: it's an Atom 1.6 with 2GB of RAM. First-generation netbook.

But it runs XP Home and XP ain't got a lot of life left in it and it could certainly never run Photoslug (not that that really matters on a trip - you don't have the time, nor the screen quality) and there is a perfectly good old Thinkpad T400 sitting idle since we got the T530. The T400 doesn't have the small size or the battery life of the netbok, but it smashes it hands down in all other regards. Anyway, the old boy decided to give the netbook to our customer and re-deploy the T400 as a dedicated spare.

The T400 shipped with Vista, which of course we upgraded immediately to XP. It's an old Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53 and most recently had 4GB RAM (3GB usable under XP) and twin 750GB hybrid drives. A little while ago, Tannin removed the second 750GB hybrid drive and sold it, replacing it with the factory-fit DVD drive. XP was the problem: it's got a fairly limited life ahead of it. But it was already installed and working well with all the 1001 enhancements and tweaks Tannin likes - he's very fussy about having his systems just so, pity he can't dress himself half as well - so we could let next year worry about itself.

Really the problems
Tannin is a stupid oaf, you know. Turns out, after an hour spent searching home and office, that the boot drive is missing. Can't find it anywhere. Eventually, we had to admit defeat and go looking for a different drive for it. He is too stingy to spend the $150 for a Windows 8 or 7 licence, so it was XP or bust. (Well, we could have considered Vista, which can be tweaked up into a half-decent OS if you do it right - but the stupid paper product key sticker is unreadable. No soup for you, Tannin.) Anyway, that meant finding a spare drive and installing XP from scratch. Turns out that the only drive we could find - well, the only drive bigger than 120GB that wasn't a Western Digital - was the brand new Toshiba 500GB 7200 that shipped with the new Thinkpad 530, which we had (as a matter of course) replaced with 1TB hybrid drives before we even pressed the power button for the first time. So be it.

After a bit of head scratching, I realised that the "DVD" in the T400 was, in fact, a hard drive caddy, not a DVD at all, and there was a 750GB hybrid drive in it. Yup, stupid Tannin had sold the wrong drive! How you can remove the boot drive from the hard drive bay thinking it is the data drive in the DVD bay I have no idea. What an oaf.

Fixed by me!
On a whim, I set the BIOS for AHCI (which XP can't use, not without far more trouble than it's worth) an attempted a boot off the new Toshiba drive. To my surprise, it not only booted, it proceeded all the way thorough a Windows 7 setup routine (remember, this was the drive that shipped with our new Thinkpad; it had never been powered up before) and - to my great surprise - completed the install successfully. There were one or two crashes as it tried to install hardware of the wrong brand and many years too new for it, but it recovered gracefully from these and worked just fine. It's an un-used Windows 7 Pro OEM licence, but tied to the hardware it shipped with, and it had always annoyed us that we had paid for two different legal Windows licences for the new T530 (shipped with 7 Pro OEM, but has never run anything other than 8 Pro retail). My understanding is that they tie Windows 7 OEM pre-build product keys pretty tightly to the hardware. But it installed, it ran, and this morning I successfully activated it.

Hooray for me! Suck on that Tannin! Oh, and before I started I stole a 4GB SODIMM out of Belinda's machine and used it to replace one of the 2 x 2GB ones in the T400, so now it has 6GB. I'd put more in but it doesn't like 8GB SODIMMs and I couldn't find any more 4s. When you do your next stocktake, tannin, you will be missing two 8GB SODIMMS 'coz I stuck them in Belinda's machine to make up for the missing 4GB one. Sorry about that.

PS: Can't stand the terrible Windows 7 UI, but with some help from Classic Shell, it's lots better now.


Storage? I am Storage!
Nov 22, 2002
Somewhere in time.
Resourceful little monkey, aren't you? Kudos to you for getting it to work and saving money at the same time.