IBM recently released a firmware upgrade for one of the hard drives that is used in their ThinkPad, this time out it’s for a 60GB drive that runs at 7200rpm. I have a similar drive – both are TravelStar drives, from Hitachi – and while mine is 60GB it runs at 5400rpm. Since I’ve had trouble with IBM’s Active Hard Drive Protection System (APS) – trouble as in I think it’s what has reliably, yet randomly, crashed my ThinkPad with blue screens of death – I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new firmware update… (the moral of the story is how neat Ghost 2003 is, but it takes a little while to get there)
Ordinarily, when a company releases firmware for Model “A” and I own Model “a”, and they don’t specifically say that Model “A”‘s firmware is also for Model “a”, I wouldn’t install the firmware on your hardware. When I saw the notice for the 7200 drive, I started doing some searching to see if they released an update for the 5400 drive. No such luck.
Since IBM doesn’t make the TravelStar line anymore – Hitachi does now – I thought I’d check with the folks at Hitachi for some updated firmware – after all the T40 and T41 both have models that ship with the 40GB and 60GB 5400 drives… it’s not like I bought some random no-name HD to put in my T41 – I even called IBM support to confirm the compatibility with the APS and they told me it would be fine. I pop over to Hitachi’s site where I’m told “If you think you need a firmware upgrade, please email us” or something to that effect.
OK, then. If I think I need it. Uh-huh. If someone knows what firmware is and they come to your web site, they already think they need it, and usually, they know they need it. But fine, I’ll play along. So I email Hitachi which gives me a “If you think you need the firmware, give us a call”. !! I’d be more inclined to buy a new drive from a different manufacturer than I would be to pick up the phone and try to explain to a human that I think I need new firmware. Hitachi then says that “IBM tested and certified their installation to only work with the proper drives.”
This to me is a go-ahead-and-download-and-try the offered firmware! I decided to download it and run it: It shows that I have version A55A and that it has version B55A to offer me – found the correct drive, drive model, and firmware version that I have, so that should be it, right? *flash* *flash* *flash* Reboot. Fan Error. *pause* No panic …yet. Reboot and go into the BIOS – it asks me to press F1 to go into the BIOS startup. I reset to defaults and reboot. Windows XP returns alive, well, and happy.
It wasn’t until later that I heard that the new firmware “broke” the IBM-installed “Recovery” partition of my hard drive. I didn’t even notice it when I went into the BIOS: instead of getting a simple menu, I should have gotten a full screen graphic with 8-bars of IBM logo goodness, but I didn’t. So what does that mean? Nothing! It means that I can’t restore my PC from this shadowy partition, but since I have the restore CD’s I don’t have to care aboutthis. I am a bit “irked” at having lost 6GB of my HD to a feature I can’t use, but it’s a non-issue with having 41GB free. However, I know that sooner or later I will re-partition this hard to get back my recovery partition. I know me. It’s only a matter of time.
Enter Symantec’s Ghost 2003. I had installed and tried to use Ghost 2001. While it saw my XP/NTFS partition without any issues, it was sightly cumbersome. Actually, it was an outright nightmare. The HD’s had to be internal, if I wanted to make an image of a drive. I could have hooked two machines together with a USB cable, but I couldn’t find the “right” cable in the few places I looked – the network hook up was non-compliant and uncooperative, seeing as none of the offered drivers supported either of my network cables. Also, whenever I wanted to change my configuration I would have to boot to XP, make a boot disk, reboot via the floppy drive and try again. On top of that, if I boot off the USB floppy drive, I can’t use the USB features of Ghost. It was ugly.
But Ghost 2003… ah, what a difference two years makes to software! Slick familiar-Symantec UI. Wizards help at all turns. Supports USB1.1 and USB2 and Firewire drives. Supports CD’s and DVD’s and network mounted drives. It reboots for you with a virtual partition and avoids floppy drives, when you ask it to. While I’ve haven’t been able to use my Firewire PCMCIA cards with my Firewire enclosures (no power comes through this card) I do have a USB1.1 and USB2 enclosures. First time out I had to use USB1.1 and I imaged my entire HD (about 14GB worth uncompressed) into a 8GB image; took about 2 1/2 hours. Next time out I used a different enclosure, which allowed me to use USB2; same image took about 35 minutes. The entire image in almost a half an hour: how freakin’ cool is that?
Simply put, this buys me the flexibility of knowing that I can blow away the entire hard drive and get exactly back to the state that I’m at now. I can get the recovery partition back (which will lose all the data on the drive) and let it restore the whole initial IBM state – that’s fine. But rather than having to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-install XP (again) I just restore the image and be exactly back to where I started.
And since it took me so long to get this machine configure like this, I’d much rather restore it’s state than start over. Again. Great application, if the restore works as well as the backup features!