On Thursday I decided to install some driver updates for Vista. ATI has a new video driver, version 7.2. I had this crazy idea that this might solve my problem with putting the computer in standby mode. The rest of what happened is proof that, despite having a moderately high intelligence, I’m often rather stupid…
A brief digression illustrating one facet of my stupidity. I previously had experienced rather severe problems with standby mode under Windows XP x64 with my new hardware build. Putting the system in standby regularly resulted in failure to restart cleanly, and on one memorable day actually resulted in a critical failure. Similar problems persisted when I moved to Vista. You’d think I would have learned a lesson…and remember, this previous failure occurred barely two months ago.
So I installed these new drivers, put my computer in standby, then took it out of standby. Instead of booting successfully, I was faced with an error indicating that the system could not boot and directing me to attempt to recover by booting off my Vista CD. At this point, I realized I was in a bit of trouble, but I had hope that Vista’s new recovery features would save the day.
I booted off of my Vista CD and chose the recovery option. A fancy menu appeared giving me the option to attempt to recover from a boot failure. This process found several errors and corrected them happily, then told me to restart again. On reboot I was presented with…pretty much the same screen as the first time, only this time around the error mentioned that it couldn’t read the BCD…boot configuration data, as a quick Google confirmed.
I restarted again off of my Vista install disk, and tried the boot recovery process again. This time the boot recovery itself failed. Things are not looking good.
I must mention at this point that the Vista recovery console is a big step up from the one in Windows XP. For one thing, it can mount external hard drives or USB keys, which makes recovering files a lot easier. I opened a console, and performed a manual chkdsk scan and another reboot. Still no joy.
Another sidebar to clarify how dumb I can sometimes be. I didn’t have a complete current backup of my configuration. I had earlier discovered that Vista’s backup wasn’t working with my network attached storage device (Cisco NSLU2). I figured I’d get that worked out soon, and so hadn’t set up a regular backup process. Thus, at the point the failure occurred, the most recent backups I had were over two weeks old.
I was able to access a USB hard drive and copy most of my data files from the failed Vista system partition onto it. After this, I “merely” had to re-install Vista, then re-create my configuration all over again without adequate backups. Of course, it wasn’t sufficient to just rebuild the OS and then never, ever again use standby. I had to try to figure out why it was failing.
Here’s yet another sign of stupidity. I don’t give up on things easily. If there is something that I know should work and it doesn’t, it nags at me. If it’s computer related I simply can not leave it alone. I have to understand more about the problem if not actually solve it- I don’t like “bypassing” the difficulty. In some cases this dogged persistance is one of my best traits- but a lot of the time, it’s just aggravating.
I went through several cycles of changes and restarts, trying to make sure that I wasn’t missing something obvious that was causing the problem. With several hours of tests, I confirmed that the problem seems to be related to the ATI Southbridge (SB600) RAID/AHCI drivers and BIOS. I also believe, although I wouldn’t stake my life on it, that the problem can be reduced or perhaps eliminated by disabling the secondary SATA interfaces on my Asus M2R32 motherboard. Since this secondary controller is for external SATA, which I’m not currently using, I’ve taken this step via the BIOS. With the secondary SATA interface disabled I have been able to repeately have the machine enter and exit standby without detecting any drive corruption problems. Unfortunately, the network interface (a Marvell Yukon gigabit LAN controller) fails to restart after standby, so I’m still unable to use this feature effectively.
Of course, now I’m looking for a corrected network interface driver…hopefully, though, I’ll be smart enough to set up a regular backup cycle before I try my next stupid thing. Anyone want to place any bets?