I still had one current drive that would boot, and before it decided to give up, I wanted to make two clones of it. I also did the cloning using the CD-ROM recovery disk rather than with the version "inside" ordinary Windows. Furthermore, I didn't attach the computer to its docking station, but just left it un-docked, un-networked, and otherwise on its own. Each of the clones takes about two hours, and I left it sitting while I used my work computer (which hasn't had any problems) to catch up on e-mail and such.
Meanwhile, Lisa also had some cloning work she wanted me to do. She also has a Dell D600, but the only reason she has it is to do drive clones because the D600 has USB2 ports, while the IBM T30s she favors have only USB1.1 ports that are painfully slow when trying to clone drives connected by USB. That Dell's drive had also failed in some way, so she needed me to clone the as-shipped drive into another drive so she could put the as-shipped drive away and use the clone as the working copy. I know this sounds paranoid, with between one and three completely spare hard drives for every working drive, but unfortunately we've been burned so often that we have to be paranoid about this.
I won the bid for a D600 shell (no hard drive) for less than $50 including shipping, and it will be coming from Henderson NV, so I expect it will be here in only a few days. I will try moving one of the working hard drives to that case and see if the problems continue.
Meanwhile, back at the clones of my main personal D600, sometime after midnight the second clone completed. I disconnected the external drives and rebooted. If the pattern of the past two days were to repeat, I'd get nothing. To my surprise, the drive booted. I turned it off and put it on the docking station. It booted again. I connected the external monitor and it booted again. Now there's no telling if this will continue. The mystery no-boot could start happening at any time, but the variables that appear to be in play are:
- Software: something about the current version of the drive-cloning software may be actually messing up the source drive after it finishes the clone. This doesn't happen when you use the bootable CD-ROM, which is a slightly older version of the software.
- Hardware: the docking station I have in Fremont may have gone bad in such a way that it's messing up the hard drive of the computer attached to it.
- Hardware: Intermittent motherboard problems on the D600, which is why it isn't predictable when it will unrecoverably fry the boot sector.
It's difficult to figure out exactly what the problem is because it's not consistent.
If the fault is in the docking station, it will be a pity. Because Menlo/Con-way has been moving from D-series to E-series laptops, and the E-series isn't compatible with the D-series docks, until recently the "boneyard" has been full of surplus equipment out of which I probably could have snagged a used D-series dock. But with Con-way having moved to Ann Arbor, much of that stuff has vanished for various reasons, either sold, scrapped, or transported to Michigan. It's annoying to have to spend money for something that I could have had for nothing three months ago.