A simple job became a frustrating hell

Initial problem:
A HP Pavilion laptop with Windows 8 and medium hardware didin’t work properly. (Among other things, when I started File Explorer from the taskbar button, the desktop restarted, USB-devices didn’t show up, programs failed to start, and only parts of internet traffice went through)
My guess was that a virus had broken the system. The antivirus had later removed the virus, but the system was still unusable.

I wanted to reinstall the computer, a good opportunity to replace the ancient spinning harddrive with an SSD.

The job can be broken down into three parts:
Part 1. Get Windows into the SSD
Part 2. Install and update software and drivers, including an invoice program
Part 3. Transfer dcuments and the invoice database to the new disk

I optimistically told him he would have to pay for the SSD, and 2-3 hours of work.

Part 1, Windows installation.

Wtf1.
Installing an SSD disk is quick and easy? Not. In ye olden days, you needed two screws to uncover a disk. On this one the entire PC had to be dismanteled.
Timer: 1 hr

Fail 1.
With a Windows 8 machine, one can usually just install Windows 8 from any installation dvd, and the it will automatically install the right version, and pick up the license number which is stored in BIOS, or it’s printed on a sticker underneath.
But not on this computer. No license code automagically appeared during installation, and no license code underneath it either.
Edit: Later on I have learned that there are old and new versions of how the license is stored in BIOS. If I had a newer Win8 installation dvd, it might have found the license within the BIOS.

Fail 2.
With the old hard drive still intact, I was able to extract the original license code using produkey.exe from nirsoft. But to no avail. Windows installation didn’t accept the key.
(Not entirely unexpected. The oem license key used at the factory for installing windows is different from the one stored in BIOS or on the sticker)

Fail 3.
Tried with a different Windows 8 installation disk, but no luck.

Fail 4.
How about cloning the old disk to the SSD-disk, and then running Recovery from the Recovery partition?
I connected the old disk via USB to the laptop, and decided I’ll try the EaseUS Clone disk. But it was unable to find any USB devices at all.

Fail 5.
I decided to try an Aconis Boot CD. It succeeded in cloning the original disk, and the SSD was now bootable. But you know what? I couldn’t get it to start from the recovery partition. For some reason, the recovery partition will only start on the original disk.

Wtf2.
I decided that if recovery only will run on the original disk, I’ll run it on the original disk, and then clone it to the new SSD afterwards. Even if that possibly means dismantling the whole computer again.
But first I need to make a proper backup of it.
I connected it to my own computer and wtf?? There were no partitions!!
(I suspect it to be due to a probably defective USB to Sata connector I have here. I’m not sure though, why would a defective USB2Sata connector delete the partition table??)

Fail 6.
I tried to recover the partitions with Active@ Partition Recovery, but failed.

Fail 7.
I tried to recover the partitions with MiniTool Partition Wizard Free, but failed.

Fail 8.
I tried to recover the partitions with Ease US Partition Master Free, but failed.

Btw, Deep Scan to look for partitions is a joke.

Ok, what do I have.
I now have an SSD inside the laptop which contains all user files (since I cloned it), and a defective Windows.

I have an old disk with no partitions which contains all user files, and the files can most likely be rescued with something like File Scavenger, which I have used successfully before, olthough the folder structure will probably be a mess, and 90% of the files found are broken. I’ll call that plan B.

I need to get a good backup of the users files from the SSD so I don’t have to go to plan B.

And I still need to get a clean Windows onto the SSD.

Finally, Success 1.
Even with the broken Windows, I was able to start the HP application to create a full recovery set on a USB stick!

Fail or Success?

I usually use Acronis Backup to make disk backups. But Acronis is installed om my work computer. And I wanted to save time and not dismantle the laptop again, so I decided to download EaseUS Todo Backup Free. It was able to make a full backup of the C-dive on the laptop.
Fail or success? We will not know until we run recovery. But to be sure, I mounted the backup file and saw that I was able to see the content. So it’s gonna be success right?

Fail 9.

I was astonished that I could do that with the broken Windows. Maybe it wasn’t so broken after all?
I thinkered a bit, but nah, it’s really broken. And I have spent more fruitless time.

Success 2.
I was able to reinstall Windows to the SSD by using the recovery set I just made on my USB stick.

That ends Part 1, with a Fail to Success rate of 9:2.


Part 2, Software installation.

Success 1.
All software and updates and drivers were successfully installed.
Windows update was sloooow, and I was worried there was something more wrong with the laptop! But in the end it runs fine.

That ends Part 2 with a Fail to Success rate of 0:1, yay!

Part 3, Transfer data.

Success 1.
I installed EaseUS ToDo Backup Free on the fresh Windows, and connected the USB-disk with the backup file.
I opened EaseUS and looked for the recover-button.
I didn’t see it at first, but I found a Mount button and went for it.
The backup file mounted well, and I was able to see the files within.
The invoice application data was copied and transferred successfully.

Fail 1 and Wtf 1
at the same time.
I then went for the users documents. I opened the Users folder on the mounted disk, and clicked the folder for the user files. And got the error:
“Access Denied! You don’t have the rights to see these files. Please go to security if you want to change the user rights.”
Gah, another bump in the road. Oh, well, I’ll just change the rights right?

Fail 2 and Wtf 2
at the same time.
I right clicked the Users-folder and went for the security option. You know what? I got a new error: “You can’t change the security settings because this disk is in write protected mode!”
Are you kidding me?? I said that loud, but got no response.

Fail 3 and Wtf 3
at the same time.
I then was able to find the recover-button in the EaseUS interface. I selected the backup file as the source. It didn’t let me select individual files, so I connected another USB-disk to which I could recover the original partition.
I selected the USB-disk as the target, and voila! Another error message! “You can’t recover because the layout of the target drive is different from the original drive”
I’m not kidding. The backup program actually expects the target drive to be formatted and partitioned exactly the same way as the original drive!! Who do they think their target user is?? Someone who enjoys running recovery to the same disk he just did backup from? Cause I would think most people will run recovery when the original disk is broken, and nobody knows how it was partitioned! A backup program that is unable to create it’s own partitions when running recovery is useless!

Fail 4.
Anyway, EaseUS suggested that I should recover to a totally empty drive.
There was some old partition information on the disk, so I tried to delete them in Windows Disk Manager on my work computer.
Disk manager was however unable to delete the partition. Maybe because the disk was originally a Windows 8 disk, and my work computer is Windows 7.

Fail 5.
I tried MiniTool Partition and it was able to delete the partitions on the disk. However when I ran Easus Backup and tried to recover, it found some partition information anyway, and refused to continue.

Success 1.
I tinkered about a bit, and then when I connected the mostly empty USB disk to my probably defective USB2sata connector, all partition information was lost. Just like in Wtf2 in part 1 above.
Hopefully it would be empty enough for Easus Backup to be able to recover onto it now?

Fail 6.

I ran EaseUS Backup again, and selected Recovery. Entered source and destination. And Tada… A new error message! “Unable to recover partition because the sector size of the target disk is different from the original”
Are you kidding me?? Are you really kidding me?? Is this a candid camera show or something?

Fail 7.

It was suggested I tried recovery using the EaseUS boot disk that can be made from within EaseUS Todo Backup. You can select WinPE or Linux for the boot disk.
I made a Win PE boot disk, but it was unable to find any USB drives!

Fail 8.
I tried again, with a Linux boot disk. It too was unable to find any USB drives.

Fail 9, and I’m out of Wtf’s.
Hey, what about Windows XP. Windows XP doesn’t care about modern security. Maybe, if I mounted the disk there, I could access the user files, and bypass the access rights problem altogether?
I installed EaseUS backup on an old XP-machine. I mounted the image. I eagerly clicked the mounted disk. And a new error message. No access error and something about it being write protected or something. I didn’t see any files at all.

Fail 10.
I tried to mount the backup on my Win 7 work computer. Same thing.
I think EaseUS backups made from Windows 8 systems, need to be mounted on Windows 8 to be accessible. If you try to mount on a Windows 7 or older system, it will fail.

Near Giving Up mode now….

I can mount and see most files, but not access user files.
I can try to recover, but not recover onto anything.
Omfg.

Then.

A bright idea.

A possible solution.

How can I access the files, that I know are there, but are just beyond my reach.

I can’t. But maybe something other can?

A bacup program can.

Acronis can!

I will try using Acronis Backup to back up the mounted disk from the bacup image mounted by the EaseUS bacup program!

Success or Fail
?
I downloaded and installed Acronis TIH 2015 Trial.
I used EaseUS ToDo Backup to mount the backup image to Y:.
I then told Acronis to backup the User Folder from Y: to C:\ABackup. I also told Acronis not to copy the security settings from the original location.
And it worked. The entire folder was backed up.
Success or fail? We will know when we try to recover files from the new backup file.

Fail 11 and I found another Wtf.
I tried to tell Acronis to recover all files from the backup file in C:\ABackup to C:\ARecover. It looked like it would work, but half an hour later I checked, and it said it would take 6 more hours!
Then I noticed what it said it was doing. It said it was backing up (!) to C:\ABackup (!). Either Acronis was doing the opposite what I asked it to, or the message was opposite what it really was doing.
I didn’t stick around for 6 hours to see if it was actually doing the opposite of what I told it to do, or if it was just the messages that were opposite of what they meant. I just quit it.

Success 2!
I then went to C:\ARecover and doubleclicked the backup file. This is a nice feature of Acronis, because it will let you enter the recovery file and use it as a folder directly in File Explorer. In my experience it’s good if you just want a few files.
I was able to find all the files within and copy them to their rightful location in the C:\Users-folders on the SSD disk with no user rights issues.

Wow what a job.

That’s the end of part 3, with a fail to success rate of 11:2.

I have no idea how many countless hours I wasted on this job. Feels like weeks.

So why did I write all this down?
I don’t really know. Maybe to vent my frustration. Maybe because I’m annoyed. Probably both.

Edit:
Booting the Laptop now. I get the error: “Invalid Process Attatch attempt”. and then Windows reboots. Great.
Here we go again.