NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Driver Ed
by Thornton Jacobs, August 98
(click to email author)

For most of us the time arrives when that huge hard drive, which we thought we would never fill, is bulging and we start looking for a larger one. For me, that time arrived in April. However, there was one small problem that I had to resolve first. My backup tape drive was too small and too slow. It was an external unit that used the parallel port. It took four and one half hours to backup and verify about 1 Gb. of data using compression. In addition the tape capacity was 700 Mb. compressed at best. I decided to get a tape drive before getting the hard drive. The tape drive I chose was the HP Colorado 5 Gb. Travan internal. According to the specs. it should copy data at up to 40-55 Mb./min. with a 200 Mhz system. Since I have a 100 Mhz system I knew that it would be slower but still much faster than what I was using. When I finally ordered the drive I was told that there was a problem with my credit card but that they would take care of it. Of course that had to be the day in April when systems went down causing problems with ATM's and doing other nasty deeds. It was an omen. Three days later when the drive did not arrive I called the reseller. Not only had they not fixed the credit card problem but had cancelled the order. To make a long story short (maximum compression), after four more telephone calls including a conference call which I had to originate, the order was shipped.

Upon arrival, I installed the drive, per the manual, as the master drive on the secondary controller. Then I installed the HP-Colorado backup software. After installation, I started making a backup. Everything went fine until the very end of backup. An error message appeared on the screen. An error number and the words "Internal hardware failure. Shutting down tape drive." Which it promptly did. After reading the manual more thoroughly, I attempted another backup using a different tape but got the same result. Out of several more tries I was finally able to make one verified backup. When I tried to format a tape, the operation would run but I would get two messages. The first was "Operation complete". The second which would appear on top of the first said "The system has performed an illegal operation and is shutting down".

After about a dozen tries, I was finally able to make three good verified backups. I sent an E-mail to HP Colorado tech support. In their reply they suggested various things to try. One was to uninstall the software, shut down all programs except Windows Explorer and run Scandisk. Then reinstall the software. I did. Same result. Another was to try different tapes. If they had read my entire E-mail they would have seen that I had already tried this. They also asked for the software version that I was using. I sent another E-mail describing what had occurred and included the version of the software. By now they had assigned a case number to me which gave me one day turn around instead of two days.

In their reply, they said there was a new version of the software and gave me instructions how to download and install it. Also, if the problem persisted, I should call technical support. The instructions included running Scandisk again and rebooting in "Safe" mode. I followed the instructions with the same result. By this time I decided to call technical support. The technical support was free but the call was not. Technical support closes at 7:00 pm Central time. I called at 6:45. After fifteen minutes on hold I talked to a live person with a pulse. Yea. After giving him my case number and explaining the problem he consulted with someone else. When he returned, he said that the tape drive should be set up on the end of the data cable. I didn't think so but he was the Tech. After more consultation he walked me through setting up the software to run the drive in Dos and format a tape. It didn't run. Aha! I told him that I would continue trying to make it run in Dos and bade him goodnight. On the next try I was able to make the drive run in Dos and I successfully formatted a tape. Hmmmm!!! What now?

The next day my new hard drive came. That meant that on the weekend, tape drive or no, I would install the hard drive. Since I had DriveCopy and Partition Magic it should be OK. And, with a few minor bumps along the way, things went fine. By bumps I mean that a two hour job became a six hour job but I learned a lot about both programs.

The following week I returned to the tape drive. It would work in Dos but still would not work in Windows 95. I rang Tech support again. Once again at 6:45 pm. This time I had a forty five minute wait. Finally a different tech answered. He said that it had been a really tough day but he sounded cheerful. I gave him my name and case number. He put me on hold while he read the case history. When he came back he asked a few questions. Then he said "This should be fairly easy to fix". This startled me. He had me look up a file on the installation CD and look for a certain file in my system. Then he told me there was an old driver in my system and that I would need to go to a Microsoft web site and download a file. Then execute the file to update the driver. After updating the driver I should then go into the registry and delete a certain file. Then reboot. The system would have to look for the file again and would find the update. He gave me the Microsoft URL and the filename and said that if things didn't work to get back with him but that this fixed the problem in most cases. I immediately got on the Internet to that Microsoft web site and downloaded the file. I put it in it's own folder and executed it. It told me that the update was complete. I went into the registry and deleted the file that he had named. Then I rebooted the system. After reboot I opened Backup. With anticipation and some trepidation that I inserted a tape and started a full system backup. Would you believe? It ran just like it was supposed to without any problems. It finished in about one hour and two minutes with verification and at rates up to 34 Mb/min. I sent the Tech support guy a thank you E-mail.

I got my driver education the hard way and also learned that it pays to get the right Tech support person. Now I can enjoy my gargantuan new hard drive which, like all it's predecessors is so huge that I will never, never fill it up.

Click here to return to top