OK, so I’ve been forced to bite the bullet earlier than planned, and am now starting into reinstallation of Vista on my primary production machine. Here’s what propelled me into an emergency rebuild: I run my system disk in a RAID 1 (mirrored) array of two drives, and yesterday morning, one of the drives in that pair failed. I didn’t have another drive of the same type, size and model with which to replace the failed member, so I first had to drive down to Fry’s where I scored a pair of Samsung HD502IJ 500 GB drives for $80 apiece. Then I got home, and plugged them into a couple of SATA drive caddies to format them for NTFS. It turns out this was unnecessary and I could have saved myself some time by skipping what I thought was a mandatory step because the Intel raid utility automatically reformats any drives you place in its clutches to turn them into “RAID drives.”
Right now, I’ve put the machine back together with the new drives in place, and am just starting the install process, and have done the initial RAID setup. I’m also hopeful that this drive replacement will address my recent and troublesome system instability problems which Windows was never able to diagnose any better than “could be one or more of motherboard, CPU, RAM, or hard disks.” Because a disk failure nominally fits that bill, and I’ve now replaced both of them (I’ll blog about the replacement drives later: Seagate 7200.10 perpendicular magnetic recording/PMR drives). These Samsung models are called Spinpoint F1 drives (7,200 RPM, SATA 3.0 Gbps, 8.9 ms average seek time, 4.17 ms average latency) and replace the older plain-vanilla SpinPoint series. They’re supposed to be quiet, relatively fast, and reasonable energy consumers: I’ll be watching out for all of those things.
So far, I’ve invested about six hours in preparing for the rebuild: imaging the remaining drive from the mirrored pair I’m replacing (1.5 hours), driving to Fry’s to buy new drives (1.5 hours), and formatting the new drives for NTFS (4 hours). And wow, it takes a long time to format a virgin 500 GB drive, especially through a USB attached device. Next, I’ll be installing Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP1 Slipstreamed, then applying updates and making all drivers current. After that, I’ll install Office and import the PST files from my old drive, so I can get back to work.
Over the next week or so, I’ll spend at least two hours a day installing all the other stuff I used to have on my production machine that I want back. Going forward, I’m going to be very careful about what makes it onto that machine to stay, and start working with Virtual PC 2007 to provide a temporary home for stuff I must play with out of curiousity, for testing, or to write about it.