Recovering your work when the devil visits you without first asking…

No, I didn’t have an Interview with the Devil the way the Stones sang, because the devil when it decides to visit you, he never warns you. From this metaphor, perhaps what happened was how to lead with something such as when the most unexpected happens, we should be prepared for the wost, or better speaking, how to deal with that measure of  unpredictability that we can’t get ridden of.
Speaking now in matters without recurring to dramatic speaking, I live last week something of the worst that can happen to a domestic user – in few words, my PC stopped to boot, speaking in more IT-esque words, the partition table of my hard disk got corrupted and I could not boot neither Windows nor Linux anymore.

All happened in the midst of a vulgar Ubuntu Update, exactly at the same moment a new compiled version of the kernel was being installed, the GRUB entries in the Boot are rewritten – so, what happened was that my laptop restarted suddenly precisely at the moment GRUB menu boot entries was being updated !
There is no need to say what happened after that – got no GRUB at the laptop startup, no way into any OS. My luck I always carry with two small USB sticks with me – one with Recovery for old BIOS-based computer and another with a Lubuntu version that works with the most modern, UEFI-based boot up computers.
Since my notebook is from 2015, and came with Windows 8.1, it came preinstalled already with UEFI booting, so what I do next was use precisely my litte Lubuntu-in-a-shell that I carry in my pocket everyday to came to me rescue my life. This teared-down version of Ubuntu that goes inside a 8-gigs USB flash disk has a small file called casper-rw, which is a file that emulates a partition into which you can write and you can install programs using the apt command as you do with an already-installed OS in your hard drive. And in this stick, I had the two tools I needed for – the Boot Repair tool from Ubuntu and Clonezilla, in case I would need to restore a partition (you won’t belive: I have nine partitions on 1-Gig laptop hard disk, don’t laugh – the GPT/UEFI based partitions allow for a maximum of 128 partitions ! This way you can divide your 1 GB disk into small piece partitions of 8 GB each). Anyway, telling what happened next, with the Boot Repair I could get the GRUB boot menu again, along with the all the other entries (Windows boot menu, Reboot to BIOS menu, Ubuntu recovery mode, etc.). Ubuntu loaded with any problems, the problem appeared when it came the time to boot into Windows – couldn’t get it to boot, no going beyond from that small figure of dots grouped in a circle keeping spinning and spinning and inning… inning …. ing forever ! Power button pressed to the maximum extent in proportion with the surge of adrenaline going out of your adrenal glands and I think I didn’t put my hands at the top of my head ! Sure, I use Linux in each 80 of 100 times, but sometimes I need Windows just because of some programs, already paid for the right to use it when purchased my notebook. Next step was to recover the Windows OS partitions (I have a partition, the bigger of them all, with 500 GB, formatted in NTFS just for my work and stuff). Next thought was to use the backups I hade made old at least one year. Problem was, these backups were made with a Backup program in Trial Mode (I used Paragon Backup and Recovery), which I could not use anymore and I didn’t the recovery boot media with me. The only thing left was to use an old image from Windows made by Clonezilla at least 18 months old to use for restoration ! What happened next was the result of the mix-up of the BIOS-based and UEFI – I managed to get success to restore the Windows root partition (the one always assigned with the letter C:) but clonezilla rewrote my partition table in the way of the old MBR/BIOS partition way-of-doing things. So I was left with a computer with more than 4 partitions, all of then got unbootable because I was working now with a partition schema that did not allow you to have more than 4 primary partitions,  some king of living zombie that comes from the times of MS-DOS that we can’t get rid of.
The partitions were still sitting there – but no way to get access to them. I used the testdisk to be sure that was the truth – this tool reports and starting and ending blocks of every partition you have. The problem is the partition table – a kind of species of building main entrance button panel with the access to ring every apartment in every floor of the building was now only with four buttons, and I couldn’t get any of them to ring, the apartments were still there – but I got no way to ring any one of the apartments (here, in this metaphor, apartment stands for ‘partition’). No Windows, no Linux, nothing, even the WinPE Recovery partition for this purpose were working ! Since I had more than four partitions, and a MBR partition table had be written, the only chance was to use of those Partition Management tools like Minitool Partition Wizard or Gparted on Linux to choose four from the total of ten I had. So then chose to recover access to the Windows partition, but the Windows bootup was irrecoverably corrupted ! So, had to reinstall Windows 10 from scratch from a USB stick made from the Windows Recovery Media Tool, which is free to download. Used one computer with a Windows 10 working and voilà – wrote an ISO file that I then used Rufus to wrote into a USB stick (the only of those ISOtoUSB tools that write an UEFI boot mode on the USB, the only other ones are all using MBR based boot schema). From here, I reinstalled Windows 10, installed immediately Minitool Partition Wizard that allowed me create even another Recovery ISO just for the purpose to use the version of the program right after boot-up, without the need the boot the entire Windows!). And Minitool made a superb job in converting  all the partitions back to GPT mode and writing a UEFI boot sector. So now there was time again to run the BootRepair of Ubuntu in my little-lubuntu Usb Stick to replenish the GRUB boot-menu with everything with Ubuntu 16 LTS as the first one. Five days of stress and I could manage recover almost everything – with the exceptions of the Old Windows 10 Partition, that was restored from a one-year old backup image!). Anyway, I came back with Windows and Linux running. In the meantime, bought a new USB 3.0 external disk just for the purpose of using for incremental backups. The problem is, there is no free tools for making incremental backups on the fly like in Windows, so I have now to restart in Windows just for the purpose of making the incremental backup for the day, leaving the computer powered on through the night just for that purpose. I’m playing now both with Paragon Backup and Recovery and EaseUS Todo Backup, to know which I should decide to use for in the future.

 

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