Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Doing a re-install on a Lenovo T60

After exactly 2 years of use, my Lenovo T60 was all messed up. Here are some of the problems I came to experience:
  • Windows required 12-15 minutes to start up.
  • It required 5-7 minutes to shut down.
  • When "waking" from sleep status onto a new network, the OS could not re-configure itself requiring a re-boot.
  • Trying to italicize something in Excel required 2 minutes the first time.
  • The 100 gb HD was full and required constant effort to empty so I could work.
  • All my music had to be stored on thumb drives
  • There were at least a dozen extra services starting up and I had no idea what they did.
So I decided to get a new HD and re-install Windows XP from scratch, and decided not to use the Lenovo system disk since a lot of what was installed was not required.

Further, I decided to ONLY install windows, VMWare workstation, and any VPN software I might need to connnect to my client's networks so that re-boot times and network problems would not recur and to do all future work on VMs. We subscribe to Microsoft's ActionPak program so we get 5 copies of every OS they offer for development purposes.

2 weeks later, I am nearly done. It has taken me at least 24 hours of effort, and almost every day until today I have had to switch back to the original HD to get most of my work done.

I decided to work on 3 VMs:
A pure development VM with
  • SQL 2008 Developer,
  • VS 2008 and various toolsets I use like telerik and subsonic
  • VSS,
  • SQL Compare,
  • Dynamics NAV
  • A good editor ( I used to use JEdit, but it craps out after being left open too long and I don't like to have Java running just for one editor, so I need to find a new one that has a good XML indent feature, side-by-side comparisons, text highlighting, and can deal with VERY large files. If you know of one let me know).

An application VM with

  • MS Office (including visio and project)
  • Paint.net
  • Inkscape

A throw-away VM with

  • I-tunes
  • Firefox
  • Java
  • uTorrent
  • VLC Media Player
  • SQL 2005 for legacy SSIS package work I may need to do.
  • All the other crap I have to load to get things done or because I am curious to see how it works

The first problem on the T60 is you have to change your system bios storage settings to be "compatible" to get it to install.

Once that is done, you can run windows update to get some drivers and download the rest of the drivers here for the HD, Intel Chipset, and Wireless, then change the storage settings back. That took me about 4 days to figure out and complete, I did not install any other drivers to ensure I didn't have things installed that I don't need.

Next, validate your XP Install, patch it, and purchase (or demo) VMWare workstation, and use VMWare converter to make an image of your machine and run the VMs, install the appropriate software, and start moving all the data (I bought a USB enclosure for the SATA drive to make that easy).

Install the VMWare tools to increase performance significantly, and if you partition the HD on your root OS, you can share one of the partitions between all the machines as a network share so they all have access to the same data.

Unfortunately that share can not be used for SQL databases, since it is not seen as a local volume, so make the development VM large enought to hold all the databases, and all the backups. I needed to add a 20gb extra drive for a total of 50gb, and I only have about 10gb free on that VM.

I will need some more RAM to run all 3 VMs at once, but I was going to up my RAM from 2gb to 4 gb anyway.

After all that work, it is a bit cumbersome to move things between VMs, but all the issues that led me to this configuration have been resolved and it takes 1-2 minutes to boot up, less than 1 minute to start up a VM that was paused, and 1-3 minutes to shut down. Plus I don't have to shut down to get networking to function when changing networks. I think that this change will be saving me 20-30 minutes a day. So my ROI is about 4 months. If I had to do it over again, I think it would take about half as long, so if you stumbled upon this, hopefully it will take you less time.

And when I get a new machine in 1-2 years, the migration should take less than an hour.