This is not my beautiful OS.
July 11, 2008 6:59 AM   Subscribe

My fantastically unstable IBM T42 (which is on it's 3rd, soon to be 4th, life) died a little while ago, no longer booting into Ubuntu. However, it loves to boot into Windows. How do I nuke both?

I'd like to run Ubuntu on this computer for another few months until it takes all of my vital data with it again. I've tried running LiveCDs to fsck the primary drive (ubuntuforums didn't care, apparently), but all of these failed. I can boot into Windows and it works fine - and I can even run some ext3 drivers/wrappers and access my linux partition from there (I have, so all of my data is now backed up). However, what I can't do is boot into any OS other than Windows. I'd like to basically wipe drive and boot partition so that I can put a new install of an OS on it - and I'm considering DBAN, although wondering if that's A) recoverable, in that the drive will still be usable B) going to fail like LiveCDs did.

Plan 2: I can get this laptop fixed under a very good warranty. Good enough that I've already gone through two hard drives and an LCD on it. However, they believe that a Windows installation is enough for any student. Not this student. So if I can just botch it up tremendously, I can get a clean slate by that method.

Thanks for any help. I'm getting a mac, and backing up my data, but to have a formerly high-end ThinkPad running XP is just a loss of potential.
posted by tmcw to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A) DBAN won't damage your harddrive.

B) It shouldn't fail. It has a very simple kernel, and lots of HDD drivers, so I bet it will work.

But, you don't need DBAN. When you're installing from the CD (whether it's the Windows CD or Ubuntu) just delete all partitions on the hard-drive, then create them again. That'll ensure a clean install.
posted by philomathoholic at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2008

Try using the gParted Live CD to reformat your ubuntu boot partition. Then reinstall from scratch.

Although, I'm not sure why it's not booting from the ubuntu LiveCD. Are your bios setting correct, so that it's searching for bootable media before it tries to boot from the hard drive?
posted by chrisamiller at 7:16 AM on July 11, 2008

One more thought: have you tried any other distro besides Ubuntu? I'd give them the best odds of having all the drivers and decent support, but you might just try a few others.

Since you can't get the Ubuntu LiveCD to work, you might try Knoppix. They have made their reputation on being a LiveCD distro, plus you can install to disk if you'd like.

You might also try FreeBSD. They have a different (less free) licensing scheme than most linux/unix distros, so they might have better drivers for your hardware.

There are many more other distros than those two, but those are the only two I can helpfully suggest now. I wouldn't suggest trying Debian, since Ubuntu is based on Debian, you probably wouldn't have much better luck.

By the way, it's not that ubuntuforums didn't care, forums aren't the type of thing that can care. Sometimes, no one has any helpful answers. It happens here too, sometimes.
posted by philomathoholic at 7:26 AM on July 11, 2008

Response by poster: @chrisamiller & philomathoholic

I've tried SLAX, Puppy, DSL, gParted, Ubuntu. At least DSL is based on Knoppix. I mean, getting a shell, with nothing except for hard drive detection, is all I'm going for. The BIOS is compliant: it's trying to boot into Ubuntu (and all of these LiveCDs) but fails on all of them because of either LiveCD problems or the fact that Ubuntu is stuck in a deadlock of wanting-to-fsck-the-drive but also not-mounting-the-drive-to-fsck-it.
posted by tmcw at 7:34 AM on July 11, 2008

I would say that the ext3 partition is just corrupted, but that doesn't explain not being able to boot from LiveCDs, unless they're getting hung up trying to mount the corrupted partition.

Some things to try before nuking from orbit:
- Delete the ext3 partition from Windows
- Try to boot from a Windows installation CD... if that fails, then there's something very weird going on. Maybe the partition table of your HD is corrupt?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:50 AM on July 11, 2008

DBAN won't mess with your drive, unless of course something is wrong with it and the extensive read/write operations of nuking it send it to hard-drive heaven.

If nothing else works, have you considered taking the hard drive out, attaching it on another system and nuking it there? Most laptop hard-drives are easy to remove, probably just a couple of screws on the underside.
posted by ghost of a past number at 7:54 AM on July 11, 2008

Sounds like your existing ext3 partition or partition table is effed up, causing the liveCDs that helpfully mount your existing partitions to freak out. DBAN your drive and reinstall Ubuntu. If that doesn't work, something is screwed up hardware-wise on your laptop.
posted by zsazsa at 11:17 AM on July 11, 2008

Download , burn, and boot from SystemRescueCD. When it loads the first splash screen, type dban and hit enter.

Alternately, to try and repair things: instead of typing dban, just hit enter and let the linux on the cd boot. Type "fdisk -l /dev/sda" and identify which partition is Ubuntu's. If it is, for example, sda3, and you are using the ext3 filesystem then run "e2fsck -pcf /dev/sda3". If it complains that it can't fix things automatically, run it again without the "p" and answer the questions. If you don't feel like answering questions, replace the "p" with "y" to say yes to everything.
posted by PueExMachina at 5:39 PM on July 11, 2008

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