A data recovery
A friend's daughter had a computer problem - her Windows 7 machine just wouldn't start. It's an HP TouchSmart, so I got her to bring it in and I put it on my workbench. When I powered it up, sure enough, it told me that the hard drive had failed.
Opening it up was a bit of a problem. It's a 23 inch LCD screen, with all the computer stuff built in to the back, and it wasn't obvious how to take the back off. But a quick Google showed me how, and I soon had it taken apart. I took the drive out, and attached it to a linux computer, and it told me that the drive had about 50,000 reallocated sectors (which means it's well past the end of its life).
So I put a new drive into the HP, and tried to install Windows 7, from a genuine DVD that I have. Windows 7 installed, but it wouldn't recognise the ethernet, which means that it wouldn't be able to connect to the internet, or to my local network. I'm guessing there's a special HP Touchsmart version of Windows 7. I tried a few different variations, but each time the intall wouldn't recognise the ethernet. Why is Windows so complicated?
So then I installed linux, version Fedora 37 - but that didn't work, Fedora claimed that there was no hard drive. My guess was that my attempts to install Windows had banjaxed it. So I ran Zerodisk and zapped the drive, and then linux installed just fine, and the hard wired ethernet port worked, and the wifi ethernet.
Back to the linux computer with the original drive attached - I mounted the drive (it was an ntfs file system, so I mounted with the option -t ntfs) and that worked.
I rummaged around the hard drive until I found where friend's daughter had kept all her pictures and videos, and copied them all onto my network (all except the dozen or so pictures that refused to read because of hardware errors). That gave me 98 gigabytes of data in about fifteen thousand files. I had a look at some of them to make sure they were readable - there's a lot of dog pictures there!
Back on the HP TouchSmart, I mounted my network drive, and copied all those files to the hard drive there - it took quite a while!
I noticed that she had skype on the old drive, so I installed skype on the system, and an email client (thunderbird), and several picture viewers and video players, and Firefox as a web browser. And I set up some desktop icons so she'd find all this easily.
The last time I did a commercial data recovery, most drives were 20 megabytes; the drive in the HP was 1,000,000 megabytes. But the principles are the same.
I checked on eBay, you can buy a working HP TouchSmart for about £50 and upwards, but most of them are "collection only" which would mean a long trip. The one I was working on had an Intel i3 running at 3.3ghz with four cores, which is quite whizzy for a TouchSmart.
Linux also recognised the wireless keyboard (and I think there's a wireless mouse, but I haven't seen it, so I used a Microsoft IntelliMouse, which I think is the best product that Microsoft have ever made). I don't think I got the touchscreen working, but I don't think that's a loss. Touchscreens are a very bad idea, for two reasons. The first is that to use them, you have to hold your arm out in front of you, and try doing that for a whole day! The second reason is that your fingers are going to make the screen filthy, and if you want to know why, look at your keyboard and see how dirty that's become!
I really don't like the keyboard that came with the HP. Keyboards are always a matter of taste, but for me, a good keyboard is one that feels good, and doesn't miss out any characters that I've typed. But you could always replace the keyboard with one that you prefer, and connect it to one of the six USB ports.
I'm looking forward to telling her that I've rescued all her dog pictures!
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