Posted by: reformedmusings | February 11, 2011

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS system hardware upgrade

I am helping a friend by fixing his laptop. As a Vista user, he apparently acquired a nasty virus, probably one of the extortion variety. Then the CPU fan quit, limiting continuous operation to just 15 minutes. I was able to retrieve all of his data using System Recovery CD and an old external USB backup hard drive with a desk fan blowing on high across the CPU fan opening. I’m currently awaiting a new fan’s arrival for the laptop.

During that process, I decided that I needed a better backup solution for myself, so I picked up a 640 MB Transcend StoreJet 25M3. Excellent choice. However, when copying my files over to it, I relearned the 4 GB file size limit in a FAT32 file system. Unfortunately, one of my VMWare Workstation virtual disk files is 60 GB. So, I used VMWare’s Virtual Disk Manager to break it up into 2 GB files and change it from pre-allocated to growable. It proved easy to do (I’ll probably post on the process this weekend), except that I ran out of hard disk space. Ouch! I was able to delete some things and finish the conversion, but something had to be done for the long term.

“Something”, I decided, would be a Solid State Drive for my root and swap partitions and a 2 TB RAID 1 array for my home partition. That would produce both a lightning boot speed and lots of storage capacity. Typically, I use about 15-20 GB of space for the root partition, so I didn’t need a large SSD. I bought a 40 GB Intel X-25V SATA SSD from Micro Center here locally. For the RAID1, I picked up two 2 TB Western Digital Black 7200 RPM SATA drives with 64 MB internal cache, again locally from Micro Center. The 2 TB drives seem to have a significant mortality rate according to customers around the web, so I figured it would be prudent to go local where exchanges would be quick. Plus, the prices were very competitive.

My plan involved putting all three new drives into the 4-drive removable cage at the bottom of my Smilodon Raidmax case with one drive from the old RAID array from which to copy data and settings. Nice try. The NVidia 8800 GTS video card is so long that it prevents a hard drive from being installed in the top shelf of the drive case. So, I had to move the old drive up to a higher slot. Not a big deal, just not what I had in mind. At this point, with all the SATA and power cables (still plentiful from the Corsair 650 watt power supply), the big case is getting to be a pretty dense rats nest.

After buttoning up, I installed 64-bit Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS from the alternate CD. One must use the alternate CD to set up RAID arrays. To make sure that I did it right, I used the excellent instructions by Martti Kuarinen. Installing Ubuntu, even partitioning the new 2 TB drives to ext4, took less time than it takes Windows to even get started with its installation.

I restored my data from the StoreJet and installed apps. In addition to all my data, I also saved several configuration directories: .gconf, .moneydance, .mozilla, and .thunderbird. I should have saved more configuration files as it turns out, like .sword, .ubuntuone, and .xiphos to name just three. My plan was to get these off of one of the old RAID1 home drives, but that didn’t work out.

I don’t understand why I still haven’t been able to mount one of the old RAID drives by itself. I’ve tried a number of things, including clearing the RAID flag on the drive, but it still won’t mount. Unless I can access the drive, I cannot even clear the superblocks with mdadm. If anyone has an idea, please comment below.

In the end, though, I was back fully operational after just a day of swap over. Firefox, Moneydance, Thunderbird, and VMWare Workstation all made the transition without skipping a beat. I had some difficulties with Avant Window Navigator recognizing Krusader, but manually adding it to the launcher and selecting the icon worked fine. Otherwise, piece of cake. Net result? Boot time dropped from about 50 seconds before the SSD to 10 seconds with the SSD. Here’s the desktop using the updated xplanetFX 2.2.3 (HT: OMG! Ubuntu!):

Awesome, and with storage to spare.



  1. […] posted here about my new hard drive setup. To recap, I installed a 40 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) for the root […]

  2. […] three 320GB hard drives laying around looking for work since I upgraded from a 320 GB RAID 1 to a 2 TB RAID 1 configuration. One is still in the computer, so I decided to do something useful with it. I haven’t played […]

  3. […] case. I tried to guess at the correct setting with the lead labeled HDD, but guessed wrong when I upgraded the hard drives a while back. After swapping the connector around, the HDD-access LED works […]

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