In days of yore —
“When was Yore, Daddy?”
“It was the age before we had terabyte hard drives. Really, it was before we had any hard drives at all.”
“Is that old, Daddy?”
“You bet your sweet bippy, it was.”
— when rocks were young and you could count the number of megabytes on your computer on one of your hands — honestly, you didn’t even need all of a hand, or even a whole finger — I was chatting with some friends at school about how long a disk copy took.
“Just a few seconds, right?” I was a little starry-eyed. Okay, utterly naïve.
“Oh no. I’ve heard it takes a couple of minutes.”
That was unbelievable to me. Disks (eight inch floppy disks in those days, if you must have the truth) were supposed to be fast. Definitely faster than the audio cassette tape I was planning to store my programs on, when I got my own computer, which would be soon.
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
And we tromped off to the computer store, where they had a microcomputer named SWTPC, and we implored the owner of the computer store (Poor Richard’s Calculator Shoppe, in a town in northern Colorado and yes we had paved streets) to copy a disk. And since it was a slow day and nobody [in their right mind] was buying SWTPCs, Richard took pity upon our curiosity and loaded up two disks and did a copy, and lo, we saw it copy a disk in four minutes, accompanied by a crapload of seeking and other grinding noises (because this was a SWTPC, and they had issues).
I was pretty disappointed. Not so disappointed that I didn’t want a pair of floppy disks for my own computer, which I would have soon, somehow, but that interminable four minutes definitely knocked floppies off of the performance pedestal I’d put them on.
“What’s a pedestal, Daddy?”
“A pre-prepared disappointment.”
“It’s like you expected Band class to be tons of fun, with everyone jamming away on their instruments and the Band teacher grooving on the podium with his baton, but what was it really like?”
“Awful blatting noises.”
“Yeah. None of you could play a note in tune, much less play anything together, and you’ve gotta practice scales and simple tunes that are really boring, and I happen to know that the band teacher is borderline suicidal, not from any specific knowledge but because they all are, teaching fifth graders to squawk and go hornck! in close synchrony will drive anyone to the brink. See? Onward.”
Let’s go forward a few decades and visit the scene of the actual rant now.
Problem: Wife has a laptop with an SSD that is nearly full.
No problem! I have a spare SSD that is larger. We’ll just clone that disk. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. It’ll be glorious.
Three weekends later I have admitted defeat. The dragons have done me in. I have written file systems and that shit is hard, but copying the sectors containing a file system? School kids do that. But what I have encountered is serial madness. This is one of those problems that is not supposed to be hard, but somehow it is. When we were not being vigilant, while we were playing in the sunny afternoon chasing butterflies and filling-up terabytes without a worry, complexity was doing push-ups.
Tool A claims, no matter how I instruct it, that the file system on the source drive wasn’t shut down properly. There’s an option to have it not do this check, but it’s a damned lie and the tool keeps checking and failing anyway. It has another mode, a “raw” mode, that appears to work, but after several hours of blinking activity lights the clone does not boot.
Tool B — which I paid dear money for, and which has an excellent reputation in the disk copying industry — makes a clone without any fuss. In fact, the tool sports a fancy user interface and makes important-looking animations and pronouncements during the copy. It does everything but strut. I am impressed, this is quality stuff and I’m happy to have spent the money on this quality tool. Naturally, the copy does not boot.
Tool C, provided by the drive manufacturer, makes some sincere promises, but the FAQ has some scary looking workarounds for things that shouldn’t need workarounds. The copy it makes doesn’t get high enough to crash.
Tool D says that the copy will finish in 24 days. Also, its UI makes my eyes bleed.
My malware scanner vaporizes tool E milliseconds after it is downloaded. Memento mori, I guess.
Well, there’s always booting into Linux and doing the old DD if=something of=something bs=somethingbig and then maybe hex-edit the partition tables after it runs off the end of the source drive. This is my wife’s computer and she’s worth it. For kicks, I look at what partition tables have mutated into. They were a miserable hack back in the early 80s, and time has not improved them. I wince and close that web page.
I consider writing something. How hard can it —
I do a clean install of the OS on the new drive, hand the laptop back to her and say, “Sorry, nothing worked, you’ll have to reinstall all that stuff. Here’s the old drive, you can copy your old files off of it.”
It’s really for the best.
“But Daddy, why didn’t you just edit the GPT entries to–“
“Have you practiced your instrument yet today?