Sunday, March 29, 2009


  1. Get hold of a Maxtor 320 GB external drive.

  2. Plug it into Linux and find out that the capacity reported is actually 300 GB. I have experienced this before as well -- my Acer laptop's hard drive was touted as 60 GB while the partitioning software reported it as 55 GB. (Update: When it comes to disk sizes, 'giga' means 10 raised to 9, and not 2 raised to 30. Duh.)

  3. My intention was to use the drive for both the personal and work laptops by dividing it into an NTFS partition and an ext3 partition. To do this you need to add NTFS support to gparted by installing the ntfsprogs package.

  4. Use gparted to resize the existing NTFS partition and create an ext3 partition from the freed up space.

  5. Using rsync to back up the data partition in Linux is a breeze -- the whole thing is over in about 15 minutes.

  6. Now attach the drive to the work laptop and find that the drive is not recognized at all, except to report an unknown device called 'Maxtor Basics'.

  7. Tear hair out for a half day or so trying to figure this out, including a) upgrading to Windows XP Service Pack 3 and b) running Mepis Live CD on the laptop and confirming that the drive is compatible with the laptop's hardware.

  8. Fix the problem finally by deleting a file called 'infcache.1' in c:\windows\inf. Now the drive appears in both Windows Explorer and the disk management snapin. Also change the access permissions for usbstor.pnf and usbstor.inf, to be on the safe side.

  9. Waste about half an hour trying to use the built-in Windows backup utility -- get errors like 'delayed writing failed', etc.

  10. Download Cobian Backup and complete the job -- the backup process is nowhere near as fast as using rsync in Linux, but it does the job adequately.

  11. One minor issue still remains; I'm unable to remove the drive in Windows using the 'Safely remove hardware' option -- Windows reports that the device cannot be stopped now and asks me to try later.