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Two Vacation Days Wasted!

I've been on vacation for the last week and a half or so.  Since I spend all day on the computer at work, I told myself that I should stay off of the computer as much as possible.  That wasn't much of a problem when my wife and I were visiting family in rural Indiana (I'd forgotten what it was like to browse the web over a dialup connection!).  When I came back the first thing I thought of was that we needed to post our vacation photos to Flickr.  In addition to recent photos we've also got a backlog of shots going back since we got our first digital camera three years ago.  Several hours later, we'd commented a bunch of pictures in Picasa and uploaded a few batches.  The plan was to get up the next morning and start getting the next batch ready to go.  Sad to say, things didn't go according to plan.

I was awakened in the morning to the simple statement that would waste several hours of my time over the next two days - "Honey, the computer is broken."  Bummer.  Turns out, whenever we attempted to log into the computer (running Windows XP) we got the following error:

"A problem is preventing Windows from accurately checking the license for this computer.  Error Code: 0x8007007e."

My first thought was that somehow I'd messed up the Windows activation when I'd reinstalled a second copy of Windows XP on a second hard drive in my Dell PC.  Problem was I'd done that back in August and everything had been working just fine since then.  A web search turned up a few interesting results:

  1. "Error Code: 0x80070002" error message cites license-checking issue after upgrade on Dell computer
  2. "Error Code: 0x80004005” error message when you install Windows XP

Neither of the error codes exactly matched but the symptoms were the same - both described situations where there may be problems with Windows Activation.  The first article described a scenario where a system drive letter or default security provider change could cause problems.  I'd just installed a new version of VMware and I did have two copies of Windows installed on the PC (one on C: and one on D:) but the fix described in the knowledge base article didn't really have any relevance to the situation on the ground.  The second KB article was more promising.  It described how to restore files related to windows product activation from the Windows XP installation CD.  As I was restoring the files I noticed that one of the files couldn't be renamed or otherwise overwritten.  Uh oh.  If I'd been thinking clearly I would have realized what had happened, but it took me an extra hour or so of fiddling around to start off a full chkdsk (with "Automatically fix file system errors" and "Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors" selected). 

Somewhere between 8-16 hours later chkdsk was complete on my 200GB Maxtor hard drive.  I rebooted into safe mode again and attempted to restore the files as described in KB 2.  Everything worked smoothly this time and I rebooted again hoping that my hard work had paid off.  Unfortunately nothing had changed.  The same error continued to appear each time I logged in.  Next stop, Maxtor's web site.  They have a tool called PowerMax that lets you scan your drive for errors.  If I had seen the link for the ISO image I would have been good to go and could have run the tool immediately.  I missed that link though and only was able to find the download for the floppy drive version of the tool.  To make a long story short, a few more hours were wasted trying to find a floppy disk.  In the end though, five minutes of PowerMax diagnostics discovered an error in my hard drive.  Now I'm going to have to spend an afternoon once my new HD arrives rebuilding my computer and restoring all the files off of my old drive (assuming it doesn't die completely before then).  Ah, c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?

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