What all happened to my computer:
1) /dev/hda (formatted with ntfs and vfat for windows) died suddenly. Made loud clicking noises. Was many years old anyways. When were 30GB HDDs still sold? 2001?
2) I yanked /dev/hda from the box.
3) /dev/hdb would no longer boot, cause the MBR that contained Grub lived on /dev/hda. Used Knoppix and Fedora Rescue CD to access drive.
4) I tried to convence grub to install to /dev/hdb. I had no luck. With lilo that would have been easy. With grub, it's a mystery. Spent lots of time stairing at the grub> prompt.
5) Gave up on /sbin/grub-install. Used dd. dd killed my partition table. Apparently, the MBR and the partition table live in the same sector. I STILL DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW THIS WORKS.
6) Recovered the partition table using gpart (Guess Partitions?) and some intelegent guesses.
7) Went to the store and bought a new 190 GiB (== 204 GB) hard disk. Formatted it with an NTFS partition so I can play World of Warcraft when the need takes me. Left a 142G vFAT partition for cross-OS file transfer and cross-device backups.
8) Installed XP. Installed basic software and patches.
9) Figured out that I could make a bootable Grub CD by with the /usr/share/grub/i386-redhat/stage2_eltorito file. CD boots and I get a grub> prompt. By typing
grub> root (hd1,0) grub> kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.18-1.2200.fc5 ro root=/dev/hdb2 grub> initrd /initrd-2.6.18-1.2200.fc5.img grub> boot
I can boot up the functional OS on /dev/hdb. There is much rejoicing! So much better than a liveCD.
10) I wait until FC6 comes out, then fire up bittorrent to get it.
11) I install FC6 on /dev/hdb. At the same time, FC6 installer writes wotking grub MBR to /dev/hda. All is well.
Review of FC6 to follow.
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Thought: Hard disks tend to last long enough for something six times as big to replace them. By which time you won't even miss them.