Wednesday, July 21, 2004

CD Problems.

A few days ago, I noticed that my DVD-ROM drive has stopped working. It's strange because I normally notice the second that something on my PC stops working as it should, but it turns out this has been non-functional for a while.

At first, I just tried to install IGI2, the first game I've installed in about six months apart from the excellent OpenTTD, an open-source Transport Tycoon Deluxe clone. Anyway, I put the CD in my DVD drive because I knew there was already a blank CD in my CD writer (which has been working fine).

The disk refused to read (Retry or cancel etc.). I didn't think much about it, eager to go and shoot someone's head clean off with a sniper rifle from the top of a watchtower. The other drive read the disk, so I just installed and played, making a mental note to check it out later.

When I got round to it, I also found out that my Daemon Tools virtual CD drive was also not working properly. I'd noticed this previously when I'd tried to mount a disk image but I had put it down to a corrupt ISO image on my hard drive.

I couldn't understand why my CDRW would work but not a virtual CD or a DVDROM drive. I read up about the subject on the Internet and began to suspect an ASPI layer problem. After a little play-about with some ASPI utils later, I still had no joy.

I left it for another day to let myself think, it not being a particularly urgent requirement and not wishing to corrupt my Windows 98SE installation that's been running fine for so long.

Then I thought to try it in a DOS window. The problem was still there. Then I rebooted into DOS (what would I do without DOS to fall back on?! Probably install Linux and use that!) and MSCDEX found it and read any CD fine in both drives. Wonderful... that meant I wouldn't have to buy a new DVD-ROM.

I'd recently read about major conflicts when more than one CD-Writing program is installed. My choice of CDRW program was always "whatever I'd got handy" until I'd got a freebie version of Pinnacle InstantCD/DVD on a coverdisk. Since then, I'd bought two upgrades to the software to bring me up to their latest version, version 8.

Now, knowing that I'd gone from 6 to 7 to 8 and also had the excellent (but alas not perfect for my requirements) and free CDBurner XP Pro (which despite the name runs on 9x as well), I suspected a conflict. So I thought I'd just uninstall InstantCD/DVD and see if it made a difference.

Add/Remove Programs, Pinnacle InstantCD/DVD, Next, Next, Next, Yes to reboot. Wait. Wait. Select Windows. Wait. See Windows logo. Wait. Blank screen. Wait. BIOS boot screen... select an OS. Oh dear. A reboot loop.

Several tries after, making sure there was nothing unusual trying to load or lurking in WININIT.INI, I thought I'd mashed up my nice 98 install. Well... I was going to have that! This is my computer, you do what I say.

Anyway, Safe mode worked (thankfully) but I still couldn't find the problem. I analysed the bootlog.txt file with Bootlog Analyser (Google it, their website seems to be down). I couldn't find anything out of place and the bootlog was ever so helpful showing no errors and ending on a success message halfway through the boot.

This meant war. If I can't get into my Windows, I'm afraid that hostilities commence until I can. I've never had to reinstall Windows yet (apart from once on a critical hardware failure) and I wasn't planning on starting now. Then I found the culprit.

Althought not referenced directly in the registry, some of the InstantCD/DVD software was still lurking in my Windows/System/IOSubSys directory. I knew that the software was, I assume, sold to Pinnacle by a company called VOB who had made all of the previous versions and I found two VOB*.VXD's in there and, on closer inspection, a CDRDRV.VXD which had a version string which identified it as VOB-originating.

After moving them to a suitably safe place, Windows booted normally and I could see my CDROM's again and still write with CDBurnerXP Pro. Morals of this story: Nothing is ever perfect, keep backups and good utils around, don't ditch DOS, never assume software with a higher version number is better, you rarely HAVE to reinstall Windows.

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