Monday, 25 January 2021

The Home Lab is Dead! Long Live the Home Lab!

My Home Lab Workstation is dead as a dodo now. It won’t boot into Windows. Tried multiple attempts to boot. Tried reset and reinstall. Just boots so far then gets stuck (the spinning dots stop spinning.) It had been a bit temperamental booting for a while - would need multiple boots to get it to boot - but then once booted it ran fine.
I had to check back to see when I got this PC, and it would have been late 2012 (! The PC has lasted well over 8 years which is pretty good going - I did not realize I had had it so long - and it’s not had an easy life with my VMware Workstation labs and also some video editing. My O/S drive is an SSD drive, and this is where I think the fault lies (I’ve done little troubleshooting, this is just a hunch.) Other than this current issue, all I’ve had to do to the PC is replace the BIOS battery once, and the CPU fan once. And it is still a very powerful home PC (64GB RAM and 8 * 3.6GHz cores.)
The O/S drive gets heavily used, and reading this article 'Lifespan of Solid-State Drives' and ‘How long does an SSD last?’ it says “Current estimates put the age limit for SSDs around 10 years, though the average SSD lifespan is shorter.” It is possible my O/S SSD has bit the dust. Fortunately, when I bought the PC I went a bit crazy and had 3 SSDs (1 * 256GB for O/S, 2 * 512GB for lab VMs), so my plan is to unplug my O/S SSD, and reinstall Windows on one of the other SSDs, and see how it goes.
I did consider installing CentOS or another flavour of Linux, but for now let’s stick with Windows (there is an HDD data drive in the PC I would like to regain access to.) Interestingly, looking at CentOS versions, I discovered Version 7 went end of full support on August 6, 2019 - see: - something I didn’t know.
Let us see if we can get a bit more life out of this PC without spending any money. If I’m correct about the O/S SSD being knackered, I’ll consider investing in a new SSD disk for the future!
Re-Installing Windows 10 on a New/Different SSD
A web search directed me to the ‘Download Windows 10’ page and the tool to ‘Create Windows 10 installation media’ (MediaCreationTool20H2.exe):
Image: Create Windows 10 installation media ‘Download tool now’

Run the exe and follow the prompts (from a different machine, since my machine is bust).
At the ‘What do you want to do?’ prompt, choose “Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC”.
Note: I made the mistake of initially picking DVD, alas you need an 8.5GB double-layer DVD to contain the image, and I only had single-layer 4.7GB to hand, so re-ran the process with a USB flash drive.
Image: Create Windows Installation Media for Another PC

Then you just need to boot from the installation media and follow the prompts. When it asks you to ‘Activate Windows’ choose ‘I don’t have a product key’ and it should reconnect with your old key later.
This Microsoft blog had a good complete walkthrough:
The lab is back! Next weekend (time permitting) I’ll need to reload softwares and get my lab VMs up and running.

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