Why Computers Suck

Computers are a big part of my life, and I have a lot of gadgets. But at the heart of it I like to think that my needs are fairly simple. Phones, tablets, and laptops aside, when it comes to desktop computers, I use:

  • A Mac on which to keep my iTunes music library, the photos from my iPhone, and any other various files I need to keep around. I’ve bought in to the Apple ecosystem, and it’s handy to have a central place to keep all my data. Makes backing it up easier, too.
  • A Windows PC for gaming. I don’t trust Windows 10 with my important data, but it makes a great gaming platform, especially since I can get really good games for cheap from Steam sales and Humble Bundles.

For the past decade, these two needs have been served by a single computer: a PC that I built from parts and Hackintoshed so that it can dual-boot into macOS or Windows 10. I won’t go into the details, but the short of it is that Apple simply didn’t make a desktop computer that I wanted to buy. And I like to tinker, so getting macOS running on a PC was a fun challenge.

But I’m getting tired of that challenge. A small system update can wreak havoc with a Hackintosh, making it fail to boot and throw enigmatic error messages that would require me to pore over the tonymacx86.com forums until I could figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I haven’t been able to upgrade my computer to macOS Mojave because it has an Nvidia Geforce 970 graphics card in it, and Nvidia hasn’t yet released drivers that work with Mojave (and there’s skepticism whether they ever will, as Apple has moved to ATI). And, really, I was getting tired of always having to reboot to switch between macOS and Windows whenever I wanted to play a game, or copy photos off my iPhone, or play a different game, or sync my music…

So when Apple recently released a new Mac mini computer that’s actually fairly powerful, I decided to get one, and finally leave the Hackintoshing world behind.

All I needed to do was to move my data from the Hackintosh to the new Mac. And, while I was at it, I figured I’d get a bigger drive for the PC as well, and make it an even better gaming machine.

The game plan

My PC has two solid-state drives in it: one with macOS, and the other with Windows.

My simple plan was to (1) remove the macOS drive and copy the data from it to the new Mac mini, and (2) buy a larger SSD for the PC and copy Windows to it.

This turned out to be more difficult than expected.

The Mac side

It was trivially easy to set up the new Mac mini. Then I connected my old macOS SSD to it and ran the macOS built-in Migration Assistant, which immediately saw the old drive and showed me all the data on it that it was capable of copying over.

Only problem is, all of its selections were greyed out and it wouldn’t let me proceed. I did some research and learned that this is because I had the macOS Server application installed on the old computer (to let me administer my home server on another computer), and when Migration Assistant sees the Server app, it assumes for some reason that it’s incapable of doing anything with my data. The solution, astonishingly, was simply to move the Server application out of the Applications folder and put it anywhere else on the drive. That solved the problem, and Migration Assistant was able to copy all my data for me.

… or so I thought. As I was double-checking everything, I discovered that it had not actually copied the email messages that I had stored on the old computer, where they had showed up in the macOS Mail application under “On My Mac”. On the new Mac, they were simply gone. Oddly, Spotlight could still find them if I knew what to search for, but there was no indication of where they were living now or how I could browse through them.

I ended up having to put the SSD back into the old computer, boot into macOS there again, go into the Mail program, and move all of the “On My Mac” email messages up to my IMAP mail server. where now I can see them on the new Mac. The copy process had a few fits and starts, but it finally did manage to upload everything.

(I think.)

The Windows side

This is the fun part. I had a 500 GB SSD with Windows and a bunch of apps and games on it (about 390 GB worth). And I had a new 1 TB SSD that was blank. I simply wanted to move everything from the old drive to the new one, and expand the partition size to take advantage of the new space. There are lots of methods to do this. Unfortunately, many of the methods didn’t work.

I started with the trial version of “EaseUS Partition Manager,” recommended by several forum posts I read. This is a nicely-featured program which made the process of setting up the copy very easy. Finally, after I had triple-checked my settings, I clicked the “Clone” button … and the app displayed a window showing me the various levels of software licenses I could buy if I really wanted to go through with the action. I decided to back out and look for a free option instead, and the app opened another window immediately offering me 40% off the price of the app, along with a timer counting down how long this offer was good for. That left a bad taste in my mouth. I uninstalled EaseUS Partition Manager.

On a hunch, I decided to give “EaseUS Partition Manager Free” a try. At least this one gave me a list of prices much sooner, as soon as I tried to begun setting up the copy – a feature that’s not included in the free version.

I took a step back and reconsidered my options. Both the old drive and the new drive are Samsungs, so I wondered whether Samsung had a clone tool; and sure enough, they do: “Samsung Data Migration”. I downloaded, installed, and ran this, and after only a few clicks it had begun cloning the old drive to the new one. Forty minutes later, it finished; and then it said “Cloning failed. An error occurred while adjusting partition size. 400110[061aee]” Forum posts say this could be because of disk problems, so I checked both drives and found no problems. I tried again. Same error.

I briefly considered cutting my losses and just clean-installing Windows on the new drive, then manually installing everything and copying my files from the old drive (because Windows doesn’t have a migration tool – it used to, but not any more). But I decided that this would be a lot of time, effort, and bandwidth, and then I’d still have to set everything up again. The annoyance level of that was still greater than the annoyance level of trying to get a clone working right now.

My next try was with an app named “Macrium Reflect Disk Imaging and Backup”. Like EaseUS Partition Manager, this one also offered a lot of options; it held my hand a little less so I wasn’t certain that I set up the copy correctly, but forty minutes later it finished successfully. I was happy. I was optimistic. I rebooted into the new drive, and it immediately gave me a blue screen of death: “Your PC/Device needs to be repaired. A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed. Error code: 0xc0000225”

At this point I was ready to give up and go with my idea of clean-installing Windows to the new drive. I rebooted into Windows with the old drive and downloaded the Windows 10 Update Assistant, intending to make a USB flash drive that would boot into the Windows 10 installer. Instead, the assistant saw that I was already currently running the latest version of Windows, and it thanked me and exited without doing anything.

Okay. Last-ditch effort here – I searched for anything that might help me. And I discovered that Macrium Reflect is capable of creating a bootable flash drive (WinPE) that can repair the settings on a cloned drive to make it bootable. I gave this a try, booted from the flash drive, figured out how to get it to fix the hard drive, and voila! Now I’m booted into Windows from my new 1 TB SSD, and everything is working fine.

(I think.)

2 thoughts on “Why Computers Suck”

  1. I used Windows for a home machine when I was younger, but I got tired of how often it crashed and lost data. I used Linux as a personal desktop for a while, but like you, I got tired of the constant tinkering. (And, honestly, that was STILL easier to maintain than a Hackintosh.) Nowadays, I use a Mac for my personal computing because of that exhaustion. I fight with computers enough in my employment that I don’t want to fight any more when I’m at home.

    That new Mac Minis sure looks sweet though. I’ve been contemplating switching to that one as well. 😀

    Did you step up from the base model?

  2. I put a lot of thought into which model to get, actually. I eventually decided to go with an i7 processor, because that’s the only part of the machine that’s really not upgradeable later; I got the 256 GB SSD, because with so many expansion ports it didn’t make sense to pay the “Apple tax” to have more than that built-in (but, at the same time, a 128GB SSD is really tiny these days); and I got the standard 8 GB RAM because I don’t need more than that right now and it’s easily upgradeable later. (The 16 GB RAM option is about the same price right nowas buying 16 GB third-party, so that option could also make sense for some people, but more than that and it’s silly to pay Apple for it.)

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