How to Win95 your CD-ROMless laptop
I've been trying to resurrect a Windows '95 laptop. It's been fun. A most interesting challenge was getting the Windows 95 installation files onto the laptop. You see, it doesn't have a CD-ROM drive...
...and I don't have the floppy-based Windows 95 installation, only the CD-ROM. At one point I had a parallel Zip drive that would have been great and made this task much easier, but I've loaned it away for now. The laptop has no USB ports and you'd need to be able to start up Windows to use them anyway (which was the source of the problem-- Windows wasn't starting. Period.). And I didn't have a DOS machine that I could use to Laplink over the files (remember Laplink?)-- all my other machines run NT or 2000 (or Linux). So, I resorted to using good ol' floppies. I proceeded to create a backup of the Windows '95 installation files using the 'spanned zip' feature of WinZip.
WinZip is one of my favorite Windows utilities. But it does do one thing rather poorly-- handling disk write errors when creating a spanned zip. If you are doing this and are on the 20th disk, you don't want to get an error. If you do, WinZip basically throws it's hands in the air and says "I give!" and you shout out loud and start over from scratch. I say all this because that's what happened when I tried to do the spanned Zip. I had to do it a second time before it worked
Well, I finally got all 24 disks created (and finding 24 floppies I could erase was a challenge in it's own way-- I simply don't use them anymore, so I don't have spare ones lying around). Then I took them over to the laptop and proceeded to use the Infozip Unzip utility to extract the data back. Disk #1 had an error (remember "Abort, Retry, Fail?").
That's just GREAT. So I then decided to try to copy the files onto the hard drive manually. My hope was that I could rebuild the full Zip file using the 1.44MB pieces and then unzip that file. I was able to copy about half of the Zip pieces over. About a dozen of the diskettes I had used were bad, even though I didn't get an error during writing to any of them. That inspires great confidence, doesn't it?
Next, I went back to the PC where I was creating the disks and started yet another spanned Zip. This time, I decided to use a single disk that I knew was in good shape. I let WinZip fill it up, then I took it to the laptop, copied the Zip file over, erased the disk and repeated the process until I had all the Zip pieces I was missing on the laptop. Whew.
Next was reconstruction. In order to do this, I had to use the "copy /b" command to connect each piece of the Zip file together to make a single, complete file. The resulting file was about 33 MB in size. I then run the Infozip Unzip command on it. It failed miserably. I got a bunch of offset errors and only a few of the files decompressed at all. I was thoroughly disappointed. My guess was that you couldn't reconstruct the pieces of a spanned zip archive manually like I was trying to do.
By this time I was quite frustrated and decided that I'd be better off getting my parallel Zip drive back and using it to copy the files over. Then, I realized that I still had a copy of PKUNZIP 2.04g-- the real thing. So I decided to give it a shot too, just in case the problem was with the Infozip software. I felt it was a long shot, since WinZip uses the Infozip code to build and extract zip files-- if the Infozip Unzip tool wouldn't work, PKUNZIP probably wouldn't either. Well, I copied it over to the laptop and fired it up. It too gave me a bunch of offset and CRC errors. I then tried to do a test of the archive to see if it would reveal any other information about it. The test procedure said the Zip file was bad, but that I should try using PKZIPFIX to rebuild it.
I had completely forgotten about PKZIPFIX! In my experience, it usually didn't help you out very much-- it was more of a salvage-what-you-can tool. If you had a bad Zip file, PKZIPFIX would let you build a new Zip file using the valid pieces from the corrupt file. Well, I copied it over an let it run. After several minutes, it reported that the PKFIXED.ZIP had been built. I took a breath and did a "dir" command to check the file size of the new file. It matched! That was good news-- if it had been less, that would mean that PKZIPFIX had thrown away parts of the original file. I took another breath and ran PKUNZIP on PKFIXED.ZIP. My jaw dropped as I saw the filename of each Windows '95 installation file scroll up the screen. Absolutely amazing. That 7.5K PKZIPFIX program did the trick. I guess the archive just needed it's directory rebuilt in order to be processed correctly.
Well, it was a long journey, but I made it. I've still got it. Now I just need to see a doctor and get rid of it.