Fozzie goes Vista

Fozzie got upgraded to Windows Vista recently, sort of by accident.

It all started with the fact that I had been running Vista within a virtual machine for awhile, and wanted to finally try running it on the base hardware to see if my beloved computer could handle the notoriously resource-hungry Vista. So, I started with a dual boot setup of XP and Vista. I was happy to discover that Vista actually perfectly fine on my computer, even getting a respectable 4.0 Windows Experience Index score.

The dual boot worked fine for awhile, with me occassionally going back and forth between the two OSes. But one day, I booted into XP and scandisk gave me a message during boot that one of the hard drives should be scanned. I skipped it. Then, the next time I booted into Vista, it gave me the same message. This time, I said “OK” and let it scan and fix the drive. Which proceeded to take on the order of 3 hours. During this time it processed through every file on my hard drive, saying they all had invalid security IDs and replacing them with default IDs. When it finished, Vista worked fine still, but XP was competely unusable, with tons of odd problems — the taskbar has half it’s normal height, open windows didn’t appear on the taskbar, copy and paste didn’t work, drag and drop didn’t work, the sound system didn’t work, and probably lots of other things I didn’t get a chance to notice before giving up and booting back into Vista.

After some research online, I discovered that I was actually not the first person to have this problem. It appears to be somewhat common when dual-booting between Vista and XP. The problem lies with the NTFS file system. In NTFS, all files have security permissions (such as, everyone can read/write the file, or only a certain user can write it, and so on). Additionally, all files have owners, which is the user that has the ability to set the permissions on the file. Some permissions can refer to the owner indirectly, such as “only the owner can read this file, whoever the owner is right now”.

Internally, the operating system associated an ID with each user of the system. So, say, the user “Greg” might be assigned the ID “1234”. This association is store within the operating system. The ID is what is stored in the filesystem to identify the owner of a particular file. So, the file system may say that the owner of “test.txt” has an ID of “1234”, and the operating system is then able to figure out that that means “Greg”. You might now see where I’m going with this.

The problem appears to be that since the association is stored within the OS, the IDs that were set by XP don’t mean anything to Vista, and vice versa. So, these appear to be invalid. So, the OS tries to fix them, which makes things work that operating system, but completely breaks things for the other operating system. Especially if the read/write permissions on the file referenced the owner — the OS may now be unable to read its own files.

At least, this is what I can decipher from what I observed and what I read online. There must be a way to successfully boot between the two operating systems — maybe the problem only starts to occur if you access files on one system drive from the other operating system? I don’t know.

At any rate, I decided to wipe out both installations and just go with Vista, since it seemed to work fine on my computer. No data was lost (my data is kept on a separate physical drive, and has loose permissions set so that owenrship issue didn’t really matter). However, I was hoping to soon do a similar dual-boot setup on Clementine to test it’s Vista-readiness, but now am very reluctant to do so until I can figure out a solution.

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