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  • Check External SSD Running Linux Mint and Backup Questions

    Posted on LHiggins Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Non-Windows operating systems Linux – all distros Check External SSD Running Linux Mint and Backup Questions

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      • #2276560 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Hello!

        I am running a full install of Mint Cinnamon 19.1 from an external 240 gb USB SSD on a Thinkpad X230. It was first installed on that external drive in Nov 2019 so it has been running for about 7 months. It had been working flawlessly up until about a month ago when it started acting quite flaky – random black screens, mouse issues, needing to be restarted or shut down to resume proper behavior, won’t go into suspend – things like that.

        I posted this question over at the Mint forums and it was suggested that I check the disk with Smartmontools, but before I attempt that, I did have a few questions about checking an external disk and backup that I hoped you could answer.

        Or is there another way to check for errors that might be used?

        The laptop itself has Win 7 installed and so far that seems to be working fine, and I don’t want to do anything that might impact that while I troubleshoot the Mint install on the SSD.

        I have not received any error messages, and so far, I can get it running if I restart, but it does revert back to the same behavior after a time. I can provide more specifics of the types of behavior I am seeing if that will help.

        My questions – before I begin the checking, I think I should do a back up of the SSD. I have been creating Timeshifts – but they are (unfortunately) stored on the SSD, so they probably won’t do me any good if there is a drive issue. Is there a way to move those to a different drive, and would they then be useful if I needed to try to reinstall or recreate that drive?

        I’ve been reading Ascaris’s Veeam Tutorial, and have a question about that. Would I need another external drive to create that kind of backup? Can I use a powered USB hub to attach both my Linux SSD and a separate drive for the backup? Would a large thumb drive be acceptable to use for this, and does it need to be formatted in a certain way? And if there are disk errors, would creating a backup be of any real use?

        If I do find errors – is it possible that they can be fixed?

        My other thought is that perhaps this strange behavior is really more of a software type issue. It “seems” that the black screen issue happens when I try to click on a FF window or Thunderbird mail. The computer seems to hesitate – like it is overloaded and waiting for something to finish running, and then just goes black. The drive and laptop are still both on – just can’t access the screen.

        So, I do wonder whether there could be “something” running that might be causing the “pause” and not allowing the laptop to respond, but I don’t see anything in the power usage that would indicate something temporarily gobbling up resources and causing the lag, or lack of response. And I have 8GB RAM, and generally only use about 30-35% when running several programs at once. I’ve really never seen it over about 50%.

        Also, I have noticed this behavior whether the SSD is plugged directly into the laptop’s USB 3.0 port, or plugged into a powered USB 3.0 hub.

        In any case – I appreciate any ideas or help in checking the SSD and possible backup thoughts. And – maybe, suggestions on possible fixes if I do discover an issue with the SSD.

        Thanks so much!

         

      • #2276621 Reply
        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        That doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that sounds like a disk problem right off the bat. It’s not impossible, but not my first guess.  If it’s not happening also in Windows, it does not seem that it is overheating or having another hardware-related issue either.

        Timeshift snapshots would help to restore the system functionality, but it does not back up the user data by default, so all of your personal settings and such would not be restored.  Have you tried restoring one to before the system started acting weird?

        Yours is an interesting situation in that the drive you want to have backed up is already an external, and that’s not usually the case.  You could back it up to a suitably-sized flash drive, but I would prefer an external HD if it were me.  I don’t trust thumb drives all that much, even though I have never had a problem with one losing data before.

        If you have room left on the Windows drive, you could use a Windows-based backup program like Macrium Reflect to back up the external Linux drive.  It works fine with Linux filesystems.  Otherwise, you could use another external drive for the backup.

        It is not pointless to do a backup before trying to repair a disk error. If the repair process were to mess something up, it would be good to be able to get back to where you are now so you can try something else.

        The powered hub should work fine for the backup and restore process.  I’ve got one on my desktop PC, built into the USB 3 card reader, and I’ve backed up and restored with it without any issues.

        The easiest way to scan (and repair, if needed) the external drive would be to boot from the Linux installer into a live session once again, and from there use Gparted (it’s in the live session for Mint) and check the partitions that way.  Simply start Gparted, right click on one of the SSD’s partitions, then select Check.  If it’s grayed out, first select Unmount, and then do the check.  Repeat that for all of the partitions on the SSD.  It will show what the results were when it finishes, whether it found any errors.  Doing it from the live session allows you to unmount the volumes so that they can be checked, which it won’t do if they are in use.

        Ext4 (the filesystem used by the Mint installer by default) is pretty robust and should be repairable without any problem if there is a soft error.  A hard error (like one of the NAND cells in the SSD failing) might cause data loss, but while that is possible, it’s not that likely in a new SSD.

        The safest route would be to back up the SSD, then boot the live session and check the disk with Gparted.  Once it was done, if it found and fixed some errors, you could try booting it again and see if it fixed it.  My guess is that it is something else, but it does not hurt to try.

        If it found no errors or if fixing the errors did not correct the problem, I would then use Timeshift to first create a new snapshot, then restore a snapshot of a time before the malfunctioning started, if possible.  If that fixed it, it would indicate that some system-level change caused the problem.  That narrows it down a lot in terms of fixing it.

        You might also try booting with an older kernel (before the malfunctioning started) by selecting it from the GRUB menu before Linux boots.  If it does not already show you the menu, pressing shift or escape during the boot process should bring up the menu.  If you select the advanced options submenu, inside there you will find a list of all of the kernels you have installed.  Booting an older one, from when it was working well, will let you know if it was a kernel update that is causing the bad behavior.

        Hopefully, this will get it fixed, or at least point to what the problem is!

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

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        • #2276682 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks so much for the very detailed reply! Lots to sort through before I can ask too many questions – LOL!

          That doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that sounds like a disk problem right off the bat. It’s not impossible, but not my first guess. If it’s not happening also in Windows, it does not seem that it is overheating or having another hardware-related issue either.

          Yes, I was hoping it wasn’t the disk. And it has not happened at all since I’ve been booted back into Windows.

          Timeshift snapshots would help to restore the system functionality, but it does not back up the user data by default, so all of your personal settings and such would not be restored. Have you tried restoring one to before the system started acting weird?

          So, if this isn’t a disk issue, as mn- also suggests below, then doing a new Timeshift or any type of backup would just preserve the issue, correct? I haven’t restored using one, but I could go back to when I believe things were working properly, and see if that might fix it.

          But then, I’d need to get all of those updates all over again as well.

          If you have room left on the Windows drive, you could use a Windows-based backup program like Macrium Reflect to back up the external Linux drive. It works fine with Linux filesystems. Otherwise, you could use another external drive for the backup.

          I’m not sure how that would work – would I boot into Linux and then do a Macrium backup of the external drive to a file on the actual internal hard drive?

          You might also try booting with an older kernel (before the malfunctioning started) by selecting it from the GRUB menu before Linux boots.

          Doing this – could I boot into each older kernel one by one and then see where the issue might disappear? That might “solve” it but then would I need to stay on that kernel?

          As you can see – I am pretty “clueless” about just how to proceed…

          I’ll read through this all carefully and post back with additional questions. Right now I am still in Windows, but want to go back into Mint to see if I can at least retrieve my emails and import them into Windows Live Mail so that I’ll have them. I already have FF synced between the Mint install and the Linux install, so all of the settings and bookmarks are preserved, at least.

          Thanks so much for all of the help!! I will post back with additional questions once I digest all of this!

           

           

          • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by LHiggins.
      • #2276673 Reply
        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        It had been working flawlessly up until about a month ago when it started acting quite flaky – random black screens, mouse issues, needing to be restarted or shut down to resume proper behavior, won’t go into suspend – things like that.

        The computer seems to hesitate – like it is overloaded and waiting for something to finish running, and then just goes black. The drive and laptop are still both on – just can’t access the screen.

        Well, there’s one thing that I’ve seen recently that caused approximately all of those symptoms… mismatch between parts of the graphics stack. Like if you upgraded the actual GPU driver but not the graphics core or input drivers.

        (Typically caused by a closed-source GPU driver being updated and not pulling dependencies correctly… but a Thinkpad X230 should have just the Intel GPU, so this shouldn’t apply? I mean, on ?Ubuntu 18.04, latest Nvidia-440 drivers seemed to need but not pull the “hwe” versions of the graphics stack…)

        Helps with troubleshooting if you have a method to gain command line access to the system – easiest method nowadays is to have OpenSSH server installed (in most distros it gets started on boot by default if installed) and a second PC with a SSH client application in the same LAN.

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        • #2276684 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks so much for the reply! I do have to admit that I am not too sure exactly what it all means though – LOL! And not sure that i can troubleshoot that issue, even though perhaps it may be what is happening.

          If it is a GPU driver that was downloaded – would it have been part of one of the updates from Linux update manager? – would rolling back the Timeshifts to a point before that was downloaded possibly help?

          Helps with troubleshooting if you have a method to gain command line access to the system – easiest method nowadays is to have OpenSSH server installed (in most distros it gets started on boot by default if installed) and a second PC with a SSH client application in the same LAN.

          No – I don’t have another PC that I can use, I don’t think. I have an older Win 7 desktop and a pretty new Win 10 laptop that I probably don’t want to mess around with.

          Thanks so much for the information – hopefully I can get to the bottom of it all!

          • #2276717 Reply
            mn–
            AskWoody Lounger

            If it is a GPU driver that was downloaded – would it have been part of one of the updates from Linux update manager? – would rolling back the Timeshifts to a point before that was downloaded possibly help?

            Well if that’s the cause, and you don’t recall installing something like that separately, regular updates would be the thing it could come from.

            And I should hope the rollback would help – that’s exactly the kind of thing it’s supposed to do…

            (I don’t use Timeshift myself, I just use straight snapshots on my / and other mounts.)

            That said, it’ll be a pretty major blunder from whoever does the update distribution if this kind of thing has slipped through.

            (See discussion at https://askubuntu.com/questions/891670/how-to-fix-input-devices-after-xserver-xorg-core-upgrade … also, “No input driver specified, ignoring this device” multiple times in /var/log/Xorg.0.log is about the clearest the error messages get for this one.)

            No – I don’t have another PC that I can use, I don’t think. I have an older Win 7 desktop and a pretty new Win 10 laptop

            … the other computer doesn’t need to run Linux or anything specific, there aren’t very many things that can’t run a SSH client.

            There’s one as an optional feature in recent versions of Windows 10, for example. The best known one for Windows might still be PuTTY, though.

            Or, a smartphone would suffice… though modern models will be a lot nicer to use for this if you have an external keyboard. (These tend to be exactly the situations where I miss my old Nokia 9500.)

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            • #2276724 Reply
              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              OK – so how would I test that? Supposing I use the old Win 7 laptop – what would be the steps? I’m not really sure just how to proceed – but willing to try to follow instructions.

              The older Win 7 doesn’t have a 3.0 USB port though, if I need to use the SSD on it.

              Thanks!

              • #2276733 Reply
                mn–
                AskWoody Lounger

                Well.

                My other thought is that perhaps this strange behavior is really more of a software type issue. It “seems” that the black screen issue happens when I try to click on a FF window or Thunderbird mail. The computer seems to hesitate – like it is overloaded and waiting for something to finish running, and then just goes black. The drive and laptop are still both on – just can’t access the screen.

                So, you do get it to start normally… so I’d suggest you start the Linux system to desktop, but NOT start or touch any significant applications.

                As soon as possible (if the problem happens some time from boot, for example – get things done before that), get a terminal open there, install the SSH server component (“sudo apt install openssh-server” is typical) , and check your IP address (“ifconfig” should list it on a line beginning with “inet”, you should have at least the actual network and a loopback, use the actual) and login name. (And that you remember the password.)

                Then on the other computer in the same (W)LAN… Windows or whatever… try a ping to the Linux system’s IP, just to check that they really ARE in the same (W)LAN.

                Then, get a SSH client (PuTTY from https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html for example), and using that, connect to the Linux system at the IP you got, using the Linux system’s login and password.

                If successful, your second system’s SSH application should now show a command prompt on the Linux system.

                (You might actually start several of these, just so you can look at multiple terminal windows simultaneously. Like keep a “top” running in one, “tail -f /var/log/syslog” in another, and…)

                Then, when you have the terminal session(s) open… do whatever it is you do to reproduce the actual problem.

                If the SSH terminal(s) stop responding, you know it broke more than just the graphics.

                If the terminals do keep active… well, now you have command line access to logs and the like. (“less /var/log/syslog” and so on.) And if you can make it do the restore/rollback to a known good state from the command line, that’s just a bonus…

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      • #2276775 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        It could be the disk because it’s external – Windows runs off the internal.
        It could be the USB controller on the disk – seems more likely than the disk.

        You could back up the disk by booting Windows and using a backup program in that. If you have enough room you could back it up to the internal disk.

        cheers, Paul

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        • #2277049 Reply
          JohnW
          AskWoody Plus

          I was going to say pretty much what you did.

          The internal hard disk that runs Windows uses a SATA controller. The Mint drive is an external drive that uses a USB controller. It it’s a hardware issue it probably has something to do with either the internal USB in the laptop, or the USB in the drive itself.

          If it’s a software issue, I like Mn-‘s suggestion to rollback software updates in case a Mint update wonked the graphics drivers with something incompatible with that laptop. The problem report sounds like it could be graphics related.

          I would probably back up the disk before I did anything, just in case. Then explore both possibilities…

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      • #2277235 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Hi everyone – and apologies for not posting back sooner. I’ve had a few tech issues that slowed me down, including my phone also going a bit wonky! 🙁

        That time did give me a chance to do some thinking about this issue, and I finally decided to first try what is probably the simplest possibility. As John and Paul noted…

        If it’s a hardware issue it probably has something to do with either the internal USB in the laptop, or the USB in the drive itself.

        …I decided to just try the SSD in a different USB port, and at least for the moment (knocking on wood), it seems to be behaving. Unfortunately, my only free port is a 2.0, so things will run more slowly, but if it keeps working properly in that port, that would be an indication that it was something with the 3.0 port – correct?

        I was hesitant to do many other changes or test for software issues or roll back Timeshifts as I wasn’t at all confident in doing that, and after rereading all of the posts here, I decided to do what seemed to be the easiest thing first – change the port. I’ll test that 3.0 port with a thumb drive later on and see if it is working well enough for use that way.

        If this is it, I do have an additional question about what might have happened. Would the fact that I was mainly using the SSD plugged directly into the USB port – not into a powered hub or port,  possibly have contributed to the port started to not work properly? I do have a powered hub, but having all of those cords attached to the laptop was annoying, so I just plugged it in directly. So maybe that did cause the issue?

        Also, as to the port being the issue – is it possible, or even worth looking into the possibility of replacing that USB 3.0 port with a new one?

        If it turns out that this change of port doesn’t fix things – are there any log files, or the list of running processes that I could look at to also possibly see any issues there?

        Keeping my fingers crossed that this works out to be the issue. I’m going to work with it for a bit and see if I start to see that weird behavior, and I will post back with what I observe.

        Thanks again to all for the help and many suggestions!

        Lily

        • #2277259 Reply
          mn–
          AskWoody Lounger

          If this is it, I do have an additional question about what might have happened. Would the fact that I was mainly using the SSD plugged directly into the USB port – not into a powered hub or port, possibly have contributed to the port started to not work properly? I do have a powered hub, but having all of those cords attached to the laptop was annoying, so I just plugged it in directly. So maybe that did cause the issue?

          Possible.

          The X230 is from a time when the USB3 hardware wasn’t yet “mature” – I get lots of USB problems trying to do USB3 on similar age systems, at least Lenovo and HP… also not just in Linux, also in Windows… oh and BIOS setup screen on HPs if you have an external “high speed USB gaming keyboard” (hey, those were at a discount)…

          And the problem might even appear to be in a different USB port than the offending device. BTDT…

          Older systems had similar problems with USB 2… and wayyy back when, with USB 1 too (Thinkpad 380XD, anyone?)

          A hub (especially one newer than the PC) might make it work, even without the power thing.

          Or a bad hub might make it fail more, at least the hubs integrated into certain models of displays (even otherwise “good” models) tend to be bad. Got one of those right here… but this one does charge 4 phones even without uplink connected, some other display hubs power down if USB uplink is down.

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          • #2277327 Reply
            LHiggins
            AskWoody Plus

            And no – that didn’t solve it! It was working fine – I suspended it and woke it several times and all seemed well, but then after it was suspended for a time – about an hour maybe, it woke, but there was no connection to the internet. To get that back i needed to restart and that started the cascade of symptoms over again – not suspending, the black screen, same issues as before. This was on a different USB port and using the powered hub.

            So – I guess I’ll need to investigate what to do next. I’m back in Win 7 now – that has some protections – ESET, Malwarebytes Anti Exploit, 0patch, so I feel at least a little protected.

            Thanks for the help – I’ll post back wit more questions once I let this all settle. 😉

      • #2277407 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        I still think the USB adapter on the disk is most likely to be the issue – they are built to give reasonable I/O at a low price and you are trying to run an OS full time from it.

        I know we have asked this before, but why not install the SSD and dual boot?

        With those additions to W7 I would happily use that as my “every day” machine.

        cheers, Paul

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        • #2277489 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Hi Paul!

          I know we have asked this before, but why not install the SSD and dual boot?

          Yes, I know that has been asked and suggested several times, and in truth, I’m not sure I have a good answer. I guess part of it is not wanting to do anything to the Windows 7 side that might cause it to not work. When I was trying to create the Mint install on the SSD, there were some serious problems with the installer, and it appeared for a time that there was no way to boot back into Windows. Instead of installing Mint on the SSD, it installed it on the internal hard drive and made Windows inaccessible. It wouldn’t install on the SSD – I had to use an older Vista laptop as the “bridge” to finally accomplish that. Thankfully, I did manage to restore Windows and all of my files with my Macrium backup, but it was suggested over in the Mint forums that I not even try to dual boot Mint and Win 7 with this laptop due to some GRUB/boot issues.

          Also, I am not at all confident in actually replacing the hard drive with the SSD – even though I know that you have explained how to do it. I’m not sure just how I would get Win 7 reinstalled on the SSD drive, since I don’t have an installation disk, and even doing a “restore” using Macrium might not really work, correct?

          The SSD is 240GB – my current hard drive is 500 GB, but I have used more than 250GB with Windows and my files, so that is more than the entire SSD, assuming that I could even install it and get it working. That wouldn’t leave space for a dual boot unless I moved most of the files onto another drive.

          As you can see, I am a combination of clueless and conflicted – LOL – and even thought I am game to try things, this just seems beyond my comfort zone.

          All of that said, I am now again giving some serious thought to possibly installing Linux in a Virtual Box – a question you all were very helpful with back in the fall when I was trying to figure out what to do with this Win 7 laptop. Since the SSD isn’t reliable now for running Mint, maybe it is time to look into the VB idea again? I did install more RAM several months ago – I now have a total of 8 gb – not ideal, but possibly workable?

          I could probably move some old files off of the Windows hard drive to free up some space – and since I am generally only using this for email and internet now, it might all work?

          I want to thank you for your patience and suggestions – hopefully my explanation will make some sense. And, since I am still pretty set against Win 10, I am still going to be looking for possible solutions. In the meanwhile, I am hoping that my combination of regular backups, ESET, 0Patch, MBAE and UBlockOrigin will help to keep things on the safe side with Win 7. And my husband does have a Win 10 laptop that I use for any banking or online shopping.

          Thanks for your help and input!

          Lily

          • #2277717 Reply
            Ascaris
            AskWoody_MVP

            Did you try loading one of the older kernels that is still installed to see if that fixes it? If that does fix the problem, it will give us some important information as to why this is happening.

            I’d say that if you were happy with the way Mint was working on the external drive until now, the most obvious choice would be to get back to that point.  Personally, I would have used a dual-boot setup (more on that below), but it’s your computer and your choice, of course.  The solution you had was working until something happened… well,  something can happen with a virtual Linux too, or a virtual Windows, or a bare-metal Windows, so going to any of those isn’t really preventing the same issue in the future.  That’s why we make backups.

            You have Timeshift snapshots, and if they go back far enough, one of them will probably fix the issue.  I doubt this is a disk or USB issue (though not so much that I would rule it out completely yet).  It seems more like something was borked during an update or something, which can happen with any OS.  This is exactly the kind of thing Timeshift was meant to fix!

            The suggestion was to back up the Linux SSD first just in case something happens during the Timeshift restore.  It probably won’t go wrong, but it’s always good to have a plan B, just in case it does.  Timeshift uses rsync for a back-end (on non-btrfs systems like yours and mine), and it is quite robust and reliable, much more so than Windows System Restore.  It’s robust enough that it could roll back an upgrade to a new version of Mint, if that was what you wanted to do.  Windows System Restore cannot, for example, revert Windows 2004 back to 1909, but Timeshift could revert Mint 20 to Mint 19.2.

            If you have a Timeshift snapshot from before the issues started, it will almost certainly fix it if it is not a hardware issue.

            I guess part of it is not wanting to do anything to the Windows 7 side that might cause it to not work.

            Without trying to sound like a broken record (sorry if I am, I’m not trying to be a nag!), again, that’s what backups are for.

            but it was suggested over in the Mint forums that I not even try to dual boot Mint and Win 7 with this laptop due to some GRUB/boot issues.

            GRUB is designed to make dual-booting possible, and it works well.  I know there are always some people that are afraid of dual boots, but I’ve had every Linux PC I’ve set up, except for my Dell Inspiron 11, which has only 32GB of “hard drive” space, non-upgradeable (really it’s an eMMC drive) set up as dual boot, since I started using Linux intensively in 2015.  There are always people who fear things, but it’s like everything else with computers: Make backups “just in case” and you’ll be able to recover.  Any OS can get messed up, with or without a dual-boot setup.

            The most common fear that I have heard with dual-boot setups that use Windows 10 is that Windows will break the dual-boot setup during one of the feature updates that are constantly coming down the line.  Windows 7 isn’t going to be getting any of those, of course.  I finally had something like that happen on one of my two laptops (which still have Windows 10 setups as well as Linux, though I was in this case only using 10 to see if I could see the “your PC is not quite ready for Windows 10 2004” message that was mentioned before), but all that had changed was that the UEFI was changed from using the Linux bootloader (GRUB) to the Windows one.  GRUB was still fully intact and worked fine once I changed it back to “Ubuntu” for the first choice in the boot priority screen.

            Also, I am not at all confident in actually replacing the hard drive with the SSD – even though I know that you have explained how to do it. I’m not sure just how I would get Win 7 reinstalled on the SSD drive, since I don’t have an installation disk

            You can download Windows 7 .iso images to create your own install DVD or USB drive. Microsoft used to have them available for download, but maybe they don’t now since Win 7 has gone EOL.  As far as I know, they are still available from heidoc.net, which others on AskWoody seem to regard highly as a source for original Microsoft installation media.

            That said, though, you would probably not need to reinstall Windows 7.  I’ve migrated an existing Windows installation from HDD to SSD to a different SSD to a different SSD again using the free versions of backup programs. They often have a feature called “universal restore” or something like that which allows you to resize partitions during the restore process, but that’s usually a feature of the paid versions. It’s not hard to do the resize manually (if moving to a smaller partition, you would need to shrink the existing Windows partition to be small enough to fit first) with the regular backup program, though, when you also use tools like Gparted (in Linux) or a Windows equivalent.  Once the old partition is smaller than the place where it is to go on the SSD, you can use the clone feature of a backup program, or else just make a backup and restore it into the space.

            and even doing a “restore” using Macrium might not really work, correct?

            It should work exactly like the original.  If it didn’t, that would be a serious flaw with Reflect, and I doubt it would be recommended as often as it is here if it had a habit of restoring less than ideally.  I’ve restored Linux and Windows both from Reflect many times, and I’ve never had a problem with it.  That’s why I recommend Reflect!

            A backup program that does not produce perfect copies of the original at the time the backup was made is not fit for purpose.  That was why I stopped recommending Aomei Backupper some years ago, as I did a restore with it and it inexplicably changed the MBR partition table to a GPT one during the restore, even though the original was MBR.  I would not doubt that they have long since fixed that bug, but since I moved on from Aomei (and Windows), I haven’t had the opportunity to test that.  I was able to fix it, but it’s not something that should have ever been necessary.

            As you can see, I am a combination of clueless and conflicted – LOL – and even thought I am game to try things, this just seems beyond my comfort zone.

            But pushing past the comfort zone is how you learn new things, and make those new things part of your new comfort zone!

            All of that said, I am now again giving some serious thought to possibly installing Linux in a Virtual Box – a question you all were very helpful with back in the fall when I was trying to figure out what to do with this Win 7 laptop.

            It seems to me that the purpose of you using Linux was to move to an OS that gets security updates and is not subject to the Windows 10 madness, right?  If you ran virtual Linux from Windows 7, you’re still using 7.

            If you are going to use a VM to improve upon Windows 7’s security, it would make more sense to use Linux as the host and run Windows 7 in a VM (guest) within.  You could also use Windows 10 in a VM, since the VM itself mitigates many of the problems with Windows 10, and it would only be needed when you found something that can’t be done in Linux.  I still have 7 in my VM, as it still does all of the Windows things I need, but that may well change going forward as more programs and drivers begin to drop support for 7.  I would not mind moving to 10 in a VM too much at that point.  I don’t use it that often… maybe a couple of times a month.

            Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

            • #2277800 Reply
              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Thanks again for all of the ideas and input. I’ve done a bit of testing, and here are the results I’ve gotten so far.

              Did you try loading one of the older kernels that is still installed to see if that fixes it? If that does fix the problem, it will give us some important information as to why this is happening.

              I only have a few kernels listed there – and each has 2 entries – one which is generic, and one that says recovery. I booted from an older one – skipped the two most recent since either of those “might” have been the problem. I used the “regular” entry – not the “recovery” – but should I have chosen that instead?

              First I tried 4.15.0-66 generic – booted fine and everything started up. I let it run a while, opened FF and TB and both were fine. Then I tried to put it into suspend using the Fn+F4 keys that always worked – and it would not suspend.

              That was my first indication that there was something wrong initially – I kept noticing that even after I’d put the laptop into suspend, it would appear to suspend momentarily and then come back on, so I decided that would be a way to test the kernel.

              OK – so I restarted again and chose the oldest kernel listed – 4.15.0-20 generic, which was the one I started this all with, so I know that it worked. Again, I opened FF and TB, all OK, and then just let it try to suspend on its own – and again, it would not. The screen dimmed, and it appeared to suspend at the correct time, and then came right back on.

              So, it appears that the kernel is not the issue? Is testing it to see if the suspend issue still happens a good way to know that changing the kernel didn’t fix the problem?

              I haven’t used it long enough this morning to see if it shuts down or if I get that black screen, but the suspend issue is what I first noticed, and it seems that if it won’t suspend, then all of those other behaviors are going to be seen as well.

              You have Timeshift snapshots, and if they go back far enough, one of them will probably fix the issue. I doubt this is a disk or USB issue (though not so much that I would rule it out completely yet). It seems more like something was borked during an update or something, which can happen with any OS. This is exactly the kind of thing Timeshift was meant to fix!

              I have 5 Timeshifts done during April and May that are before these issues, I think. I can try any of those, but have a few questions. They are actually stored on the same SSD as Linux, not on a different drive. Is that a concern? And I assume that once I’d choose one to roll back to, it would eliminate whatever emails, files or FF favorites that I had saved since it was created. Just wanted to see if I should try to save a few things to reinstall if the Timeshift does work?

              The suggestion was to back up the Linux SSD first just in case something happens during the Timeshift restore. It probably won’t go wrong, but it’s always good to have a plan B, just in case it does.

              If you have room left on the Windows drive, you could use a Windows-based backup program like Macrium Reflect to back up the external Linux drive. It works fine with Linux filesystems. Otherwise, you could use another external drive for the backup.

              And a question about a back-up. If I am going to try to use Macrium to back up to the internal Windows hard drive, or even to a different external drive – I’d need to be in Windows and run the backup from there, correct? So, the issue there seems to be that I can’t “see” the SSD drive when I am in Windows – it doesn’t appear to be recognized, so I am not sure how I’d back it up.

              Before I try anything else, I thought I’d post this  update on what I’ve tried so far – not much really – and what I see happening – also not too much, but that suspend issue does seem to me to be a sign of impending failure sooner than later. Plus, besides just shutting the computer down, there isn’t any way to leave it “on” without it actually being on. Or, maybe I’ll test to see if the power management set up is somehow now interfering with manually suspending??

              Thanks for the help so far – I was really hopeful that the kernel change would do it – but it doesn’t appear that it has. I’ll post back if I notice other things, and later on try to roll back the Timeshifts to see if something there might fix it.

               

              • #2278005 Reply
                LHiggins
                AskWoody Plus

                OK – I wanted to just post an additional update, as things are still wonky.

                As noted above, I did try different kernels – none seemed to fix the issue. After that, I booted back into the latest kernel I have – 4.15.0-101 generic, and amazingly, for the rest of yesterday – for more than 12 hours, it all ran fine. I could manually put it into suspend, or it would do that on its own after 5 minutes. I could use FF/TB and leave those running, and it would still suspend. It all seemed fine, and I was starting to think that it might have been the rebooting back into the latest kernel from an earlier one that did something. Around 10 pm I reluctantly shut it down for the night.

                This morning, it booted up fine, but the suspend issue was back – and no matter what I have tried – it won’t suspend. I restarted it, shut down and restarted, tried various programs running and closed, and none of it has helped.

                I also looked through various settings – like in TB to see if it was polling for new email – it wasn’t. I couldn’t find anything else that might be suspect.

                I am wondering if possibly something in the log files would help to figure it out? Something is definitely accessing the SSD when it is should be idle – and even if I try to “time” the suspend to when it is not seeking, it doesn’t work.

                I haven’t seen the other issues – the sticky mouse, the black screen, the random shut downs, yet – but this suspend issue is persistent for sure, and was generally the first thing that I’d notice before the rest of the symptoms.

                I’d be happy to try other things – I guess my next is to roll back Timeshift to an earlier one – but I want to be sure that I have a copy of a few things before I do just in case, since I haven’t quite figured out how to make an actual backup yet.

                Might using the built in backup tool be an option for that? I’ll look into that as well.

                Thanks for the help!

                LH

              • #2278060 Reply
                Ascaris
                AskWoody_MVP

                I am wondering if possibly something in the log files would help to figure it out?

                Quite possibly. Is the system still usable when it is not shutting down? You could go to a terminal window and type ‘dmesg’ and see what it says. The log viewer for Mint may also show something useful.

                Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

                1 user thanked author for this post.
              • #2278142 Reply
                LHiggins
                AskWoody Plus

                Yes, the system is usable – just has that suspend issue and earlier the black screen and not responding issue.

                Should I paste the entire log here – it is quite long! There are some bold lines that might be useful, as well as one that is highlighted in red, but I don’t really understand any of it. Please LMK if any would be useful for me to paste here – or is there another way to do it?

                In the meanwhile, I was going to look into checking the disk just so we can rule that out.

                Also – would updating to a newer kernel possibly help – there is one in my update manager now – or even updating to 19.3?

                Thanks!

              • #2278143 Reply
                PKCano
                Da Boss

                Rather than paste the contents, you could attach the file.

                1 user thanked author for this post.
              • #2278150 Reply
                LHiggins
                AskWoody Plus

                OK – that’s a better idea – though it doesn’t show the bolded lines or the red one. I’ll need to boot back into Mint to get that file – sorry – also trying to track down a FF issue in Win 7!

                Maybe time to just get a tablet and forget all about this laptop – LOL!

                Will post back in a while with the file.

                Thanks!

                 

              • #2278164 Reply
                LHiggins
                AskWoody Plus

                OK – here’s the dmesg log file. Hope someone might be able to see something in it that might help!

                Thanks!

                 

                Attachments:
      • #2277577 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        All of that said, I am now again giving some serious thought to possibly installing Linux in a Virtual Box – a question you all were very helpful with back in the fall when I was trying to figure out what to do with this Win 7 laptop. Since the SSD isn’t reliable now for running Mint, maybe it is time to look into the VB idea again? I did install more RAM several months ago – I now have a total of 8 gb – not ideal, but possibly workable?

        I have run Virtual Box with 8GB RAM machines with great success!

        I was even able to run it on a 4GB laptop, but it was a tight fit. The host Windows system had to be mostly idle to free up memory for the guest Linux session running in VB.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2277639 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks John! I am going to reread that old thread about running Linux in a Virtual Box and maybe give that a try. I was quite happy with Linux, so I am disappointed that the SSD is having problems running now. I feel like I am back in September again, trying to figure out the best way to keep this laptop going. Maybe getting time for a new one that I can dual boot…

           

      • #2277601 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        doing a “restore” using Macrium might not really work, correct?

        Nope, it’ll be fine – you’ve already restored to HDD and SSD is no real difference.
        You need to align the files when you clone/restore. It’s also worth checking the alignment with MiniTool Partition Wizard free.

        cheers, Paul

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        • #2277640 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks Paul! Besides actually opening up the laptop and replacing the hard drive – a daunting enough task – LOL, there is also the issue of the size of the SSD – not really big enough for everything that is currently on the HDD. Or would I just be restoring the OS and not all of the data? What would happen to that?

           

           

           

      • #2277656 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks John! I am going to reread that old thread about running Linux in a Virtual Box and maybe give that a try.

        VirtualBox is a neat way to have both systems running at the same time. No more dual-booting!

        You can hot-key switch back and forth between the two desktops. You can even have shared folders for data on the Windows disk. You can copy/paste between clipboards of both systems.

        You will have to decide how much disk space on the host Windows system to dedicate to the virtual hard drive for the VM. If you store all of your data in the host partition via a shared folder, you would only need enough space in the virtual drive for the Linux Mint operating system, plus any software packages you might add. Then some additional space for growth. For example I have a Linux Mint Mate VM with an initial 20GB allocated to the virtual disk, and I am using 14.4GB of that. The rest is “free space” for the VM.

        Another nice thing about a VM guest is that it lives in a single file on your Windows system. You can easily back the whole thing up just by clicking and dragging it to a backup location as a copy.

        I did mention that I was running Mate as my VM desktop. I actually prefer Cinnamon, but it always said it was running the graphics without hardware acceleration. I had never encountered that with a bare metal install of Cinnamon. But there was some incompatibility with the virtual graphics controller. With Mate I had no issues with that. It’s close enough that Mate is fine with me!

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      • #2277720 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Hi John and thanks for the information on the VM. I am thinking that it is something I should try before giving up completely on this laptop.

        Maybe I should start a new discussion about that, but can I ask one question here? Are things like emails or FF favorites saved in the VM version – is there a kind of persistence with it? And maybe you’d know if FF might work the way I have it set up now between Win 7 and Cinnamon on the SSD. Right now, I have it synced, so that the FF in whichever OS I was using would sync with the other so that all history, passwords, bookmarks, etc would always be available in either OS. Do you think that might be possible with the VM – assuming that there is persistence with the VM programs? Guess it will be a case of trial and error to see how it all does work.

        As to the space needed – on my 240gb SSD, I used about 40gb for Cinnamon – so that might give me an idea of how much I’d need. Can you allocate more if you need it?

        I guess before I try it, I should clean up the Win 7 side – I have quite a bit of accumulated “junk” that I can probably consolidate and free up some space. And if everything in the VM is able to be saved on the Win 7 side, that should work out OK. I find that I am not really saving much these days anyway!

        Thanks for the help – and for your input in that discussion about this from last fall, too – I still am working my way through that.

        Have a great rest of the weekend!

        Lily

      • #2277734 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        Maybe I should start a new discussion about that, but can I ask one question here? Are things like emails or FF favorites saved in the VM version – is there a kind of persistence with it? And maybe you’d know if FF might work the way I have it set up now between Win 7 and Cinnamon on the SSD. Right now, I have it synced, so that the FF in whichever OS I was using would sync with the other so that all history, passwords, bookmarks, etc would always be available in either OS. Do you think that might be possible with the VM – assuming that there is persistence with the VM programs? Guess it will be a case of trial and error to see how it all does work. As to the space needed – on my 240gb SSD, I used about 40gb for Cinnamon – so that might give me an idea of how much I’d need. Can you allocate more if you need it?

        There is no difference in the applications like Firefox or anything else running in a VM version of the OS. The OS is identical to one running on hardware, as the only thing virtual is the hardware. VirtualBox creates a “virtual” hardware environment for you to install your OS of choice.

        So your data would be as persistent as with an OS installed on real hardware. Anything that you sync today between copies of the same application on different platforms would work the same way.

        If you give yourself 40GB of space when you install the virtual hard drive, then you should have plenty of space. If necessary, you can make it larger later, but it is much easier to do it up front and not have to adjust later.

        One more thought is that you could turn the entire situation around and install Linux as the host on the actual hardware, and install Windows as the VM guest. The only thing about that method is that Windows does require a valid license even when run as a VM. I did this once with an extra license for WinXP that I had sitting around. Worked great! Still running! I think it might even be a better setup to run a current supported OS, like the latest Mint as the host, and the end of life OS like Win 7 as a VM guest. Of course you would still need a fresh install of Win 7 to setup the VM.

        If you do decide to go down this path, it would probably be best to start a new thread.

        Good luck, and I do hope you get your problems sorted out.

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      • #2277765 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        size of the SSD – not really big enough for everything

        That is a problem. Short of cleaning up your stuff I don’t know what you can do.

        cheers, Paul

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2277871 Reply
        anonymous
        Guest

        FYI:

        • I have done many save/restores using timeshift & macrium on my xubuntu machine

        Timeshift does not overwrite directory “/timeshift”; hence, snapshots on same disk is fine.  If you took the default timeshift option [save system file and not user], your files will not be overwritten.  Upon reboot, your system will be at chosen snapshot.  In the future, you can write snapshots to external linux ext formatted drive by choosing path from  “location” tab.

        Macrium will not work because the free version will only image an installed disk.  [You could use clonezilla to image the external usb drive.  It does work but clonezilla can be a difficult application to use.  I would not recommend using it.]  To use Macrium on a linux machine [installed disk is linux], you have to boot into the rescue media to save and restore an image.

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        • #2277911 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Macrium will not work because the free version will only image an installed disk.

          Ah, thanks for that… was not aware that was one of the limitations.  There are other free backup programs for Windows that can also image Linux partitions.  Aomei Backupper can, but I mentioned the problem I had with that before.  I would guess it has probably been fixed by now, but I can’t really say if that is the case.

          You do not, though, need to boot the rescue media to back up a Linux disk.  You can do it from Windows too… I used to do this all the time before I switched to Veeam in Linux.  Which, of course, is another possibility.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

      • #2279178 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        I just thought I’d post an update on my “progress” on getting to the bottom of this whole SSD/USB/Suspend issue.

        I have tried most of the suggestions here – using different USB ports, changing kernels, rolling back Timeshifts, running dmesg (log file attached to that post above), checking the disk and file system with fsck and SMART – all to no avail. Nothing has given me any information or solved the problem of the random programs not being accessible, the black screens, and the suspend randomly not working.

        Using Timeshift did change the GRUB – instead of saying Cinnamon 19.1 was starting, it first said Ubuntu, and in a later Timeshift to restore back to the latest version, it said Ubuntu with Cinnamon 19.1. But each time, it was actually 19.1 – just “restored” to different points.

        There were issues with both FF and TB though – I could get all of my FF settings etc back with the sync I use between Mint and Win 7, but TB needed me to find my old profile and make it the default – and then it restored all of my emails and addresses. A little bit dicey but that seems OK now.

        Through all of this, there were several times that I got that black screen and had to use the power button to shut down and restart. Suspend – manually or left to the power management settings – would not work until just the last restart, when it did – but once I am done working here and try it again, I have not faith that it will again.

        It just seems to me that there is something that is running that doesn’t allow suspend to work, and even thought I don’t see it in the system monitor, it seems that when programs seem to freeze and there is that black screen – something is overwhelming the system and it just turns the screen off.

        In between all of these attempts, I have been using Win 7 as well, and so far things there seem to be working OK. I did run into a printer issue there this morning, but that is something for another day.

        So – after all of this, I think I am going to admit defeat and chalk this up to the end of what was otherwise a very pleasant Linux experience up until the last month or so. I may look into some form of dual boot – that is another story since the issue, when I created this bootable SSD set up, was that Linux ALWAYS (like 4 times) installed itself on my actual hard drive – not the SSD where I told it to install – and I needed to use Macrium to restore Win 7. Did the same thing on 2 different laptops! So, fearful of that happening if I did try to set up a dual boot, I am reluctant to do that.

        Or, I may still give a VM some thought, too – but I think for now, I am going to just go back to Win 7, harden it as much as possible and maybe put my energies into researching something else – Win 10 or maybe a tablet.

        Thanks to all who did offer ideas and possible solutions. There doesn’t really seem to be anything that will “fix” this – at least none of what I’ve done so far has had any effect. I do appreciate everyone’s input and I am sorry that nothing did work.

         

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        • #2279180 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          So – after all of this, I think I am going to admit defeat and chalk this up to the end of what was otherwise a very pleasant Linux experience up until the last month or so. I may look into some form of dual boot – that is another story since the issue, when I created this bootable SSD set up, was that Linux ALWAYS (like 4 times) installed itself on my actual hard drive – not the SSD where I told it to install

          I think what was happening with that is that it did install Linux where you told it, but it put the bootloader on C:, not on the external drive.  On a UEFI system, all you would have to do to fix this is go into the settings and re-select the Windows boot manager, which is still present (but not selected) in the EFI system partition. On BIOS, the easiest way would be to boot the Macrium Reflect rescue media and use the “fix Windows boot issues” option.  That will rewrite the bootloader to start Windows again.

          I’ve always used the manual option to install Linux, so I am not exactly sure how it looks if you use one of the automated options right offhand. Underneath the main display that shows the partition setup, there’s a place where you can select the location for the bootloader. You’d have to set it to the drive you want to boot to Linux. Most of the time, when you are setting Linux up on a PC that already has Windows, you do want it to put the GRUB bootloader on the main boot device, so that is what the Linux installer does.  If you don’t want it to do that, you will have to tell it not to.

          – and I needed to use Macrium to restore Win 7. Did the same thing on 2 different laptops! So, fearful of that happening if I did try to set up a dual boot, I am reluctant to do that.

          The reason it does what it does is because it is trying to set up a dual boot. It doesn’t know that you intend to have the system bootloader remain Windows 7 and to use a boot override to boot the external drive with Linux.

          The issue is certainly fixable, so I would not give up now. If it worked fine before, but isn’t now, either something in the hardware has changed or broken, which should also result in problems with Windows, or else there is some change in the software (the OS) or in the system BIOS or UEFI settings.

          If the Timeshifts didn’t fix it, it could be that the issue is in the user profile you are using. I’d try creating a new user account and trying that out to see if the system works normally.  If it does, that tells us where to start looking for the problem.

          After you roll back the Timeshift snapshot, be sure not to let it update before trying it out to see if the issue is fixed.  If one of the updates messed it up, that would just be bringing that back. If it still persists, is it possible that the Timeshift snapshots don’t go back far enough?

           

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #2279195 Reply
            LHiggins
            AskWoody Plus

            The issue is certainly fixable, so I would not give up now. If it worked fine before, but isn’t now, either something in the hardware has changed or broken, which should also result in problems with Windows, or else there is some change in the software (the OS) or in the system BIOS or UEFI settings…If it still persists, is it possible that the Timeshift snapshots don’t go back far enough?

            I would love it to be fixed – but I am pretty burned out right now on the whole thing! It could well be that the Timeshifts don’t go back far enough – I do have them back to April, but after the issues with FF and TB, I’m not sure I really want to try that again – seems there was some problem with older versions of both in the older snapshot causing that problem. I did manage to get it all back and running with all of my emails and bookmarks – but then the suspend/black screen started again, so I just gave up!

            After you roll back the Timeshift snapshot, be sure not to let it update before trying it out to see if the issue is fixed. If one of the updates messed it up, that would just be bringing that back.

            Yes – I didn’t let it do that. I did restore it to he latest Timeshift after things didn’t work well, so I think there aren’t too many in the update manager now – but I didn’t get any in any case.

            As to the boot issue with creating the bootable SSD – I am not entirely sure what the problem was. I think that UEFI and BIOS were somehow involved, but even when I tried to do it on an older Win 7 laptop that was definitely BIOS – and was very careful to point the installer to the sdb – not sda – it still somehow overrode that and seemed to install it on the hard drive.

            I’ve always used the manual option to install Linux, so I am not exactly sure how it looks if you use one of the automated options right offhand. Underneath the main display that shows the partition setup, there’s a place where you can select the location for the bootloader. You’d have to set it to the drive you want to boot to Linux.

            It actually was the “something else” manual option, and I did select the SSD as the location for the bootloader, but using either Win 7 laptops – it would not install it where I had it pointed. I did finally manage to get it all working using my very old Vista laptop as the bridge – then it worked as it should have and installed to the external drive – not the internal hard drive.

            Earlier, I had also done the same thing, but installed to a bootable USB thumb drive – and that worked OK. In any case – it was quite an ordeal, and not one that I am ready to repeat – LOL. Whatever I do going forward, I don’t think that it will involve an external bootable drive.

            If the Timeshifts didn’t fix it, it could be that the issue is in the user profile you are using. I’d try creating a new user account and trying that out to see if the system works normally. If it does, that tells us where to start looking for the problem.

            That sounds like something to try. I know I could use sync for FF in a new profile. Would I just copy the TB profile folder and paste it into the new user profile to keep TB intact? Thanks for that idea – I may look into it more once I “recover” from all of this commotion – LOL! It has been pretty frustrating, but I do know that I can’t keep running Win 7 forever either – so something has to be done.

            Thanks again for all of your help! I do appreciate it, and as a relative “newbie” – I do find some of this above my pay grade, so to speak – but as long as things can be reverted back to the way they were, I am game to try.

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            • #2279247 Reply
              Ascaris
              AskWoody_MVP

              It actually was the “something else” manual option, and I did select the SSD as the location for the bootloader, but using either Win 7 laptops – it would not install it where I had it pointed. I did finally manage to get it all working using my very old Vista laptop as the bridge – then it worked as it should have and installed to the external drive – not the internal hard drive.

              Wow, that’s interesting. I’ve never seen that kind of thing myself… I wish I had been there to see it and try to puzzle it out! I don’t know why the installer would behave differently with Windows 7 PCs than the Vista one.  I know my Vista-era PC came with BIOS and my Win 7-era motherboard in my desktop came with UEFI, and Windows 7 x64 supports UEFI booting, though I’ve seen it mentioned that 7 PCs usually came with legacy boot mode enabled anyway. I wonder if that had anything to do with the difference in behavior you saw.

              Maybe also it has something to do with differing drive enumeration order. There’s nothing inherently “first” about sda; that is simply the first (usually) SATA drive that the system discovered at boot time.  The drive that is sda now could be sdb next time, though. Windows has had similar issues with drive lettering changing from boot to boot.

              It is annoying when a malfunction happens, but you don’t have to go as far as reinstalling Windows or Linux to fix the bootloader.

              You can install the Linux bootloader to the drive of your choice from the command line:

              sudo grub-install /dev/sda

              Or /sdb, or /sdc, or so on. Just check the drive in question to make sure that the drive you think is sda really is, and when you issue that command above, it will put the bootloader on the drive that is currently sda. Then, in the BIOS, make sure that drive is set to be the top boot priority.

              In Windows, you can just use (as I mentioned above) the Macrium “fix Windows boot issues” function on the restore media. Windows itself has an option to try to fix boot problems (from the F8 menu at boot time, or it will pop up automatically if it can’t find a boot device or if the Windows boot has failed repeatedly), but it’s a lot less reliable than the Macrium tool.

              None of this should be a problem when setting up a real dual-boot.  It’s even possible to migrate over your existing Linux to the internal drive, and to have that set up to dual boot.  The install-grub command above, along with a ‘sudo update-grub’, should find and set up the dual boot.  I don’t know why one puts the verb first and one puts the noun first, but that’s how they did it.

              The easiest way to get into Linux to be able to issue those commands in the first place is to use the Super GRUB 2 disk (available as .iso to write to a USB) and use that to boot the Linux that is copied over, but not fully bootable yet, and then type those commands.  Be sure to boot Super GRUB 2 using a UEFI boot if you want to set the Linux system up to use UEFI, or do a legacy boot if you want to use that setup for Linux.

              If you’re burned out for now, that’s understandable… there’s no hurry, and you can pick it up again when you are ready.

              Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

              1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2279237 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        Maybe just find a cheap refurbished PC and load Mint directly on the hard drive, no dual boot, and use that as your secure network facing device.

        Dell sells them directly.

        https://www.dellrefurbished.com/

        Then keep your Win7 laptop around for use as needed.

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        • #2279241 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Yes – definitely on my radar! I check that site frequently, and that may be what I end up doing. Might be easier in the long run!

          Thanks!

      • #2279243 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        Yes – definitely on my radar! I check that site frequently, and that may be what I end up doing. Might be easier in the long run!

        I noticed that the ones loaded with Win 7 are cheaper than Win 10.

        That would be an advantage if the Win OS would be a “thowaway” to just be overwritten by Mint.

        I bought my first laptop there 15 years ago as a refurb w/WinXP, and it still works, although I don’t use it anymore… 32-bit only.

        My sister has bought all of her laptops there. And you can find anything from laptops, desktop, workstations, etc.

        They are having a sale on the 1 year extended warranty now. $19 for desktops and $29 for laptops… see below for basic warranty on Dell refurbs:

        Warranty on DellRefurbished.com:

        All of our products include a standard 100 Day Limited Warranty.

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        • #2279248 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Thanks John!

          They don’t always have the older OS models, but you are right, if I could get one with Win 7, that might even run Linux better than a newer one. I have to say that after battling with this situation for the past few weeks, I am definitely leaning toward a simpler solutions!

          And I guess if I did a full Macrium image of the new laptop, I could restore the OS if need be – so maybe an 8.1 would be the best choice?

          Thanks for sharing info on your sister and you both using the Dell refurbished ones. Easy to be hesitant with something that is “used” – but for my purposes, it might really be a good choice in the long run!

          Thanks again!

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      • #2279250 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        I wish I had been there to see it and try to puzzle it out!

        Me too! I could have your input!! It was definitely a mind bender, and I did learn a lot in the process! But it has also made me pretty gun shy about putting my Win 7 at risk!

        Thanks for all of the additional info on how it might still be feasible. And for your many very informative posts as I’ve gone through this as well.

        If you’re burned out for now, that’s understandable… there’s no hurry, and you can pick it up again when you are ready.

        I think I am – and John has info on a different route to look into below as well. At this point, I really just want it to work and not be something that is a challenge every time!

        Thanks again – will let you know what I decide!

      • #2279270 Reply
        DrBonzo
        AskWoody Plus

        I’ve purchased a couple of refurbished laptops from Dell and have been delighted with them. Both are running Win 8.1. Be diligent about checking dellrefurbished.com and you can sometimes score a great deal. Other times not so much, so it pays to be patient.

        Regarding Mint installations, I’ve installed Mint 19.2 Cinnamon on 3 machines as dual boot with Win 7. I’ve also installed it on 2 machines as a sole boot. Both of those options are standard choices when installing Mint from a usb stick. I’ve never had any trouble with anything on those installations. On the two sole boot machines, I initially chose the “something else” option and immediately ran into difficulties. (I no longer remember why I chose that option or what the difficulties were, although they included freezing up, etc. They were old laptops running Vista so I decided to install Mint as a single boot.) And to be clear, all the installations were to the internal hard drive of the computer.

        If your fear is that somehow Win 7 will become corrupted as a result of a dual boot installation of Mint, I would say that is extremely unlikely. Win 7 works exactly as it should on the 3 dual boot machines.

        • This reply was modified 1 month ago by DrBonzo.
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      • #2279290 Reply
        jburk07
        AskWoody Plus

        I have also had good luck with refurbished Dells running Linux Mint, although I didn’t purchase them from Dell. I wound up getting a couple of older Dell Latitude laptops and we are happily dual-booting 19.2 with Windows 7 on one and Windows 10 on the other.

        There is one thing you might want to be aware of and ask about before you buy. I think many Dell laptops come with the SATA controller setting in the BIOS set to RAID instead of AHCI. Maybe it’s just the Dell Latitude models (which are business-class laptops), but it seems to be common with Dell. On the Linux Mint forum you’ll see several posts indicating that the SATA setting should be AHCI for Linux Mint, at least for “general” users. (I’m sure advanced users can set up RAID and make the necessary modifications to install Linux in a RAID setup, but that’s beyond my abilities.)

        This might not be an issue for you if you’re sure you want to get rid of the original OS anyway; you could just switch the setting to AHCI in the BIOS and then install Linux Mint. If it doesn’t work out I imagine you could change the setting back and then restore from an image of the Windows OS.

        For me, though, this inability to switch to AHCI was actually the reason I got the refurbished laptops. The Windows 7 laptops that we had (one Dell, one hp) were both set to RAID, and I couldn’t install Linux Mint. In my case I wanted to dual-boot with Windows 7, since a dual boot had worked well on an even older laptop and desktop, and my installation on an external SSD didn’t work well.

        For Windows 7, the SATA setting really needs to be set to AHCI *before* you install Windows, and I don’t have installation disks for those laptops. With Windows 10 there’s a procedure to change the setting in the BIOS without reinstalling the OS, but for Windows 7 a similar procedure appears to risk bricking the system. Since that is something a system image of the disk couldn’t restore, I didn’t want to take that risk. And my hp laptop doesn’t even offer a way to change the setting to AHCI!

        So, before I purchased the refurbished Dells, I contacted the sellers and asked if they would change the setting to AHCI before installing Windows. Both were willing to do so with no extra charge, and both laptops are running Linux Mint in dual boot with Windows very nicely. One refurbisher was on eBay and the other was on Amazon, so I don’t have any experience with the actual Dell site.

        Again, this might not be an issue in your case. On the other hand, you might consider trying dual boot on a refurbished laptop. Then if it didn’t work out you could still delete Windows and just install Mint by itself. For dual boot, the “Install Linux Mint alongside Windows” option in the installer has worked great for me on 3 Dell laptops and a desktop. If you wanted to try it, though, the SATA setting should probably be AHCI on the refurbished laptop.

        So anyway, I thought I’d just let you know about my experience, just in case. To keep more options open, you might want to ask about the AHCI setting before you buy.

        Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.2
        Group A:
        Win7 Pro x64 SP1 Haswell, 0patch Pro, dual boot with Linux
        Win7 Home Premium x64 SP1 Ivy Bridge, 0patch Pro, mostly offline
        Win 10 Pro x64 v1909 Ivy Bridge, dual boot with Linux

        • This reply was modified 1 month ago by jburk07.
        • This reply was modified 1 month ago by jburk07.
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        • #2279310 Reply
          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          Since that is something a system image of the disk couldn’t restore, I didn’t want to take that risk. And my hp laptop doesn’t even offer a way to change the setting to AHCI!

          If you changed the option back to RAID, and then performed the restore, there’s no reason it should not work.

          I am not really sure what the “RAID” setting means in that context. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, and there is no array of disks in these models. I’ve never really tried to find out… I put it in AHCI and went on my merry way.

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

          3 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2279362 Reply
            jburk07
            AskWoody Plus

            If you changed the option back to RAID, and then performed the restore, there’s no reason it should not work.

            That’s good to know, thanks. I had read some online reports that made it sound like the user wasn’t able to get the laptop to boot again after going back to RAID. But since we’ve now replaced the old Windows 7 Dell and have backup images of it, I might risk it.

            When you said, “I put it in AHCI and went on my merry way,” did you mean you switched it with Windows installed, adding Linux in dual boot? Or you just switched it and installed Linux instead?

            On the hp laptop, I read one explanation that the RAID setting was supposed to make it possible to use the hybrid SSD/spinning hard drives (SSHD). I don’t know why Dell sets it to RAID.

            Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.2
            Group A:
            Win7 Pro x64 SP1 Haswell, 0patch Pro, dual boot with Linux
            Win7 Home Premium x64 SP1 Ivy Bridge, 0patch Pro, mostly offline
            Win 10 Pro x64 v1909 Ivy Bridge, dual boot with Linux

            1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #2279423 Reply
              Ascaris
              AskWoody_MVP

              When you said, “I put it in AHCI and went on my merry way,” did you mean you switched it with Windows installed, adding Linux in dual boot? Or you just switched it and installed Linux instead?

              That may have been a poor choice of words on my part. What I mean by that is that since that was the “right” setting, I set it to AHCI and didn’t think about changing it back to make anything work. If something broke in Windows, I would fix that (if possible) so that it would work in AHCI. I didn’t mean to suggest that I just changed it and everything worked anyway.

              The funny thing is, I don’t actually remember if things still worked after making the settings change, or what I did to get things working. When things break, to me, it’s just a minor setback, and I try to figure out how to fix it. With all of the information that is out there on the internet, more often than not, I can find a way to fix things.

              Most of the breakage I experience is caused by me intentionally messing with things that I know have a high risk potential, and since I have good backups, I don’t really see things breaking as a big problem. It’s like a puzzle to figure out how to unbreak things without having to restore from that backup (which I will do as a last resort, or if I get tired of messing with it).

              I’m still relatively new to Linux compared to some people here, and breaking things, then fixing them (or trying to!) is a way of learning. I did the same thing with Windows back in the day.

              I do remember seeing it set to “RAID” by default and wondering what that meant (since there’s no array of disks, as I mentioned before), which made it stick in my mind, but what came after that, I don’t remember.

              The procedure you mentioned for converting 7 to AHCI (that had the possibility of messing things up) is quite possibly what I did.

              Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

              3 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2279398 Reply
            mn–
            AskWoody Lounger

            I am not really sure what the “RAID” setting means in that context. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, and there is no array of disks in these models. I’ve never really tried to find out… I put it in AHCI and went on my merry way.

            On the hp laptop, I read one explanation that the RAID setting was supposed to make it possible to use the hybrid SSD/spinning hard drives (SSHD). I don’t know why Dell sets it to RAID.

            This. It’s the same on Dell. Install the correct Intel Rapid Storage drivers and you can build a virtual array of HDD + SSD-as-cache, AND have Windows be able to boot from it.

            May even be possible to make a real RAID1 between the 2.5″ and M.2 / mSATA (whichever your model has) slot but I’ve never seen this done.

            Point is, as we know here it can be a bother to get Windows to change its boot method if you don’t know how, but if you have a spinning HDD installed and everything already set to RAID, then you can just add the cache SSD later as advertised (though not recently). As long as you only ran Windows and only one installation of that, too. (Dangerous with Windows/Windows multiboot and/or with VeraCrypt.)

            There were even some models that could optionally do the hybrid setup in firmware transparently to the OS, not requiring special drivers except for changing cache options while running. (My old Dell Precision 6300 had that.)

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            • #2279435 Reply
              mn–
              AskWoody Lounger

              … forgot to note that since there aren’t Linux drivers for the Intel chipset proprietary “RAID” mode, it only works for those few all-firmware models that way, and even on them it’s a lot less than optimal.

              Linux doesn’t need chipset and fancy driver support to be able to do RAID and caching, anyway. (If you really want to do the hybrid drive thing, well, lvmcache is nice.)

              So for Linux, AHCI all the way unless you have a proper hardware RAID.

              1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #2279562 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          There is one thing you might want to be aware of and ask about before you buy. I think many Dell laptops come with the SATA controller setting in the BIOS set to RAID instead of AHCI.

          Wow – always something new to learn about and find out about! Thanks for this information – I had never heard about this possible issue before.

          …my installation on an external SSD didn’t work well.

          Yes, that is why I am trying to figure out my next step as well, since my attempts at installing on my external SSD waere an issue as well.

          If your fear is that somehow Win 7 will become corrupted as a result of a dual boot installation of Mint, I would say that is extremely unlikely.

          Yes, that is still my concern, especially given the problems I had just getting Linux to install to my external drive in the first place. However, if I can use Macrium to restore things, I still may give that a try.

          Thanks for all of the advice and new info on that RAID/AHCI issue, too!

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #2279599 Reply
            jburk07
            AskWoody Plus

            Just out of curiosity, what SSD did you use for your external install? Mine was a 240GB SanDisk Plus, and Linux Mint 19.2 kept freezing, with apparent file system corruption requiring manual fsck after re-boots. I re-installed Linux and it happened again, so I gave up on using an external SSD since I didn’t want to have to buy another SSD to try.

            I was interested in Paul T’s and JohnW’s comments that the problem could be the USB in the laptop or the USB controller in the SSD. I’ve been using another one of those (admittedly very inexpensive) SanDisk Plus 240GB SSDs as an internal disk in an old Dell desktop dual-booting Mint with Windows for almost a year, so far without problems. I guess time will tell whether that SSD model is just not great quality or the problem was maybe with the USB connection.

            Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.2
            Group A:
            Win7 Pro x64 SP1 Haswell, 0patch Pro, dual boot with Linux
            Win7 Home Premium x64 SP1 Ivy Bridge, 0patch Pro, mostly offline
            Win 10 Pro x64 v1909 Ivy Bridge, dual boot with Linux

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            • #2279679 Reply
              LHiggins
              AskWoody Plus

              Just out of curiosity, what SSD did you use for your external install?… I re-installed Linux and it happened again, so I gave up on using an external SSD since I didn’t want to have to buy another SSD to try.

              Mine is a Pioneer 240 GB SSD with a USB connection. After the ongoing issues I’ve had, I am about ready to give up on it, too.

              I was interested in Paul T’s and JohnW’s comments that the problem could be the USB in the laptop or the USB controller in the SSD

              Yes, that seems to be a possibility. I did try a different USB port – same results. I am still thinking that maybe I’d try the SSD in a different laptop – if the same thing happens again, then perhaps it is the USB controller in the drive itself.

              PaulT has suggested to me that I use the SSD as an internal drive, but I don’t feel I have the expertise for that – and the amount of data I currently have on my hard drive is more than the 240 gb.

              Right now I’m also looking into how I can erase that disk, once I am sure I am done with Linux on it. My Windows doesn’t recognize it to reformat it – maybe using the Linux install USB and booting into the Live version would allow me to reformat the SSD?

               

               

              • This reply was modified 1 month ago by LHiggins.
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              • #2279735 Reply
                jburk07
                AskWoody Plus

                I think you should be able use the live Linux install USB drive to reformat your SSD. After I gave up on my external-install SSD, I was able to see it on another Linux computer using GParted, though I didn’t do anything with it since I didn’t know if the SSD had some defect that had caused my problem. Judging from the responses here, though, I guess there could have been other things at fault.

                Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.2
                Group A:
                Win7 Pro x64 SP1 Haswell, 0patch Pro, dual boot with Linux
                Win7 Home Premium x64 SP1 Ivy Bridge, 0patch Pro, mostly offline
                Win 10 Pro x64 v1909 Ivy Bridge, dual boot with Linux

                1 user thanked author for this post.
            • #2279700 Reply
              Ascaris
              AskWoody_MVP

              Mine was a 240GB SanDisk Plus, and Linux Mint 19.2 kept freezing, with apparent file system corruption requiring manual fsck after re-boots.

              Hmm, I just thought of something.

              When I was configuring TLP, a package for Linux that aims to reduce power consumption on laptops when on battery, one of the things that could be enabled was “AHCI runtime power management.” It came with a warning that the feature was experimental and could cause system lockups or data loss. This power management feature apparently is OFF by default in Linux, and the makers of TLP advise keeping it that way.

              USB has its own power management settings, though. It is normal for the system to suspend devices that have not been active for a while to save power, and usually this is not a problem. For the typical use cases of external drives, this is probably not an issue, but when you have the OS running on that external drive, it could be causing the same issue that AHCI runtime power management is said to cause with SATA.

               

              Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.19.4).

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      • #2279616 Reply
        Microfix
        AskWoody MVP

        This explanation of USB v eSata may enlighten: esata-vs-usb-3
        Was an external USB device indended to run an OS?

        Win8.1 Pro x64 Linux Hybrids x64 Win7 Pro x64 Offline
        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #2279681 Reply
          LHiggins
          AskWoody Plus

          Was an external USB device intended to run an OS?

          Thanks for that link – I will read up on it, but perhaps that is the real issue – that the USB SSD is not intended to run a complete install of an OS. I was advised at the outset that a USB thumb drive might burn out, which is why I opted for the SSD – but that hasn’t proved to be successful in the long run, either.

      • #2279780 Reply
        Paul T
        AskWoody MVP

        Right now I’m also looking into how I can erase that disk

        Use Windows to initialize and format the disk. All data will be removed.

        cheers, Paul

      • #2280469 Reply
        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        Right now I’m also looking into how I can erase that disk, once I am sure I am done with Linux on it. My Windows doesn’t recognize it to reformat it – maybe using the Linux install USB and booting into the Live version would allow me to reformat the SSD?

        A live-Linux boot is indeed the usually easiest method of dealing with storage devices gone “weird”. It’s not just Windows that’ll just give up and not acknowledge a disk at all if its contents are in certain ways “unexpected” … like a badly damaged FAT or NTFS after a power surge, for example.

        One live-Linux boot, some media tests (bad blocks -> broken, no bad blocks -> just garbled data) and “dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/$whatever”, and the merely garbled cases will usually work again just fine.

        (Oh and if there was possibly important data on it, do a copy-to-image first in read-only mode and then analyze the image. On average this too works better in Linux than most other operating systems.)

        If the device the storage part goes on is a camera, media box, weird networking device (router, etc…), oscilloscope, car wash, or some such, often better to reformat on it once it’ll agree to do it. Those things can be picky about their data formats.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2280472 Reply
        JohnW
        AskWoody Plus

        A live-Linux boot is indeed the usually easiest method of dealing with storage devices gone “weird”. It’s not just Windows that’ll just give up and not acknowledge a disk at all if its contents are in certain ways “unexpected” … like a badly damaged FAT or NTFS after a power surge, for example.

        Totally agreed. Just last weekend I used GParted running in a live Linux Mint session to delete some partitions that Windows Disk Management wouldn’t let me touch. I wanted to allocate all of the disk as one contiguous NTFS partition.

        So with GParted I completely deleted all of the existing partitions, and the partition table. Then created a single partition using all available unallocated space.

        Very handy tool! 🙂

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GParted

        2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2286219 Reply
        LHiggins
        AskWoody Plus

        Update related to the suspend issue, in case anyone else is having an issue. I found that it was due to my wireless mouse! Pretty “simple” fix if it holds, but for now, all I’ve been doing is turning the mouse off BEFORE I try to suspend the laptop, and it has been working. Not sure just why or what happened – but I’ll take it!

         

        • #2286224 Reply
          Paul T
          AskWoody MVP

          I think there is a setting to allow devices to prevent sleep. See if this applies to your mouse.

          cheers, Paul

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #2286257 Reply
            LHiggins
            AskWoody Plus

            I think there is a setting to allow devices to prevent sleep. See if this applies to your mouse.

            I have checked my Mint settings and there isn’t anything for the mouse to prevent or allow sleep. However, I understand that there is some terminal code that can change the setting so that the USB mouse doesn’t wake the computer. I haven’t tried it yet – a bit more involved than I am ready for, but at the moment, just turning the mouse off works. I generally did turn it off once the laptop was sleeping anyway, when things just all worked. So just a matter of doing it before I try to initiate sleep.

            Pretty simple fix in case anyone else has run into the same issue – at least something to try.

            Thanks!

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