Using a Mac to make Windows cope with something Linux touched

by Simon St. Laurent

Sometimes the easiest path from Linux to Windows is via the Macintosh.

I've been building a new Linux box, my first in a few years. (More on that later.) Thanks to a complicated series of mistakes on my part, I wound up with a spare 40GB drive on which I'd already installed Linux. It seemed simple enough to put it in an enclosure and use it as a USB drive for my perpetually short of space Windows laptop. Windows detected the drive, and everything seemed fine, except that I couldn't do anything at all with it. (When did Windows obliterate the disk admin tools it used to have in NT 4.0? [Corrected: Not obliterated, as noted in comments. Just buried.])

I was still reinstalling Linux on the other system, so I finally plugged the drive into my iMac to see what it could do. Sure enough, options for partitioning and formatting came right up. Five minutes later, the drive was in boring old FAT32, and now my laptop recognized it immediately as extra space.

Now I just need to figure out why my laptop insists on connecting all USB devices as 1.0, when it had perfectly good 2.0 support until last week. (It still says it has USB 2.0 in the Device Manager - it just doesn't in practice.)

Have third party interventions helped you deal with contending operating systems?


2005-11-23 09:11:14
Normally I don't pipe up to support Microsoft, but in this case, you really didn't look around too hard.

The disk management tools are still all there in XP. Just go into computer management and go into storage->disk management. You can partition, format, etc.

Any questions?

2005-11-23 09:17:08
no questions, but
That's hardly an obvious path unless you already know where you're going - and Google searches on reformatting didn't come up with it either. (Lots about reformatting hard drives with the setup disk for XP for clean installs...)

On the Mac, I attached the drive, and had the partitioning choices up within a minute, knowing nothing about where I was going.

I'm glad to see they didn't lose the tools that I liked in the past, but burying them a few layers down doesn't make me much happier.

2005-11-24 23:48:12
Woes on 'oze
On a related note, I couldn't find the address bar in that "Internet Explorer" application, so I installed Mozilla Firefox. It was a breeze.

And that "Word" application didn't work out for me as well, I figure the "Save As..." dialog was buried under several layers of obscure functions, so I went for OpenOffice. Should've done it from the beginning.

And what's up with finding files, or even opening some on Windows XP? I mean, is there any file manager of any sorts? I admit I didn't look much further than in the "Start" menu, but since I came up emptyhanded I just installed Mac OS X (took me only 1 hour, probably less than finally figuring out if Windows XP has a file manager at all), copied over all my old stuff - oh wait, I didn't, because I erased all previous data upon installation. So I guess I just recreate all work from the past 10 years or so, which is probably still faster than finding and installing such a thing as a file manager on Windows XP (if that's possible at all, I mean, I didn't look that far, but geez, I gave me some headache and woes, but thanks O'Reilly for giving me some space to write about my journey).

And thanks for listening. No one listens these days.

2005-11-25 08:01:27
funny response
None of the Windows situations you're pretending to complain about involve trying something, being told that it works - thanks to those cheerfully annoying bubbles at bottom right - and then finding it utterly useless, with no guidance about what to do.

The contrast with the Mac, which brought me options I could use immediately, is pretty stupendous. I know that telling a Windows audience that there might still be something that Windows could learn from the Mac is discouraging, but sometimes it's true nonetheless.

While Windows seems frequently to use interfaces to hide rather than highlight useful features, I was hardly proposing that people chuck Windows in favor of the Mac - just that a Mac is handy to have around sometimes, even to fix situations where Windows would rather pretend everything's okay.

2005-11-25 10:54:50
Not to start a flame war, but...
Not to start a flame war, but in my experience it's much easier to find the basic utilities and services I need for most common tasks on Macintosh.

However, if I need a more esoteric option or service on a Macintosh, it's man "name of utility", 5 minutes of reading and then 2 minutes of experimenting.

On Windows, I can almost always get to the most obscure options by simply right clicking and then clicking properties until I'm in the fifth dialog box. No trip to the CLI needed.

2005-11-25 11:29:13
No flames, just nothing to right-click on
This was one of the cases where right-clicking in Windows didn't offer hope at all. Device manager would show me drivers, but no access to the contents. There's wasn't an icon of any kind presented for the drive in the normal interface. (Computer Management, as noted below, did have an icon and options.)

I've never had much need for esoteric options on my iMac, but then I do most of my heavy lifting on Windows or Linux anyway.

2005-11-25 19:47:07
funny response
/sarcasm off

You miss the point. Look, I use Windows, Linux and Mac OS every day to Get Things Done. When I feel the urge to tell my friends just how great either platform is, I do so without building a false pretense.

And you won't believe how lame the "I know that telling a Windows audience that ..." note sounds.

2005-11-25 19:51:36
No flames, just nothing to right-click on
Remember that Windows XP is intended for Joe Sixpack and Auntie. Do you really want them to have the "Partition" and "Format" functions sitting right there in a drive's context menu? Come on.

The right place is an advanced menu in the system administration section. Oh, wait - that's exactly where it is!

2005-11-25 20:48:47
your sarcasm wasn't great to start with
I wasn't attempting to make great claims about how wonderful the Mac is or how crappy Windows is. I was making a point about how having different operating systems around can be extremely useful because they have different attitudes toward common problems.

The moral of the story: I'm glad I have multiple operating systems around. If that's too scary, you don't have to have them.

2005-11-25 20:53:19
successes resulting in failures not helpful
Yeah, actually I'd like Joe Sixpack to have some chance of getting a hard drive to work without wondering why he plugged the thing in and it says it works but it doesn't.

Providing some pathway from where Joe Sixpack looks to the advanced menu might reduce the number of tech support calls the rest of us get to answer.

Will there be lots and lots of accidentally formatted hard drives as a result? Seems unlikely.

Failing that, an extra balloon saying "Sorry, Windows can't read this hard drive" might be a nice feature.

2005-11-25 22:52:35
your sarcasm wasn't great to start with
If that was indeed the moral of the story then why didn't you write it the first time? Instead you wrote a post that made it seem as if Windows XP didn't have any means to format/partition a hard-drive, which is provingly false.
2005-11-25 23:00:00
successes resulting in failures not helpful
So is that what it boils down to? You get "tech support calls" and that's why you have to elaborate on fictitious failures of Windows?

Just so you know, Joe Sixpack will have a chance of getting a hard drive to work,

(1) when installing Windows XP (format/partition new empty hard drive),
(2) when plugging in an unformatted/unpartitioned hard drive.

In your case Windows XP properly detected that the hard drive was already partitioned/formatted, so it (i.e. the programmers) chose not to mess with it.

But we do know how the story would end if indeed Windows XP offered an option to format/partition a hard drive to Joe Sixpack from the Windows Explorer even when it contained an unrecognized system.

"Every once in a while I get tech support calls because an unwitting user accidentally erased his [insert favorite system here] hard drive. Why won't Microsoft fix this, e.g. by moving the dialogs to the system administration branch of the control panel, and by disabling the wizard that asks if a user wants to format/partition a drive?"

2005-11-25 23:04:54
successes resulting in failures not helpful
BTW, you still haven't corrected the initial post which reads,

(When did Windows obliterate the disk admin tools it used to have in NT 4.0?)

So much for urban myths.

2005-11-26 10:16:04
I don't usually update the original, as the comments are there for readers. But since you insist...