Modern Dystopia

Tag Archive: recovery disks

Swapping Hard Drives in an Acer Laptop

I thought it was about time that this blog actually had some useful information rather than an unending stream of Twitter posts.

My Acer Aspire notebook has been giving me all kinds of hell recently, and I was pretty sure the HDD was on the way out. Actually I could pretty much guarantee the hard drive was… cactus.

It was so bad that although the laptop would boot, doing basically anything would result in a total lockup and force a hard reboot. So today I bit the bullet and went and bought some new RAM, and a nice shiny Seagate Momemtum XT Hybrid drive (500gb). However, Acer, in their wisdom don’t actually supply recovery disks any more. You have to run the recovery from the HDD, a bit problematic when you a) want to retain all your data, and b) want to replace the drive

So here is how I did it!

I used two software tools, 2 external 2.5″ SATA USB enclosures and another computer to achieve this.

  1. HDHacker, which i found here on this excellent page about backing up your MBR
  2. Easeus Partition Master

These were both installed on my desktop PC to facilitate the process. So, here’s how it was done, and I’ll leave out all the bits that went wrong, so just be sure to follow the instructions here, this is what went RIGHT!

  1. Remove the original drive from the laptop and insert into enclosure 1
  2. Put the new HDD in enclosure 2
  3. Plug both drives into the desktop PC via USB.
  4. Run EASEUS and you will see that the ACER laptop drive has FOUR partitions.
  5. These partitions include TWO hidden partitions, the partitions should be: PQSEREVICE, ACER, DATA and an UnNamed partition
  6. Use EASEUS to COPY the PQSERVICE partition to your new drive. Make sure you label it PQSERVICE and also set it as a PRIMARY partition. Do NOT assign a drive letter.
  7. Apply the change (Do this after EACH step!!)
  8. Wait… the copy operation will take a while, and may even seem to be going nowhere at times. Just be patient, get a coffee.
  9. OK, now we can CREATE your ACER and DATA partitions on the new drive. Don’t copy them or you’ll be waiting all night. You can set the size of these to whatever you like, but be sure to allow space for the 4th partition at the end. Take note, these are BOTH set as PRIMARY partitions. This drive must match exactly the original drive in the layout if not the size of it’s partitions. APPLY YOUR CHANGES
  10. Now the last partition. Copy this one, it is only a gig or two so doesn’t take too long. Make sure it has NO LABEL, and NO DRIVE LETTER. Again, it’s a PRIMARY partition. APPLY!!!
  11. Now, we’re almost done. But the new disk needs a custom Acer MBR (master Boot Record), and we’re going to have to copy that from the old drive.
  12. Run HDHacker (on your Desktop PC) and select “Physical Drive (MBR)” and your drive (if it was drive 2 in EASEUS it may be drive 1 here)
  13. Now click Read Sector From Disk, and then Save Sector To File which will make a copy of the MBR and save it to a file on your Desktop PC. Oh and you can tell it’s the Acer MBR because you should see the word Acer in all the gobbledegook.
  14. Now select the NEW drive, click Load Sector From File and make sure you open the file you saved in the previous step. Then Write Sector On Disk. Make sure you are writing this to the NEW laptop drive. Be very careful here, you can potentially screw up your desktop if you write this file to your desktop drive by accident.
  15. OK, so we’re just about done. You should have a new HDD with a set of partitions that look exactly like your old one, but with no data on the ACER and DATA partitions. It has a MBR that is an exact duplicate of your original disk. The only other thing that ‘may’ trip you up is that Acer set a password on the recovery process.
  16. The recovery password…. this may not be needed. The default Acer Recovery password is ‘0000’ but in case you changed it, you may like to make sure now instead of later.
  17. Using EASEUS on your OLD drive set the PQSERVICE parttion as Active and assign a drive letter. Now APPLY!
  18. Open up a command prompt (you know, go to ‘Start –> Run and type CMD )
  19. Now change to the drive letter you just assigned, and run EDIT
  20. Open the file AIMDRS.DAT that is in the root of the PQSERVICE partition. You should see the password as plain text. It’s that easy.
  21. Now close that, exit the command prompt and reset the old partitions to how they were.
  22. Time to pop the new drive in your laptop, and turn it on, press F2 to go into your system BIOS where you can check the drive is detected and your boot order is correct. Save settings, exit and be prepared to press Alt+F10 at boot to enter recovery mode.
  23. That’s it, you are on your own from here.

Now this is how I did it. There’s a few other guides around, and it always pays to read up on the subject before tackling something like this. I hope however I’ve made this process of changing your laptop hard drive as straightforward as possible.