11-14-2013 08:46 AM
Further reading pointed me towards clues in the type of booting mechanism that the machine is endowed with. It appears that the drive letter issue is primarily to do with W8 not using MBR but UEFI. I tried assigning the "correct" drive letters and that did not work. The only thing left to test was whether the mechanical HDD's existing system partition characteristics (notably, any pre-existing boot flags on the disk/partitions) was interfering with R&R's choice of target disk. So, manually removing boot flags appeared to be necessary to rule out that possibility.
Except that it is not possible (currently) with UEFI boot. Using admin shell and diskpart if I give the "select volume #" followed by the "inactive" commands, I get an error message saying that this is not possible since the disk is not MBR. I don't have access to other tools that can remove any left-over boot flags on the HDD (I believe PartitionWizard Pro Edition has those available). Since I'm a cheapskate, I decided not to spend any extra money on this :-). So I tried disabling SecureBoot in the BIOS and switching over to Legacy Boot mode in the hope that it would allow me the possibility of making persistent the drive letter assignments and removing pre-existing boot flags from the HDD using standard CL tools.
Going the Legacy Boot way slows down boot time considerably but things appeared to be okay. Until I had the computer screen blanking out and the processor/fan maxing out for a good 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes were probably the most harrowing 10 mins in recent memory since "stuff that I did not understand" and could not see was happening at the BIOS level! I could have bricked the laptop entirely. Chastised with this experience, I have chickened out of this journey (for now). I got the hell out of there, switched back BIOS specs to factory settings and have decided to wait until some intrepid soul from the Linux community or the folks in EasyBCD figure out how to handle multiple disks/OSs and boot flag issues within UEFI. My objective #2 - having a self-contained solution to R&R in this mSATA+HDD environment is off the table now.
For now, since I have the Recovery USB key already made I'm going to keep it "really safe". I still cannot do system re-imaging (even though I have a Working Image saved and backed up). My "guess-plan" in the event of W8 messing itself up is as follows:
1. Physically pull out the HDD
2. Insert the Recovery USB and start "Recovery"
3. Once the "Recovery OS" is running in a live session (not installed, but just running), I can plug in the external HDD where I have my desired Working Image saved, copy the Working Image to the mSATA drive (since my current experience suggests that W8 does not allow you to navigate to an image during recovery; it only automatically picks up any image/images that exist at the root level in a drive that is already being seen by the currently running OS).
4. Restore that image onto the mSATA.
5. Shutdown, remove USB, reboot.
6. Physically attach the mechanical HDD back into the system.
7. Update W8, restart.
To the moderators: From my end this thread is over. Not "solved" but definitely "closed". If someone else wants to chime in, feel free.
11-14-2013 09:19 AM
For now, since I have the Recovery USB key already made I'm going to keep it "really safe"
FWIW, I ran this test on my Twist: made the recovery flash drive. Copied the contents to my archive HDD. Formatted another flash drive and copied those contents to it. Restored to a fresh HDD in the Twist from the 2nd flash drive.
Just suggesting you archive the contents of that recovery drive if you haven't already. Belt, suspenders, safety pins...
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11-14-2013 10:15 AM
Thanks Z! This is good news. And I hadn't considered it....somehow I assumed that the "Factory Recovery USB" created via the Lenovo button is a sort of "unified entity" that can exist only on that particular USB. Since typically manufacturers "really" like to lock down stuff, I had sort of assumed this aspect away. Thanks for highlighting that the USB contents can be backed-up and re-used.
Now I'll go and make 5 copies of that USB (one in my personal HDD, one in the personal folder at work, one in the work backup drive, one for cloud account #1, one for cloud account #2 and so on ). Talk about paranoia....