By Collin Allen

Cloning HP Digital Senders

May 14, 2006

HP offers a neat series of devices called Digital Senders, which have the capability to scan papers and email a PDF all with the touch of a button. While the newer models like the 9200c work, the older – and discontinued – 9100c is still far more popular in office environments. As with all things digital, they occasionally decide to stop working, often at the most inconvenient time. The most common point of failure in Digital Senders is the built-in hard drive, which is used for storing the operating system, address book, and other critical information. HP offers replacement drives, but they cost a small fortune. Fortunately, the replacements are run-of-the mill 3 to 10 GB hard drives (worth only a fraction of the price HP would have you pay).

If you have more than one 9100c, a spare hard drive, a standard desktop PC, and a copy of Norton Ghost 2003, you can clone the working Digital Sender and bring the broken one back to life. Personally, I’ve had great success cloning 9100c hard drives using Ghost, however it took a bit of work to get that far.

By default, Norton Ghost clones partitions between hard drives while simultaneously resizing them such that the destination uses all available space – a feature usually taken for granted. This is great when moving an install of Windows XP from one hard drive to another, but having the maximum available space is hardly a concern in a Digital Sender. This feature can also cause some cloned drives to fail, as the device expects the partition sizes to be within certain ranges. Thankfully, a simple “-IR” (Image Raw) switch can force Ghost to do a bit-for-bit copy, ignoring partitions and unused data alike. When using this option, the destination partitions remain the same size despite the likely increase in total available disk space. After all, a 5 or 10 GB IDE hard drive is impossible to find in stores, these days.

Using a working 9100c Digital Sender hard drive as a source disk, it’s a good idea to first upgrade the software on it using HP’s tools and reset it to factory defaults in the Shift-Alt-Green, Tools menu. While this is not a necessary step, it’s generally good practice to have the newest Digital Sender software, and to get the configuration as close to the defaults as possible to avoid any conflicts. After resetting it to factory defaults, the Digital Sender will reboot. While the initial RAM test is onscreen, switch it off (similar to pulling the plug on a desktop computer while it’s running POSTs – before the system begins to load and the hard drive gets changed in any way).

With an “untouched” and factory-default 9100c hard drive in hand, it can then be attached to the IDE bus of your computer in Master configuration (the default for 9100c Digital Senders). Then, connect a Slave drive of slightly larger size, as the -IR switch can only copy a drive to one of exactly equal or greater size. Make a Ghost boot disk, and when prompted for any additional switches, enter “-IR”. In the disk creation summary, you can see that ghost.exe is being called by “ghost.exe -IR”. Once the disk is made, boot the computer and use Ghost’s “To Disk” command to copy the 9100c drive to the larger one. Be very careful not to overwrite your good hard drive with the blank one! Since the -IR switch is set, Ghost will pay no attention to partitions as it usually does. Cloning the disk will take a good 10 minutes, since it will be copying several gigabytes bit-for-bit. When done, set the newly cloned Slave drive to Master, and the 9100c should boot off of it without a hitch.

Symantec maintains a list of useful Ghost commands. Note that the -IR switch is the most “raw” one available, as it does not modify any portion of the data – not even the partition map (as the -ID switch may). For this reason, your clone destination drive must be the same size or larger. A smaller disk simply cannot contain all the data from the source disk, even if the bits technically aren’t used by the Digital Sender.

So far, my experiments have worked with every brand hard drive I’ve tried, with sizes ranging from 5 to 40 GB. This is, of course, after many hours of testing, trials, and errors.