BOOT CAMP 081
RECOVERY PART 1
One day – and it will happen – you'll sit down in front of
your computer, press the on button and instead of the usual start up screens a
scary error message will appear, informing you that today your PC is not going
to co-operate. Of course it will be only a minor inconvenience because you have
a tried and tested recovery strategy, all of your critical files have been
backed up and there's a spare PC standing by. If so you are excused the next
two episodes of Boot Camp, which are all about what to do if your PC goes on
That's got rid of all those smug smarty pants… For the rest
of us, even those of who religiously make copies of important files, backups
are a fat lot of good if your one and only PC refuses to work. Rule number-one
is to keep calm. Hitting your machine with a heavy object rarely helps and put
down that screwdriver! If you've taken a few simple precautions, and the
problem is confined to iffy software – as it usually is -- then there are
several things you can try before resorting to helplines and the experts. Follow
these simple steps and there's a fair chance you'll have your PC up and running
again within an hour or two.
The first job – and do it now if you haven't already done so
– is to create a Windows Start Up disc. Just pop in an empty floppy, click
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add-Remove Programs, select the
Start Up disc tab and follow the instructions. When it has finished remove the
disc, label it and put it somewhere safe. Your Start Up disc contains a
collection of files and utilities that should get your PC started and help to
diagnose and cure the most common problems.
Windows 95 users might also like to make an Emergency
Recovery Disc or ERU; this saves important system files, including
Autoexec.bat, config.sys, command.com, win.ini and system.ini to a floppy disc.
In the event of a crash they can be restored by running a program on the disc
called erd.exe. The ERU program is on the Windows 95 CD-ROM. Use Windows
Explorer to open the 'Other' folder then Misc and ERU. Double click the eru.exe
icon to start the program and copy the files to a blank floppy. System files in
Windows 98 can be backed up by going to Start > Programs > Accessories
> System Tools > System Information, click on the Tools menu, select
System Configuration Utility, display the General tab and click the Create Backup
button. The files are stored on the hard disc and can be recovered from the same
window using the Restore Button window, assuming that Windows is running of
Next, make a backup copy of your PCs all-important Registry
files. There is a utility on the Windows 95 CD-ROM called cfgback.exe (also in
the Other folder) but it's just as easy to do it from the Registry Editor. In Run
on the Start menu type 'regedit' then click OK. Go to the Registry menu and
select Export Registry File. You will be asked to give it a name ('regbak' is traditional)
and a place to store it. It's usually much too big for a floppy so create a new
folder for it on the hard disc, or tuck it away somewhere you will remember to
find it. This file is for Registry emergencies only, if Windows reports such a
problem click on the regbak.reg icon to automatically restore the backup.
It's all very well having a Start Up disc, but what are you
supposed to do with it? The first occasion most PC owners will need it is when
their computer won't start, which is not the best time to learn how it works. The
Windows manuals aren't much help either, so let's run through the basics.
We'll come to Windows 98 in a moment but first the Windows
95 Start Up disc, which leaves users pretty much to their own devices. If your
computer fails to boot up or Windows won't start switch it off, insert the disc
and switch it back on again. This time the PC will boot to MS-DOS from the
floppy disc and after a few moments you will see an A:\ prompt.
By the way, this procedure should give you access to your
hard disc, just type C: and you're in. From there you can view the contents of
the drive by typing 'dir', and if necessary retrieve vital files (smaller than
1.4Mb) to a floppy by typing copy 'C:\ (path and file name) A:'. (eg: copy C:\
A lot of boot-up problems are caused by disc errors or file
corruption so the first thing to do is run Scandisk. Simply type 'scandisk'
after the A: prompt and hit return.
When it has finished and if it has found and repaired any errors you
might also want to take up the offer of a full surface scan, to seek out and
fix any deep seated hard disc faults. It's also worth running Checkdisk (type
chkdsk at the A: prompt). The disc contains two other resources, Uninstall,
which will remove Windows, for a clean reinstall, and the absolute last resort FDISK,
to wipe your disc clean, so you can start from the very beginning.
Windows 98 users get a lot more help from the Start up disc.
It boots the PC and creates a temporary 'Ramdrive' in the PCs memory. This is a
kind of virtual hard disc drive, used to hold all of the tools and drivers on
the floppy disc. The Ramdrive becomes disc D: all other drives are moved up a
letter. (Don't worry, everything returns to normal once the PC boots up under
its own steam). The start-up disc gives a choice of opening a detailed help file,
starting Windows in Safe mode (more about that next week) and accessing help
and resources on the Windows 98 installation disc. The CD-ROM drive should be accessible
since the start up disc loads the necessary drivers. Like the Windows 95 Start
Up disc it also has scandisk, chkdsk, Fdisk and Uninstall plus a cab file
extraction tool that can copy compressed 'cabinet' files from the Windows
CD-ROM to your hard drive. If you're using Windows 98 have a look through the
Readme file on the Start Up disc; you never know when you're going to need it!
Next week – Crash Survival, part 2
Small programs that tell Windows how to communicate with internal
hardware – such as disc drives -- and peripherals like printers scanners etc.
Microsoft Disc Operating System, a program, using text based
commands that works beside Windows to control the way disc drives handle and
Important files (Autoexec.bat, config.sys, command.com, win.ini
etc.) containing text-based commands, that set up and configure Windows and the
programs running on the PC
Here's a quick and easy way to
open Device Manager, without having to go through Settings > Control Panel
> System. Right-click the Start button, select Open, right-click anywhere inside
the open window and choose New and Shortcut. A new window will open, on the Command
Line type the following: c:\windows\control.exe sysdm.cpl, system,1
Note the full stops, commas and spaces. Now click on Next, accept the shortcut name
and select Finish. An icon called Control Exe should now appear on the Start
menu that will take you straight to Device Manager.