BOOT CAMP 082
CRASH RECOVERY PART 2
A lot of Windows 95 and 98 problems occur during
the boot-up sequence as system files and device drivers are loaded. If any of
them are corrupted or missing Windows may freeze or you might see one of those
worrying error messages. To help overcome problems such as these Windows has a
special troubleshooting option called Safe Mode, which bypasses the
configuration files and start-up programs and loads only the bare minimum of
drivers for the monitor keyboard and mouse. These should be enough to get
Windows up and running, albeit with limited functionality.
On Windows 95 and 98 Safe mode is engaged by
pressing the F8 key (on some models you may have to press the Ctrl key), as
soon as the 'Starting Windows 95/98' message appears on the screen. A moment or
two later the boot up sequence stops and you will see a menu, usually with
seven numbered options. We'll look briefly at each one in turn, and how they
can be used to diagnose problems.
Menu option 1 is Normal mode, use this if you
entered Safe Mode by mistake and the Windows boot-up sequence will resume.
Option 2 is 'Logged (\BOOTLOG.TXT)'. Selecting
this will also make Windows resume normal loading but at the same time it
creates a text file (called bootlog.txt) which is stored in the root directory
of the C: drive. This file records all of the actions during the loading
sequence and notes whether or not each operation was successful; it may help
you or an engineer to pinpoint an obscure fault.
Number 3 is Safe Mode, which loads Windows but
with a basic configuration. The words 'Safe Mode' appears in each of the
four-corners of the desktop (which may be in black and white) and a warning
message pops up. Click OK and loading continues. Resolution will be set to VGA
standard (600 x 400) so the icons on the desktop and Start menu may look bigger
than usual and some programs and peripherals might disappear from the desktop
or stop working. Don't worry, when you have fixed the problem and Windows
resumes normal operation everything will be restored though you may have to
manually reset things like the hidden taskbar and small icons on Start menu
features on the Setting menu.
Safe Mode is handy for accessing files that you
can't get to if Windows won't start. For example, you will be able to use
applications like your word processors and spreadsheets, so you can continue
working or retrieve important files, and wait until you are not so busy to fix
the problem. Safe Mode is useful for tracking down problems associated with
display drivers and programs that load automatically at the same time as
Windows. If you suspect one of them is misbehaving you can remove them one at a
time from the Start Up program group (Start > Programs > Start Up), then
restart Windows as normal.
If your problems began after installing a new
item of hardware or software and Windows plays dead carry out a Safe Mode start
and look for IRQ or DMA conflicts (see Jargon Filter) in Device Manager (Start
> Settings > Control Panel > System). Select the Device Manager tab
and look for yellow exclamation marks on the list. Highlight the item and click
the Properties button, a window will appear with a brief description of the
problem and sometimes a possible solution.
Frequent lock-ups can sometimes be resolved from Device Manager by
changing display and hard disc settings. Select the Performance tab, click on
the Graphics button and set the 'Hardware Acceleration' slider to none. Select
the File System button and set the 'Read Ahead Optimisation' slider to none.
Only change one thing at a time though, and re-boot the PC afterwards, to see
if it has any effect.
Safe Mode 4 is for PCs that are connected to a
network, it's similar to mode 4 but files that are needed to access the network
are loaded as well, so you can carry on working if necessary.
Mode 5 is one of the most useful diagnostic
options since it asks you to confirm each step of the loading sequence. Simply
type 'Y' for yes at each step. If it freezes jot down the message and restart
the machine in Safe Mode again. This time when you reach the suspect step type
'N'. If Windows then continues to load you will have a pretty good idea of
where the problem lies.
Mode 6 is Command Prompt Only. Try this if you can't
get Windows to load in Safe mode. This starts the PC in MS-DOS mode and after a
few seconds you will see the flashing C:\> command prompt. You will still be
able to access files from here so in an emergency you could copy an important
file to floppy disc. You can also get into system files by typing 'edit',
followed by the name of the file (i.e. edit config.sys). The mouse won't work,
so you will have to use keyboard commands to navigate your way around the
menus. Use the 'Alt' key to step between menus and the direction arrows and the
enter key to change and select menu items. To return to the DOS prompt select
Exit on the File menu, and to start Windows type 'Win' at the C: prompt.
The final option is Safe Mode Command Prompt
Only, which also starts the PC in DOS mode but leaves out Windows start up
files, so Windows cannot be loaded.
Next week - Essential backups
Direct Memory Access - a means of transferring
data quickly between the hard disc and the PC's memory
Interrupt Request, a signal from a device
connected to a PC motherboard -- such as an expansion card -- asking the
central processor to send receive or process data
Video Graphics Array - standard display format
used on PCs, typically made up of 640 x 400 pixels and 256 colours
If you are use Outlook Express as your email
client this handy little trick can help to speed things up. It will put a new
icon on your Start menu. When you click on it a blank email message window
opens from where you can compose and send an email, without waiting for Outlook
Express to open. Move your mouse pointer to the Start button, right-click on it
and select Explore from the menu that appears. When the Explorer window opens,
right-click in an empty spot in the right-hand pane and select New, then
Shortcut. The Create Shortcut dialogue box should appear; under Command Line
type in 'mailto:' (leaving off the quotation marks), then click on Next. Now
you can give your shortcut a name, clear the highlighted default name and type
in something like 'email' or 'messend', and select close. Now go to the Start
menu and try out your new high-speed message system.