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Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

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Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting the registry ..................................................................................................................................5

What Windows 98 log files can tell you about the health of your OS............................................................9 NT for newbies: What are hardware profiles, devices, and services? ............................................................13

Disaster Recovery
What to do in case of an emergency ..................................................................................................................19

Understanding the Windows 2000 Blue Screen of Death, part 1..................................................................24 Repairing the Master Boot Record ......................................................................................................................27 Overcoming the blues: Working through Blue Screen of Death errors ......................................................30

Troubleshooting laptops: The answer may be graphic ....................................................................................31 Extend the life of your laptop's battery..............................................................................................................33

When and how do you standardize your hardware? ........................................................................................38


If this is the kind of information you're searching for, then you'll want to get the full-blown version of TechRepublic's PC Troubleshooter Resource Guide. This book is packed with 206 pages of hands-on technical tips and advice to improve your PC troubleshooting skillsas well as a searchable CD-ROM to find what you need fast. www.techrepublic.com/promotion.jhtml?pc=E08124


Troubleshooting the registry

s you probably know, the Windows 98 registry is a huge database that controls virtually every aspect of Windows 98s behavior. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that an error in the registry can cause all sorts of Windows problems that vary in severity anywhere between annoying and fatal. In this Daily Drill Down Ill show you techniques you can use to troubleshoot some of the more common registry problems.

Figure A

Be careful!

Because the registry controls such a large portion of Windows, you should exercise extreme caution when working with the registry. Making a mistake in the registry can destroy Windows 98 and/or your programs. Therefore, you should never make a change within the registry unless youre fully aware of its impact. Furthermore, you should always back up your system before making any modifications to the registry. The primary tool for making manual registry changes is the Registry Editor. Because of the Registry Editors destructive capability, Microsoft didnt create an icon for it within Windows. Therefore, you must either create your own icon or run the Regedit program from the Run prompt. As Figure A illustrates, the Registry Editor looks similar to Windows Explorer. As you can see, there are six primary registry keys beneath My Computer. Each of these primary keys has a plus sign beside it that you can click to expand the key, as shown in Figure B. Any time that you see a plus sign, you can further expand the registry. When you reach the deepest key in a given path, you can click on the key to see the keys values, as shown in Figure C on the next page. Each value is made up of a name and the values data. Any time that you need to make a change to an existing value, right-click on it. Doing so brings up a context menu that lets you modify, rename, or delete a value. Renaming a value allows you to change only the name portion of the value, while modifying a value allows you to edit only the data portion.

The Registry Editor

The Registry Editor functions similarly to Windows Explorer.

Figure B

You can click any plus sign to expand its corresponding key.


To create a new key or value, navigate to the desired location and select the New command from the Edit menu. Creating a new key works exactly like creating a new folder under Windows Explorer. There is one other feature of the Registry Editor that deserves to be mentioned. This is the Find and Find Next commands on the Edit menu. These commands allow you to locate specific keys and values throughout the registry. You can even search on a partial word or value. As you become more comfortable editing the registry, youll use the Find feature a lot, since the registry tends to be very large and can potentially contain multiple instances of a given value.

Your initial thoughts may be something along the lines of, Yikes, what do I do now? But dont panic; read the message carefully. As you may recall, in Windows 95, the message read something like the following:
Windows has encountered an error accessing the system Registry and will be restarted.

Rather than simply rebooting your machine, only to encounter the same error again, Windows 98 is capable of repairing the error during the reboot. This is thanks to the Registry Checker program.

The Registry Checker

Windows wont boot

As I mentioned earlier, a registry error can be very disturbing, especially when its serious enough to prevent your machine from booting. Suppose that you booted your computer and instead of seeing the Windows desktop, you saw the following error:
Windows encountered an error accessing the system Registry. Windows will restart and repair the Registry for you now.

Figure C

The lower level registry keys contain values.

The Registry Checker is a tool that was initially released with Windows 98. It allows you to fix otherwise fatal registry problems. Each day when you boot your PC, the Registry Checker runs in the background. After a successful boot, the Registry Checker creates a compressed backup copy of your systems registry. Windows 98 will maintain up to five backup copies of the registry, one for each of the last five days (or the last five days on which you booted your computer). As I mentioned, the Registry Checker runs automatically at boot-up. If Windows 98 wont boot because of a registry error, the Registry Checker will automatically restore the last backed-up registry. However, you may be wondering what happens if there isnt a backup or if the backup has become corrupted. Depending on the severity of the error, you can manually run the Registry Checker through Windows 98 or DOS. To run the Registry Checker through Windows 98, select the Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Information command from the Start menu. When the System Information tool loads, you can launch the Registry Checker by selecting the Registry Checker command from the Tools menu. When the Registry Checker runs, it will scan the registry for errors. If the Registry Checker encounters errors, it will present you with options for correcting those errors. If the registry is clean, the Registry Checker will look to see if the registry has been backed up today. If it hasnt been backed up, it will offer you a chance to back up the registry. If the problem is bad enough that Windows wont boot or is unreliable, you may run the

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Registry Checker through DOS mode. To do so, reboot your computer. As soon as you see the message that says Starting Windows 98, quickly begin repetitively pressing the [F8] key until the Windows 98 Start Up Menu appears. Select the Command Prompt Only option. Doing so will cause Windows 98 to process your Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files and then stop booting before the graphical user interface loads, thus leaving you at the command prompt. Once at the command prompt, you may run the Registry Checker by executing the command

these files thats draining your system of its conventional memory. To fix this sort of problem, boot to the Command Prompt Only option and use the Edit command to clean up Config.sys and Autoexec.bat as much as humanly possible.

Add/Remove Programs doesnt work

Have you ever tried to uninstall a program through the Add/Remove Programs icon and received this error
An error occurred while trying to remove <program name>. Uninstallation has been canceled.

Not enough memory

This error almost always means that the program has been manually removed but that the registry still contains references to it. When this happens, youll want to clean up the registry to remove references to the program. To do so, Windows was unable to process the begin by opening the Registry Editor and naviRegistry. This may be fixed by rebooting to Command Prompt Only and gating to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE | Softrunning SCANREG /FIX. Otherwise there ware | Microsoft | Windows | CurrentVersion may not be enough conventional memory | Uninstall. Beneath this registry key, youll find to properly load the Registry. the list of installed programs. Simply select the If you receive an error program that youre trying such as this one, use the to remove and press the technique that I described [Delete] key. Doing so will The registry may still contain earlier to boot Windows remove the program from other references to the program using the Command the list. youre trying to remove. Prompt Only option and Keep in mind that then run the SCANREG using this technique /FIX command. If youve removes the program only done so but still encounter this error, its likely from the Add/Remove Programs list. There are that you have insufficient conventional memory almost certainly other references to the program to load Windows. contained within the registry. To get rid of these As you may recall from those intro-to-comreferences, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_ puter classes, conventional memory refers to MACHINE | Software. Beneath the Software your first 640 KB of memory. Although Winkey are keys for the various software manufacdows 98 is a high-level 32-bit operating system, turers such as Microsoft, Symantec, and Sierra. it still depends on having a certain amount of Locate the manufacturer of the program that conventional memory free to be able to load. youre trying to remove and click the plus sign Normally, memory managers and parameters next to it to expand the key. Beneath the manudefined within the IO.sys file make sure that facturers registry key, youll see a list of proWindows 98 has plenty of memory. However, grams by that manufacturer that are installed on as you may know, you can override these setthe system. Select the key that corresponds to tings in the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files. the program youre trying to delete and press If youre receiving the error listed above, the [Delete] key. For example, to uninstall MGI theres a really good chance that either youre Photosuite, youd delete the MGI PHOTOloading too much stuff in Config.sys and SUITE key beneath HKEY_LOCAL_ Autoexec.bat or you have a command in one of MACHINE | Software | MGI. Another registry problem can be caused by insufficient memory. During boot-up, you may see the following error message:


The registry may still contain other references to the program youre trying to remove. Unfortunately, the keys Ive already pointed you to are the only keys that can be safely deleted every time. Other keys may contain information thats shared by multiple programs. If you want to try your luck at removing other registry keys, you can use the Registry Editors Search feature to locate keys that correspond to the program youre trying to remove. Be preparedsome programs, such as Microsoft Office, imbed hundreds of references within the registry. Also, NEVER try to remove Internet Explorer with this method.

Missing device file

Occasionally after removing a program you may receive a message stating that Windows 98 cant find a file that may be needed to run Windows 98 or a Windows-based application. Most of the time, pressing a key will allow you to boot Windows, but the error message is still annoying to have to deal with. This problem is caused because either the registry or an .ini file calls a driver that no longer exists. The easiest way to correct this error is to reinstall the program and then uninstall it using the Add/Remove Programs Control Panel applet. If this technique doesnt work, there are other things you can do. Usually, the error message will contain a reference to a specific file. Write down the name of this file for future reference. If the filename ends with the .386 extension, the file is called from the System.ini file. To correct this problem, enter the SYSEDIT command at the Run prompt. When you see the System Configuration Editor, select the System.ini file. Next, use the System Configuration Editors search feature to search for the

filename that you wrote down earlier. When you find the line that references the file (usually a DEVICE= line), place a semicolon in front of the command. Save your changes and reboot the PC. The error should be gone. If the error references a file that ends in the .vxd extension, the error is in the Windows 98 registry. To correct this error, open the Registry Editor and use the search feature to locate the registry key that contains this value. Once youve located this key, delete it. Now, close the Registry Editor and reboot Windows to make sure that the error is gone. Sometimes, an error such as the one described earlier wont reference a file at all. If this happens, its a good indication that one of the static VXD references within the registry is blank or contains only spaces. You can check the contents of the static VXDs by opening the Registry Editor and navigating to HKEY_ LOCAL_MACHINE | System | CurrentControlSet | Services | VxD. Once youve located this section of the registry, delete any registry keys beneath it that contain invalid or blank data or any keys that contain all spaces.


Errors within the Windows 98 registry can have devastating effects on your system. In this Daily Drill Down, Ive explained a little bit about how the Registry Editor works. Ive also explained how you can fix various Windows errors by making some simple changes to the registry. Remember that editing the Windows 98 registry is dangerous. Always make a backup of your system before making any changes to the registry.
By Talainia Posey


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What Windows 98 log files can tell you about the health of your OS

ave you ever tried to troubleshoot a problem in Windows NT? If so, the Event Viewer and the various logs that it contained probably became your new best friend. However, if youve ever tried to troubleshoot a major operating system problem in Windows 98, you may have noticed that the Event Viewer doesnt exist. In spite of this, Windows 98 does use event logs in some places. In this Daily Drill Down, Ill show you exactly where the Windows 98 event logs are. I will explain what information these logs contain and how to use them.

log.txt. As you can see in Listing A on the next page, the log displays which programs are used most often and how Disk Defragmenter attempts to optimize those programs.

Doctor Watson

Whats available?

As youve probably noticed, the existence of log files within Windows 98 isnt exactly highly publicized. Therefore, you may be wondering what types of log files exist. Unlike Windows NT, there are no comprehensive log files that cover the entire operating system. However, there are several log files that cover specific areas of the operating system. Log files exist for Disk Defragmenter, Doctor Watson, Outlook Express, PPP, the System File Checker, and System Monitor. In the sections below, Ill discuss each of these log files in detail.

Disk Defragmenter

If youve used Windows 98 for any length of time, youre probably familiar with Disk Defragmenter, which is a utility thats designed to, as the name implies, defragment your hard disk. The version of Disk Defragmenter that comes with Windows 98 is much more sophisticated than the versions that shipped with previous versions of Windows. The claim that Disk Defragmenter helps frequently run programs to run more quickly isnt merely marketing hype. Disk Defragmenter relies on information gathered by the Task Manager and a program called Cvtaplog.exe to determine which programs are run most frequently. When you run Disk Defragmenter, it creates a log file in a hidden directory named \Windows\Applog. The name of the log file is Opt-

Doctor Watson is a great tool that helps you track Windows errors. If an application fault occurs on your machine, you can load Doctor Watson and reproduce the condition that caused the application fault. Doctor Watson will then provide you with the information necessary to determine the cause of the problem. To access Doctor Watson, open the System Information tool (look under Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools, and click on System Information). Select the Dr. Watson command from the Tools menu. When you do, nothing will appear to happen. However, if you look closely, a Doctor Watson icon will be temporarily added to your system tray at the bottom of the screen. Click this icon to access Doctor Watson, and the program will take a snapshot of your systems memory. If a problem is found, Doctor Watson will create a log file. By default, the log file is stored in the \Windows\ Drwatson folder. The log file is called Watsonxx.wlg. Normally, Doctor Watson preserves the last ten log files, but you can set it to save more or fewer log files. To view a log file, use the Open Log File command from Doctor Watsons File menu. You can then print the log file by using the File menus Print command. Be aware that most log files will be at least 15 pages long. Log files from machines with high amounts of memory or with many applications running will be even longer. Therefore, if you want to print a section of the log file instead of the entire file, select the section that you want to print and press [CTRL][C]. Next, open Notepad and press [CTRL][V]. This will cut and paste the information that youve selected into Notepad. You can then use Notepad to print that section.


Outlook Express

While not strictly a Windows 98 feature, Outlook Express contains several logging options you may find useful. You can create separate log files for POP3, SMTP, and Internet News. The log files use the following names: Pop3.log, Smtp.log, Inetnews.log, and Imap.log. You can enable the various types of logging by selecting the Options command from Outlook Expresss Tools menu. When you see the

Options dialog box, select the Maintenance tab (in Outlook Express version 5). At the bottom of this tab, select the logs that you want to use. The location of the log files varies depending on your PCs configuration. For example, where log files are stored depends on factors such as whether user profiles are enabled and whether Internet Mail and News was previously configured on the machine. I recommend using the Find | Files And Folders command on the

Listing A: Optlog.txt sample

Program Launch Optimization Log - Created Thu Jun 01 05:46:52 2000 Programs Eligible for Optimization: Ord Flag ProgName Uses LastExecDate Program Path 1 WINWORD 639 2000.06.01 C:\PROGRAM FILES\MICROSOFT OFFICE\OFFICE\WINWORD.EXE 2 IEXPLORE 590 2000.06.01 C:\PROGRAM FILES\INTERNET EXPLORER\IEXPLORE.EXE 3 PSUITE 390 2000.05.31 C:\PROGRAM FILES\MGI\PHOTOSUITE\PSUITE.EXE 4 OUTLOOK 261 2000.06.01 C:\PROGRAM FILES\MICROSOFT OFFICE\OFFICE\OUTLOOK.EXE 5 RUNDLL32 136 2000.05.30 C:\WINDOWS\RUNDLL32.EXE 6 MSIEXEC 106 2000.05.12 C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\MSIEXEC.EXE 7 REGSVR32 75 2000.04.13 C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM\REGSVR32.EXE 8 REALPLAY 59 2000.05.21 C:\PROGRAM FILES\REAL\REALPLAYER\REALPLAY.EXE 9 OSA9 54 2000.05.21 C:\PROGRAM FILES\MICROSOFT OFFICE\OFFICE\OSA9.EXE 10 AGENTSVR 43 2000.05.13 C:\WINDOWS\MSAGENT\AGENTSVR.EXE Programs Ineligible for Optimization: Ord Flag ProgName Uses LastExecDate Program Path 49 PD TOSEXE 0 1601.01.01 50 PD WATCHDOG 0 1601.01.01 51 PD UNVISE32 0 1601.01.01 52 PD NAPSTER 0 1601.01.01 53 PD AMIKA 0 1601.01.01 54 PD IKERNEL 0 1601.01.01 55 U SCANREGW 2 2000.02.28 C:\WINDOWS\SCANREGW.EXE 56 PD BURP 0 1601.01.01 57 U MSINFO32 2 2000.02.28 C:\PROGRAM FILES\COMMON FILES\MICROSOFT SHARED\MSINFO\MSINFO32.EXE 58 PD RUMOR 0 1601.01.01 Control Parameters: Use app profile = Yes Minimum log size = 1000 Maximum no use days = 90 Maximum apps = 50 Flags for Ineligible Programs: S = Log size smaller than <Minimum log size> U = Program not used for more than <Maximum no use days> P = No profile for program E = Associated program no longer exists D = Log deleted (may be combined with one of the above)


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Start menu to locate the specific location of these files on your computer.


If youve ever tried to troubleshoot an Internet connection, you know how difficult it can be. Windows 98 includes a PPP log file that you can use to diagnose connection problems. As you may recall, Windows 95 also included a PPP log file. However, the Windows 98 version has improved significantly. For starters, you can now set a log file on a per-connection basis rather than on a per-adapter basis. This means that if you have three different ISPs that you call using the same modem, you can set up a different log file for each connection rather than having one log file for the dial-up adapter. The new log files are also more detailed than the one found in Windows 95, and you dont have to reboot your machine after enabling them. To create a PPP log file, go to Dial Up Networking and select the connection that you want to monitor. Right-click the dial-up session and select Properties from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do, youll see the sessions properties sheet. Now, navigate to the Server Types tab and select the Record A Log File For This

Connection option. Click OK to continue. The next time that you use the session, Windows will create a log file called PPPlog.txt in the Windows directory. Keep in mind that the PPP log file records all data that travels across your modem the log file can get large very quickly. Therefore, when recording a log file, limit your connection time to no more than a minute or two so as to avoid filling up your hard disk. You can see a brief excerpt from this log file in Listing B.

System File Checker

The System File Checker is a tool that compares the Windows 98 installation files to the files on your hard disk. If the tool detects a different version of a file, it can replace the file or call it to your attention. As you can imagine, if ever there was a utility in need of a log file, this is it. You can access this tool by selecting the System File Checker command from the Tools menu in the System Information application I discussed in the Doctor Watson section above. When the System File Checker finishes examining your system and making the necessary updates, it creates a log file called Sfclog.txt in the Windows directory. You can examine a sample of the Sfclog.txt file in Listing C on the next page.

Listing B: Sample of a PPPLOG file

06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 chain. 06-01-2000 chain. 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 06-01-2000 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 Microsoft Dial Up Adapter log opened. Server type is PPP (Point to Point Protocol). FSA : Adding Control Protocol 80fd (CCP) to control protocol chain. FSA : Protocol not bound - skipping control protocol 803f (NBFCP). FSA : Adding Control Protocol 8021 (IPCP) to control protocol chain. FSA : Protocol not bound - skipping control protocol 802b (IPXCP). FSA : Adding Control Protocol c029 (CallbackCP) to control protocol

07:43:23.76 - FSA : Adding Control Protocol c027 (no description) to control protocol 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:23.76 07:43:26.41 07:43:26.41 FSA : Adding Control Protocol c023 (PAP) to control protocol chain. FSA : Adding Control Protocol c223 (CHAP) to control protocol chain. FSA : Adding Control Protocol c021 (LCP) to control protocol chain. LCP : Callback negotiation enabled. LCP : Layer started. PPP : Transmitting Control Packet of length: 25 Data 0000: c0 21 01 01 00 17 02 06 | .!..._.. Data 0008: 00 0a 00 00 05 06 00 12 | ........ Data 0010: eb 8e 07 02 08 02 0d 03 | ........ Data 0018: 06 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 | ........ PPP : Received Control Packet of length: 26 Data 0000: c0 21 01 c0 00 18 02 06 | .!..._..



System Monitor

System Monitor is a tool similar to the Windows NT Performance Monitor. It allows you to see exactly what system resources are being used at any given time. This information may be displayed in the form of a chart or a text log file. Obviously, System Monitor is a good tool to use when youre having performance problems. However, its a good idea to build a system monitor log before you begin having problems. Doing so allows you to establish a baseline, or a picture of what ranges the various system monitor counters should fall within when everythings running normally. If you do so, it will be easier for you to track the cause of the problem when errors occurall youll have do is compare the current measurements with your baseline measurements and look for the value thats out of whack. By default, System Monitor isnt installed. To install it, open Control Panel and select the Add/Remove Programs icon. When you see the Add/Remove Programs properties sheet, select the Windows Setup tab. Now, select System Tools and click the Details button. A list

appears showing the available system tools. Select System Monitor and click OK twice. System Monitor will now be installed. Once youve installed System Monitor, you can launch it by clicking Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Monitor. When System Monitor loads, you can create a log file by adding the counters that you want to monitor to the chart. Once youve loaded the necessary counters, select Start Logging from System Monitors File menu. Next, select the name and location for the log file and click the Save button. When youve captured the desired information, select Stop Logging from the File menu. You can then view the log file that you created with Notepad. You can see a sample log file in Listing D. As you can see from the sample log, the first line contains the names of the items being monitored. All subsequent lines contain the values of the counters separated by commas. Because this file is actually a comma-separated value file, you could easily change the files extension from .LOG to .CSV and pull the information directly into Microsoft Excel.

Listing C: Sfclog.txt sample

Microsoft System File Checker Log file generated on 6/1/2000 at 6:39 AM Started verify scan using verification data file: C:\WINDOWS\Default.sfc Previous Previous New New CRC File Change Version Date Version Date Match - - - - - [C:\WINDOWS] extrac32.exe Ignored 5/11/1998 4.11.0603.3 5/11/1998 Yes grpconv.exe Ignored 5.00.1743.1 5/11/1998 5.00.1962.1 3/18/1999 No hh.exe Ignored 4.72.7322 5/11/1998 4.73.8561 7/15/1999 No PSUNREG.EXE Added 4/4/1996 POLEDIT.EXE Added 4.00 5/11/1998 WSPTSK.EXE Added 9/15/1997 uninst.exe Added 2.20.926.0 4/8/1997 wupdmgr.exe Ignored 5.00.1788.1 5/11/1998 5.00.5260.0 12/4/1998 No IsUninst.exe Added 5, 51, 138, 10/29/199 hlremove.exe Added 7/11/1997 iextract.exe Added 7/13/1999 extract.exe Added 7/13/1999 wscript.exe Ignored 5.0.531.7 5/11/1998 5.0.531.7 7/13/1999 No ST5UNST.EXE Added 5.00.3716 5/11/1998


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Once the information is imported into Excel, it will be automatically arranged into columns. You can then create graphs or perform calculations on the numbers that youve collected.

Listing D: Sample System Monitor log file

Kernel: Processor Usage (%),File System: Reads/second,File System: Writes/second,Kernel: Threads 2,593362,13400,76 3,593429,13405,76 24,593437,13410,77 100,593515,13415,77 100,593620,13420,76 100,593627,13425,77 100,593630,13430,77 100,593632,13435,77 78,593635,13440,76


In this Daily Drill Down, Ive discussed the various types of event logs hidden within Windows 98. I explained the purpose of each log and how to use it. Once you know what options are available, you can use these logs to help diagnose and care for Windows 98.
By Talainia Posey

NT for newbies: What are hardware profiles, devices, and services?

hat Microsoft NT 4.0 Workstation has the ability to create hardware profiles is a lesser-known fact to many people who use the OS. I expect this is because Windows NT is less often deployed on laptops than Windows 98. Hardware profiles are essential on laptops because they help eliminate hardware conflicts. For example, users can switch between docked and undocked settings. The docked profile will use a network connection and a large monitor, while the undocked profile will disable these devices and enable the laptops LCD screen and modem. Ive also used hardware profiles to experiment with power-saving settings and as tuning and troubleshooting tools. For several reasons, setting up these profiles on Windows NT is harder than on Windows 98. For one thing, NT doesnt have a handy, comprehensive Device Manager to use. Profile settings are distributed between three Control Panel applets: System, Services, and Devices. In addition, NT services and devices have dependencies that can cause problems when one is disabled. These uh ohs become apparent when you disable a service and NT fails to start, or it starts with some bizarre behavior, such as failing to initialize the mouse. Having a safe hardware profile lets me always go back to something that I know worked before.

As you can see, its valuable to learn about hardware profiles. In this Daily Drill Down, Ill give an overview of hardware profiles in Windows NT and suggest a few ways to use them.

What is a hardware profile?

If you had to write a profile of an employee lets say for the IT employee of the year awardyoud probably list that persons essential characteristics. Similarly, a hardware profile is a list of hardware and software characteristics essential to running Windows NT. The profile will determine how Windows NT works with devices and services. For example, in one hardware profile you might disable the alerter service and a networking card. In another, you might disable a modem.

Of devices and services

Just in case youre not familiar with the terminology, a device is any piece of hardware used by the operating system. For instance, any card that plugs into a slot (such as a video card, modem, or network interface card) or any standard peripheral that plugs in to a port or a card (such as a hard drive, CD-ROM, monitor, printer, or keyboard) is a device. However, when you speak of a device being registered by Windows NT, youre really referring to a device


driver. The driver is the software that tells Windows NT how to use the device, and it typically has a file extension of .sys or .drv. Finally, when you disable a driver, youre not breaking it or injuring it in any way (although that is one common way to disable hardware). Youre simply telling Windows NT not to load the driver. No device driver means no device. The list of devices shown by Control Panels Devices applet equals the device drivers that are registered with Windows NT in the registry, whether the OS uses them or not. You can view a typical listing in Figure A. Note the second and third columns, marked Status and Startup. Youll see that most drivers available are not started; in fact, theyre disabled. A service, on the other hand, is a program that can run in Windows NT before a user logs in and expands the capabilities of the Windows NT operating system. Most of the time, you

start a program after login (for example, starting Microsoft Word or Outlook), or you set one to start during login (for example, by placing Norton AntiVirus in the Startup folder). But services are part of the NT startup process, and they run whether someone logs in to the computer or not. Many of these services are integral to NTs operation. For example, the Workstation service lets you connect to shared network resources, such as printers and files. Later in this Daily Drill Down, Ill explain where in Windows NT you can find a list of default services. You can view services, their status, and startup settings from the Services applet by double-clicking its icon in Control Panel, as shown in Figure B.

Hardware profiles, startup, and the registry

Figure A

The Devices list shows what device drivers are registered in Windows NT, their status, and their startup parameters, which can be Disabled, Boot, Manual, System, or Automatic.

Figure B

The Services list shows registered services, their status, and startup parameters.

Since devices and services start before users log in, it follows that hardware profiles are loaded before login. Once youve created more than one profile, a menu of choices appears during startup, the step before the NT Kernel is initialized. (The Kernel is initializing when the screen turns blue and the little dots start marching across it.) In terms of the registry, all the registry settings that go along with hardware profiles are stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM \CurrentControlSet \Hardware Profiles\####. The number signs represent a four-digit number. For instance, the settings for the first hardware profile to appear on the Hardware Profile tab in the System applet would be called \Hardware Profiles\0001, and so on. There is also an entry called Current, which contains the hardware profile being used at that time. When Windows NT boots, the values stored in the hardware profile the user selects are copied into their appropriate places in the registry. This is a rough outline of what happens under the hood when you choose a hardware profile. When NT is first set up, it creates a default hardware profile called Original Configuration. You can see this by going to Control Panel, double-clicking System, and choosing the Hardware Profiles tab. Figure C shows the Hardware Profiles tab after Windows NT is installed. Windows NT devices will be initialized based solely on hardware profiles. Mismatches will


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disable those devices. In contrast, when you start up Windows 98 (and 95, and 2000), Plug and Play scans the hardware, verifying that the installed devices match the chosen hardware profile. If they dont, the new devices are detected and installed (at least thats the theory). Since hardware profiles are global to all users of that workstation, only users with administrator rights can create them. As far as I know, you can create as many hardware profiles as you like. Creating a new hardware profile is easy. As in Windows 98, click Control Panels System icon and select the Hardware Profiles tab. Next, with a hardware profile selected, click the Copy button. In the next window, give your profile a name and click OK. At this point, you have two identical hardware profiles. The next time you start Windows NT, both profiles will be displayed, similar to the screen shown in Figure D. By default, you have 30 seconds to choose a profile before Windows NT loads the one highlighted. Select one using the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key, or if Windows NT failed to start last time, select Last Known Good Configuration by pressing L. If you want to change the countdown time, after you log in, go back to the Hardware Profiles tab. You can also choose Wait Indefinitely For User Selection and change the order of your profiles using the up/down buttons on the right of this tab.

Figure C

Creating hardware profiles

At first, the Hardware Profiles tab displays the default hardware profile, called Original Configuration.

Figure D

Changing laptop and networking properties

Windows NT actually has more options on the Hardware Profiles tab than Windows 98. In Windows 98, you can only copy, rename, and delete profiles. To add or remove devices, you change their properties on the Device Manager tab. Windows NT, on the other hand, has some properties you can set on this tab. To view NTs options, select a hardware profile and click Properties. On the General tab in the properties dialog box for that profile, you can select the role of your computer. If appropriate, select This Is A Portable Computer, and specify whether the computer is docked, undocked, or the docking state is unknown, as shown in Figure E on the next page.

With two or more hardware profiles, Windows NT asks you to make a choice.

On the Network tab there is one choice only. If you want, you can create a network-disabled hardware profile by selecting that option. For a computer that will never be connected to the network or will be off the network sometimes, this is a good choice. This simple setting reduces the hassle of disabling such devices as network cards on the Devices tab. Users will still be able to dial in with their modem. Although selecting this option reduces some hassle, a surprising message or two may still appear and confuse users. For instance, if your users choose a network-disabled dial-in profile 15


and they have mapped networked drives, Windows NT will still try to restore them. Even though networking is disabled, the OS doesnt know the difference. The warning dialog box will report An error occurred while reconnecting followed by the network path. Users will need to know not to tell Windows to continue restoring connections, and they could become frustrated when encountering messages that slow them down. I suggest replacing mapped networked drives with a desktop shortcut to eliminate this warning.

Troubleshooting devices and services

Recently, when Windows NT booted up on my laptop, it reported that a driver or service didnt start. I used hardware profiles to troubleshoot and test the fix for this error. The procedure is a good example of what to do in similar cases. The first place to check for more detailed information is in Event Viewer. If you are new to NT, you may not be familiar with this troubleshooting application. Start Event Viewer by clicking its icon in Start | Programs | Administrative Tools (Common). The first choice on Event Viewers menu bar is Log. Clicking Log lets you view System, Security, and Application

Figure E

events. Set Event Viewer to show your system events. In my case, Event Viewer reported that an adapter driver service called EL656 failed to start and that another service, called EL656 Serial Driver, was dependent on it and had also failed. I wasnt familiar with either of these devices, and they didnt appear on my list of default Windows NT services. I had a hazy memory that once I tried installing a PC card with 656 in the model number. If so, I no longer needed the device. In a Windows 98 world, Id probably remove it. However, most of the manuals on NT report that its difficult, if not impossible, to remove old, unused drivers or services from the system. For more on this topic, see the Microsoft TechNet article Windows NT and Hardware (http://www.microsoft.com/TechNet/ winnt/d), specifically the section on removing the old drivers. Instead of removing them, you have to disable them or change their startup properties. However, I wasnt going to just irrationally disable a device or service without protecting the computer. In a case like this, go to Control Panels System icon, select the Hardware Profiles tab, and copy your main profile. Call it something useful, like Test EL656 Disable. Click OK to exit. Now youre ready to disable the problem software in a safe environment. If this causes big problems, you can reboot later to your other profile and continue troubleshooting.

Disabling devices and services

The properties dialog box lets you choose the role of your computer.

A nice feature of Windows NT hardware profiles is that, unlike with Windows 98, you dont have to be in that profile to disable or enable its devices and services. In Windows 98, you can disable only the current profile, or all profiles. The key is a button called HW Profiles that appears in both the Devices and Services applets. First, select the driver or service you want to change, and then click this button. The resulting dialog box lists the device or service as well as its status in each profile. Change the settings by clicking the Enable or Disable button. To solve my system problem, I found the EL656 Adapter Driver in Devices, highlighted it, clicked the HW Profiles button, and disabled


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the driver only in the Test EL656 Disable profile, as shown in Figure F. Before making a change such as this on all the hardware profiles, log in to the test profile and work with applications and with the network, looking for any signs of trouble. If it looks as though your change was nothing but good news, make it permanent. Go back into Devices, but instead of clicking HW Profiles, click the Startup button and change the Startup Type to Disabled. Entries made here affect every hardware profile. When youve finished with the test profile, delete it. Thats how I handled the EL656 mystery driver. Another problem I had was with a superfluous service. Event Viewer informed me that NetLogon, a service used to authenticate logging on to a domain, wasnt needed, because the computer was currently networked as a workgroup rather than a domain. To speed up booting, I used the Services HW Profiles button to disable it. After testing the new configuration for problems, I changed the Startup setting to Manual rather than Automatic.

Figure F

No matter which hardware profile youre logged in to, you can enable or disable devices or services in any other profile.

guess that Sparrow.sys is the name of the Adaptec SCSI driver? To help you out, visit the Driver list from the Driver Files document at Microsofts MSDN online library (http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.
asp?URL=/library/winresource/dnwinnt/ s836d.htm). A list of default services is avail-

Cryptic drivers and services

One thing that interferes with troubleshooting is the cryptic nature of device and service names. For example, how would you ever

able in the NT 4.0 help files. Press Start | Help and type default services in the index to view the topic.
By Mike Jackman


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What to do in case of an emergency

ou use Linux. Your system is virusproof, tamper-proof, hacker-proof, crash-proof, child-proof, idiotproof...practically bomb-proof. Your machine is up 24/7, and you knowbeyond a shadow of a doubtthat it will never fail. Every precautionary measure has been implemented, and you constantly pick over your logs for every little detail. Nothing could go wrong. Thats not necessarily true. Murphys Law has never been more applicable than it is in the world of computers. As soon as you think that youve locked down a system, bitter irony rears up and bites you on the nose. Yes, even with a workhorse like Linux, a user can suffer from the ultimate misfortune of a system failure or file-system crash. When youre working in a Windows environment, there are various tools for recovery (such as defrag, scandisk, disk doctors, and recovery programs). What about Linux? What can a user do when a bad crash brings a system (and its user) to its knees? In this Daily Drill Down, Ill explain how you can create a boot floppy (postinstall) and use fsck, and Ill list the files and directories that you should back up in case your Linux computer ever goes down (and you dont have access to a CD burner or a large tape drive that could back up your entire system).

in something like hda* (where * is typically an integer between 1-7). Once youve discovered this partition, youll need to make sure that the vmlinuz file is pointing to that particular location. You need to run the command:
rdev /boot/vmlinuz /dev/hda* (where * is the number you discovered with df)

Now that you have made sure that your rdev is correct, youre ready to create that boot floppy. Have a preformatted floppy (either from MS-DOS or Linux) in your machine. Mount the floppy device (by running mount /mnt/floppy) and run the following command as root:
dd if=/boot/vmlinuz of=/dev/fd0 bs=8192

Boot floppies

During the install process, most distributions ask users if they want to create a boot floppy. Ill say this only once: Its critical that you create a boot floppy! Creating a boot floppy will save you hours of frustration and the pain of having to reinstall your OS. If you have opted to skip this step in the install, however, dont fret. You still can create a Linux boot floppy postinstallation. Before creating the boot floppy, you have to make sure that the following command:
rdev /boot/vmlinuz

What does that command mean? Well, dd is a disk duplication routine, if stands for input file, /boot/vmlinuz is the file that will be copied, of means output file (where /boot/ vmlinuz will be copied to), and bs stands for block size. Now that you have the disk, test it. Unmount your floppy (by running unmount /mnt/floppy) and reboot your machine. If the boot floppy is in proper working order, your machine will run through the boot process. Please note that booting from the floppy is somewhat slower than booting from the hard drive. This new boot floppy will come to your rescue after many various disasters. For instance, as root, you may alter or erase your lilo.conf file accidentally. If this problem occurred, your system would be unable to map the hard drive, and the machine would be unable to boot. Now, youd have a handy boot floppy, and your machine would come up to its normal state in a few minutes.


responds with the correct hard drive partition. What you are looking for is the partition where / resides. To find out where / resides, type df. This command will offer you all your mounted Linux partitions. The root partition will reside
Disaster Recovery

fsck is a Linux utility that you can use to check and repair the ext2 file system. There are many situations that could force you to invoke fsck. Such problems include an unclean shutdown of the system (like a power failure) or a system crash. The fsck man page states: fsck is used to check and optionally repair a Linux file system. filesys is either the device name (e.g. /dev/hda1, /dev/sdb2) or the mount point (e.g. /, /usr, 19

/home) for the file system. If this invocation of fsck has several filesystems on different physical disk drives to check, then fsck will try to run them in parallel. This reduces the total amount of time it takes to check all of the filesystems, since fsck takes advantage of the parallelism of multiple disk spindles. Only recently did I come across a problem that required me to invoke fsck. I leave my system up 24/7 (Linux likes that), and I rarely have problems. One day, however, I came home to find that all of the clocks were blinking their warnings that a power failure had occurred. I found my main machine at an unfamiliar prompt; it asked root to run fsck manually because of disk errors. I sat down, typed in the root password, and ran fsck. Sure enough, the power failure had caused some bad or duplicate blocks to occur. Panic was my first reaction, but interactive fsck came to my rescue. After running an interactive fsck session, I was able to recover the system and get it booted. This tale is not as uncommon as Id like to think. Nor is this tale of woe a worst-case scenario; however, my story proves that, without knowing the tools of the trade, a Linux user or systems administrator could become overwhelmed with reinstallations or perpetual reimaging. fsck takes care of these possible disasters. But dont mistake fsck for a magic cure for poor maintenance and administration. Before I begin describing fscks ability to save a file system, lets look at its ability to check a system. Its sometimes necessary to check the Linux file systems for consistency. Think of this check as similar to MS-DOSs scandisk. The fsck check runs a scan of the entire file structure and reports its findings. Typically, the findings pertain to noncontiguous blocks of data (or defragmented data). The operating system will take care of these errors. You dont need to concern yourself with Linux system defragmentation. The ext2 filesystem was created to act smarter than the MS-DOS or vfat systems by preventing bits of data from being stored back onto the device (such as a hard drive, a floppy, or a tape) in a fragmented manner, where one bit of data always is placed beside another without any space. Of course, there are other errors, including bad or duplicate blocks and wrong block counts. 20
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To run a check on your system, drop out of X Windows and, in console, log in as root. As root, youll have to run a check on a file system thats already mounted. If any errors are found (and corrected), youll have to reboot the system. Youll receive a nasty warning when you attempt this check. (Dont proceed if youre wary of disabling a critical system.) Generally, there should be no problems with this check, but there are exceptions. As root (and in console), type:
/sbin/fsck -t ext2 /dev/hda5

and you will begin the following session:

Parallelizing fsck version 1.14 (9Jan-1999) e2fsck 1.14, 9-Jan-1999 for EXT2 FS 0.5b, 95/08/09 /dev/hda5 is mounted. ####WARNING!!! Running e2fsck on a mounted filesystem may cause SEVERE filesystem damage.### Do you really want to continue (y/n)? yes /dev/hda5 was not cleanly unmounted, check forced. Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizes Deleted inode 164077 has zero dtime. Fix<y>? yes Pass 2: Checking directory structure Pass 3: Checking directory connectivity Pass 4: Checking reference counts Pass 5: Checking group summary information Block bitmap differences: -2071 -2072 -2073 -2074 -2075 -2076 -2077 -91734 91735 -91736 -91737 -91827 -91828 91829 -91830 -91831 -91832 -93664 -93665 -93666 -93667 -93668 -656772 656773 -656774 -656775 -656776 -656777 -656778 -2205683 -2205684 -2205685 2205686 -2205687 -2205688 -2205689 2426413 -2426414 -2426415 2426416 Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong for group #0 (5814, counted=5821). Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong for group #11 (5895, counted=5910). Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong for group #80 (0, counted=7).

Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong for group #269 (6200, counted=6207). Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong for group #296 (6, counted=10). Fix<y>? yes Free blocks count wrong (1005747, counted=1005787). Fix<y>? yes Inode bitmap differences: -164077 Fix<y>? yes Free inodes count wrong for group #80 (1809, counted=1810). Fix<y>? yes Free inodes count wrong (673732, counted=673733). Fix<y>? yes

questions in order to fix problems. By running the standard check fsck, the system will report back if there are any block-type errors that are in need of repair. If there are block errors, the interactive check should take care of them.


Once this check is run (and the above check ran into some errors), youll receive a report thats similar to the following:
/dev/hda5: ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED ***** /dev/hda5: 88123/761856 files (1.5% non-contiguous), 2038341/3044128 blocks

If you receive a report that says, FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED, then its very important that you reboot the machine. Networking You can run this type of The network backups check on a regular basis, should consist of various but it isnt necessary. One Murphys Law has never been components, including of the ways in which Linux more applicable than it is in the host files, export files, is smarter than many other printsharing files, samba world of computers. OSs is that it allows only files, and what Ill call rc so many boots before it files. The primary direcforces this check to occur. tory that houses these Once you have reached that limit, youll receive files is the /etc directory. There are two ways in the following message: Maximum mount which you can conduct this backup. The first count reached. Check forced. Its standard involves the use of the tar command. This operating procedure, and you should allow it to command doesnt compress the file (other tools run its course. do that); the file is still incapable of fitting on a But what if you run into a problem and you floppy. The second method involves picking cant boot your system? Generally, (if these prob- and choosing which files are necessary in an lems are block errors) youll be prompted to log emergency. in as root and to run a check manually. This The tar command, the first method, allows warning, however, doesnt give you all the details! the user to take a directory and its contents Although the first check that you should run is a (including subdirectories) and to pack them into standard check (simply typing fsck as root), its a single file. This command comes in handy important that you run an interactive check when you have to make restorations. For our just like we did above. An interactive check purposes, Ill take our /etc directory and pack it allows the user (superuser, that is) to answer into a single file. Well compress it and (I hope)
Disaster Recovery

Not everyone has access to a tape drive, a CD burner, or a second hard drive and can back up an entire file system. In the event of a major crash (one that renders a system inoperable), the ability to reinstall the OS and plug in critical configuration files would be the next best thing. But which files? Which directories? Whats the best strategy for creating a backup system, whereoutside of the OS installation CD floppies are the primary means of restoration? The first step is to determine whats crucial. Is your system on a network? Does it talk to other machines? Do you have desktop configurations? Do you have desktop pictures? Does your system hold the latest upgrades? Regardless of whats important to your system, lets look at some of the more common files that you need to back up for emergency purposes. Ill break it into categories: networking, desktop-ing, program-ing, and various-ing.


fit it on one floppy. First, log in to root and run the command:
tar cvMf /dev/fd0 /etc

Within this directory, you ought to copy the following: ifcfg-eth* ifcfg-ppp* The * symbol denotes a number thats assigned when the device is configured. Youll see something like ifcfg-eth0 and ifcfg-ppp0. Now that you have all of the necessary /etc files backed up, you can move on to the desktop.

Since the M has been added to the above command, the user will be prompted to insert additional floppies when appropriate. The /etc directory will consume approximately three empty floppies. Label those floppies correctly. You want to be sure that you dont get the floppies out of order when youre un-tarring the directories. Whats deceiving about this process is that, once it has completed, you will see nothing if you try to examine the contents of the disks. Instead, when and if you must use them, you simply run:
tar xvf /dev/fd0

The desktop is a bit more complex because of the amazing number of differences among Linux desktops. The many combinations of desktop environments and window managers make creating any sort of definitive list almost impossible. However, Ill stick to two basic desktops environments: GNOME and KDE. Backing up the GNOME desktop environment is a bit tricky because of the differences between releases. So, Ill stick with the more common files. The main directory is ~/.gnome. Within this directory, youll find the following files that should be backed up (understand that many of these files are purely aesthetic in nature): Background Desktop Gnome Screensaver metadata.db session Within this directory is a window manager subdirectory called wm-properties. It contains the configurations for your window manager, and it may be different from my example, depending on which release you use. Within my wm-properties subdirectory, I have the following files: AfterStep.desktop Config The Config file is the file that your GNOME session reads to determine which WM is being used. From this directory, youll want to copy every file that relates to your window manager. KDE makes it a bit easier on the user by placing all the configuration files in a directory called ~/.kde/share/config. To back up KDE, copy all of these files (and there are quite a few)

If you dont want to back up the entire /etc directory, you can pick and choose the files that you want to copy. From the /etc directory, youll want to make sure that you copy the following files: Exports Hosts hosts.allow hosts.deny hosts.equiv lilo.conf printcap passwd resolv.conf Within the /etc directory, youll want to go into the /rc.d subdirectory and copy rc.local. Also within the /etc directory lies the /sysconfig subdirectory, which houses a number of files that you should copy, including: Init Mouse soundcard Most of the above files will be taken care of if a reinstall takes place. The soundcard file, however, will not be taken care of. Within the /sysconfig subdirectory lies yet another subdirectory called /network-scripts. There, youll find configuration scripts for network devices, such as modems and Ethernet. 22
Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

to a floppy. Along with these files, youll want to backup your ~/.kderc file. Of course, to assure a complete backup, both of these desktop environments can be backed up with the tar method (which is described above). For GNOME, you run the following command (where USERNAME is the users login name):
tar cvMf /dev/fd0 /home/USERNAME/.gnome

Youll be sure to catch all the files that you need. The same holds true for KDE:
tar cvMf /dev/fd0 /home/USERNAME/.kde


this backup crucial? It depends upon the collection of bookmarks that your browser contains. I have over 70 bookmarks that Id rather not lose! With a simple cp command, those bookmarks are safe from destructionunless the floppy on which I save them meets an untimely demise. Keeping with the Internet theme: within the users home directory, such applications as pine will drop .addressbook files that, though not crucial, could save a great deal of time when a restoration of the OS occurs. To err on the safe side is the best cautionary advice that you can heed when youre determining backup strategies. Finally, if you see a hidden file in a users home directory, back it up.

No, Im not talking about C++ or Java. Every installation has various programs that are essential to your computing survival. Each program, in turn, has configuration files that are essential for survival. Bookmarks, setup configurations, and directory listings are vital to making a programs reinstallation painless. Naturally, describing which files must be backed up for every program would be impossible. Even describing which files should be backed up for the most common applications would be lengthy, at best. So, what Ill do is list a few rules of thumb that will help you decide what should be backed up. The Resource Configuration files (rc files) of an application hold crucial user-defined information. Many Linux applications contain these files, which should be backed up. Spotting rc files is very simple. The suspect files will be hidden files (begin with .), and they will end with rc. Many applications (StarOffice 5.1, for example) contain entire directories that house configuration information. Check within the main directory of the application in question. If theres a configuration directory, run the tar command (as shown above) on the entire config directory and save it to a disk. Other crucial directories that you should back up are any bin directories that were created by an application. These bin directories often contain .res files (resource binary files) and .bin files (binary files). Most browsers are universal, and the bookmark files are fairly similar. Linuxs Netscape application contains the same bookmarks.html file that its Windows counterpart contains. Is


Its an odd term, but there are many other types of files in Linux that should be considered carefully as backup candidates. Some of these files are user specific and shouldnt be thought of as global strategies. However, backing up the following files will make your life a great deal easier when youre restoring a machine. Within the users home directory, there are files that the system reads when it starts such things as X Windows or a terminal window. These files, though simple to recreate, can become a hassle for an administrator. (Imagine having to recreate, from memory, aliases for 50+ users!) .Xauthority .Xdefaults .bash_logout .bash_profile .bashrc .xinitrc The majority of these files either define the users X Windows session or the BASH (all aliases and $PATH variables).


This list is by no means an exhaustive backup strategy. Its merely a guide for preparing a solution-based model. With a minimum of hardware and a maximum of patience, it will save a system. Of course, the best solution would be perfect maintenance, but we know that such a solution is far from possible. Eventually, some disaster will strike, but (lets hope) you will be prepared.
By Jack Wallen, Jr. Disaster Recovery



Understanding the Windows 2000 Blue Screen of Death, part 1

espite claims that Windows 2000 is the greatest operating system the world has ever seen, it isnt infallible. Although Windows 2000 is a great operating system, the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is alive and well. In this two-part series, Ill discuss the Windows 2000 Blue Screen of Death in detail. In part one, I will discuss the anatomy of the Blue Screen and discuss techniques that you can use to get rid of it. In part two, Ill discuss several specific error messages that you might find on a Blue Screen, and Ill explain what those messages mean in plain and simple English.

Whats a Blue Screen of Death?

If youve been a long-time Windows NT user, youve probably seen the Blue Screen of Death a few times; but if you havent, or if youre just getting into Windows, Ill take a moment to explain what the Blue Screen of Death is. The BSOD refers to an error message thats displayed on a blue screen. Such an error is serious enough that it brings down the entire operating system, leaving the user no choice but to cold boot. Although it probably sounds as if I made up the phrase Blue Screen of Death, I didnt. Its actually a Microsoft term, and you can often find references to it in Microsoft documents.

sooner or later youll probably have to deal with one. The Windows 2000 BSOD differs considerably from the Windows NT BSOD. One major difference is that the Windows NT BSOD contains only one general type of Stop message. A Stop message is the actual error code. In Windows 2000, there are two basic types of messages: Stop messages and Hardware messages. A Stop message occurs when the Windows 2000 kernel detects a software error that it cant recover from. A Hardware message, on the other hand, occurs when Windows 2000 detects a serious hardware conflict. For example, if you mismatch microprocessors in a dual-processor computer, you would see one of the hardware malfunction messages. When a Stop error occurs, Windows crashes. All thats left is a blue text screen displaying the error codes. You can see an example of a BSOD in Figure A. As you can see, the BSOD is divided into several sections. Each one of these sections has its own purpose and contains vital troubleshooting information.

Anatomy of a BSOD

The bug check section

Stop messages vs. Hardware messages

Figure A

The bug check section is the portion of the BSOD that contains the actual error message. The bug check section looks similar to this code:
*** Stop: 0x0000001E (0xF24A447A, 0X00000001, 0X0000000)

Regardless of what you call the BSOD, its something that you need to understand, because

The various sections of the BSOD contain vital troubleshooting information.


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KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED *** Address F24A447A base at f24A0000, DateStamp 35825ef8d - wdmaud.sys

The main items that you need to be aware of within the bug check section are the error code and the error symbol. The error code is the hexadecimal number that immediately follows the word Stop. This number may be followed by up to four other numbers. The error symbol is the word that follows the error code. In the error that Ive listed above, the error symbol is KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED. In some BSOD error messages, a memory location and a filename follow the error symbol. This information indicates the memory location and file with which the error occurred. Whether you see this information depends on what type of Stop error has occurred. In some cases, you may only see the first line of the Stop error. This usually indicates a problem with the video services.

might be as simple as rebooting or freeing up some disk space. Although such techniques occasionally work, getting rid of a BSOD is often much more complicated.

The debug port information section

The debug port information section contains information about how the kernel debugger is configured. The kernel debugger allows you to link a malfunctioning computer to one that is working correctly for diagnostic purposes. Ill discuss debugging mode in detail in a future Daily Drill Down. However, its important that you at least know what the kernel debugger is and see an example of what to expect. You can see an example of the kernel debugger information below:
Kernel Debugger Using: COM2 (Port 0x2f8, Baud Rate 19200) Beginning dump of physical memory Physical memory dump complete. Contact your system administrator or technical support group.

The recommended user action section

The recommended user action section looks something like the message shown below:
If this is the first time youve seen this Stop error screen, restart your computer. If this screen appears again, follow these steps: Check to be sure you have adequate disk space. If a driver is identified in the Stop message, disable the driver or check with the manufacturer for driver updates. Try changing video adapters. Check with your hardware vendor for any BIOS updates. Disable BIOS memory options such as caching or shadowing. If you need to use Safe Mode to remove or disable components, restart your computer, press F8 to select Advanced Startup Options, and then select Safe Mode. Refer to your Getting Started manual for more information on troubleshooting Stop errors.

The four types of Stop messages

A Stop error occurs when a program or driver produces an unhandled error or tries to execute an illegal instruction. Stop messages are usually one of four basic types: Stop messages that occur during regular use of Windows 2000 Stop messages that occur during Windows 2000 installation Stop messages that occur during phase 4 of Windows 2000 installation Stop messages that can be traced to a software trap

General Stop messages

The recommended user action section typically contains a generic message detailing steps that you might take to correct the problem. As you can see in the message, curing a BSOD

General Stop messages are often the most difficult to correct because there are a countless variety of things that can cause them. General Stop messages occur when a program or driver produces an unhandled error or tries to execute an illegal instruction. Later in this Daily Drill Down, I will outline several procedures that you can use to troubleshoot such errors.

Disaster Recovery


Installation Stop messages

When you encounter a Stop message during Windows 2000 installation, its almost always because a hardware component in your system isnt on the Windows 2000 hardware compatibility list. If this occurs, review your systems hardware to determine which item isnt on the list. If you find an unsupported device, try contacting the devices manufacturer to see if they offer a Windows 2000 driver. If they dont, try removing the device from your system and replacing it with a hardware-compatibility, listcompliant device. If all of your hardware is compliant, you may have a hardware conflict between two devices. To get around such a problem, remove any non-essential hardware and try loading Windows 2000 again. Once Windows has loaded, add the devices back onto your system one at a time. Doing so often resolves conflicts and, at the very least, will tell you where the conflict is.

they have a newer version of the software or a patch that will correct the problem.

Troubleshooting tips

Executive installation Stop messages

A Stop message during the executive portion of the Windows 2000 installation program can be difficult to track down. The executive installation routine has two phases. The first phase disables hardware interrupts and loads a few basic components such as the hardware abstraction layer. The second phase initializes all of the hardware in your system. If you receive a Stop message during this portion of the installation program, run diagnostic programs against your hardware to see if its working correctly. If it is, turn the PC off and try reinstalling Windows 2000 from scratch. If you still receive the error message, contact Microsofts Technical Support department.

Software trap Stop messages

Software trap Stop messages occur when a program tries to execute an invalid instruction. For example, if a program tries to write characters to a variable thats reserved for numbers, such an error may occur. If you receive this type of error, write down the information found on the BSOD and contact the manufacturer of the software thats causing the problem to see if

If a Stop error is persistent, there are a few things that you can do to try to get rid of it. First, as with any other computer problem, try to remember if anything has changed recently on the system. If it has, then the change is probably the source of the problem. Try removing any new hardware or software to see if the problem goes away. If it does, check to see if that hardware or software was intended for Windows 2000. Next, check the hardware in your system. Begin by running a hardware diagnostic program. You can download many such programs from the Internet. You might also reseat all of your memory and expansion cards (be sure to turn the power off first) and make sure that all of your computers internal and external cables are attached tightly. Sometimes cards and cables can vibrate loose, thus causing Stop messages. If the Stop message occurs during or soon after boot, you may have a problem with a service or a device driver. If you find this to be the case, try booting into safe mode. By doing so, youll load Windows with a minimal driver and service set. If Windows boots correctly in safe mode, your suspicions are correct. If the problem still occurs in safe mode, the problem is something more serious, such as faulty hardware. If your computer does boot in safe mode, check the event log for more information on what may be causing the error. If the problem still occurs, check to make sure that your antivirus program was designed for Windows 2000 and is up-to-date. Some viruses can infect low-level system files and may cause BSOD errors as a result. Finally, if you still cant make the error go away, go into your computers CMOS setup and disable any BIOS options, such as caching or shadowing, and reboot. If the problem still occurs, reapply any service packs that might exist. (None exist at the time of this writing, but give Microsoft time.) If reapplying the current service pack doesnt work, try reloading Windows.
By Brien M. Posey


Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Repairing the Master Boot Record

ave you ever had a situation in which a hard disk crash caused you to lose everything on the entire drive? If so, theres a good chance your data might have survived. Often the cause of the problem is a corrupted or missing Master Boot Record (MBR). If you can repair the MBR, its often possible to recover the rest of your data. In this Daily Drill Down, Ill discuss some techniques for recovering a failed MBR.

Before I begin

The next section contains some error messages. These error messages are crammed into the next 80 bytes and indicate such conditions as an invalid partition table or a bad (or missing) operating system. The next 227 bytes are empty. The 64 bytes that follow outline the physical characteristics of the drive. This area is known as the partition table. The partition table defines such characteristics as the: Active partition Starting head Starting sector Starting cylinder Partition type Ending head Ending sector Ending cylinder Total number of sectors on the partition Keep in mind that the partition table varies widely among different size drives, partitions, and file systems. For example, a FAT16 partition table is much different from a FAT32 partition table. The last two bytes of the MBR indicate the MBRs boundaries. They are essentially nothing more than an end-of-file marker.

Its important to point out that the MBR isnt something that you should just play around with for kicks. Tampering with the MBR on a functional machine can often render the machine unusable. Therefore, I strongly recommend not trying any of these techniques unless your computers already broken. I should also point out that none of these techniques is absolutely guaranteed to work. If your lost data is critical to the survival of your business, I recommend taking the failed hard disk to a reputable data recovery center rather than trying the techniques I offer here. Remember that as you make a change to the MBR or to another area of the hard disk, the change replaces the existing data. Doing so can make it much more difficultif not impossibleto recover your hard disk if it turns out that the MBR isnt the problem.

Anatomy of a Master Boot Record

Some basic repair information

The MBR consists of the code thats located on the first physical sector of a hard disk. It tells the computer how to work with the hard disk. For example, it tells the computer which partition is active, the type of partition, and the starting location on the hard disk. The MBR is divided into five basic sections. Each of these sections contains specific information. The first 139 bytes are known as the jump code. The code loads the MBR into memory. This section also performs such tasks as enabling the necessary interrupts, locating the C drive, and loading the boot sector from the C drive.

You need to be aware of a few important rules before jumping in with both feet. I mentioned the dangers of corruption, but you should know a few other rules as well. First, dont try any of these techniques if youre using sectormapping software. Sector-mapping software makes larger capacity hard drives accessible to older systems. Since this technique requires the sector-mapping software to control the MBR, youll make the drive totally inaccessible if you overwrite the MBR. Many of the sector-mapping programs come with special repair utilities that you can use to fix the MBR if necessary. Another thing that you should know is that MBRs are unique. If youre rewriting one manually, you should copy the information from a

Disaster Recovery


computer running the same operating system on the same size hard disk, with the same partition structure and file system.

Windows 98

Repairing a Windows 98 MBR is less complicated than repairing the MBR of some other types of operating systems. One way of making the repair is to find a disk editor program that runs from a bootable floppy disk and then manually rewrite the MBR. You can use the MBR description in the previous section to get the job done if youre using a FAT partition, or you can look up one of the many MBR charts that are floating around on the Internet. Wherever you get your information, thats actually the hard way of doing things. The easy way has more steps, but the steps are much simpler. Begin by going to a functional computer thats running Windows 98 and open an MSDOS prompt window. Next, insert a blank floppy disk in drive A and enter the following commands in the MS-DOS prompt window:

Then, remove the floppy disk from the drive and place it in the drive of the computer thats not functioning. Now, reboot the computer. The computer should boot off the floppy and take you to an MS-DOS prompt. At this point, enter this command:

mirror set, youll have to use either the DiskSave or the DiskProbe utility. You can find both of these utilities in the Windows NT Resource Kit. DiskProbe (Windows) and DiskSave (DOS) are utilities that allow you to directly edit the contents of your hard disk. If you use these tools carefully, you can correct such problems as a corrupted MBR. Of course, these tools will write any content that you specify to the hard disk. They dont check to see whether the content makes sense. Therefore, you should use extreme caution when using these utilities. Its possible to really mess up your hard disk if you arent careful. For example, you can corrupt the MBR (if it isnt already corrupted), make the operating system inaccessible, or make a volume, stripe set, mirror set, and so forth inaccessible. The upside of the two utilities is that they can be used for disaster prevention. Both utilities allow you to create a backup of various portions of your hard disk. For example, you could back up the MBR. The utilities can also be used interchangeably. Therefore, if you back up a MBR with one utility, you can restore it with the other. This is especially useful if youd backed up the MBR through DiskProbe (the Windowsbased program) but something happened to the MBR and you couldnt access Windows. In such a situation, you could use DiskSave (the DOSbased utility) to restore your backup. You can also get MBR information through another resource kit tool called DiskMap. This tool provides valuable information on the current state of the MBR. You can acquire this information by entering the following command at the command prompt:

The command will execute the FDISK command in a special access mode. As you may know, FDISK normally creates or deletes hard disk partitions. However, when run with the /MBR switch, the FDISK command merely updates the MBR. In this particular case, the MBR is updated based on the contents of the floppy disk.

Dump the contents of the report to a text file by using the >filename.ext parameter at the end of the command. If you build such a text file before having problems, you could use it to help you correct the problems. The report that DiskMap produces looks something like the sample in Listing A.

Windows NT

The Windows 2000 shortcut

If you are using Windows NT, you can still use the FDISK /MBR method that I discussed earlier. However, this isnt the case if youre using a stripe set or mirror set. If youre using a stripe set or 28
Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Repairing the Windows 2000 MBR is perhaps the easiest of all. In the Recovery Console, enter the FIXMBR command. In case youre unfamiliar with the Recovery Console, its a special DOS mode that you can enter by selecting a command

from the Windows 2000 boot menu (if youve previously installed the Recovery Console). Unfortunately, if the MBR is corrupted, you wont be able to access the Recovery Console through the usual method. Instead, youll have

to create a set of Windows 2000 boot disks and use them to access the Recovery Console. To do so, boot your PC off the Windows 2000 CD if possible. If your PC cant boot from the CD, boot from Setup Disk 1. (If you

Listing A: Sample DiskMap report

Cylinders HeadsPerCylinder SectorsPerHead BytesPerSector MediaType 1023 16 63 512 12 TrackSize = 32256, CylinderSize = 516096, DiskSize = 527966208 (503MB) Signature = 0x14f24efd StartingOffset PartitionLength StartingSector PartitionNumber * 32256 210018816 63 1 210051072 209534976 410256 2 472227840 10321920 922320 3 419618304 10289664 63 4 429940224 8225280 63 5 438197760 12354048 63 6 450584064 16998912 63 7 MBR: Starting Ending System Relative Total Cylinder Head Sector Cylinder Head Sector ID Sector Sectors * 0 1 1 406 15 63 0x06 63 410193 407 0 1 812 15 63 0x07 410256 409248 813 0 1 914 15 63 0x05 819504 102816 915 0 1 934 15 63 0x01 922320 20160 EBR: (sector 819504) Starting Ending System Relative Total Cylinder Head Sector Cylinder Head Sector ID Sector Sectors 813 1 1 832 15 63 0x87 63 20097 833 0 1 848 15 63 0x05 20160 16128 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 EBR: (sector 839664) Starting Ending System Relative Total Cylinder Head Sector Cylinder Head Sector ID Sector Sectors 833 1 1 848 15 63 0x01 63 16065 849 0 1 872 15 63 0x05 36288 24192 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 EBR: (sector 855792) Starting Ending System Relative Total Cylinder Head Sector Cylinder Head Sector ID Sector Sectors 849 1 1 872 15 63 0x07 63 24129 873 0 1 905 15 63 0x05 60480 33264 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 EBR: (sector 879984) Starting Ending System Relative Total Cylinder Head Sector Cylinder Head Sector ID Sector Sectors 873 1 1 905 15 63 0x87 63 33201 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0x00 0

Disaster Recovery


dont have these disks, you can create them on another computer by using the disk images that are stored on the Windows 2000 CD.) As Setup launches, youll be asked if you want to begin installing Windows 2000. Press [Enter] to continue. Next, Setup will ask if you want to continue installing Windows 2000 or repair an existing installation. Press the [R] key to start repairing the damaged installation. When you do, youll be prompted as to whether you want to repair your system using the Recovery Console or the emergency repair process. From this point, follow the prompts to install the Recovery Console. Once youre in the Recovery Con-

sole, simply use the FIXMBR command to repair the MBR.


In this Daily Drill Down, Ive discussed several techniques for recovering a hard disk thats suffering from a corrupted or missing MBR. Keep in mind that none of these techniques is absolutely guaranteed to work. As I mentioned earlier, if your hard disk contains extremely critical data, I recommend taking the drive to a qualified data recovery specialist rather than attempting to salvage the data yourself.
By Brien M. Posey

Overcoming the blues: Working through Blue Screen of Death errors

he often-cryptic error messages that accompany Blue Screens of Death (BSOD) may seem unsolvable, but with a little practice and knowledge, youll be able to work through them. Most of the time, BSODs indicate a device or hardware conflict somewhere in your system. If you have one or two BSODs only rarely, then its no big deal. But when they occur with alarming frequency, then its time to dig a little deeper into the cause. And thats what I hope to do in this articlegive you a little knowledge that will help you solve these pesky problems. First, when you get the BSOD, its a good idea to consult the Microsoft Knowledge Base (http:// support.microsoft.com/). After all, its Windows. Why not refer to the source, right? The Knowledge Base recommends that you take the following steps when trying to resolve your BSOD: Since BSODs sometimes indicate a video card conflict or a conflict with the video drivers, check out this possibility first. To do so, youll need to go to Device Manager and examine the resources used. Also, look at the video card manufacturers Web site, which may offer an updated driver for download. If the BSOD occurs during setup of a new application or operating system, try removing the video driver from Device Manager prior to installation. Then, you can reinstall it afterwards. 30
Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Utilize your event log. Look it over for possible conflicts. Try removing application or data files initiated to load upon Windows boot-up. This sometimes works for other problems, too, such as slow startup or Windows hanging immediately or soon after launching. Check the Win.ini file (you should find it in your Windows System directory). View it through SysEdit or a text editor. Look for programs that load in the line RUN= or LOAD=. Remark out these lines so they will not be processed. Check your BIOS versions and dates. Crossreference them with the manufacturer. You may need to flash your BIOS. Using Device Manager, seek out conflicts based in the IRQs, I/O addresses, or DMA channels. Always make sure your hardware is installed properly. Youve just been given a quick-and-dirty rundown of things to check. Its by no means one of the most extensive lists, but it can get you started. Nine times out of ten, Ive found that by using the above list, I can identify the cause of my BSOD.
By Joan Bard


Troubleshooting laptops: The answer may be graphic

ouve got a laptop thats running Windows 98. Trying to avoid eye fatigue while youre working at home, you decide to hook up your undocked laptop to your home computers monitor. But when you attempt to install the monitor, the correct drivers arent present. So, you shut down, disconnect the monitor, and reboot. Unfortunately, Windows 98 Plug and Play insists on trying to install new monitor drivers and refuses to let you cancel the installation. Stuck in what seems to be an endless loop, you are forced to power down. Earlier, you made a few changes to the configuration (after backing up the registry, of course). But now, instead of an improved laptop, you have a laptop thats in a coma. What do you do?

Doctor, will the patient become a vegetable?

The above scenario recently happened to me. And it injured my laptop. Finding the solution was difficult, though, because I wasnt sure which recent change caused the problem. Before I came home from work that day, I had disabled a bunch of unused features on my laptop in order to speed up my machine. For example, I had disabled the infrared port and uninstalled NetBEUI. So, several possible problems were vying for my attention. In such a situation, you have to be your own help desk and weed out information thats not essential from information that is. Fortunately, there are certain steps that you can take to troubleshoot a computer. When you troubleshoot problems, you should follow methodical procedureslike doctors do when theyre trying to diagnose diseases. A good first step is to examine the computers vital signs by making a boot log. In Windows 98, you make a boot log by pressing [F8] as the computer powers on. You will then see a menu of choices. Choose Logged and continue. Next, youll want to read the boot log, which is comparable to reading a printout of a

patients lab tests. Press [F8] to boot into DOS mode and open the Bootlog.txt file by typing either More Bootlog.txt or Edit Bootlog.txt. The More command lets you view the file one screen at a time. The Edit command opens the DOS editor. Note that Bootlog.txt is a hidden fileyou wont see it in a listing of the DOS directory, but its there. The boot log told me that my laptop was booting up all the wayas far as drivers and system files were concerned. In reality, however, the laptop froze just after the login screen appeared. The boot log didnt make much sense, but I decided to call it quits and take a fresh look later. When I took my laptop back to the office and placed it into its docking station, (miracle of miracles!) it worked fine. The patient became conscious. Away from the docking station, however, it slipped back into a coma. At this point, I stepped back from the problem and tried to list the symptoms that I had observed. Heres a summary of my examination: The laptop booted past the login prompt, but then halted. The laptop worked fine in the docking stationbut not when it was undocked. Bootlog.txt claimed that all drivers were loaded successfully. Once the machine was out of the docking station, I pressed [F8] again to start Windows 98 in safe mode. When the computer was undocked, it worked fine in safe mode.

The answer is graphic

Treating PC illnessesjust like diagnosing those illnessesinvolves following certain methodical steps. One good initial step is to restore the last version of a working registry. Since I had just made a registry backup, I rebooted and pressed [F8] to open Windows 98 in safe mode. Then, I double-clicked and reinstalled my backup registry file. But this action didnt fix the problem.



Since the laptop worked when it was docked, there was a good chance that the trouble was located in the undocked hardware profile. Often, trying to use Windows 98s Device Manager to fix every profile error is more time-consuming than just rebuilding the profile from scratch. So, I deleted the undocked hardware profile and let Windows 98 create a new one when I rebooted. Again, the computer froze at the same point. When troubleshooting the obvious fails, its time to reconsider the information that you might be overlooking. In this case, I remembered that the problem began when I tried to install drivers to use my home monitor and then became stuck in a plug-and-play loop. I needed to examine the video setup. After all, the boot log showed that all the required Windows drivers were loading successfully.

The Safe Mode check

Opening Windows 98 in safe mode, I rightclicked on the desktop and examined the Display Properties | Settings tab. As shown in Figure A, the correct drivers appeared to be

installed, but the Screen Area and Colors settings hadnt been reset for the new undocked hardware profile. Confident that I had solved the problem, I reset those features and rebooted, only to find myself back where I started: with a computer that showed minimal signs of life. Finally, I tracked the problem to an obscure tab within the Display Properties | Settings | Advanced settings. I clicked the Advanced button, which opened six new tables. As shown in Figure B, on the right-hand side sat a table with the uninformative title of Chips. Buried within this title was the solution to my problem. Clicking one radio button to change the display device from CRT to LCD solved the problem and brought my laptop back to full consciousness. One nice thing about troubleshooting problems (perhaps the only nice thing) is that it provides you with the opportunity to learn. My lessons? Laptops present their own unique problems because of docked and undocked hardware profiles.

Figure A

Figure B

The settings are correct, but the laptop still doesnt work.

Heres the culprit: The wrong display option was selected.


Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Often, problems with the way in which laptops boot are due to wrong video drivers or video driver settings. When you troubleshoot computers, logical and methodical steps will help you solve the problem.

The solution may be simple, but you have to learn to look in unexpected places becauseno matter how experienced you aresome new problem will arise to stump you again.
By Mike Jackman

Extend the life of your laptops battery

ith todays power-hungry OSs, laptop batteries rarely last more than three hours at a stretch. If youre on an airline flight without the newer laptop power outlets, or just like to work untethered for as long as possible, try out the tips in this Daily Drill Down and you may squeeze more time out of your system.

Start from the source: Condition your batteries

in a battery in its place. These days, who needs the floppy drive anyway? A special multibay battery can take the place of the CD-ROM. If you dont mind the extra pounds, three batteries might buy you up to eight or nine hours of laptop life. That might be enough to fly the U.S. coast to coast, including layovers and delays, without taking a break from work. Wouldnt that be fun?

Slow down the processor

If you have a recent model laptop, it most likely uses a lithium ion (LION) battery. The advantages of this battery are its lighter weight and a greater power-for-weight ratio. For instance, one LION battery lasts about as long as three nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries. In addition, LION batteries dont have to be discharged before recharging, dont have to be recharged as many times as the other types, and dont suffer from slowly diminishing chargeswhat has been called the memory effect of NiMH cells. But no matter what battery you own, periodic conditioning allows it to work more efficiently. According to Compaq, the conditioning cycle also helps calibrate the battery gauge that appears in the taskbar. So look for a calibration or conditioning program and run it every two months or so. For more information on batteries, read Maximizing laptop and cell phone battery life (http://www.techrepublic.com/article.jhtml? id=r00320000424lef01.htm).

Although I love the way a fast processor loads programs (it almost reminds me of the DOS days), for most of my daily work, 500 MHz is

Figure A

Plug in an extra battery

Some laptops are designed with more than one battery port. For example, the Compaq Armada E500 lets you pop out the floppy disk and pop

Check whether your laptop has a program that allows you to slow down a racing processor to conserve battery power.



more power than my programs need to run at their best. This is true for most of usprocessors running at blistering speeds havent actually sped up our productivity using most programs. Before you take your laptop on the road, check your power-management settings and determine whether battery conservation choices will let you slow down your CPU. Youll keep the same productivity, and your batteries will last longer. Figure A on the previous page shows Compaqs power settings.

Make a special low-power hardware profile

Many users dont take advantage of the ability to create hardware profiles in Windows 98. Customizing a low-power hardware profile will save you setup time later. Whats a hardware profile? Laptop users often have two profiles, automatically set by Windows 98a docked profile and an undocked profile. When you boot your computer away from its docking station, the undocked profile kicks in, with the appropriate settings. For example, you may be changing from a monitor to the laptops own LCD screen, from a built-in network interface card to a PC card modem, or from external to battery power. Or you may be removing access to such

Figure B

Copying a new hardware profile prepares the way to customize your laptops power settings.

peripherals as CD-ROMs and diskette drives. Hardware profiles keep track of these changes for you and automatically (you hope) choose the correct video, device, and drivers. Heres how to create your own low-power hardware profile. First, if your computer is docked, shut it down and undock it. Then turn it on and boot into Windows 98. Next, open the System Properties applet in Control Panel by double-clicking the System icon. Select the Hardware Profiles tab. You probably will have only one profile visibleyour undocked profile. Select it and click Copy. Youll be asked to give your new profile a name. Call it Undocked Low Power and click OK. When youve finished, your screen should look like the one in Figure B. Note that the dialog box offers no way to edit a hardware profile. To modify most settings in your profile, you need to actually be booted into it. There are some exceptions, but this is the easiest way to make changes. Click OK to exit the System applet. Now that youve copied the undocked profile, restart your laptop. Youll see a new boot menu, asking which profile you want to use. Choose the number that corresponds to the new Undocked Low Power profile. Go back to the System applet, but this time select the Device Manager tab. Here, youll disable all devices you dont need while using battery power. Doing so will put less strain on the processor and, therefore, the battery. As a side effect, you may also find that Windows 98 is finally running at the speed you want. In Device Manager, youll see a tree view of the types of devices you have on your laptop. Select Floppy Disk Controllers and double-click to open a list of your machines controllers. I like to disable the floppy disk drive, which I hardly use, so Ill use this as an example. Rightclick on your controller (mine is named Standard Floppy Disk Controller)and select Properties. The General tab of the properties sheet will open. Select the Disable In This Hardware Profile option and click OK. Your setting will be stored in the Undocked Low Power profile and will not affect other profiles. If you need your floppy disk back at a later time, all you have to do is deselect the option. Click OK to save the new setting. Now note that in the listing, a red x appears over the disabled device.


Special Report: PC Troubleshooting

Using the same procedure, disable all devices you wont need. Here is a list of possibilities: Floppy disk CD-ROM Infrared Communications Device Network PC cards Printer and COM ports (I use a COM port for hotsyncing a Palm PDA, so I leave that enabled) Sound cards USB controller PC card controllers and services Figure C shows my Device Manager after Ive disabled several drivers, ports, and peripherals. When youve finished making changes, click OK to close the applet. Reboot your computer, if necessary. Remember that only these changes are saved in your hardware profile. The rest of the changes Ive suggested are saved in the registry and affect every hardware profile. Youll want to change them back when you arent on the road.

Figure C

You can use Device Manager to disable devices.

Use battery conservation settings

Slowing down your CPU is only one of many possible settings available to extend your useful battery life. Check your power conservation program to set the following features (look in Control Panel or in your system tray) when the computer is on battery, idle, or low on power. Dim the brightness of the screen. Go to standby mode. Hibernate the computer. Turn off hard disks. Turn off the monitor. If you notice that a setting, such as going to standby, doesnt play nice with Windows 98, disable it.

not using the computer but when you are working on the computer because a background timer has to check whether the computer is idle and count down the moments until the screen saver activates. Eliminating this background process cuts out one more power hit. If you want a screen saver, set it to Blank Screen.

Special effects are great, but theyll cost you

To turn off some of the battery-depleting goodies, right-click on a blank area of the desktop and select Properties. Now click the Effects tab. Then, deselect these options: Show Icons Using All Possible Colors Animate Windows, Menus And Lists Smooth Edges Of Screen Fonts Show Windows Contents While Dragging

Simplify your display

Everything having to do with the displaysuch as using fancy wallpapers or millions rather than hundreds of colorsconsumes processor cycles. Here are a few tips to help you reduce the power sucked out of your laptop by your display.

Use a lower color setting

Next, activate the Settings tab. Unless youre working on a graphics-intensive project, you can get by with 256 colors. Change the number of colors displayed to 256.

Turn off screen savers

Those moving star fields or whirling polygons consume processor cycles not only when youre

Paint it black
Next, click the Background tab. In the Background list, choose None. That way, youve gotten rid of expensive wallpaper.


Decolorize your desktop display

These days, Windows 98 desktop colors offer a graduated color change in window title bars. The slowly changing color from left to right means a prettier desktop, but also more colors for the monitor to draw. Click the Appearance tab and select Active Title Bar from the Item drop-down list. Now look over to the right at the two swatches called Color and Color 2. Click on the color swatch under Color 2 to make it the same as that under Color. Then, return to the Item list, select Inactive Title Bar, and do the same thing. Finally, select Desktop from the drop-down list and change its color to black. A black desktop uses the least amount of power. At this point, click the Save As button and give this new theme a name. I call mine Low Power. Saving the display settings lets you go back and forth between your favorite theme and your low-power theme, for those powered-up times when you want a more lively computing experience.

Eighty-six your system tray icons

A lot of programs like to place an icon in the system tray. These programs are actually running in the background. At this moment, my

Figure D

system tray includes icons for Norton AntiVirus, Microsofts Task Scheduler, a battery monitor, sound status, display properties, and my Pilot Hotsync Manager. It would be far better to remove all nonessential startups from the system tray and put them in a place where they wont drain your laptops power (or Windows 98 resources, for that matter). For my example, I want to leave Norton AntiVirus, as well as the battery monitor. The others can all be taken off. I dont need the task schedulerif I want to defragment the hard disk or tune applications using Walign, I can do it manually. There are many ways to remove system tray icons. You could, for instance, check to see whether each program has a menu option to take it off the Startup menu. Or you could edit the registry (as well as Win.ini and Sys.ini) and remove some files from C:\Windows\ Start Menu. The easiest way to get rid of system tray icons is to run Msconfig. Choose Start | Run, type Msconfig, and then press [Enter]. The System Configuration Utility (Msconfig) will appear. Choose the Startup tab and then simply deselect the programs you dont want running when Windows boots, as shown in Figure D. You probably want shortcuts to these programs somewhere. You could place shortcuts on your desktop, but then the screen will have to repaint them. You could place them on Microsofts Quick Launch bar, but that is similar to placing them on the desktop. I recommend placing shortcuts to necessary programs on the Start menu. Doing this is easy. Open Windows Explorer. Drag the shortcut icon over to the Start button, or, if there is no shortcut, find the .exe file you want a shortcut to and drag its icon over to the Start button. Hover the icon there until the Start menu pops up. Continue to drag the icon into position, and then release the mouse button.

Get rid of desktop sprawl

The idea here is to reduce the number of colors the screen has to constantly repaint. Besides, its always a good idea to periodically clean up your desktop. Delete icons you dont need, move

The System Configuration Utility, Msconfig, helps you maintain your startup programs.


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shortcuts you do need onto the Start menu, and store files elsewhere. If you havent done spring-cleaning on your desktop in a while, maybe its time to make some new folders.

Figure E

Set a permanent swap file and save hard disk use

One of the first things I do when setting up Windows is to be sure I set a permanent swap file. So I was surprised to learn recently that I had neglected this useful system change. The problem with letting Windows manage the swap file (which contains information swapped out of RAM) is that it will eventually become fragmented, causing more hard disk use. In addition, Windows 98 will change the size of the file as needed, and this also creates drive use and a power hit. To set a permanent swap file, first defragment your hard drive. Then, open the System applet in Control Panel and click the Performance tab. Note the amount of RAM available. I use two times the amount of RAM for the swap file. In my case, I have 64 MB of RAM, so my target swap file size will be 128 MB. Now, click the Virtual Memory button at the bottom of the Performance tab. In the resulting dialog box, the Let Windows Manage My Virtual Memory Settings (Recommended) option will be enabled. Click the Let Me Specify My Own Memory Settings option. Set the minimum and maximum sizes (in MB) to the same value. Then click OK. Read the warning message that follows, then click OK and restart your computer. Youve just created a defragmented, contiguous swap file that will slow down hard drive use.

Set your permanent swap file to the same minimum and maximum values.

Use CpuIdle

CpuIdle is a shareware program thats designed to cool CPUs by actually halting them when theyre idle. Not only does a cooler CPU last longer, but a halted CPU saves power. You should notice no performance lag at all while using this program.

Whats the power savings?

Lets put it this way: If you could apply tips like these to your home, your power bill would go down 25 percent. Using these tips, I was able to add an hour to my batterys lifefrom four to over five hours. Your results will vary with the type of work you do, the amount of windows you open concurrently, the condition of your battery, and how you tune your laptop. Still, Id be surprised if you didnt gain a significant power savings from these tips.
By Mike Jackman


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When and how do you standardize your hardware?

f you enjoy the luxury of working where theres a corporate standard for all end-user machines, youre lucky. In most IT shops, youre expected to provide tech support and network access for clients running four or five operating systems on PCs of eight or nine different brands. In this Daily Drill Down, Ill show you a way to successfully standardize your companys hardware platform.

Insufficient memory or hard drive space for key applications (or for efficient connectivity to corporate network) Systems too slow to keep end users happy and efficient I recently experienced firsthand the frustrations that can come out of working in a shop where a standard environment exists. The problem was that the corporate standard was one thing, but my desktop machine was something else. I was given a state-of-the-moment Windows 98 machine when I was hired. In the meantime, a new IT manager upgraded the corporate standard machine from Windows 98 to Windows NT Workstation. But no one came around to upgrade my operating system. A year after I started, something happened that required reinstalling the printer drivers on my workstation. The contract tech support person dutifully reported to my office, ready to install the drivers. Unfortunately, he was baffled when he found out I was still using Windows 98. Every machine he had previously touched was running NT, the current corporate standard. With a little snooping around on the network, we found the folder labeled Windows 98 Printer Drivers and completed the task. I realize one anecdote doesnt constitute scientific proof that it costs more to provide support in a nonstandardized environment. But what that technician thought would be a fiveminute job turned into a 20-minute job, and those kinds of support calls cost companies money every day. In addition to lower support costs, having a standard platform makes it easier to enforce network security measures or roll out an application company-wide. But the process of implementing a standard machine requires several important steps: 1. Pricing the right platform

Building your case

There are two big reasons why its so difficult to maintain a standard environment: The human factor: Some end users resist giving up machines (and software) they like. Entire departments or business units will cling to their legacy systems if the new corporate standard workstation wont run a mission-critical application. The cost: Its expensive to upgrade every machine in your organization every time a new technology comes along. Suppose your network configuration provides connectivity for Macs, Linux, and PCs running Windows 3.x, 95, 98, and Windows NT Workstation. You can accommodate a wide range of client machines, but whats the cost to provide support to all those folks? Staff: It costs more to hire and train someone to support multiple operating systems and platforms than to train someone on a single, standard system. Parts: Troubleshooting hardware problems is easier when every user machine has the same configuration, monitor, network interface card, and modem. You can keep an inventory of standard parts on hand for inhouse repairs. If you need evidence to bolster your case for standardizing end-user systems, check your database of help desk calls. Here are some good reasons for spending some money on new systems: Systems frequently crashing

2. Getting a current inventory 3. Counting desktops and laptops 4. Verifying your vendors ability to deliver


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5. Scheduling the rollout by department 6. Taking advantage of a prime training


Pricing the right platform

Which platform should you choose for the corporate standard? The answer here is driven by your network operating system, the longrange needs of your users, your long-range plans for network services, and, of course, your budget. If you can determine that a particular workstation configuration is optimal for your corporate network applications, make that your standard machine. If youre running an older, stable version of a network operating system and you have no plans (or budget) to upgrade, Windows 95 might be the best operating system for your network clients. On the other hand, if youre moving to Windows 2000, you may have to upgrade every machine that needs to connect to your network. After youve settled on your standard configuration, find out what your best price is. Ask your vendor to price your order as if you could buy as many as you need right now. Take a reasonable guess as to how many machines youll need. Youll start your inventory soon enough.

and applications. But you dont know what you need until you know what you have. If it would cost more to upgrade a machine than to replace it, youll need to account for that purchase in your budget. And if you retire a machine, your accounting department will want to know. Your company may want to liquidate the retired equipment to help pay for your new machines.

Tips for maintaining an accurate inventory

Can you account for all the PCs youve ordered? Here are some tips for keeping your inventory current: Tag upon receipt: As soon as you take a new PC out of the box, tag it. In most shops, youll attach a pair of tags with the same number one to the CPU and one to the monitor. (Hardly anybody tags a keyboard or a mouse anymore.) You can record the serial number of the components in your database, but use the internal tag number as the main reference. Pick spots on the front of the CPU and monitor, and put the tags in the same spots on all the machines. Later, when youre providing telephone support, your users wont have any trouble finding the unit number. Track reassignments: In your inventory database, record the name of the user to whom the machine is currently assigned. If that person receives a new machine or leaves the company, record the name of the person to whom the computer gets assigned. If youve inherited a shop in which no current inventory exists, you have a special challenge ahead of you. You have to send someone out into the trenches to create the inventory. If youve never conducted a hardware inventory before, you might want to download TechRepublics ready-to-use system inventory form (http://techrepublic.com/download_item. jhtml?id=dr00319990928jed01.htm). You can customize that sample form to your own liking. It makes a great tool for capturing key information about a system during a personal visit to the end-user workstation.

TIPS FOR BUYING NEW HARDWARE If youre thinking of replacing your current PC inventory, check out Buying computers? Demand RAM, value (http:// techrepublic.com/ article.jhtml?id= r00620000619 wtn01.htm). This article highlights recommendations from Gartner analyst Kevin Knox on how to approach hardware purchases.

Getting a current inventory

While youre evaluating your options for your network operating system and client machines, determine your current inventory. Some of you will say, Thats easy400. We have 400 network logons, and weve provided each user with a machine. But do you have retired machines in storage? Do you have any users with desktop and laptop machines? Do you know for a fact how many systems the company owns at this moment? And unless you know that all those PCs are running the same operating system, youd better have a spreadsheet somewhere that shows which operating system is installed on each of those machines, how much memory each has, and so on. When it comes time to upgrade everyone to the same platform, that information will help you determine whether you can get by with simply adding more memory or an additional hard drive to a client machine to enable it to run the standard operating system

Accounting for laptops and future hires

Your users probably have only a desktop, only a laptop, or both a desktop and a laptop. Of


course, youll tally up the number of desktops and laptops youll need to upgrade or replace. But dont stop at counting the number of mobile users you have today. As youre planning the implementation of a corporate standard, you need to poll your departmental managers and find out: How many users who currently arent using a laptop would like to have one? How many laptops can the department afford? How many new hires do your managers plan to make in the next four quarters, and what kinds of machines (desktop or laptop) do the managers think those new hires will need? By the time youve done all your homework, youll know exactly how many end-user machines you have on hand, and youll have a good estimate of how many machines youll need for new hires in the year to come.

than arrive late and put you behind in your upgrade schedule. If your vendors ability to deliver is in doubt in any way, consider ordering half of your machines from one vendor and half from another.

Scheduling the rollout by department

Verifying your vendors ability to deliver

Youd think that, in this day and age, you could pick up the phone or get on the Web and order 100, 200, or 1,000 PCs, just like that. Unfortunately, it isnt that easy. When you tell a sales representative that you want to order a big batch of new machines and that youre making that machine your corporate standard, heres the first thing youll probably hear: You know, if you can wait just two more weeks, were supposed to be getting in the new models, which are cheaper and faster. By the time the new machines arrive, faster and cheaper models often become available. You cant predict or control how soon technology will change or whether there will be enough chips to build the machines you order. But you can choose a reputable manufacturer. You want to avoid ordering and expecting to receive 100 machines, only to receive 10 machines with a Sorry, theyre on back order notice for the others. The best way to avoid that problem is to know your vendor. Ask for references and check them. To get the systems you need in order to stay on your upgrade schedule, put your purchase order in writing and get it in early. Better for your machines to arrive too soon and sit in storage 40
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Whats the best way to schedule a companywide upgrade? Ive upgraded as few as five and as many as 500 workstations for past employers. I have a friend who recently was the project manager responsible for upgrading 15,000 workstations at a state university. We compared notes and agreed that the best way to attack a company-wide campaign is by department. Youll probably do most of the software installation on new machines in the IT department, but you inevitably still have to send a warm-bodied technician to each end-user workstation. (If youre upgrading but not replacing a machine, you may have to drag it back to the IT department and put it on the bench to upgrade memory or other components.) If upper management asks (or requires) you to upgrade their systems first, go ahead and do so. But ideally, you start with a list of your department managers and take one of two approaches: Ask for volunteers or handpick the departments you want to go first. Then you schedule the dates for all the other departments. Youll iron out any wrinkles in the process with the first department or two. By the time you get to the last group, your support staff should be performing the upgrades in their sleep.

Make promises you can keep

Set a goal of completing n upgrades per week. How many can you accomplish? Do some trial runs to get an idea of how long, ideally, each upgrade should take. You might set the goal of doing five complete upgrades per day or 25 per week. Obviously, the number of upgrades you can complete depends on how many support technicians you have on staffand how many other things they have to do while theyre trying to meet upgrade goals. You may be able to make a case for hiring contractors to help with the upgrades. In the long run, it may cost less to hire four techs for a week than to take your full-timers

away from their other projects. But if you use contractors, dont just point them at a pile of boxes and let them go at it. First, create an upgrade checklist or cheat sheet, and show them exactly how you want the upgrade to be performed. Walk through one or two upgrades with each contractor to make sure theyve got it. Require the contractors to turn in the checklists at the end of each day to document which systems were successfully upgraded.

Create an upgrade checklist

During the upgrade process, your full-timers will take days off or your contract help may change, but the job needs to be done with the same attention and quality on each workstation. Using a checklist helps make sure everyone doing the work is literally on the same page. It provides a nice tool for troubleshooting problems when new users call the help desk. The checklist should include a brief description of the task that has to be completed, as well as space for the person completing the task to initial and date the form. You can use the same checklist when you set up machines for new hires. Table A contains a partial list of the items from a real-life checklist.

Notify your users

Dont just inform your department or team managers when they come up on your upgrade calendar. Before you start planning the timetable, give the managers and the end users the chance for their input on the schedule. For instance, youll want to avoid planning your system upgrades in the accounting department for the same week that month-end financial reports are due. And, unless you want to perform the upgrades when your users are away, youll probably want to avoid scheduling the upgrades during holiday periods, when many of your users will be on vacation. Phrases like upgrading your system send chills down the spines of most change-fearing end users. Ask if your proposed schedule is good for them, and remind them via e-mail a few days before their machines are set to be upgraded. When your technicians arrive, make sure theyre courteous and patient with your end users. After all, without end users, thered be no need for IT support.

Taking advantage of a prime training opportunity

When you upgrade a machine from Windows 95 to 98, the upgrade is fairly painless. All you need is the 98 CD, and Windows will update itself in place. You dont have to worry about copying and restoring any user files. And theres hardly any need for user retraining. If youre upgrading 9x to NT, the process gets a lot trickier. Youll have to configure the user profile and register the user on the appropriate domain, and youll probably have to copy all the user files to a network volume for safe storage. You may have to export all e-mail message folders to a safe location and import the messages after the upgrade is completed.

Table A
USER TASK E-mail account confirmed Network logon confirmed Password password created Internet access set up Core applications installed Additional MB memory confirmed Time/billing application installed Laptop configured and tested User questions answered USER INITS PC TAG: COMPLETED BY : DATE

Support personnel should complete a checklist like this one for every machine installed or upgraded.



When your upgrade significantly changes the look and feel of the end-user workstation, you must take into account the human factor. Youll have to retrain your users in these areas: How do I log on and log out? If your users are getting NT for the first time, theyve been taught that [Ctrl][Alt][Del] is for rebooting a machine, and now theyll be using it to log on. Where are my files? Its extremely frustrating for users to figure out where their Personal folder is under NT workstation. Theyre accustomed to navigating to My Documents. Now theyre expected to navigate to C:\WinNT\Profiles\Username\ Personal. How do I check my e-mail? If you fail to teach your users how to check e-mail after their systems have been upgraded, youre inviting a flood of calls to your help desk. Make sure that your technicians cover this topic with each and every user. What about remote access services? If the upgrade means that users must learn a new way to connect remotely to your network, youll need to make sure your users have crystal-clear instructions, or youll wind up getting dozens of tech support calls immediately after the upgrade. How do I dock and undock my laptop and synchronize my e-mail messages? Youll need to train your laptop users in the proper way to dock and undock a laptop machine. Youll also need to make sure users with laptop and desktop machines know how to synchronize their e-mail messages. Why do my applications look different? If part of your standard workstation includes upgrading applications, such as moving from Office 9x to Office 2000, youll need to make your users aware of the differences in the behaviors. First, be sure to mention that Office 2000 opens new instances of the application when users open new or additional files. (This is a big difference from the previous behaviors, where multiple files opened as windows within the application window.) You should teach them how they

can now use [Alt][Tab] to cycle between those open application windows. Ideally, your support person will be able to speak to the end user when the machine gets upgraded. However, the end user may run off to lunch or to a meeting, and your technician cant afford to spend all day sitting and waiting. Here are a couple of tricks for minimizing the amount of time you spend teaching end users new tricks: Create a leave-behind users manual Invest some time to create a short frequently asked questions document describing the changes an end user might notice after the upgrade. Include detailed descriptions and screen shots wherever possible. Recruit a designated trainerPerhaps the best way to get end users trained is to recruit one person to act as the designated trainer for each department or team. Your IT staff should conduct hands-on, train-thetrainer sessions with each designated trainer. The designated trainers duty is to make sure everyone on the team is brought up to speed on how to use the new system.


In most IT shops, the benefits of implementing a standard end-user machine include easier enduser training and lower tech support costs. Once youve won approval to implement a standard machine company-wide, the fun begins. To successfully standardize your end-user systems, you need a clear vision of the benefits of upgrading, an up-to-date inventory, a carefully planned schedule for the process, documentation, and an excellent relationship with the end users whose machines are being upgraded. If you do your homework and deliver a smooth upgrade process, youll start reaping the rewards immediately. Your users will enjoy the benefits of improved network services, and youll see a decline in the number of calls for tech support.
By Jeff Davis


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