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  1. Note One of the drawbacks of Windows NT 4.0 and earlier versions of the Windows NT operating system was shared system files, which could be overwritten during installation of incompatible third-party software. Starting with Windows 2000, this drawback was eliminated by the addition of appropriate protection for critical system files. This functionality was discussed in Chapter 6. If you wish to avoid startup problems, I recommend that you regularly use these tools. Parallel Installation of the Operating System What else can be done to provide universal troubleshooting tools for startup problems? A traditional method of increasing the probability of quick and easy recovery became popular among users of Windows NT 4.0 and earlier. This method is known as "parallel installation of the operating system". The parallel installation is another copy of the Windows NT-based operating system installed on the same computer in a different installation folder, preferably on a hard disk different from the primary installation. If the main operating system (the one you use most frequently) fails to boot, an additional copy of the operating system will allow quick access to NTFS volumes, system files, and registry hives. Another method of providing access to NTFS volumes after system failures is to use the NTFSDOS utility, which will be discussed in Chapter 14. Note Parallel OS installations weaken the system security; like NTFSDOS, parallel installations provide a backdoor to your main operating system. Thus, from a reliability and recoverability point of view, both parallel OS installations and NTFSDOS are beneficial. From a security point of view, they're not ideal methods. Although the introduction of Recovery Console has significantly reduced the need for parallel OS installation during a system recovery operation, this additional safeguard should not be dismissed altogether. Despite the power of Recovery Console, you may wish to continue using parallel OS installation on the most critical servers running Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003. For example, it gives you the ability to quickly reset permissions on the primary installation's %Systemroot% folder if the permissions are configured incorrectly. This is desirable because Recovery Console does not provide an easy way of resetting such permissions. Furthermore, despite all of its impressive new capabilities and power, Recovery Console remains a limited command-line environment. For example, it doesn't allow you to run a GUI-based registry editor or backup utility, or any other application that requires full GUI-based functionality. If the primary installation becomes inaccessible and you need to access this type of application to restore it, then parallel OS installation will be an enormous relief. Note If you need a more advanced, GUI-based version of Recovery Console with built-in Registry Editor, I'd like to draw your attention to ERD Commander 2002 from Aelita Software. This utility will be covered in more detail in Chapter 14.
  2. You should install the parallel OS in advance; the procedure is time-consuming, and you may be short of time when problems occur. Note that you can only install the minimum set of options in the parallel OS. To make a parallel installation more useful and the system effective, consider placing the installation on a disk partition other than that where the primary OS is installed. This improves the chances that the parallel OS installation will be accessible if the primary installation's boot partition is damaged severely. Additional Hardware Profiles In addition to a parallel installation of the operating system, there's another method of performing quick recovery. If you experiment with various hardware devices and aren't sure if the device you're going to install is listed in Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), you may want to use additional hardware profiles for the system recovery. Proceed as follows: 1. Before installing a new device that may cause a problem, create a new ERD (Windows 2000) or prepare for Automated System Recovery (ASR) (Windows XP and Windows Server 2003). Then back up the system registry using one of the methods described in Chapter 2. The ERD (or ASR backup) and registry backup copies will be useful. 2. Create a new hardware profile. Launch the System applet in Control Panel, go to the Hardware tab, and click the Hardware Profiles button. The Hardware Profiles window will open (Fig. 12.1). Click the Copy button and create a new hardware profile by copying one of the existing profiles. It's best to name hardware profiles using "speaking names" that explain their purpose (for example, Working-the current hardware profile, free of errors; and Experimental-the new hardware profile, where you'll try solutions to the problem). In the Hardware profiles selection group, set the Wait until I select a hardware profile radio button.
  3. Figure 12.1: Before installing a new device that isn't listed in the HCL, create an additional hardware profile. 3. Check if the hardware profiles are working. Try to start the operating system using each of them. 4. Start the computer using the Working profile and try to install the new device and its drivers using the Hardware Wizard. If the system prompts you to reboot the computer, don't reboot the system immediately. Start Device Manager, find the newly installed device in the list, and select the Properties command from the context menu. You'll see the General tab of the properties window for this device. If the newly installed device is incompatible, you'll immediately see that "something is wrong" (despite the phrase "This device is working properly" displayed in the Device status field, as shown in Fig. 12.2). For example, this device may be marked as an Unknown device that may cause problems. To avoid possible problems, disable this device in the current hardware profile by selecting the Do not use this device in the current hardware profile (disable) option from the Device usage list. The device will be disabled in the current hardware profile, but it will remain enabled in the experimental hardware profile.
  4. Figure 12.2: Although the Device Manager states This device is working properly, a newly installed device will cause problems. Disable it in the current hardware profile 5. Now reboot the system and select the experimental hardware profile (where the problem device is enabled). Do you see the "Blue Screen of Death"? Probably not, because the device is disabled in the working hardware profile. In most cases, you'll be able to boot the system using the working hardware profile. Note I recommend that you always have a working hardware profile that contains no errors and enables no problem devices. This profile often provides an easier means of recovering a system with configuration problems than the Advanced startup menu. How Can I See the "Blue Screen of Death"? Have you ever seen the "Blue Screen of Death"? If you haven't, most people will consider you a lucky person. What... you're curious to see what it is? Well, here you are! Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 have one undocumented function that allows you to generate an artificial STOP error (blue screen) and manually create a crash dump (Memory.dmp). The STOP screen that appears after using this feature will contain the following message:
  5. *** STOP: 0x000000E2 (0x00000000, 0x00000000, 0x00000000, 0x00000000) The end-user manually generated the crashdump. By default, this feature is disabled. To enable it, you'll need to edit the registry and reboot the computer. Open the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\i8042prt\Parameters registry key, add the REG_DWORD CrashOnCtrlScroll value, and set it to 1. After rebooting the system, you'll be able to manually "crash" the system. To view the "Blue Screen of Death," press and hold the right key, and press the key twice. How to Recreate a Missing ASR Floppy Disk If you tried all of these troubleshooting options and nothing happened, you may decide to run the Automated System Recovery (ASR) process. What should you do if the ASR diskette is missing? Does this mean everything is lost? No, it doesn't, not if your ASR backup for storing media works. Using this, you can recreate the missing ASR floppy disk. The Asr.sif and Asrpnp.sif files contained on the ASR diskette are ASCII files that can be viewed or edited with any text editor, such as Notepad.exe. These files also can be extracted from the ASR backup set and copied to a floppy disk that can be used for an ASR procedure. You can use Backup Utility supplied with Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or even the version supplied with Windows 2000. To recreate a missing ASR diskette: 1. Format a 1.44 megabyte (MB) floppy disk and insert the disk into the floppy disk drive of any computer running Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003. 2. In System Tools, start the Backup program. If it starts in wizard mode, switch to the advanced mode and go to the Restore and Manage Media tab (Windows XP and Windows Server 2003) or to the Restore tab (Windows 2000). Insert your backup media with the ASR backup set into the backup device and select the Catalog a backup file command from the Tools menu. When the next window appears, specify the path to the backup copy that you require. (Use the Browse button if necessary.) 3. Select the backup media containing the required ASR backup set. Expand the Automated System Recovery Backup Set option corresponding to the ASR disk you need to recreate. 4. Expand the Windows folder/Repair folder and click the following files from this repair folder: Asr.sif, Asrpnp.sif, and Setup.log (Fig. 12.3). In the Restore files to
  6. field, select Alternate location. In the Alternate location field, specify the path to the root of your floppy drive (for example, "A:\"). Figure 12.3: Recreating the missing ASR floppy disk 5. Click Next. The other options in this wizard are not mandatory and do not affect the transfer of files to the floppy disk. When the wizard is finished, the files are copied to the specified location. The ASR floppy disk is ready if you need to perform an ASR restore operation. Note The Asr.sif and Asrpnp.sif files must reside on the root of the floppy disk drive to be used during ASR restore operation.