Recover Windows XP

Before you start

Objectives: learn which options are available to recover our installation when our Windows system has crashed.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: restore, asr, configuration, console, driver, installation, diskette, mode, try, boot, good, rollback, state, automated


Automated System Recovery

The first one we will talk about is Automated System Recovery or ASR. ASR allows us recover our system using the ASR diskette and a copy of our backup media. These two combined will allow us to restore our entire system. ASR floppy contains only the necessary files in order to start our machine and contains key configuration information about our system. The rest of the information needed to restore our system will be contained on the backup media. We use Windows Backup utility to create ASR backup (including ASR diskette). We can do that by clicking the Automated System Recovery Wizard button on the Welcome tab (start the utility in advanced mode).

Welcome Tab

Image 269.1 – Welcome Tab

 ASR Wizard

Image 269.2 – ASR Wizard

ASR backup only backs up the system state data and does not back up user data. During the backup, we actually create a floppy disk that is used along with the backup files during the restore procedure.

ASR Diskette

The ASR diskette contains the Asr.sif and Asrpnp.sif files. Copies of these files are placed on the backup media so we can copy them manually to the diskette if necessary. The files must exist on the root of the floppy diskette. The system must have a floppy drive in order to perform the ASR recovery. To restore a system, press the F2 key when prompted and insert the ASR floppy disk. ASR will restore disk configuration (including disk signatures of basic and dynamic volumes), install the operating system, and restore the backed up system settings. Remember, ASR does not restore user data. Also, the ASR diskette must match the backup set created by the ASR feature. We cannot use an ASR diskette that was created at a different time than the backup set.

Other System Recovery Options

What can we do if our system crashes and we can’t log on to Windows anymore. This can happen, for example, when we install some drivers and after that our system crashes. In this case the first thing that we should try and do is Driver Rollback feature in Windows XP.

Driver Rollback

When we install some driver the rollback point is automatically created. If the driver corrupts the system we can remove that driver and restore it back to the previous configuration. This is done in Device Manager by going to the particular device properties, and then Driver tab.

 Floppy Driver Properties

Image 269.3 – Driver Properties

If this doesn’t work or we can’t get to Device Manager, another option is to use Last Known Good Configuration feature.

Last Known Good Configuration

During every boot process a clone of the system is created. Once the system is logged on, the last known good configuration gets re-created. If we make a configuration change, such as install a driver that now corrupts the entire system, and we haven’t logged in again, we may try to reverse bad driver installation effects by using last known good configuration. Sometimes this will not work because we just can’t get that far in to the system. So, another option to do a system restore is by going into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode

We can get into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 button during the boot process. Sometimes the system will give us the Safe Mode option automatically if we failed to log in or if the system has crashed. In Safe Mode we can get into a basic configuration of the system. Once we are there we can go to Device Manager and try to rollback the device driver that is causing problems. We can also disable particular device so that it doesn’t come up, or uninstall a device so that we remove corrupted device drivers. Also, if we have newer drivers we can try and reinstall particular device. If Safe Mode doesn’t work for us we can go to the Recovery Console.

Recovery Console

In order to use Recovery Console we first have to install it or run it from the Windows installation CD. We can run Recovery Console by booting from the installation CD-ROM and choosing the Repair option. To install the Recovery Console we can use the ‘win32.exe /cmdcons‘ command from the installation CD-ROM. The Recovery Console is then available during boot, without the CD. It will be available as an option when we press F8 during boot. Recovery Console is a command line interface. Many key tasks can be accomplished using various commands available. We can fix boot sector (fixboot) or fix master boot record errors (fixmbr). We can also remove or update key system files. We also have disk partitioning utility so we can work with our hard drives as well. We have limited access to user files, but we can work with system files. From the Recovery Console we can also do a System Restore.

System Restore

Using a System Restore is similar to using the Undo feature in a word processing program. With system restore, the system takes periodic snapshots, called restore points, of the system configuration. We can also manually make restore points prior to modifying the system configuration. We can do a System Restore form Recovery Console, or from Windows if we are able to log on to the system. When we want to restore our system to a previous state from Windows, we can run the System Restore program and select the desired restore point.

Windows Backup

We can use the Windows Backup utility to restore the system state data manually, or to restore user data from a backup. Ntbackup does not create partitions. We must manually create partitions and format them before restoring data.

Parallel Installation

If none of these options work we can try parallel installation. What that means is that we can reinstall Windows operating system without reformatting our partition. If we format our partition we lose all our data. The idea of parallel installation is to keep all our data intact.

Remember

Automated System Recovery allows us recover our system using the ASR diskette and a copy of our backup media. ASR backup only backs up the system state, not user data. If some driver is causing problems we should try Driver Rollback feature. We may also try to reverse bad driver installation effects by using Last Known Good Configuration, if we haven’t logged in again. We can get into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 button during the boot process. In order to use Recovery Console we first have to install it or run it from the Windows installation CD. Recovery Console is a command line interface. System Restore takes periodic snapshots, called restore points, of the system configuration. We can use the Windows Backup utility to restore the system state data manually, or to restore user data. If none of these options work we can try parallel installation, which means that we reinstall Windows operating system without reformatting our partition.

Commands that are mentioned in this article
  • win32.exe /cmdcons – install Recovery Console from the installation CR-ROM.

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