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Software Problems and Solutions: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Applications and Tools/Utilities - Page 2 of 4


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1. - Windows XP Pro won't let me in. When I click on my name on the logon screen it says that it is loading my settings but then goes back to the logon screen in a loop

2. - Some programs are missing from Add or Remove Programs list in Windows XP

3. - Windows XP won't reinstall. Is it a software problem or a hardware failure?

4. - PC Game crashes with a blue screen and Windows XP produces a Stop 0x0A (DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL) error message

5. - Help! Several of my Help files won't work. How can I get corrupt Help files working again without reinstalling Windows XP?

6. - How to create a Windows XP CD if your PC only came with a Recovery CD

7. - The self-reactivation of Windows XP: How to make Windows XP reactivate itself

8. - I can't install the Recovery Console after updating to Windows XP SP2

9. - A software installation failed leaving a half installed program that makes a Windows Installer window appear briefly whenever I open an application

10. - Incomplete uninstall: A program I uninstalled is making Windows XP/Vista produce an error message

11. - My Windows XP/Vista startup is very slow because the startup programs are all trying to load at once. Is there any way to stagger startup programs?

12. - Windows XP/Vista Help and Support won't work - does not respond

13. - Data Recovery: How can I recover my lost data files

14. - Why does Windows XP slow down to a crawl when I install the Service Pack 2 (SP2) update?

15. - The Add New Hardware Wizard in Windows XP appears at every boot up to install the device drivers for a printer or a scanner, but the driver is already loaded

16. - How to log on to Windows XP if you forget your password or your password expires

17. - I have forgotten the Windows XP Administrator password. How can I reset it?

18. - How can I get rid of the need to enter a password to log on to Windows XP?

19. - How can I create my own home-made System Restore Disk?

20. - Half way through running it, the Windows XP SP2 update produces a "Control ID not found" error message

21. - AutoPlay in Windows XP has stopped working

22. - I can't access the web after Automatic Updates in Windows XP installed an update. How can I remove it?

23. - Windows XP error message: "Task Manager has been disabled by your Administrator"

24. - A good example of how difficult some games-related problems can be to diagnose

25. - Reinstalling Windows XP on a system with a card reader makes XP use the H: drive?

26. - The Blaster worm infects a new installation of Windows XP

27. - Windows File Systems: Converting to NTFS from FAT32 - FAT32 versus NTFS

28. - Windows 95, 98 and XP won't install on a self-built computer

29. - Windows XP: Problems running CHKDSK - the hard disk drive diagnostic utility

30. - Windows XP: Problem running the CHKDSK hard disk drive utility

31. - What keeps wanting to use my dial-up account to access the Internet?


Software Problems & Solutions - Click here! to go to Page 3 of 4

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

Windows XP Pro won't let me in. When I click on my name on the logon screen it says that it is loading my settings but then goes back to the logon screen in a loop

Problem

My PC runs Windows XP Pro and it was booting without having to log on until the latest security updates were installed. Now the PC presents a logon screen, and asks me to click on my name. When I do so, it says that my personal settings are being loaded, then a message comes up saying that Windows is logging off and saving my settings before it returns to the logon screen. When I click on my name again, Windows repeats the process in a loop.

When I press the F8 key before Windows starts to load in order to use the Safe Mode with Networking option in order to be able to access the web, I am presented with the Administrator Account and my own user account. I can log on by entering my Administrator's password, and then I can access the web, but only at a screen resolution of 800x600. I have checked the system with the AVG virus scanner and the online Kaspersky virus scanner, and Spybot S&D, Ad-Aware, Windows Defender [replaced by Microsoft Security Essentials] spyware removal tools, all of which found nothing.

I then used Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel with its Show updates option enabled to remove Microsoft's security updates, but the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) update that checks that a genuine copy of Windows is being used couldn't be removed, and the problem remains. I have also tried using System Restore to restore a restore point that predated the problem, and a repair installation of Windows XP without success.

Answer

Since you uninstalled the security updates, it looks as if something has become corrupted in your user profile. The user Registry file has probably become corrupted while it was being saved to the hard drive during shutdown. An error appears to be occurring as Windows loads the user profile, which is causing it to log off again.

The Even Viewer, which is found under All Programs => Administrative Tools, could provide information on what is happening, but even if it does the problem is likely to be difficult to fix.

Since using System Restore didn't work, you can try using one of the free downloadable recovery CDs, such as BartPE, to restore the user Registry from one of System Restore's backup folders. The Windows XP Registry is made up of several files, one of which contains the user's settings. You can also install the problematic PC's hard drive in another PC and copy the backup file. An expensive alternative is to use the Winternals Administrator's Pak). You have to use those methods, because the backup files created by System Restore can't be accessed if Windows is booted from the same hard drive - even in Safe Mode.

However, because you can still log on as the Administrator in Safe Mode, there is a relatively simply way to overcome the problem. You can create a new user account under User Accounts in the Control Panel, and then copy all of your files to it, including any Address Book and Outlook Express e-mail files, etc., which are probably installed in a hidden folder, by making use of Windows Explorer. If you don't know how to recover the files, you can find out how to by making use of a suitable search query in a search engine.

Most software is installed for All Users, but if you have installed any software in a particular user account, you'll have to reinstall it. When the new user profile is set up, you can then delete the corrupt profile in User Accounts.


Some programs are missing from Add or Remove Programs list in Windows XP

Problem

I have reinstalled Windows XP on my PC and have been reinstalling all of my applications - MS Office, AutoCad, etc. Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel was working properly at one point. However, now there are only two applications listed in it. None of the security patches or other programs that I installed are shown (the Show updates option is enabled). I reinstalled Windows in the first place because it was doing this before, and now it is doing the same thing all over again. All of the programs I installed appear under Start => All Programs and run normally.

Answer

There should be a scroll bar on the right side of the Add or Remove Programs window. If so, there is probably huge gap between the first entries and any that appear after the last entry at the beginning. Scroll down and you should see the rest of the entries for the missing programs.

To fix the problem, Kelly's Korner provides a small program that you download and run. - http://www.kellys-korner-xp.com/xp_a.htm

On that page, scroll down to the item called Add or Remove - White Space and click on AutoCad Fix to download it.

It looks as if AutoCad is responsible in your case.


Windows XP won't reinstall. Is it a software problem or a hardware failure?

Problem

I had to reinstall Windows XP Home Edition on my Fujitsu-Siemens PC, because it wasn't working properly. I tried running the PC's Recovery CD, but it won't run to completion. So, I formatted the C: drive to use the FAT32 file system and tried to install Windows 98 SE from its CD. Once again, this almost got to the end, but then a message came up saying: "While initializing device NDIS: Windows Protection error", and the installation stopped. The PC could boot into Safe mode, but the CD drive wouldn't work, so I couldn't install Windows XP by making use of a friend's installation CD. Is this a software or a hardware issue?

Answer

This is most probably some sort of hardware problem, which could simply be caused by a failed or dirty CD drive, bad RAM memory, or a bad hard disk drive. Because a Windows setup problem is caused by a hardware failure in the vast majority of cases.

Hardware diagnostic utilities are available, some of which are free. Here is a cheap program:

BCM Diagnostics Pro - http://www.bcmdiagnostics.com/.

You can find others by making use of a search query such as free + computer + diagnostic + software (as is) in a search engine.

Most hard disk drive manufacturers provide a free diagnostic utility for their drives, so you should be able to download it by identifying its manufacturer and locating its website. Links to two free RAM diagnostic utilities can be found at the top of this page on this site.

You could also create a BartPE recovery CD or a Linux CD that can be used from the CD without installing it to find out if it can be run on the PC. Click here! to go to information on how to do that on this site.

You can, of course, also try installing Windows XP by making use of your friend's CD without having to install Windows 98 SE first, but only if it is the upgrade version, which just requires you to insert the Windows 98 SE CD in the CD drive to verify that you have the right to upgrade to Windows XP. If it works, you won't be able to use that copy of Windows XP, because it is already installed on another PC, and Windows Product Activation won't allow it to be used on more than one computer.

If you can make a copy of the Fujitsu-Siemens in another PC without error, it is unlikely to be corrupt. If it is not corrupt, that makes it almost certain that the cause is hardware-related. The lens in the CD drive could just be dirty, so you could try using a CD cleaning utility, which is a CD with a brush on it. Alternatively, you can try using another CD/DVD drive that you buy new, or is known to be working.


PC Game crashes with a blue screen and Windows XP produces a Stop 0x0A (DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL) error message

Problem

My new Advent PC runs Windows XP Media Center Edition. It has a nVidia GeForce 6200SE TurboCache graphics card, and the modem, mouse, and keyboard are connected to the motherboard's USB ports. I used to be able to play UbiSoft's game SplinterCell: Pandora Tomorrow, but, now, for some reason, the game crashes to a blue screen with a DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL error message. At the bottom of the screen, a message flags up USBPORT.SYS.

Answer

The message is a Stop 0x0A (DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL) error message, which is probably the most annoying of the stop error messages, because it means that something - usually a device driver - has attempted to access an address in the RAM memory, which it does not have permission to access. Unfortunately, the buggy device driver may or may not be the one named in the error message.

If you changed anything in the system immediately before this problem started to happen, it could give you a clue to the cause. If you can reverse the change by uninstalling it, or by using the Roll back Driver feature in Windows XP, you might fix the problem.

The error can also be caused by several hardware faults that corrupt memory values and make a program attempt to access the wrong memory addresses.

If you didn't make any changes to the system, or reversing any changes had no effect, you can use a search engine to search the web for information about bugs in the USBPORT.SYS driver, which is a standard Windows XP driver, so it is unlikely to be the cause of the problem.

Next, open the Device Manager, and open the Universal Serial Bus controllers (USB controllers) category by clicking on the + beside it. If there is a proprietary controller there such as a SiS 7001 PCI to USB Open Host Controller, try changing it to a Standard OpenHCD PCI to USB Host Controller. You do that by right-clicking with the mouse on the entry that you want to change. The Update Driver... option allows you to change the driver if you select the manual options. Don't choose the automatic options. You can then select the standard controller from a list.

If doing that doesn't work, test the memory. Click here! to find information on free memory diagnostic software on this site.

If your brand-name computer came with any hardware diagnostic software, which will be explained in its user manual, try running it, because that particular error can be produced by several motherboard or processor faults, including an overheating processor.

Device drivers access memory addresses that are protected by the system and are therefore more likely to be the cause of the problem than application programs and games. So, if the problem is still unsolved, visit Microsoft Update to find out if it lists any driver updates, and visit NVIDIA's website to check for driver updates for your PC's graphics card. Even if you have the latest drivers installed for the card, it might solve the problem if you downloaded the latest driver file and installed it, because the existing installation might have somehow become corrupt.

The recommended troubleshooting steps for that stop error are provided in this MS Knowledge Base article: 314063 - Troubleshooting a STOP 0x0000000A Error in Windows XP - You may receive the following Stop error message during or after the installation of Microsoft Windows XP: Stop: 0x0000000A (parameter1, parameter2, parameter3, parameter4) IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL*** Address x has base at x - filename... Stop error 0x0000000A (Stop 0x0A) indicates that there was an attempt in kernel mode to touch pageable memory at too high a process internal request level (IRQL). Typically, this error occurs when a driver uses an incorrect memory address. Other possible causes of this error are an incompatible device driver, a general hardware problem, and incompatible software...

The only useful information that article provides advises the user to try removing or disabling different hardware devices, or using standard device drivers instead of those provided by the hardware manufacturers, as was discussed with regard to the USB controllers above.

In some cases, the problem can be caused by a bug in the BIOS setup program, so installing the latest BIOS update from the PC manufacturer's site, or the PC's motherboard manufacturer's site might fix the problem.


Help! Several of my Help files won't work. How can I get corrupt Help files working again without reinstalling Windows XP?

Problem

When I installed MS Streets and Trips 2006, I tried to use its Help files in setting up a new GPS system (a Global Positioning Satellite system). The Help files appears to have been corrupted. Then I discovered that Help in MS Word is also corrupted. On checking my other applications, I discovered that several of them present me with the same type of error message. The Help file for Eudora 7 is not corrupted, and neither is the one for MS Works, but Help in Quicken, QuickBooks Pro, Roxio's CD Creator and several others are. Is there an easy way to restore corrupt Help files, because I would rather not have to reinstall Windows XP and all of my applications?

Answer

If an actual Help file itself - help files are just html/text files - has become corrupt, then the usual method of recovery is to find the corrupt file and delete or rename it. You would then reinstall/repair the software that the file belongs to so that a new Help file is copied to the program's relevant files folder. The options to reinstall or repair an existing installation are usually found on the program's installation CD.

Microsoft.com provides detailed instructions on how to repair the Help file in an MS Office application. The same general method should work for other software as well. Visit this MS Knowledge Base article: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=260200.

If the Help system itself, not the content, has somehow been corrupted, which is probably what has happened in your case, the Help - Diagnostics page at http://helpware.net/htmlhelp/hh_diags.htm provides a free download that can perform a basic test on the Windows Help system that checks to make sure that everything is as it should be. Some other relevant utilities can be found at http://helpware.net/downloads/index.htm.


How to create a Windows XP CD if your PC only came with a Recovery CD

Problem

My PC came with a Recovery CD instead of a Windows XP CD. Is there a way I can create a Windows XP CD from the files in the system?

Answer

Microsoft stipulates that every PC bundled with Windows XP must provide a method of restoring it in the event of an irrecoverable system crash. However, many manufacturers or system builders still bundle Windows XP Recovery CDs that return the PC's hard drive to the condition it was in when it left the factory. This usually wipes out all of the data files and the installed programs that the user has added.

Fortunately, many major PC manufacturers and builders are no longer providing data-wiping Recovery CDs. For example, new PCs from manufacturers such as Dell, Gateway, and Lenovo (the new owners of IBM laptops) are providing a Windows XP CD, or some other way of performing non-destructive reinstallations.

If a particular PC lacks a Windows XP CD, a folder named i386 that contains the Windows installation files will almost certainly be found in the root directory of the C: drive - C:\ - or in the C:\Windows\Driver Cache folder. A Windows XP system will probably have several i386 folders. The one you need has plenty of files with their extensions ending in underscores (_), and the executable files expand.exe, regedit.exe, and winnt32.exe. It is advisable to copy this i386 folder to a recordable CD or DVD disc in case the files on the PC get damaged. The i386 folder on the hard drive is used to reinstall Windows XP, so write the path to it on the CD-R disc so that you know where to copy it if that should prove necessary. You need the 25-character Windows XP Product Key in order to reinstall Windows. The key can be found on the back or side of a desktop PC, on the bottom of a notebook PC, and it it may be listed in the user manual the came with the computer. A bootable CD/DVD for starting the installation process is also required. A BartPE CD is the best one to use.

Click here! to go to information on this site on how to create a BartPE CD.

To reinstall Windows XP, start the computer and enter its BIOS setup program by pressing the required entry key(s). Make the CD/DVD drive the first boot device. Save and exit. (Don't forget to make the hard drive the first boot device afterward Windows has been reinstalled.) If you have the BartPE CD in the CD/DVD drive, it will now boot the system when the system restarts. Click Go => Programs => A43 File Management Utility. Navigate to the i386 folder on the hard drive (not the i386 folder on the CD). Double-click on the winnt32.exe file to start the installation process. When the installation program closes, reboot the PC, remove the CD, and select Microsoft Windows XP Setup from the resulting boot menu. The installation process should pick up from where it left off.


A software installation failed leaving a half installed program that makes a Windows Installer window appear briefly whenever I open an application

Problem

I installed a program that aborted half way through leaving an incomplete installation the presence of which won't go away. Whenever I open a Windows application a Windows Installer window appears briefly. Unfortunately, I can't find a fix for this problem on the web even though it must have happened to many users.

Answer

The free Windows Installer CleanUp Utility is designed specifically to remove a botched software installation that are not sufficiently installed for the uninstall routine to be able to remove it, but sufficiently installed so that you can't perform a reinstallation.

The CleanUp Utility was originally designed to remove aborted MS Office installations, but it can also often correct installation problems with non-Office software as long as the program's original setup routine was run from a Windows Installer Package, which have an .msi file extension that stands for Microsoft Installer.

For example, Mike Lin's utilities at mlin.net use .msi installation files, each of which is called a Windows Installer Package.

Description of the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility -

"When you are working on your computer and installing a new program, the installation suddenly fails. Now you are left with a partly installed program. You try to install the program again, but you are unsuccessful. Or, maybe you have problems trying to remove an old program because the installation files are corrupted. - Do not worry. Windows Installer CleanUp Utility might be able to help. You can use the utility to remove installation information for programs that were installed by using Windows Installer." - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290301

There is this warning on that page: "Caution is advised. We recommend that you do not use this utility with 2007 Office system products." The Microsoft applications that the article applies to are listed at the bottom of the page.


Incomplete uninstall: A program I uninstalled is making Windows XP/Vista produce an error message

Problem

My Windows XP desktop PC with the SP3 update and all subsequent updates installed produces the following error message whenever I run a program called Telechart: "Please wait while Windows configures MyTrack — Internal Error 2718." MyTrack used to be installed, but I uninstalled it. This error message forced me to search for and remove every reference to MyTrack in the Windows Registry by entering regedit in the Start => Run box [the Start => Start Search box in Windows Vista]. A Registry value appears in the error message, which I found, but it doesn't refer to MyTrack and looks as if it is located somewhere that will affect other programs, so I decided not to remove it. Should I remove it? And can you suggest how I can get rid of this problem?

Answer

Poorly written uninstallation routines can leave many entries in the Registry and also leave orphaned files in the system that can cause problems with other programs. Symptoms that indicate their presence are error messages of the kind that you are experiencing and lengthy and/or unsmooth system startups. The following page says this about Internal Error 2718: "Missing package name for product code '[2]'."

Windows Installer Error Messages - http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa372835.aspx

This usually means that the applicable software has been uninstalled, but there are traces of it remaining, which are usually in the Registry, that are causing the problem.

The first action to take is to run the free Windows Installer CleanUp Utility, which is designed specifically to remove a botched software installation that are not sufficiently installed for the uninstall routine to be able to remove it, but sufficiently installed so that you can't perform a reinstallation.

Description of the Windows Installer Cleanup Utility -

"When you are working on your computer and installing a new program, the installation suddenly fails. Now you are left with a partly installed program. You try to install the program again, but you are unsuccessful. Or, maybe you have problems trying to remove an old program because the installation files are corrupted. - Do not worry. Windows Installer CleanUp Utility might be able to help. You can use the utility to remove installation information for programs that were installed by using Windows Installer." - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290301

If using it does not work, there may be Registry entries that you missed during your search because they are entered using alternative names for the software. The package name or the developer's name can be used to identify the entries, and there may be more than one form of the developer's name. For example, if you wanted to remove every trace of Symantec security software, you would search the Registry for entries with the word symantec and norton in them. If you were uninstalling the ZoneAlarm firewall, you would search for entries including zonealarm and zonelabs.

MyTrack is developed by Track Data Securities, so in addition to searching for Registry entries containing MyTrack in them, you could also search for entries containing Track Data, TDS, TD Securities, etc.

If you are unsure of the effects of deleting an entry, read and implement the advice in this MS Knowledge Base article: How to back up and restore the Registry in Windows - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/322756.

Many Registry-cleaning utilities/tools can remove obsolete or unnecessary Registry entries and even aid manual Registry-key removals. Most of these tools also provide an option to make a restorable backup of the Registry that can be restored from Safe Mode should the system fail to boot after removals have taken place. You enter Safe Mode in the same way in Windows XP and Windows Vista by repeatedly pressing the F8 key at system startup just before Windows starts to load.

There are many good free Registry cleaners, such as RegSeeker, CCleaner. The paid-for tools, such as jv16 PowerTools are usually more powerful. You can find others by using a search query such as free registry cleaners or registry cleaners in a search engine. Note that you should take care when downloading and installing such tools, because providing fake tools that are malware is a common method used by criminals to gain access to your computer. Research any such tool by searching the web for its name with a search engine and scan any file that you download with virus and spyware scanners, because many websites that deliver malware can look like the genuine article.


My Windows XP/Vista startup is very slow because the startup programs are all trying to load at once. Is there any way to stagger startup programs so that they load smoothly and faster?

Problem

1. - My laptop PC runs Windows XP and Windows Vista and with both of them by all trying to load at once my startup programs are slowing the startup down. Is it possible to stagger startup programs? I want to automatically open email at startup but it always opens before my wireless connection is connected. I then have to spend forever closing my four bazillion "cannot find server" errors . I get a lot of them due to having five email addresses. Also it would be nice if I could wait to open it until anti-virus scanner and firewall are running.

2. - When my laptop boots up, I usually get the Red Shield from Windows Alert telling me that my Kaspersky Anti-Virus is turned off and I'm not protected. After closing that warning, Kaspersky AV starts up. It tries to get updates from the Web, but my Internet connection hasn't completed yet. Everything else is loading when it wants to, so other warnings are popping up. When my computer is finally connected to the Internet, things calm down. It would seem to be easier all around if the boot order were reversed. Is there a way for me to rearrange the order in which the programs are starting up?

Answer

For both Windows XP and Windows Vista, experimenting with a free program called Startup Delayer will probably solve your problems. - "When Windows loads it's Startup file, it attempts to load every program in there at the same time. Therefore, if you have quite a lot of programs starting when Windows starts, each program will try and grab CPU [processor] time so that it can load. If each program tries to do this at the same time, you soon notice the slow down that occurs, due to your CPU trying to help all the programs to load, and your hard disk accessing multiple files. Startup Delayer allows you to setup how many seconds after Windows has started, to load each program."

WinPatrol from winpatrol.com (also free) allows startup-delay control along with other features.

Startup Delayer will probably suffice, but, if not, there are plenty of other such programs. Enter the search query stagger startup programs in a search engine to find them.

However, note well that not all startup programs and services can be controlled in this way. It is possible to edit the Windows Registry to change the settings that control which startup services and programs run and when they run. Unfortunately, doing so involves plenty of research and implementation.

Remember that you should create a restore point in System Restore before you attempt to edit the Registry so that you can restore the system by using System Restore to restore that restore point from Safe Mode (by pressing the F8 key repeatedly at startup before Windows starts to load), if you mess up and Windows won't boot.

To open the Registry Editor, enter regedit in the Start => Run box in Windows XP and in the Start => Start Search box in Windows Vista. Look at the GroupOrderList Control Entries values under HKEY_Local_MACHINE => SYSTEM => CurrentControlSet => Services. Not all services are listed there and not all startup software runs as a service, so you'll also have to look under HKEY_Local_MACHINE => SYSTEM => CurrentControlSet => Control => Session Manager => BootExecute. Also look at multiple Registry sections with the following entries: RunOnce, Run, RunOnceEx, and RunEx. Finally, have a look at the files in the Startup folder (C:\Documents and Settings\Your Name\Start Menu\Programs\Startup). Programs listed there run at the very end of the startup process.

You can make use of the information provided by Autoruns for Windows, by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, which shows exactly what is going on during the Windows startup. Download and usage information are provided from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx.

Also refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 102987 - REG: CurrentControlSet, PART 1 - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/q102987.

You have to scroll down to the section called GroupOrderList Control Entries. That Knowledge Base article also provides information on other parts of the Registry involved in the startup process.


Windows XP/Vista Help and Support won't work - does not respond

Problem

Having reinstalled Windows XP after an abortive software installation, everything works except Help and Support. Clicking on its heading in the Start menu produces no response. Help and Support is very useful from time to time when I forget how to use a function that I haven't used for a while, so I would like to recover its functionality. Is this situation recoverable without a complete reinstallation of Windows XP?

Answer

Loss of features such as Help and Support is common when Window XP/Vista is reinstalled from a CD/DVD that contains an older version. Help and Support makes use of many files used by Internet Explorer. For example, the Windows Setup Reinstall option on the Windows XP CD replaces newer files with its older files, but leaves the newer versions of other files, which causes your particular problem - and can be the cause of many other problems. All that you have to do to rectify the situation is reinstall any of the Service Packs released since the version included on your CD/DVD.

For example, if you have a Windows XP SP2 installation CD, reinstall Service Pack 3 (SP3) and then visit Windows Update for any updates released after SP3 become available. Service Pack 2 (SP2) incorporates SP1, so you don't have to install SP1 first, just install SP2. The SP3 update will update a Windows XP Service Pack 1 installation and a Windows XP Service Pack 2 installation. Windows XP SP3 aggregates all of the previously-released XP fixes, but Microsoft says that at least SP1 has to be installed on a system running the original release of Windows XP before installing SP3. It recommends installing SP2 first as well to the original 2001 release, but that is not a strict requirement. If you installed Internet Explorer 7 or 8 as an upgrade from version 6, which came on the installation CD, you'll have to reinstall it as well.

In order not to have to perform so many reinstallations in the event of a future system failure, it would be a good idea to slipsteam the Windows XP CD that you have with the subsequent Service Packs to create a bootable CD/DVD that contains them.

Click the following link to go to that information on this website: Slipstreaming Windows XP/Vista: How to create a Windows XP/Windows Vista installation CD/DVD containing the service packs and missing drivers.


Data recovery: How can I recover my lost data files

Problem

Unfortunately, my computer running Windows 98 SE crashed after I installed some downloaded software. When I reinstalled Windows, all of my desktop files, Internet Explorer Favorites, and e-mail messages have disappeared. Can I recover them?

Answer

Complete data will be left intact on the hard disk drive, but it doesn't look as if the new installation of Windows 98 SE is aware of its presence. Or it is still there but Windows has marked the space it occupies as being empty and available for reuse. When Windows needs the space the data occupies, it will overwrite it with new data.

How difficult it will be to recover the data depends on how Windows was reinstalled. There are four main methods.

1. - If you used a System Recovery CD of the kind that many computer manufacturers supply, it restored the system to the state it was in when it left the factory. The first part of the hard disk drive is overwritten with the image of the system on the CD, or copied to it from a hidden partition on the hard drive. Most of the data that you used to be able to access will still be there, but the root directory and file allocation table (FAT32) that Windows 98 uses to locate it no longer exists.

2. - If you formatted the boot drive (the C: drive), and then reinstalled Windows, the inaccessible data is probably still intact, but Windows can't access it because the root directory and the file allocation table (FAT32) has been replaced with new versions that aren't aware of its existence.

3. - It's unlikely that you just deleted the Windows folder and then reinstalled Windows, but if you did the situation would be much the same as under point 2. In Windows 2000 and Windows XP system files and data files are very wisely separated, but Microsoft wasn't that wise when it designed Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me, because in these versions data files are stored in sub-folders of the Windows folder. The desktop files are in the Windows\Desktop folder, the Favorites are in the Windows\Favorites folder, and e-mail messages can be placed in the Windows\Application Data and the Windows\Local Settings folder, and if you created a user profile by using the Users facility in the Control Panel, the data is stored in the Windows\Profiles folder. Therefore, when Windows is reinstalled, ordinary access to the data in all of these sub-folders of the Windows folder is lost.

4. - If you reinstalled Windows by choosing a new installation instead of the option to reinstall Windows over the existing installation, unless you changed the installation folder back to Windows when the opportunity arose, the setup procedure would have installed to a folder called Windows.ooo, leaving the Windows folder and the sub-folders containing your lost data intact. If that is the case, you could copy the contents of the Windows\Desktop, Windows\Favorites, etc., to the equivalent folders in the Windows.ooo folder, and your lost data would be recovered.

Unless there is no alternative, you shouldn't reinstall Windows completely. But if you have to because installing Windows over itself failed to fix a problem, if possible, before you perform a clean installation, you should use Windows Explorer (right-click Start => Explore) to locate the Windows and Program Files folder, right click on each folder, click Rename, and change the names to, say, Windows.Old and Programs.Old, because Windows recreates both of those folders. If Windows won't boot, you might be able to use a start-up disk and use the MS DOS commands ren or rename to rename the folders. (At the C:\> prompt: ren "Windows\Program Files" Programs.Old, etc.) The files for a Windows 98 start-up floppy disk can be downloaded from bootdisk.com. Just remember that you have to enclose the path to folders/files that have long file names within double quotation marks, or use the shortened DOS folder or file names, because DOS doesn't support long folder/file names. The Windows.Old folder will retain the sub-folders with the data files you want to keep. The Windows.Old\Inf folder contains the details of all of the device drivers, making it easier for Windows to install them if the contents are copied to the new Windows\Inf folder. And don't forget that the Windows setup program will detect that there is a Windows folder and ask you if you want to install it to a Windows.ooo folder. You must change it to Windows.

If the Windows folder was deleted or the boot drive was formatted, recovery of the missing files is much more difficult, especially if the drive is heavily fragmented. Fragmentation of a drive occurs when Windows starts to save a file (or files) in some free space that isn't large enough to contain the save, or a file grows too large for the space it was allocated and any over-spill has to be saved elsewhere on the drive. In both cases, files have to be saved in free space at other locations on the drive. Windows keeps track of where all of the parts are stored and can reconstitute a fragmented file when called upon to do so. Windows 95/98/Me are very prone to fragment a drive because they start saving files in very small amounts of free space. Internet files are normally small, so when you clear the Temporary Internet Files folder, plenty of small gaps are left on the drive that Windows will start filling with large saves, making it necessary for it to fragment them. Outlook Express stores e-mails in the Inbox.dbx folder, which keeps growing in size unless the e-mails are deleted and moved to the Deleted Items.dbx file, and so both of these files are usually fragmented and their contents will usually be difficult to recover.

There are several utilities that can recover data from a formatted or deleted drive, such as EasyRecovery from Ontrack, and most of them offer free trial versions that can be downloaded and used in an emergency. But note well that very few of these utilities can recover fragmented data. Most of them can only recover files if they are stored in one whole (contiguous) area of the drive. You can use a hex editor such as WinHex from winhex.com that allows you to search raw disk data, buy you'll have to learn how to use it to locate the pieces of fragmented files.

If you have to recover the lost data and you don't want to have to learn how to use a hex editor, the only alternative is to make use of a reputable data-recovery firm. You can find them by making use of a web search engine (use a search query such as data recovery service) or by looking in the classified ads of computer magazines.

Recovering image files

If you only want to recover image files, using a dedicated photo-recovery program is the best option. Some of the available utilities can only recover data from camera media, which mostly use a FAT16 file system, but others can also recover images from hard disk drives. A good example of the latter type of utility is called eIMAGE Recovery ($27 in October 2012). Visit http://www.octanesoft.com/ for a free trial version.


Why does Windows XP slow down to a crawl when I install the Service Pack 2 (SP2) update?

Problem

I don't want to disable Windows XP's Automatic Updates feature, but I have to because I don't want to install the Service Pack 2 update. When I installed it using the CD that Microsoft can mail to you by request, it slowed my computer down to a craw. The start-up took forty minutes and virtually none of my programs worked. Luckily, it uninstalled easily from Add/Remove Programs. Have any other users experienced this problem, and, if so, is there a solution to it?

Answer

Your experience isn't common. I've installed SP2 on several computers without observing any deterioration in performance. However, it occurred to me that there might be some Internet-based service on your machine that loads at start up that the Windows XP SP2 Windows Firewall is blocking. Therefore, try disabling utilities such as a virus scanner, firewall, and other Internet-oriented programs before you install SP2. If doing that doesn't work, try disabling the Windows Firewall after you first boot Windows XP SP2. If you don't know how to do it, the Windows Help files should provide the information you need. If the performance improves, see what happens if you install a third-party firewall.

Another common cause of a problem such as this one is a computer that has had a major upgrade installed prior to installing SP2. It isn't wise to upgrade a Windows computer more than once. Therefore, if the computer originally ran, say, Windows 98 SE, and you used the Windows XP Upgrade version to upgrade it, you shouldn't then upgrade it to Windows XP SP2. Either reinstall Windows XP from scratch, update it to SP2 and only then add your applications and utilities one at a time (creating a drive image with suitable software - Norton Ghost, etc. - and burning it to CDs or DVDs would be a good idea at this point), testing the performance with each addition, or keep SP1 updated with all of the available patches from Microsoft Update. The last option is acceptable as long as you run updated antivirus and anti-spyware software and use a good firewall.


The Add New Hardware Wizard in Windows XP appears at every boot up to install the device drivers for a printer or a scanner, but the driver is already loaded

Problem

Every time the Windows XP system starts up its Add New Hardware Wizard comes up and wants to install the drivers for a printer or a scanner even though the peripheral device is already loaded and working.

Microsoft states that this is a known issue in Windows XP Home and Professional when a peripheral device is loaded without using the hardware wizard.

The fix

When the Add New Hardware Wizard comes up at start-up, click on Next, and let it run. At the end it still says that it can't find the required software. Just click Finish instead of Cancel and the wizard should stop coming up.


"How to Log On to Windows XP If You Forget Your Password - or Your Password Expires"

The information on how to log on to Windows XP Home and Professional editions if you forget your logon password, or it expires, is provided in the Microsoft Knowledge Base - article number 321305 - http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=321305.

If you can't get online, here is some useful password information.

When you create a password in Windows XP, you have the opportunity to create a password hint that reminds you of it. If this is the case, click the ? next to the password prompt. Remember that passwords in Windows XP are case-sensitive. To use a password, you have to use the same upper and lower case letters that were used when the password was created.

If you created a Password Reset Disk when you created the password, you can use it to reset the password. Otherwise, as the Administrator, you can create such a disk.

To do this, insert a formatted floppy disk in the A: drive, log on as Computer Administrator, and open User Accounts in the Control Panel. Select your own account, and click Prevent A Forgotten Password in Related Tasks to open the Forgotten Password Wizard. Click Next, confirm that you want to use the A: drive to create the disk, and click Next. Enter the current password for this account, and click Next. After Windows has completed writing to the floppy disk, label it suitably, and keep it in a safe place. You'll be able to use it to reset the Administrator's password should the need arise.

If you can access the Administrator account, you can reset the passwords for user accounts from it. Enter 'control userpasswords2' -as is - in the Start => Run box.

An advanced control panel opens which has a button for that user account that resets all of its passwords. But to be able to specify a new logon password, you'll have to delete the password cache file called yourusername.pwl in the Windows folder for that particular user account (where yourusername represents the name you used when creating the user account). Windows XP generates a new empty password cache file that allows you to create a new logon password for that user account.

That said, the security in Windows XP is not as secure as it is made out to be. Several programmers have written tools that can reset forgotten Windows XP passwords. You should be able to find them by entering a suitable search query in a search engine, such as: reset + password + "windows xp".

One such tool is called chntpw (ChangeNTPassword) by Peter Nordahl-Hagen, which can be obtained from:

http://home.eunet.no/~pnordahl/ntpasswd

The downloaded file creates a complete bootable floppy disk that is then used to reset the password.

Click here! to go to links to MS Knowledge Base articles on Windows XP passwords on this site. A brief description of each article is provided.


I have forgotten the Windows XP Professional Administrator password. How can I reset it?

Problem

I thought that I'd be smart and set a really tough alphanumeric Administrator password for my system running Windows XP Professional. I wrote it down in all its glory, but for some reason when I try to use it as I'd written it, the exotic critter doesn't work. I've tried all kinds of alternatives to no avail. I must have made a mistake somewhere. Is there any way to reset it? If possible I want to avoid having to reinstall everything.

Answer

The idea of having a password is to prevent people without it from using the computer or from logging on as the Administrator, so, understandably, it isn't easy to recover from this situation, but you'll be glad to know that it can be done.

I would first try using a password-cracking tool such as Openwall's John the Ripper from http://www.openwall.com/john. It can be used to find out what the passwords used in Windows NT/2000/XP are.

If that doesn't work, try the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor from http://www.home.eunet.no/~pnordahl/ntpasswd. It looks complicated but when mastered it does the job well and is available as a bootable floppy disk or as a bootable CD. You can also use it to edit the Windows Registry.

If that is of no use, you can try using the Emergency Boot CD from http://www.ebcd.pcministry.com/. It is capable of resetting the Administrator password.

If you are still at a loss, if have a Windows XP installation/setup CD, you can try the following relatively easy method of password recovery that is provided on this page:

I Forgot My Administrator Password! Can't Log On to Windows XP? - http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/pub0009/LPMArticle.asp?ID=305

The method doesn't take advantage of a security flaw in Windows XP, because you have to have your XP installation CD and its Product Key, otherwise you won't be able to complete the process.

Alternatively, if you can boot the system from an operating system such as Linux that is compatible with the NTFS file system that Windows XP Professional uses, then you can use a program specially written to remove or reset the password file entries. There are several such programs that have been put together that come provided with the files for a Linux boot floppy disk or CD.

Windows XP a Goner? First Aid for your Windows PC -

The following link goes to an article on the ways that can be used to recover Windows XP and includes information on the ways in which Windows can recover itself, and how to use a self-booting Knoppix Linux CD (that allows Linux to access the system from its boot CD) to access files, and how to create a boot CD (a BartPE CD created with PE Builder). - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/windows-xp-a-goner,review-1174.html

There is some useful information on Knoppix Linux in this article on this site: Windows fails: Knoppix Linux on a bootable CD to the rescue.

Note well that if Windows XP Pro has been set to use encrypted folders, resetting the password will render them inaccessible because they can only be decrypted if the original password is used to access the system.

Click here! to go to links to MS Knowledge Base articles on Windows XP passwords on this site. A brief description of each article is provided.


How can I get rid of the need to enter a password to log on to Windows XP?

Problem

I have a laptop computer running Windows XP that starts up without the need to enter a password, but when my desktop computer, also running Windows XP, starts up, it asks for a password. I just press the Enter key to make Windows continue loading. How can I get rid of the request for a password?

Answer

Different Windows XP user setups use different logon methods, which is probably why your laptop logs on automatically (without the password entry window popping up).

If the computer has only one user account defined and that user has no password, the logon should happen automatically. The feature is called auto-logon.

If that isn't the case, the best way to enable auto-logon is to enter the command control userpasswords2 in the Start => Run box.

Click OK. Doing that opens a Control Panel window that is visible under User Accounts in the Control Panel in Windows 2000 but is hidden in XP's Control Panel - most of the time. For some unknown reason, in some XP systems, it is visible there. Anyhow, entering the above command in the Run box opens it in both versions of Windows.

Uncheck the box that has Users must enter a username and password to use this computer beside it. Click the Apply button to bring up a window that has the entries for the user name and password that you want to use. Thereafter that user will be logged on automatically every time Windows XP starts up.

Note: Take care when implementing the above instructions, because if you uncheck the box but don't enter the password that you want to use, Windows XP won't be able to start up. Instead you will be greeted with the message: Unable to log you on because of an account restriction.

Fortunately, there is a way to recover from this situation. Hold one of the two Shift keys down (the ones with the arrow on them that points upwards) while selecting Log Off from the Start => Shut Down menu. After restarting the computer, hold down a Shift key as Windows starts up. The Welcome screen should be presented, where you should be able to log on as usual and rectify the matter. You must follow the instructions provided above exactly. If the account requires a password, you must enter one.

On some setups it is possible to select the Administrator account and set it to log on automatically, but unless it is the only account in use on the computer, it is usually hidden and is blocked from use in normal mode.

****

Should that method fail to work, editing the Windows Registry is called for. If you have no experience of doing this, make sure that you can restore your system from backups, etc., should you make an error that renders Windows unbootable.

Enter regedit in the Start => Run box and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE => Microsoft => Windows NT => CurrentVersion => Winlogon. Under the Winlogon key the following string values should appear:

AutoAdminLogon [Give it a value of 1 by right-clicking on the entry and clicking Modify]

DefaultUserName [Set it to an existing user name]

DefaultPassword [Set it to the password for that user]

If any of the above don't exist under the Winlogon key, right-click on it and click New => Key => String Value and enter the missing value. E.g., AutoAdminLogon.

Thereafter that user will be logged on automatically every time Windows XP starts up.

If you want to override this default login to enter a different user name, just press one of the two the Shift keys as Windows starts up. This overriding ability can itself be prevented by adding another string value under Winlogon called IgnoreShiftOverride, which should be given a value of 1.

Click here! to go to links to MS Knowledge Base articles on Windows XP passwords on this site. A brief description of each article is provided.


How can I create my own home-made System Restore Disk?

Question

I have a computer running Windows XP Home edition, and I need to know how to create a System Restore CD like the ones that the most brand-name PC manufacturers provide as a back-up solution. I'm getting sick and tired of having to reformat and reinstall everything from scratch after my system crashes and won't come back to life.

Answer

It's easy enough to create such a disk. They can save a lot of time by restoring the system to the same state it was in when the disk was created, but you can only do it if you have the right software - and, of course, a CD or DVD writer (burner).

If you want to create such a CD/DVD while Windows is running, the software has to be able to back up files that Windows (95/98/Me/XP) is using, and only a few programs are able to do that.

The most popular software for creating master images of an entire system is Norton Ghost from Symantec.

Symantec has taken over PowerQuest, the creator of Drive Image, which is a similar product to Norton Ghost. The two products have been merged into the Norton Ghost 9 that costs £40 in the UK (January 2005), but it comes as part of Norton System Works 2005, which is much better value at £65, because it is a suite of many useful programs.

If you use the 2003 or 2004 versions of Norton System Works or Drive Image, which you should be able to buy cheaply on eBay, you have to start Windows and then reboot in order to create a drive image, because before Norton Ghost 9 no software could create a drive image while Windows was running.

To find more information on them, enter any of these trade names in as search queries in a search engine, enclosed within double quotation marks if more than one word is involved.

An earlier version of Norton Ghost and Drive Image reboots Windows in order to boot from its own operating system that has been installed on the boot hard disk drive, which obviously has to be capable of reading FAT32 drive partitions for Windows 95/98/Me systems and NTFS partitions for Windows 2000/XP systems - and support writing to a CD/DVD writer (burner).

There is a free Linux tool that can create a System Restore CD for Linux systems, but it can't back-up Windows system files.


Half way through running it, the Windows XP SP2 update produces a "Control ID not found" error message

Problem

When running both the automatic download and a saved download of the Windows XP SP2 upgrade in Safe Mode, it produced an error of "Control ID not found" about half way through the update procedure. At that point the only option was to revert to SP1. The only information a search of the web found said that this problem is caused if the eTrust virus scanner has been installed. My computer only runs Norton AntiVirus. However, I stumbled on the fact that the permissions in a Windows Registry HKLM security subkey did not allow any access. After making permission changes to allow full access to the security subkey, and inheritance to subkeys, the upgrade ran as it should. The information given in the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article is for a different error message, but it covers the problem and provides solutions: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=873148: You receive an "Access is denied" error message when you try to install Windows XP Service Pack 2. But, for some reason, that article gives no indication of what might have caused the permissions not be set correctly, or how they could have been changed.

Answer

Many security utilities/tools may try to prevent unauthorised changes to parts of a system, which can be a good thing provided that the changes are reversed when the tool is removed. Some security tools can be so clumsy about the features they lock up that even necessary functions can be blocked. Having several security tools running at the same time may cause interference if they fight for control of files or processes. It is well know that when some security tools are uninstalled that alter system security or Registry settings, they don't change them back to the way there were. In short, the removal of a tool that was causing trouble can leave the cause of the problem in place.

You should therefore restrict the number of security tools monitoring a computer system at the same time. You should have only one firewall, one virus scanner, and one comprehensive spyware removal / detection tool actively monitoring the system. You can, of course, have other recommended utilities and removal tools installed, and run them periodically to remove what your front-line programs miss. Just remember that being over-protected can often turn out to be as problematic as being under-protected.

The more technically knowledgeable users can limit the potential for problems in this regard by not accepting the default installation of security tools. Instead of the express installation, choose the custom installation option if one is available, and examine all of the options so that you'll have an understanding of what functions or settings a tool can change. Then, if you install another tool, you'll know if it's necessary or not to allow it to duplicate whatever security measures have already been covered by the programs that make up your main line of defence.


AutoPlay in Windows XP has stopped working

Problem

The AutoPlay feature in my computer, which is running Windows XP, has stopped working. I've tried all of the options presented under the AutoPlay tab that comes up when I right-click on the DVD drive under My Computer and then click Properties - and the options made available in the Device Manager for the drive. My computer came with a System Recovery CD. Is there any way I can make use of it to fix the problem?

Answer

You can only use a Recovery CD of the kind provided with computers made by many brand-name manufacturers to restore the computer to the state it was in when it left the factory. You can't use it as a Windows XP CD to add/remove Windows components and install drivers, etc., because it can only restore Windows XP as it was installed when it left the factory.

AutoPlay is the feature in Windows XP that allows a user to choose how to play different types of CD/DVD disk and view the files. You access the setup window by using the right mouse button to click on the relevant CD/DVD drive in My Computer. Then you click Properties on the menu that presents itself. AutoPlay is one of several tabs you can click on to reveal their available options. You have two major choices: Prompt me each time to choose an action and Select an action to perform. If you activate the radio button for the first option, Windows asks you to choose how to play the CD/DVD - every time you insert on in the drive. If you activate the radio button for the second option (Select an action to perform) you can set the Windows Media Player or another player to play video files, a different player to play music files, Windows Explorer to Open folder to view files, etc., or an option called Take no action. If you have selected the last option that is what Windows will do, and AutoPlay won't work.

Microsoft has created a tool called the AutoPlay Repair Wizard (file name: Autofix.exe) that runs through a series of tests (such as checking if AutoPlay is enabled in the Windows Registry) that should be able to fix the problem. It is available as a download from

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/default.aspx.

If the tool doesn't fix the problem, if you've installed an old version of Roxio Easy CD Creator, only versions 5.02d or later are compatible with Windows XP. If you are using an older version, try using its own Uninstall option, or use Add/Remove Programs to remove it.

The problem could also be caused by the CD/DVD drive's driver. Windows XP is supposed to install the correct driver automatically, but, just in case this wasn't the case, try installing the latest driver file for the make and model of drive, downloaded from its manufacturer's site. You must get the driver file for that particular make and model of drive.

You install a driver by clicking My Computer on the Windows Desktop with the right mouse button. Then you click Properties in the menu that is presented. A window opens. Click on the Hardware tab and click Device Manager. In the Device Manager, click on the + beside DVD/CD-ROM drives, and use the mouse's right button to click on the drive whose driver you want upgraded. Click Update Driver to run the Hardware Update Wizard, and follow the instructions to install the latest driver. You would point it to the driver file's location if you downloaded one, or use the Have Disk option.

If you're using a user account that prevents the user from installing new software, there should be an option in AutoPlay called Install software as another user that should allow that user to play a CD/DVD.

The reason the above-mentioned setting appears in AutoPlay if a restricted user account is used is because CD/DVDs need to run a program when the disk is inserted in the drive. This is achieved in the first place when Windows XP reads an Autorun.inf file that tell it which program to run. Windows XP assumes that the file wants to start the installation of a new program, which it can't do if a restricted user account is being used.

If CDs/DVDs don't play automatically and the AutoPlay tab is missing from the Properties window for that drive, the Shell Hardware Detection service is probably not running. To enable it, click Control Panel => Administrative Tools => Services. Scroll down the list of services until you come to Shell Hardware Detection and make sure that it is Started and set to Automatic.


I can't access the web after Automatic Updates in Windows XP installed an update. How can I remove it?

Problem

I have a dial-up connection, so I have set Automatic Updates in the Control Panel in Windows XP to inform me when an update is available instead of downloading and installing it automatically. The setting is called "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them." However, when I gave my permission to download and install an update, the next time I started my PC, I couldn't access the web. I want to remove the update to find out if doing so fixes the problem, but there aren't any updates listed in Add or Remove Programs.

Answer

There is a check box at the top of the Add or Remove Programs window that has Show updates beside it. Most users never notice it. It is not enabled by default, probably because Microsoft doesn't want ignorant users to be able to see and remove one or more of them. Place a check mark in the box with your mouse pointer and the updates will appear, and will always appear until you disable the setting. The updates are dated so you just have to remove the one that is most up to date.


Windows XP error message: "Task Manager has been disabled by your Administrator"

Question

When a user running Windows XP presses the Ctrl + Alt + Del combination of keys to bring up the Task Manager, which shows the start-up programs that are running, the message "Task Manager has been disabled by your Administrator" comes up. The Task Manager shows on bottom the task bar, but it's greyed out and doesn't respond to clicks.

Answer

It can often happen (but is not always the case) that the XP Task Manager is disabled after a user switches to using the Classic desktop mode.

The route to the solution: the user has to log on as the Administrator. This can be done as long as the user remembers the password that was entered when Windows XP was first installed, because XP creates and then hides the account named Administrator when it is first installed. The password entry may have been left blank. If so, pressing the Enter key would allow the logon.

If Windows XP Professional is installed, the login prompt can be accessed by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Del combination of keys twice, and then entering the username Administrator followed by the password.

If Windows XP Home edition is installed, or if the Ctrl + Alt + Del option has been disabled in both versions of XP, press the F8 key at start-up just before Windows begins to load, and choose Safe Mode from the boot menu. Having logged on as the Administrator the user has to enter gpedit.msc in the Start => Run box. The Group Policy Editor comes up. By looking under User Configuration => Administrative Templates => System => Ctrl-Alt-Del Options, the user can access the option to Remove Task Manager, which obviously has to be disabled in order to allow access to the Task Manager.


A good example of how difficult some games-related problems can be to diagnose

Problem

A friend asked me to format and reinstall Windows 98 on his Packard-Bell, Pentium III, 500MHz, 192MB RAM computer. His main problem was that games that once ran on the machine (and were presently running on his laptop using Windows XP), weren't running any longer even after uninstalling and reinstalling them. I discovered that his video card was no good, but even after changing it to a GeForce 4X 64MB, and doing the format and reinstall, we still have the same problem. I reinstalled DirectX 9.0 in Safe mode, uninstalled DirectX 9.0 and reinstalled 8.1, reinstalled the new video card and drivers, reinstalled Windows on top of Windows, and last but not least, I upgraded the system to Windows XP. All with no improvement. The games will install, but when it comes time to play, they won't run. The screen goes black (in the case of Windows 98, the screen actually turned off and necessitated a reboot), and then nothing happens. The games all ran at one time on the computer. These are also NOT the latest heavy duty graphics games. When entering dxdiag in the Start => Run box, the DirectDraw test jams on full screen mode, and the Direct3D renderings don't work at all. That's why there was the mucking about with DirectX at the beginning. I am at my wits' end. Does this sound at all familiar to anybody? Is it possible that a bad sound card would cause the games to hang?

Replies

1) My GeForce 2 MX used to do that - at first I thought it was just my crappy old monitor, but changing the Detonator drivers to a different version sorted it out. Guru3D has loads, I recommend the 30.82s, or failing that just try them all until one works.

2) I had a motherboard blow the north bridge chip (that takes care of AGP, the memory controller, etc.). Anyhow it would work fine until I tried anything 3D at all. Which means all games. They wouldn't run at all - the same black screen crash. Happened after a not so nice "pop" sound when gaming. All the capacitors were OK and no visible damage other than under the north bridge chip. It looked like it had once gotten hot. I used the same parts - just replaced the motherboard, and everything was dandy again. I'm saying that it could be the motherboard.

3) My initial thought would be an inadequate or faulty power supply, and/or an overheating problem due to inadequate cooling inside the case. [Always check that the heatsink and fan unit is working properly when software that used to work fails to work.] Given the computer's specs, I suspect it may be a few years old. Perhaps it would be a good time to open the case, clear out any dust bunnies with a can of compressed air, and replace any dust-jammed fans.

4) I would try playing those games on another computer with that particular video card installed to make sure that it isn't the video card. Just because two video cards were used doesn't mean that both of them weren't faulty.

In this particular case, replacing the motherboard solved the problem, but any of the above suggestions could solve a problem of this kind.


Reinstalling Windows XP on a system with a card reader makes XP use the H: drive?

Problem

A user reinstalled Windows XP on a system that makes use of a 5-n-1 card reader. But after starting up for the first time, instead of the usual C: drive, Windows Explorer showed that Windows was installed on the H: drive, which came after the drives assigned to the card reader. The user thought that reinstalling programs by changing the installation location to H: would fix the problem, but one program wouldn't allow the default location of C: to be changed, and therefore can no longer be used.

Answer

Perhaps the user had the 5-n-1 card reader connected during the installation, or perhaps multiple partitions were already in place and the card reader, which is assigned several drive letters, somehow confused Windows.

This is a common problem that is probably best sorted out by re-partitioning the hard disk drive, and then reinstalling system back-ups. Using Partition Magic (or a program with similar capabilities) to sort out the drive assignments is another valid option. Partition Magic is very dependable and, provided that it is properly used, can deal with this sort of problem. But if a user is unfamiliar with the program, it's advisable to read the instructions for its use carefully. Remember that a restorable system back-up or master image should always be created before attempting to make changes to drive letters and partitions, because things can often go awry with the most dependable of programs.


The Blaster worm infects a new installation of Windows XP

Problem

Having installed a new hard disk drive and installed Windows XP on it, a user accessed the web to download a virus scanner update. Thereafter the user was unable to access the web for longer than a few minutes before a message box appears showing the announcement: "a Remote Procedure Call (RPC) will disconnect and reboot."

Answer

That message usually announces an infection by the infamous Blaster worm. It looks as if it located a vulnerable installation of Windows XP when the user went online, and was able to infect the computer.

The infamous Blaster worm is still actively infecting computers. It has a remarkable ability to find new installations of Windows XP that haven't had Service Pack 1 (SP1) or the relevant security patch installed, both of which fix the security hole that this blasted worm exploits.

Infected systems usually produce an error message saying: "A Remote Procedure Call (RPC) will disconnect and reboot."

Most of the antivirus program developers have a Blaster removal tool that is small enough to fit on a floppy disk. Click here! to visit the solution provided by Symantec, the developer of Norton Antivirus.

The user would boot the system from the floppy disk with the removal tool on it. Of course, the floppy disk drive has to be set as the first boot drive in the BIOS setup program.

To prevent reinfection, the user's of new installations of Windows XP should download the security patch from:

http://support.microsoft.com/?id=824146.

This security update is too large to fit on a floppy disk, so to install it, download it to another computer and burn the file to a recordable CD, or if the computer is on a network, download the file and copy it to the infected computer.

It isn't safe to allow a newly installed, unpatched version of Windows XP to go online, because as the worm travels the web, it has an almost uncanny way of homing in on and infecting unprotected computers.

Therefore, in order to be protected from worms such as Blaster, it's essential to install Microsoft's security updates as soon as they become available. You must run Microsoft Update on the Start menu, and download all of the security updates for your system that are marked as Critical. It's the Critical updates that block the gaping security holes that allow worms and other malware to invade a system.


Windows file systems:

Converting to NTFS from FAT32

FAT32 versus NTFS

Question

I bought a new desktop computer that came with Windows XP Professional installed on drive D: - for some reason so that drive C: could contain the Recovery System. Another oddity is that FAT32 is the file system in use instead of XP's native NTFS file system. The company that the I bought the computer from went bust, so the warranty is worthless, and I can now convert to NTFS and have Windows XP on the C: drive without rendering it void. I need to know if this can be done without reinstalling everything.

Answer

OEM computer manufacturers and vendors (that have to provide the technical support for their merchandise) prefer to have their system's set up to use FAT32 instead of NTFS because the latter file system is far more secure and complex and hence more prone to require technical support. Indeed, it is for this reason that Time Computers [now no longer in business] made it a condition of the warranty that renders it void if the file system is changed from FAT32 to NTFS.

If a computer has a hard disk drive larger than 64GB, or a user wants to have partitions on a drive larger than 64GB, the NTFS file system is a must. If you want to keep using FAT32 without problems, drives and partitions of drives that are smaller than 64GB are required.

See FDISK on this site for information on the use of that MS DOS partitioning utility on a FAT32 drive.

Windows XP has a Convert utility that converts a FAT32 partition to NTFS without having to copy all of the data elsewhere. This is a time-consuming process and the files are not as well arranged on the drive as they would be if they were installed on a partition that was already configured to use NTFS. Moreover, the cluster size, which is the size of the addressable units that the partition is broken down into when the file system is created, is set far too low at only 512 bytes (0.5KB) per cluster, and this can slow down file access significantly.

Moreover, note well that unless the user enables the Cvtarea option before the drive or partition is converted, a new Master File Table (MFT) is created that is placed all over the drive/partition. And even though it's the most used file on a drive, Windows XP's Disk Defragmenter can't defragment a fragmented MFT.

Read CONVERTING FAT32 to NTFS in Windows XP here http://aumha.org/win5/a/ntfscvt.php for information on how to prepare a drive before converting it to NTFS in order to avoid using 512 byte clusters.

Note that if you make a back-up of a FAT32 drive with a back-up utility such as the one that comes with Windows XP, or make a master image it with a utility such as Norton Ghost and burn it to a CD/DVD discs, the file system is also backed up. Consequently, it is restored when the back-up or master image is restored. Therefore, you can't make a back-up or master image of a FAT32 a drive, format it with NTFS, and them restore the back-up or master image, because the FAT32 file system will be restored as well.

The benefits of using FAT32

For hard drives up to 60GB in size, file accesses with FAT32 is faster because NTFS has extra features that use extra file-writing overheads. Moreover, with FAT32 it isn't possible to be locked out of the system, as it is possible, for instance, after reinstalling Windows XP, which is using NTFS.

Note that floppy disks can only be formatted with FAT32. NTFS cannot be used on floppy disks. Even when Windows XP is using its native NTFS file system, it formats floppy disks with the FAT32 file system.

Click here! to read an article on this site called: Reinstalling Windows XP over itself and consequences.

All versions of Windows from Windows 95 OSR2 to Windows Me (referred to as Windows 9.x) use FAT32, so utilities that only work with FAT32 can still be used in Windows XP if FAT32 is its file system. And if a dual-boot Windows 98/XP system is being used, a common file system is required if they are to share files, etc. Windows 9.x systems cannot recognise or use NTFS, but Windows XP can use and recognise both file systems.

NTFS drives or partitions can interact with FAT32 drives or partitions - from a single version of Windows XP that has set them up. Therefore, if a version of Windows XP installed itself on a FAT32 partition it would use the NTFS file system of another partition it set up to access the files or run the programs it placed or installed on it. But if Windows 98 using FAT32 were installed on one hard disk drive and Windows XP using NTFS were installed on another hard drive, they wouldn't be able to share files because Windows 98 cannot use NTFS. Both versions of Windows would have to be using a common file system, such as FAT16 or FAT32, in order to be able to see each other and have their files accessed from one another.

The file system compatibility chart below shows which file systems can be used for compatibility in a dual-boot system.

$ = the operating system can boot from the file system

X = the operating system can access the file system with the help of special software, the links to which are provided in the second green table below, but cannot boot from it.

  Windows 95 Windows 95 OSR2 Windows 98 98/SE and ME Windows 2000 Windows XP
FAT16 $ $ $ $ $
FAT32 N/A $ $ $ $
NTFS X X X $ $

All of these operating systems can boot from and hence access FAT16. Windows 9.x systems cannot access the NTFS without the help of special software, and can never boot from it.

Windows first became a FAT32 operating system with version Windows 95 OSR2. The first version of Windows 95 uses FAT16, which only allows drives and partitions a maximum size of 2GB.

If Windows 9.x is used to run certain games or applications, FAT32 has to be retained. Moreover, FAT32 can be accessed from a start-up (boot) floppy disk if something goes wrong and Windows can't boot. Because Windows 2000 and Windows XP don't have MS DOS, and therefore can't ordinarily be accessed by using a start-up floppy disk, which uses MS DOS, many administrators place the operating system(s) (Windows 9.x and/or XP) on a small partition configured to use FAT32, while installing programs and saving data on one or more larger NTFS partitions.

Read NTFS Disks from DOS - This freeware NTFS file system reader fits onto a FreeDOS bootable floppy disk, which means that, should your NTFS based Windows system (NT/2000/XP) become fatally corrupted, you can still access your NTFS hard drives. It even includes a file search and copy utility. (832KB) - http://www.ntfs.com/products.htm.

Click here! to visit information on partitioning and formatting a hard drive running Windows 9.x or Windows XP. It's a simple matter to choose the file system for use with a particular partition.

Should a hard drive die without having been suitably backed up, expensive professional data recovery is cheaper if the file system is FAT32, because NTFS has much more complicated file structures that have yet to be fully documented by Microsoft. Moreover, FAT32 has more duplication of its most important parts, such as two copies of the File Allocation Table (FAT) itself. NTFS only duplicates the first five records of its Master File Table (MFT), because the NTFS log system is only intended to be able to roll back operations that have been interrupted by a power failure.

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For additional information in Windows XP go Start => Help and Support and enter Choosing between NTFS, FAT, and FAT32 (exactly) in the Search box to go to an article with that title.

The benefits of using NTFS

There is a maximum file size of 4GB per file with FAT32. To play DVD movie files larger than 4GB therefore requires the use of NTFS.

Windows 98 FAT32 to NTFS Conversion Program - Dual-boot Windows 98 and XP using the NTFS file system

Free Sysinternals NTFS for Windows 98 utility - (It can be used in Windows 98 to read NTFS files, not write to them.) Sysinternals was an independent organisation but it is now owned by Microsoft.

Visit http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb842062.aspx for the great free utilities.

Use a search engine to search for others by using a search query such as: fat32 + ntfs + conversion.

But NTFS is currently only limited by the size of the drive itself (or a partition on a drive), because it can access 2TB (terabytes). - A terabyte is a 1024 gigabytes or 1024X1024X1024X1024 bytes. As yet, there are no hard drives one terabyte in size.

FAT32 was designed to be able to access what were then considered very large hard drives, but it has a maximum cluster size of 32KB. On a 32GB drive, this means that the File Allocation Table - the accessible index of the addresses of the clusters - will have a million entries, which make it 4MB in size. Therefore, as partitions become larger, the FAT increases in size proportionally, which means more work reading and writing the allocation entries.

Windows 2000 and Windows XP don't allow the creation of FAT32 partitions larger than 32GB unless they were created by another operating system. But it is strongly advisable not to create FAT32 partitions larger than 64GB, because as the number of addressed clusters increases, file utilities, such as ScanDisk, crash due to exceeding programming limits that exist because the programmers didn't anticipate that FATs would ever grow as large as they are now.

NTFS clusters are usually only 4KB in size, and are as small as 512 bytes (0.5KB) when a FAT32 partition or drive is converted to NTFS. Since Windows and programs such as Internet Explorer use or download very large numbers of small files such as cookies, website files, etc., each of them will only occupy 4KB instead of 32KB, because only one file can be allocated to a cluster. Using NTFS can thus save relatively huge amounts of disk space. Moreover, since each Master File Table entry is 1KB in size, files under that size won't need to be allocated a cluster. However, if NTFS uses only 512 bytes per cluster, the system can be slowed down significantly. Unfortunately, the only way to increase the cluster size to 4KB without wiping the drive and starting the process from scratch is to make use of specialist utilities that aren't free.

Provided that it has sufficient free space with which to work (roughly about 20 percent of a drive or partition), NTFS is far less prone to fragment files than FAT32. Moreover, unlike FAT32, which always places new files in the first available cluster, NTFS spreads files across the drive, thereby leaving space for the growth of files, and where possible, places new files in an open area of the disk, making it less likely that a file will have to be split up and stored in clusters all over the drive. Under FAT32 file management, if many small files, such as Temporary Internet Files are deleted from the system and the allocation table, Windows allocates new files to the very small vacated areas on the drive, and therefore has to spread a new file over many small areas of the drive. This is called file fragmentation, and requires a Disk Defragmenter to join the fragments up as closely together as possible. Windows 9.x systems have this utility under Accessories => System Tools.

Microsoft originally claimed that NTFS drives should never require defragmentation. However, this was soon proven not to be the case, and Windows XP comes with a Disk Defragmenter.

Of the two files systems, only NTFS stores information about the ownership of each file and directory (folder), hence allowing access permission to be set. This makes it possible for one user of a NTFS system to restrict the access to files and folders by other users, or hide them from other users.

Finally, NTFS in Windows XP Professional allows the use of folder and file encryption, which adds a level of security that is not available in Windows XP Home and Windows 9.x systems.

Note that floppy disks can only be formatted with FAT32. NTFS cannot be used on floppy disks.

Program Compatibility - FAT32 & NTFS

Note that some older programs designed for use with the FAT32 file system may not run on hard drive volume formatted to use the NTFS file system, even after the Windows XP Application Compatibility wizard is used to run it in a compatibility mode, so you should research the current requirements for your software before converting from FAT32 to NTFS.

Questions

Do you know of a way of finding out which Windows 98 (FAT32) programs will be compatible with NTFS? Moreover, will the Windows Application Compatibility Mode wizard solve any problems that may arise from running older programs on an NTFS drive? And, is it possible to have two partitions - one with NTFS and one with FAT32 in order to run the older programs from FAT32 and newer the programs from NTFS? If yes, will doing that compromise the security settings available for the NTFS partition?

Answers

If a program's box or CD says that it's Windows NT/2000/XP compatible, then it is compatible with NTFS, because NTFS is the native file system of those versions of Windows.

If you want to find out how to make Windows 9.x games run better under Windows XP, visit the following page on the Microsoft site. The information there also applies to virtually any program that anyone might want to run under Windows XP.

How to use Windows Program Compatibility mode in Windows XP -

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/292533

Most ordinary 32-bit programs that don't make use of the file system itself will work under the 32-bit file system they're installed on. All versions from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP are 32-bit operating systems except the 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional. Note that there are 64-bit versions of most of the versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and both Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Programs are mostly incompatible because they weren't designed to work with NT-based system files. Most of the time, updates for an incompatible application can be obtained from its manufacturer's site, but, if not, and it's available, try right-clicking within the program's window and clicking on the Compatibility tab. On the Compatibility tab, you can set the compatibility to Windows 98 and it should then work.

Yes, with Windows XP, it is possible to have two or more partitions on a hard drive, or to have two or more hard drives running NTFS or FAT32, because Windows XP supports both and can set partitions or drives to use either file system. However, Windows 9.x systems do not support NTFS and can never boot from an NTFS partition, even though, by using special third-party software, they can be made to access NTFS files.

Under Windows XP, a FAT32 partition won't interfere with the security of an NTFS partition. But remember that FAT32 partitions don't offer anything by way of security, such as password protection, and the folder and file encryption that Windows XP Professional has. (Windows XP Home doesn't have any encryption.) Thus, users accessing the computer running both file systems could access any FAT32 partition even though they won't be able to access an NTFS partition - if all of the security measures are employed.

You can try installing an incompatible program on a FAT32 partition, but if you encounter problems, then you may still have to run the program in a Windows Application Compatibility Mode - such as Windows 98 mode.

The Windows XP Application Compatibility wizard will probably fix most of the problems of running programs designed for older versions of Windows.

Most importantly, always remember to check at the software manufacturer's site for program updates.


Windows XP: Problem running CHKDSK - the hard disk drive diagnostic utility

If you're having problems running the CHKDSK HDD utility in Windows XP, read this long, interesting forum thread: http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Chkdsk-Win-Xp--ftopict20273.html.

Problem

I recently upgraded to a new hard drive which was installed under NTFS. I find that I am now unable to utilise CHKDSK at system start-up to check the disk for errors. I found this problem referenced in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article - 823439 dated August 2003, stating that MS was aware of the issue. But there is no solution noted in any later posting. Has there been any resolution to this problem?

Answer

Do you have ZoneAlarm installed and did you recently upgrade it to version 5.0? It has been reported that ZoneAlarm 5.0 may be the root cause of your problem. Uninstalling it is the remedy.

Some MS Knowledge Base articles on CHKDSK:

"'Cannot Open Volume for Direct Access' Error Message When Chkdsk Runs at Startup" -

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;823439&Product=winxp

"CHKNTFS.EXE: What You Can Use It For" -

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;160963

"Chkdsk in Read-Only Mode Does Not Detect Corruption on NTFS Volume" -

http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;q283340


What keeps wanting to use my dial-up account to access the Internet?

Problem

Once a month, my computer starts up but then refuses to complete the startup routine unless I allow it to dial out to the Internet. The dial-up connection box appears and won't go away no matter what I do until a connection has been made and whatever takes place does so. This is worrying because all of this happens before my firewall and virus scanner are loaded to run. I can't find out what is doing this or where the connection is being made to, and Norton Internet Security 2004 find's nothing wrong. I even tried to format the hard disk drive and reinstall Windows XP, but the same thing started happening. I've discovered that the Freecell and Solitaire games don't run properly - even when they themselves are removed and reinstalled. Could this be because they're being used as wrappers for a virus?

Answer

Fortunately, the predictable frequency of the event strongly suggests that the cause of this is probably just a program, even Windows itself, checking for updates or for digitally-signed certificate revocation.

If you had a broadband connection that was always on, you wouldn't have noticed that anything was taking place.

Internet Explorer is set by default to Check for publisher's certificate revocation under Internet Explorer => Tools => Internet Options => Advanced tab => scroll down to Security settings.

Disabling the setting by removing the check mark in its box might fix the unwanted dialling problem for some users. This is because Windows only makes the certificate check if it is attempting to execute some untrusted digitally-signed piece of code, such as an ActiveX Control. ActiveX Controls are software programs that can be can be used to execute malicious code that can do things such as wipe a hard disk drive, so it's essential that Windows doesn't run any uncertified code, or code for which the certification has been revoked. If Windows doesn't detect uncertified code, it won't run the check. The certificate checking is a bit of a mess at present anyway, and is unreliable, because VeriSign, one of the largest issuers of publisher's certificates doesn't follow Internet standard REC 2459 that requires that a certificate is checked against a suitably recent certificate revocation list (CRL). VeriSign doesn't comply with this standard because it is optional, and it publishes its own CRL on its site, which Windows doesn't know how to access.

A much worse offender in this regard is McAfee VirusScan, which repeatedly attempts to log on to the web whenever a computer it's installed on is running.

That said, it is somewhat worrying that Norton Internet Security isn't detecting anything. The System Tray icons that allow control of the security settings may not have loaded, but the firewall part of it is a Virtual Device Driver (a .vxd file), and it should have loaded at an early stage in the Windows boot-up process - certainly long before there was the possibility of a dial-up Internet connection being called for.

The initiation of a request for an outgoing connection should have been detected by Norton's firewall. The firewall that is built into Windows XP cannot detect when an outgoing connection is being made, because it can only detect and report incoming connections. But the free version of ZoneAlarm, which pioneered the detection and reporting of and the refusal to allow outbound connections, is the best way of detecting and identifying attempts to make unauthorised connections.

ZoneAlarm also keeps a log of Internet connections, which shows which programs have accessed or tried to access the Internet. If set to do so, which is the case by default, it can also bring up a pop-up window that warns when a program wants to access the Internet, and which allows the user to refuse it to do so. That said, Norton Internet Security installs a firewall that has the same security features and therefore it should have given you a similar warning, so, it is advisable to check its settings options, or to remove and reinstall it in case it has been corrupted by a virus or some other malware.

As an experiment, you could try uninstalling Norton Internet Security and installing the free version of ZoneAlarm from zonealarm.com, which provides the warning by default.

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