A+: Troubleshooting and Maintaining Windows

Everyone has seen or heard of a Windows error. And it’s not just Windows; every operating system will fail at some point—it’s just a matter of time. Windows has lots of different kinds of errors, from boot errors, to non-critical application errors, to complete failures of Windows known as stop errors. A good troubleshooter will be able to discern whether the problem is software or hardware related and will analyze and repair all of these problems. In an effort to aid the PC technician, Windows offers tools such as the Windows Repair Environment, Recovery Console, Advanced Boot Options menu, and the Microsoft Help and Support, formerly known as the Knowledge Base (MKSB), which we will refer to often in this chapter. The Help and Support website is chock full of articles about all kinds of problems you’ll see in the field; it can be accessed at http://support.microsoft.com. We’ll cover all these tools and much more throughout this chapter in an attempt to make you a well-rounded troubleshooter.

A damaged Windows installation prevents the computer from getting any work done. It is important for a technician to know how to recover an operating system by using the Advanced Boot Options menu and recovery environments, such as Windows Vista’s WinRE and Windows XP’s Recovery Console. A technician should also know how to restore a system using Windows Vista’s Complete PC Backup, and Windows XP’s Automated System Restore, as well as the System Restore utility. Understanding the tools provided in Windows for troubleshooting the operating system will help you pass the A+ Certification exams and solve plenty of real-world problems as well.

Recovering an Operating System

If Windows will not start properly, you have a variety of options you can use to get it working again:

    • If the problem is caused by the most recent change to Windows, you can use the Last Known Good Configuration startup option to get things working again.

    • If you are not sure of the problem, you can use Safe Mode or other advanced boot options to help diagnose the problem.

    • If Windows will not boot, you can use the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) for Windows Vista, or the Recovery Console for Windows XP/2000 to fix the problem.

    • If Windows will not boot and needs to be restored, there are various tools that can be implemented including Complete PC Backup (Vista), ASR System Restore (XP), and the Emergency Repair Disk (2000).

If you are unable to start Windows Vista/XP/2000 but don’t see an error message, the problem could be caused by a driver or startup program, video driver problems, or problems with the system kernel. Windows offers various advanced boot options to help you correct startup problems. To access these startup options, press the F8 key immediately after the computer starts up; this will bring up the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu (which you may also see referred to as advanced startup options).