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A+: Advanced Boot Options

Windows Vista/XP/2000 offers the following startup options as part of the Advanced Boot Options menu:

    • Safe Mode— Starts system with a minimal set of drivers; can be used to start System Restore or to load Windows GUI for diagnostics.

    • Safe Mode with Networking— Starts system with a minimal set of drivers and enables network support.

    • Safe Mode with Command Prompt— Starts system with a minimal set of drivers but loads command prompt instead of the Windows GUI.

    • Enable Boot Logging— Creates a ntbtlog.txt file.

    • Enable low-resolution video (640 × 480)— Uses a standard VGA driver in place of a GPU-specific display driver, but uses all other drivers as normal. (This is called Enable VGA Mode in Windows XP/2000.)

    • Last Known Good Configuration—Starts the system with the last configuration known to work; useful for solving problems caused by newly installed hardware or software.

    • Directory Services Restore Mode— This is used to restore a domain controller’s active directory (Windows Server). Even though it is listed, it is not used in Windows Vista/XP/2000.

    • Debugging Mode— This is an advanced diagnostics tool that enables the use of a debug program to examine the system kernel for troubleshooting.

    • Disable automatic restart on system failure (Vista only)— Prevents Windows from automatically restarting if an error causes Windows to fail. Choose this option only if Windows is stuck in a loop where Windows fails, attempts to restart, and fails again.

    • Disable driver signature enforcement (Vista only)— Allows drivers containing improper signatures to be installed.

    • Start Windows Normally— This can be used to boot to regular Windows. This option is listed in case a user inadvertently presses F8, but does not want to use any of the Advanced Boot Options.

If Windows Vista fails to start properly and then restarts automatically, it will normally display the Windows Error Recovery screen, and give you the following options: Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, Safe Mode with Command Prompt, Last Known Good Configuration, and Start Windows Normally. This means that Windows has acknowledged some sort of error or improper shut down and offers a truncated version of the Advanced Options Boot menu.



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).



A+: Troubleshooting the Windows Vista or Windows XPUpgrade

If a Windows XP upgrade from Windows 2000 goes badly, you can uninstall Windows XP and revert back to Windows 2000 by using the Uninstall Windows XP option in the Add or Remove Programs icon in the Control Panel (Classic mode). However, if after upgrading to Windows Vista you find that you want to go back to Windows XP, you will need to back up your data and re-install XP as a clean installation. There is currently no uninstall option in the Control Panel for Windows Vista.

In general, try the following tips to make the upgrade go smoothly.

If you are unable to start the upgrade, check the ffree disk space— You need 15 GB free for Windows Vista, and 1.5GB free for Windows XP at the minimum; more is better. Also check the requirements posted previously.

    If you receive other types of errors during the upgrade, such as blue screen “STOP” errors, see http://support.microsoft.com and search for the specific error code.

    For a list of specific errors concerning a Windows Vista upgrade, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/930743.

    A useful resource for Windows XP installation/upgrade errors is http://labmice.techtarget.com/windowsxp/Install/installbugs.htm.

    A list of Windows 2000 to Windows XP upgrade problems and solutions is available at http://labmice.techtarget.com/windowsxp/Install/win2kupgrade.htm.

Various problems can take place after you upgrade to Windows Vista or XP from older versions, including

    • Can’t connect to network or Internet resources

    • Can’t remove programs with Uninstall

    • Certain systems and hardware don’t work properly

You should carefully study Microsoft Knowledge Base articles and any tips from your computer vendor to determine if your particular system might have problems with the upgrade to Windows Vista or XP.

Because some upgrade problems can prevent you from accessing the Internet for solutions, you should make sure you have performed the following before you start the upgrade process:

    • Checked your hardware, applications, and utilities for compatibility using the proper compatibility tools mentioned earlier

    • Downloaded updated drivers and application patches

    • Removed or disabled applications and utilities that cannot be updated to Windows Vista or XP–compatible versions

    • Updated the system BIOS to handle the full capacity of your hard disk and removed nonstandard drivers such as EZ-BIOS or Disk Manager Drive Overlay

EZ-BIOS and Disk Manager Drive Overlay have been provided as part of older versions of vendor-supplied disk setup programs from most major drive vendors (Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, and so forth). Contact the maker of your drive for details of how to remove the driver (which is no longer necessary after you update your system BIOS or add a helper card to handle the full capacity of your hard disk). Keep in mind that you should make a full backup of your hard disk in case something goes wrong.

One final point: Many users agree that upgraded computers just don’t seem to function as quickly as computers that had a fresh installation. If you can back up the data and settings and re-install applications, consider doing a fresh install whenever possible.


A+: Upgrading to Windows XP from 2000

To start the Window XP upgrade process if you want to replace your old version of Windows, do the following:

    Step 1. Insert your Windows XP CD into the CD-ROM drive while your old version is running.

    Step 2. Unless you’ve disabled Autorun, the Windows XP splash screen is displayed. Choose Install Windows XP, Perform Additional Tasks, or Check System Compatibility.

    Step 3. If you haven’t used the Windows Upgrade Advisor on this system, click Check System Compatibility as discussed earlier in this chapter.

    Step 4. After completing the Upgrade Advisor check (if necessary), click Install Windows XP.

    Step 5. Select Upgrade (the default setting) to change your installed version of Windows to Windows XP, which enables you to use your existing software and settings without reinstallation.

    During the upgrade process, you can convert the file system to NTFS. Do this to save space on your hard disk (NTFS is more efficient than FAT32) and if you want features such as encryption, file/folder compression, and better security. As an alternative to converting the file system during installation, use the command-line convert.exe program to perform this task after you verify that the Windows XP upgrade works properly.

    Step 6. Read the license agreement, click I Accept, and click Next to continue.

    Step 7. Enter the product key from the back of the CD package and click Next to continue.

    Step 8. The installation process begins; a display on the left side gives an estimate of how long the process will take until completion. The computer restarts several times during the process.

    Step 9. At the end of the process, the Welcome to Microsoft Windows dialog box is displayed. You can use it to activate your copy of Windows and set up users.

    Step 10. After you complete the steps listed in the Welcome dialog box, the Windows XP desktop is displayed.


A+: Upgrading to Windows Vista from XP or 2000

There are two installation options when attempting to upgrade to Windows Vista. The first is an “upgrade in-place” which means that you can install Windows Vista and retain your applications, files, and settings. This is usually how an upgrade is accomplished from Windows XP. The second is a clean install. This means that you should use Windows Easy Transfer to copy files and settings to an external source before starting the “upgrade.” This second option is necessary if you wish to upgrade from Windows 2000 Professional to Vista. Keep in mind that once a computer has been upgraded to Windows Vista, it cannot be “downgraded” back to XP or 2000, the way that older Microsoft operating systems could be; the only way to revert back to the older OS would be to reformat the hard drive and reinstall the older OS. For more information about the upgrade options, mapped to the various operating system editions, see the following link: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/get/upgrade-your-pc-options.aspx.

To start the Window Vista upgrade process from Windows XP or 2000, do the following:

    Step 1. Insert your Windows Vista DVD into the DVD-ROM drive while your old version of Windows is running.

    Step 2. Unless you’ve disabled Autorun, the Windows Vista splash screen is displayed. If you do have autorun disabled, go to your DVD-ROM drive and double-click setup.exe. It is recommended that you choose Check Compatibility Online.

    Step 3. After checking compatibility (if necessary), click Install Now.

    Step 4. Next is the updates screen. It is recommended that you select the first option Go Online and Get the Latest Updates for Installation. There is also an option to send anonymous information back to Microsoft during the install. If you do not want to do this, leave the I Want to Help Make Windows Installation Better checkbox blank.

    Step 5. Type in the product key. This should have come with your upgrade disc.

    Step 6. Next, accept the terms of the license (otherwise the installation will end).

    Step 7. In the next window you have two options: upgrade or custom. Select the first option to upgrade the previous version of Windows to Windows Vista. If you receive any type of compatibility report window that says you have potential issues, consider stopping the installation for now, and finding out what hardware or software needs to be replaced using the websites listed previously. Then start the upgrade again when you have fixed any issues. In some cases when you receive a compatibility report, the installation will not let you continue, and in other cases you can proceed at your own risk; but be warned, these devices or applications might not function when the upgrade completes.

    Step 8. Next, Vista will copy files, gather files, expand files, install features and updates, and finally, complete the upgrade. This might require several restarts and will take at least several minutes to several hours to finish, depending on the computer’s resources. Let the upgrade continue unhindered until you get to Step 9.

    Step 9. After the final restart you should see the Help Protect Windows Automatically screen.

    Step 10. Then you will need to configure the time zone, time, and date.

    Step 11. Finally, select the location for the computer, and click Start to begin using Windows Vista.

Another upgrade option for Windows Vista is called Windows Anytime Upgrade. This allows a user to upgrade from a lower edition of Vista to a higher edition, for example from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows Vista Ultimate.


A+: Requirements for upgrades

Note: These official requirements are _wildly_ optimistic. Faster and bigger is _much_ better.

Official Hardware Requirements for Vista/XP

CPU: 800MHz/233MHz
RAM: 512MB/64MB
HD space: 15GB in 20GB partition/1.5GB in a 2GB partition

Some older systems might require processor, memory, or hard disk upgrades to be qualified to run Windows Vista or XP. You should make sure your computer meets or exceeds these standards before you start the upgrade process.

Because upgrading to a newer version of Windows retains your existing application software and settings, you should also make sure that both your hardware and software are compatible with Windows Vista or XP.

    • For Windows Vista:

    • Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor— This is accessed by clicking the Check Compatibility Online button when you first insert the Windows Vista DVD. Of course, the computer that you want to upgrade will need to have Internet access. The direct link for this site is http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx.

    • Windows Vista Compatibility Center— http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/.

    • Windows Vista Logo’d Products List— http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/Default.aspx?m=v.

    • For Windows XP:

    • Upgrade Advisor on Windows XP CD— You can run the Upgrade Advisor from the Windows XP CD. Click Check System Compatibility from the Welcome to Windows XP menu, and then click Check My System Automatically (note that this upgrade advisor is no longer available for download from the Microsoft website). After the analysis is complete, the Upgrade Analyzer displays any incompatible hardware or software it finds.

    • Windows XP Logo’d Products List (formerly the HCL)— http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/Default.aspx?m=x.

Before you upgrade to Windows Vista or XP, you should also download any new device drivers or new application updates that you need. Create a folder for your updates on your system and uncompress them if necessary so they can be used during the upgrade process. And of course, back up any important files, email, and settings: for example, Internet Explorer favorites, your email program’s blocked sender list, or use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard for the bulk of the files and settings on your computer.


A+: Upgrading Operating Systems

During the operational life of a computer, it might be necessary to upgrade the installed operating system to a newer version. The 2009 A+ Certification exam objectives include three such scenarios, known as upgrade paths:

    • Upgrading Windows XP to Windows Vista
    • Upgrading Windows 2000 to Windows Vista
    • Upgrading Windows 2000 to Windows XP

If you’ve installed Windows XP on a system that is marginal (slow processor, small hard disk, and so forth), you can remove it if you find it’s not performing satisfactorily. Try it and see how you like it. If it’s not working for you, open Add/Remove Programs within the Control Panel to locate the uninstall program. If you want to install Windows XP on a system without hassles, don’t activate it until you’re sure you’re happy. Windows XP doesn’t need to be activated until 30 days have passed from the install date, so take your time and think it over.


A+: Vista's Install Log Files

For Windows Vista matters become more complicated when it comes to log files. The Vista installation is broken down into four phases:
Downlevel phase— This is the phase that is run from within the previous operating system, meaning when you start the installation from the DVD, in Windows XP for example.
Windows Preinstallation Environment phase— Also known as Windows PE, this phase occurs after the restart at the end of the downlevel phase. If installing to a new hard drive, this phase occurs when you first boot the computer to the Windows Vista DVD.
Online configuration phase— The online configuration phase starts when a user receives the following message: “Please wait a moment while Windows prepares to start for the first time.” Hardware support is installed during this phase.
Windows Welcome phase— During this phase, a computer name is selected for the computer, and the Windows System Assessment Tool (Winsat.exe) checks the performance of the computer. This is the final phase before the user first logs on.
There are log files for each phase; they are pretty much the same log files but in different locations. However, we are most concerned with the last two phases. For the most part in these two phases, the log files are in the same location.

  C:\Windows\Panther\Setuperr.log records errors (if any) in installation; check first if installs fail. A zero-byte file shows no install errors.

  C:\Windows\Panther\Setupact.log stores install action data.

  C:\Windows\Panther\miglog.xml has the user directory structure data, including SIDs (security identifiers).

  C:\Windows\inf\Setupapi.dev.log has Plug and Play devices and driver install data.

  C:\Windows\inf\Setupapi.app.log has app install data.

  C:\Windows\Panther\PostGatherPnPlist.log has device data captured after online configuraiton.

  C:\Windows\Panther\PreGatherPnPList.log has device data captured during the online configuration phase.

  C:\Windows\Performance\Winsat\Winsat.log has Windows System Assessment Tool performance testing results from the Windows Welcome phase.

For a list of all log files within all phases of the Windows Vista installation, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927521.

You’ll notice that Vista doesn’t have a setuplog.txt file like XP does. This is because there is no text portion to the installation of Windows Vista.

How can you view these files if your system will not start? If Windows XP/2000 is installed on an NTFS drive, you can use the Windows boot disks or CD to start the system, launch the Recovery Console, and view the files with the More command. For example, use the command More setuplog.txt to display the contents of the Setuplog.txt file. Windows Vista does not use the Recovery Console any longer; instead you can boot to the DVD to the System Recovery Options menu and open a command prompt session. 


A+: Verifying Installation

At the end of the installation process, you should test the system by running Windows Explorer, running built-in programs such as Paint and WordPad, and connecting to the Internet. Make sure you don’t see popup error messages or errors within the Event Viewer. If the installation process doesn’t complete properly, you should check the log files to determine the problem.

Let’s talk about Windows XP log files first. In Windows XP, most of these files are plain text, and are stored in the %systemroot% folder of the operating system. The %systemroot% folder is a variable that indicates the folder where the operating system was installed. In most cases this will be C:\Windows unless otherwise specified below.

  Setuperr.log records errors (if any) in installation; check first if installs fail. A zero-byte file shows no install errors.

  Setuplog.txt stores text-mode install errirs.

  Setupact.log stores errors during GUI-mode. Copy it as soon as Windows is installed, as subsequent hotfixes and updates append to the file, but there are no internal date and time stamps for those changes.

  Setupapi.log stores events triggered by .INF files (normally hardware installs) with earliest events at the top.

  Setup.log is used by the Recovery Console to determine how Windows installed originally when a repair is needed.

  Comsetup.log has install info about Optional Component Manager and COM+ components.

  C:\Windows\debug\NetSetup.log has information about workgroup/domain memberships.


A+: Providing Device Drivers During Installation

In Windows Vista, device drivers are added within the same screen where partitioning was done by clicking Load Driver. These could be drivers for SATA or SCSI controllers, or other special hard disk controllers. These drivers can come from floppy disk, CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. Microsoft recommends that before you install, you check if the devices you wish to use are listed at the Windows Vista Compatibility Center (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/) or at the Windows Logo’d Products List (http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/Default.aspx?m=v). If you click Load Driver and cannot supply a proper driver for Windows Vista, or if the computer cannot read the media where the driver is stored, you will have to exit the installation program.

In Windows XP/2000, very early in the installation process, the status line at the bottom of the screen displays a prompt to press F6 if you need to provide drivers for the drive that will be used for the installation, such as an SATA or SCSI hard disk, a PATA hard disk connected to an adapter card, or a RAID array. As soon as the Windows XP or 2000 setup program starts, you have only a few moments to press F6 if you need to install a third-party SCSI or RAID driver (or Serial ATA driver).

If you don’t provide a driver when prompted and Windows cannot display your drive as an installation target, exit the installation program, restart it, and provide the driver when prompted. The driver must be provided on a floppy disk. Windows XP/2000 will not recognize a driver provided on a USB flash memory drive, CD, or DVD. Be sure to check for hardware compatibility with the Windows XP Logo’d list (formerly the HCL): http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/Default.aspx?m=x.

If the SATA host adapter used by your hard disk is incorporated into the system chipset on the motherboard, you might not need to provide a driver.