Showing posts from April, 2012

A+: Common Error Messages and Codes, Windows Vista Boot Errors

Windows Vista uses the bootmgr and BCD files during the startup process. If these files are corrupted or missing, you will see corresponding error messages.
BOOTMGR is missing— This message is displayed if the bootmgr file is missing or corrupt. This black screen will probably also say “Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart,” however doing so will probably have the same results. Since a hard drive’s lifespan is not infinite, it may not be possible to repair this file, so the hard drive will need to be replaced. There are two ways to repair this error. 1. Boot to the System Recovery Options and select the Startup Repair option. This should automatically repair the system and require you to reboot. 2. Boot to the System Recovery Options and select the Command Prompt option, then type the command bootrec /fixboot
The Windows Boot Configuration Data file is missing required information— This message means that either the Windows Boot Manager (Bootmgr) entry is not present in the Boot Conf…

A+: Incorrect/Incompatible Printer Driver

Gibberish printing can have several causes, but one of the most common is a corrupt or incompatible printer driver.

To install a new printer driver for an existing printer, you can use the New Printer Driver wizard (start it with the New Driver button on the printer properties sheet’s Advanced tab). This wizard displays Windows XP printer drivers for a wide variety of printers, and includes the option to load a driver from a driver disk or folder. The Device Manager cannot be used to install or update printer drivers; this must be done within the printer’s Properties page. This method might not work for printers that use a setup program to install the driver, as is common with many inkjet printers. To install a new driver in these cases, download an updated driver from the vendor’s website, uncompress it as directed by the vendor, and run the setup program. You might need to turn off the printer before running setup, as most printers that use a setup program require that the…

A+: Print Spooler Stalled

Windows Vista/XP/2000 run the print spooler as a service. To restart it from the list of local services, use this procedure with Windows Vista/XP/2000:Step 1. Open Computer Management Step 2. Expand Services and Applications and click on Services. Step 3. Scroll to the Print Spooler entry. Step 4. Right click it and select Restart from the menu. Alternatively you can open the Command Prompt and type net stop spooler to stop the print spooler service, and then net start spooler to start it again. This is a common question in job interviews.

A+: More Application Start Resolutions

You might be able to enable troublesome programs to run by using the Program Compatibility Wizard, located in the Accessories menu, to select an older version of Windows to emulate for a particular program or to customize display settings. 
If the program is not listed as being compatible with your version of Windows, contact the vendor for patches, updates, or workarounds to make it work correctly.
If a program worked previously but has stopped working, its software components might be damaged or erased. Reload the program if possible. If the program stopped working after another program was installed or removed, some .dll program components might have been replaced or disabled. You can use the Microsoft command-line tool Regsvr32 to re-register .dll files used by applications.  To learn more about Regsvr32, see Microsoft Knowledge Base articles 249873 and 207132 (available at TechRepublic has a very helpful article on using Regsvr32: http://…

A+: Application Start or Load Failure

Applications might not start or load for several reasons, including an invalid working directory, missing or damaged shortcut, system hardware, system configuration, or operating system version not compatible with program, and program components not properly listed in system registry.
If a program is configured to use a folder that isn’t available, the Invalid Working Directory error might be displayed. Use the appropriate solution from this list: • Adjust the program’s operation to use a folder that is available using the program’s properties sheet. • If the working folder is on a network drive, make sure the user is logged on the network. • If the working folder is a removable-media drive, the user must insert the correct disk or CD-ROM before starting the program. Or, if the drive is present but has been assigned a different drive letter than it was originally assigned by Windows, use Disk Management to assign the correct drive letter. If a program isn’t listed on the Start…

A+: Application Troubleshooting

Application troubleshooting involves dealing with applications that cannot be installed or cannot start.

If you can’t install an application, here are some reasons why—and some solutions: • Not enough disk space on C: drive— Use the Custom Installation option, if available, to choose another drive, delete old files in the default Temp folder, or free up space by deleting .chk files created by ScanDisk or Chkdsk in the root folder. Even if you choose another drive rather than the default system drive (usually C:) for the application, a severe shortage of space on the system drive can still prevent a successful installation. That’s because shared files are often installed on various areas of the default system drive.  • Computer doesn’t meet minimum requirements for RAM or CPU speed— Check for installation program switches to turn off speed and RAM checks, or, better still, upgrade the system to meet or exceed minimums. • No more space available in root folder— A FAT16 drive with…

A+: Driver Signing

Windows device driver files are digitally signed by Microsoft to ensure quality, using an encrypted file segment which can be checked by Windows. The digital signature ensures that the file has met a certain level of testing, and that the file has not been altered. 

In Windows Vista, driver signing is configured automatically, and in Windows Vista and XP, only administrators can install unsigned drivers. In Windows XP, driver signing can be configured to either ignore device drivers that are not digitally signed, display a warning when Windows detects device drivers that are not digitally signed (the default behavior), or prevent installing device drivers without digital signatures. To configure driver signing in Windows XP, open the System Properties window, click the Hardware tab, and select Driver Signing.

A+: I/O Devices

Problems with I/O devices can be caused by Windows configuration issues, BIOS configuration issues (for ports built into the motherboard), cabling problems, and damage to the port itself.  Windows’s primary method of displaying I/O device configurations and problems is Windows Device Manager; to launch it, right-click on Computer or My Computer, select Manage then pick Device Manager
Device Manager displays information about disabled I/O devices, I/O devices that cannot start or run, and other information (such as USB device and hub power, hardware resource usage such as IRQ, DMA, I/O port address, and memory address, power management and technical information such as PnP identification and others).
Windows cannot display information for ports and devices that have been disabled in the system BIOS. If a port that is physically present in the system is not visible in Device Manager, or if the port has reduced functionality (for example, a system with USB 2.0 ports lists o…

A+: DxDiag

When it comes to making sure your devices are working properly, one of the most important is the video card, and a utility you can use to analyze and diagnose the video card is DxDiag. To run the DxDiag program, open the Run prompt and type dxdiag.  First, the utility asks if you want it to check whether the corresponding drivers are digitally signed. A digitally signed driver means it is one that has been verified by Microsoft as compatible with the operating system. After the utility opens, you can find out what version of DirectX you are running. 
DirectX is a group of multimedia programs that enhance video and audio, including Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectSound, and so on. With the DxDiag tool, you can view all the DirectX files that have been loaded, check their date, and discern whether any problems were found with the files. You can also find out information about your video and sound card, what level of acceleration they are set to, and test DirectX components suc…

A+: Using Graphics Acceleration Settings to Troubleshoot

To determine the best setting to use for display problems, try this procedure:

Step 1. Start the computer.
Step 2. Open the Troubleshooting or Performance dialog box as described in the previous section. Step 3. Slide the acceleration pointer one notch to the left from its current position. Step 4. Click Apply, OK, and then OK again to close the Display Properties dialog box. Step 5. Use your normal software and perform typical tasks.
If the computer now performs acceptably (no more crashes), continue to use this setting until you can obtain and install updated drivers. If the computer continues to have problems, repeat Steps 2–5 and move the pointer one step to the left each time until the problems go away or until you can install updated drivers.

Setting: All the way right
Effect: Full acceleration
Long-term solution: None needed

Disable write combiing, a display speedup method, for stability when using any setting but all the way right. Re-enable write combining after installing update …

A+: System lockups

System lockups can occur for a variety of reasons, including: • Corrupted or outdated display, mouse, or DirectX drivers • Overheating • Memory configuration problems in the BIOS A computer that won’t start except in VGA or Safe Mode or has frequent lockups or screen corruption when you move your mouse needs upgraded display, mouse, or DirectX drivers. However, as a workaround, you can reduce the video acceleration settings.
To do this in Windows Vista, access the Display Adapter Troubleshooter: Step 1. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize. Step 2. Click the Display Settings link at the bottom of the window. Step 3. Click the Advanced Settings button. Step 4. Select the Troubleshoot tab and click the Change settings button. To access the Windows XP dialog: Step 1. Open the Display Properties window. Step 2. Click the Settings tab. Step 3. Click the Advanced button. Step 4. Click the Troubleshoot tab, which adjusts hardware acceleration settings, and can be used to determine whe…

A+: Auto Restart Errors

An Auto Restart error is a STOP/BSOD error that immediately reboots the computer. There is no difference between an Auto Restart error and a STOP/BSOD error itself. The difference is that a STOP/BSOD error triggers auto restart on systems that are configured to restart the computer when a STOP error occurs.

If a system needs to be available at all times and STOP/BSOD errors are rare, it might be preferable to configure the system to restart automatically (the default is to leave the system stopped until it is manually restarted). To change this option, follow these steps: Step 1. Open the System Properties window. Step 2. Click the Advanced tab. Step 3. Click Settings under the Startup and Recovery section. Step 4. To enable auto restart, click the empty checkbox for Automatically Restart under the System Failure section. To disable auto restart if it is already enabled, clear this checkbox. To enable diagnosis of a STOP/BSOD error when auto restart is enabled, make sure the Writ…

A+: STOP (Blue Screen) Errors

STOP errors (also known as blue screen of death or BSOD errors) can occur either during start up or after the system is running. The BSOD nickname is used because the background is normally blue (or sometimes black) with the error message in white text.

Regardless of when a STOP/BSOD error occurs, your system is halted by default. To restart the computer, you must turn off the system and turn it back on. But, before you do that, record the error message text and other information so you can research the problem if it recurs. It is possible for the system to restart on its own.
BSOD errors can be caused by any of the following: • Incompatible or defective hardware or software— Start the system in Safe Mode and uninstall the last hardware or software installed. Acquire updates before you reinstall the hardware or software. Exchange or test memory. • Registry problems— Select Last Known Good Configuration as described earlier in this chapter and see if the system will start. • Viru…

A+: Checking Configurations and Device Manager

To check system configuration, use the following methods:

    • To check integrated hardware, restart the system, start the BIOS configuration program, and examine the appropriate settings.
    • To check Windows version, memory size, and processor speed, open the System properties sheet in Windows. The General tab lists this information.
    • To check hardware resources, driver versions, and device status, open the Device Manager and open the properties sheet for any given device.
    • To check program information, open the application program and use its Help, About option to view program version and service pack or update level.

Common Problems

The following issues discuss how to deal with common computer problems including

    • STOP (blue screen) errors
    • Auto restart errors
    • System lockups
    • I/O device problems
    • Application install or start/load problems
    • Stalled print spooler
    • Incorrect or incompatible print driver

A+: Recording Symptoms and Error Codes

If you don’t find event logs useful, services are running properly, and your tests rule out power and interference, you must proceed to tests that focus on the hardware or software that appears to be the most likely cause of the problem.

Which test or diagnostic routine is the best one to start with? Before you perform any specific tests, review the clues you gathered from the client. Here’s an example: a document in Microsoft Word would print to a laser printer, but a project in Adobe InDesign would not.

Since all Windows-based programs use the same Windows printer driver, we can rule out the printer driver. Printer hardware or driver failures would prevent all software programs from printing; however, in this case, printing works from some programs but not others when the same printer and printer drivers are in use. Before you can solve this problem, you need more information about the printer. It’s time to use the printer’s self-test (a technique listed earlier in Table 15-5) for m…

A+: Identifying the Problem: Logs and Services

If the client interview alone doesn’t point you in the right direction, check event logs and services.

Event Logs You can view event logs by running the Computer Management Console (Press {Windows+R} to open the Run prompt and type compmgmt.msc). Event logs are stored in branches of the Event Viewer. Look for Error messages (marked with a white X on a red circle) first, then Warnings (yellow triangle). Frequent errors or warnings that point to the same program or device can indicate a serious problem.


Many Windows features, such as printing, wireless networking, and others, depend upon services. To see if a needed service is running, open the Services and Applications node of the Computer Management Console and click Services. Check the Status column for the service needed. To start a stopped service, right-click it and select Start. Alternatively, you could click the Start button on the tool bar, or double-click the service and click the Start button from the Properties wind…

A+: Analyzing the Problem

Depending on the clues you receive in the initial interview, you should go to the client’s work area prepared to perform a variety of tests. You must look for four major issues when evaluating the customer’s environment:

    • Event logs and services
    • Symptoms and error codes (might require you to try to reproduce the problem)
    • Power issues
    • Interference sources

Your evaluation of the most likely sources of problems will lead you to specific tests, and you might need to perform several tests to rule out certain problems. Examples include:

PowerMultimeter and power supply load device, circuit tester
BIOS beep, error codesList of BIOS codes and POST card
Printer self testPrinter, paper
Windows bootlogStart Windows w/ bootlog enabled
I/O Port testsConnect loopback plugs, run third-party diagnostics
Video testsThird-party diagnostics
Hardware resourcesWindows Device Manager
Device driversWindows Device Manager

A+: The User Interview

The number-one question you’re trying to answer is, “What changed since the last time it worked?” Sometimes the client can tell you what changed, and sometimes you must “ask” the computer what changed.
During the client interview, you need to ask questions to determine the following information:
    • What hardware or software appears to have a problem?— The user might have an opinion about this, but don’t be unduly swayed by a statement such as “the printer’s broken”; the device or software the user believes to be at fault might simply reflect a problem coming from another source.
    • What other hardware or software was in use at the time of the problem?— The user probably will answer these types of questions in terms of open applications, but you will also want to look at the taskbar and system tray in Windows for other programs or routines that are running. Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del will bring up a task list in Windows that has the most complete information about programs and subrou…

A+: Diagnosing and Troubleshooting Other Problems

The ability to diagnose and troubleshoot problems depends upon a combination of technical skills and the ability to interact with clients. Often, a combination of what clients tell you (or don’t tell you) and your own detective skills are needed to solve a computer problem.

Identifying the Problem: User Interview

The client interview is the all-important first step in solving any computer trouble-shooting situation. During this interview, you need to determine the following facts:

    • The software in use at the time of the problem
    • The hardware in use at the time of the problem

    • The task the customer was trying to perform at the time of the problem
    • The environment in the office or work area at the time of the problem
    • If new software or hardware has been added to the computer or LAN
    • If any changes have been made to the system configuration
    • If other users are having the same or similar problems

A+: Using the Emergency Repair Disk (Windows 2000)

Windows 2000 has a feature called Emergency Repair that can fix some startup problems. The Windows 2000 Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) is created with the Windows 2000 Backup program. Run it by:

    1. Start the system with the Windows CD; if the system can’t boot from the CD, use the Windows setup floppy disks to start the system and insert the CD when prompted.
    2. Select Repair when prompted, and then Emergency Repair.
    3. Choose Fast Repair when prompted. Fast repair performs all three options provided with Manual repair: Inspect Startup Environment; Verify System Files; and Inspect Boot Sector. Manual repair lets you select which of these to run.
    4. Insert the Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) (if available) when prompted. This disk contains a log file of the location and installed options for this copy of Windows.
    5. After the process replaces damaged or missing files, follow the prompts to remove the ERD and restart the system.

A+: Using Automated System Recovery (ASR) (Windows XP)

Windows XP Professional does not include a true disaster-recovery backup program. However, the Automated System Recovery (ASR) option in NTBackup does enable you to restore the system state (user accounts, hard disk configuration, network configuration, video settings, hardware configuration, software settings, operating system boot files). To create an ASR backup with NTBackup, follow these steps: Step 1. Switch to Advanced Mode (if NTBackup starts in Wizard mode) and click the Automated System Recovery Wizard button Step 2. The Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard’s opening dialog appears. Click Next to continue. Step 3. Specify where to store the backup, and click Next. Step 4. Click Finish to complete the wizard. The backup starts. Provide a floppy disk when prompted to store configuration files. The floppy disk created by the ASR Wizard contains three files that store information about storage devices (asr.sif), Plug and Play (PnP) information (asrpnp.sif), and a list…

A+: Using Windows Vista’s Complete PC Backup

Complete PC Backup is the Vista successor to Windows XP’s Automated System Recovery. It backs up an entire image of your system to the removable media of your choice, for example DVD. To create a backup of your PC with Vista’s Complete PC Backup, follow these steps:

    Step 1. Start the Complete PC Backup by going to Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Backup Status and Configuration.
    Step 2. Click the Complete PC Backup button.
    Step 3. Select Create a Backup Now and follow the directions. Have media ready that can hold an image of your operating system, for example DVD-R. Be ready, this will be a sizeable image.

To restore a system from the backup, follow these steps:

    Step 1. Insert the installation disc, and then restart the computer. (Make sure that the DVD drive is listed first in the BIOS boot order.)
    Step 2. Press any key when prompted in order to boot off of the DVD.
    Step 3. Choose your language settings and then click Next.

A+: Using System Restore with Advanced Boot Options

If you need to recover users’ files from a system that cannot boot, even in Safe Mode, consider making a BartPE <> CD or DVD from the same version of Windows, and use its file manager to copy files or perform data recovery. Also, you might attach the drive into another PC and use the other PC's OS to access the drive.

If you cannot boot into Windows XP, try starting your computer using the Safe Mode option and then click the System Restore link. Click Restore My Computer to an Earlier Time, select a previous restore point, and click Next. This will return your system to a previous state.

You can also start a System Restore with Safe Mode with the Command Prompt option. If you are prompted to select an operating system, use the arrow keys to select the appropriate operating system for your computer, and then press Enter. Log on as an administrator or with an account that has administrator credentials. At the command prompt, type %systemroot%\system32\resto…

A+: Commands of the Recovery Console

attribchange file and folder attributes
batchrun commands listed in text file
bootcfgboot file (boot.ini) configuration-recovery. Also rebuilds lost boot.ini
chdirshows current folder name or changes current folder. Use quotes around folder names which have
spaces. Also can use cd instead of chdir
chkdskchecks disk, shows status report. use /r option to repair bad sectors
clsclear screen
copycopy single file to another folder or drive. Auto-uncompresses files from Windows CD/DVD
during copying. Can't copy to removable media
deletedelete a single file. Also can use del instead of delete
dirlists files and subfolders in a folder with file and folder attributes for each item
disabledisable device driver or system service. Helpful if the bootlog, nbtlog.txt shows a service
or device driver keeps system from starting
diskpartmanage/add/remove partition(s) on hard drive(s). Can use command line switches or interactively
enablestart or enable a  device driver or system service
exitexits Rec…

A+: The Recovery Console (XP and 2000 only)

The Windows Recovery Console is a special command-line interface that is designed for copying files and performing disk repairs. In Windows 2000, you can use the Recovery Console as an alternative to the Emergency Repair process, such as if you need to restore only one system file. Windows XP lacks the Emergency Repair provision, so understanding how to use the Recovery Console is even more important.

Use Recovery Console in XP and 2000 when the system cannot start from the hard disk because of missing or corrupted boot files, or when other types of missing system files prevent the computer from starting in Safe Mode.

To start Windows XP’s Recovery Console, you have two options:

    • Option 1—Boot your system with the Windows XP CD and run the Recovery Console as a repair option.

    • Option 2—While the system is working properly, install the Recovery Console from the Windows XP CD-ROM. It will appear automatically as a startup option when you restart your computer.

To start Recover…

A+: Options for System Recovery

Option:Startup Repair
Described: Certain problems are automatically fixed when clicked, such as damaged or missing system files which are preventing correct Windows startup. Startup Repair scans your PC for the problem(s) and then tries to repair it so your machine starts correctly again.

Option: System Restore
Described: Roll your system files back to an earlier time. It undoes system changes without changing data and personal files, such as game saves, email, photos and documents. Your should be careful when running System Restore in Safe Mode, as the restore can't be undone, but you can re-run System Restore and choose an earlier restore point.

Option:Windows Complete PC Restore
Described: Restores HD contents from a backup, for Business and Ultimate versions of Vista only.

Option:Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool
Described: Scans the PC for memory HW errors.

Option: Command Prompt (replaces the XP/2000 Recovery Console)
Described: For advanced users; use to do recovery oprtations plus oth…

A+: Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE)

Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is a set of tools included in Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7. It takes the place of the Recovery Console used in Windows XP/2000. Also known as System Recovery Options, WinRE’s purpose is to recover Windows from errors that prevent it from booting. There are two possible ways to access WinRE: • Option 1—Booting to the Windows Vista DVD • Option 2—Booting to a special partition on the hard drive that has WinRE installed The first option is more common with an individual computer that has Windows Vista installed; for example, if you performed a clean installation with the standard Windows Vista DVD and made no modifications to it. To start WinRE, make sure that the DVD drive is first in the boot order of the BIOS, boot to the Windows Vista DVD (as if you were starting the installation), choose your language settings and click Next, and then select Repair Your Computer, which you will find at the lower-left corner of the scre…

A+: F8, typical problems and best choice for startup options

There's only a small window of time available to press F8; it’s right between the BIOS and when the normal operating system boots. Press F8 repeatedly right after the BIOS POST begins. It is important to note that the Last Known Good Configuration option will only be helpful before a successful logon occurs. After a user logs on, that becomes the last known good logon. It is recommended that you attempt to repair a computer with the Advanced Boot Options before using Windows Vista’s System Recovery Options, or Windows XP/2000’s Recovery Console. Now, here are some typical situations:

 Windows versions: Vista, XP, 2000
 Problem: Windows won't start after new HW/SW install
 Startup option: Last Known Good Configuration
 Description: Resets Windows to last known working configuration; must reinstall HW and/or SW after the Last Known Good time.

 Windows versions: Vista, XP, 2000
 Problem: Windows won't start after upgrading a device driver
 Startup option: Safe mode

A+: Advanced Boot Options and the Windows GUI

Options to help diagnose and troubleshoot 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 opti…