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  1. #1
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    Fix that problem without reinstalling Windows




    BEST PRACTICES

    Fix that problem without reinstalling Windows


    By Lincoln Spector

    It's that tech-support nightmare. You've barely described your computer's troubles when your "support" advises formatting the hard drive and reinstalling Windows.

    Hold on, don't do that! If Windows at least boots before your problems begin, I've got six tricks you can try before reinstalling the operating system.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2011/04/07/06 (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
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    I liked your story on fixing the problem without reinstalling Windows. I also have another weapon available. I backup my Win 7 boot drive daily with Acronis True Image Home 2011. It has saved me a couple of times when nothing else could.

    I note you suggest MSCONFIG to clean up programs that automatically start. It's OK but it doesn't fix all autostarts. I installed ASUS AI Suite II on my machine for a specific purpose and I noticed it kept starting and sitting in the System Tray. It wasn't in MSCONFIG. After a bit of thinking I ran Sysinternal's Autoruns from the website and it picked up that AI Suite was being started by the Task Manager. I unticked it and that fixed that. While I was there I cleaned up several other annoyances or unuseful pieces of software.
    Bob
    Win 8.1 Pro - IE11, Office Pro 2013, Acronis TIH 2014
    Win 10 Pro preview 10162

  3. #3
    New Lounger
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    I recently had a problem with my Windows 7 Pro System. The system was freezing, randomly. No blue screen or memory error. Just freezing without warning and I had to constantly reboot. Needless to say: quite annoying. I decided to run SpinRite, which I had done monthly for years, but in the last couple of months just simply didn't have the time. SpinRite found some defective sectors on my disk, recovered them, and my system was as good as new. So you can add to the list, defective hard drives. I usually replace them after SpinRite recommends due to many read/write errors. You can avoid a new installation by just simply replacing your hard drive before they become unreadable.

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    2 Star Lounger
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    I do use CCleaner and it is good but I have for years paid for JV16 Powertools and it always amuses to run it after CC and find MANY more registry errors. I'd recommend it to anyone - with the caveat that you still need your normal, trusted security tools. I switched from ZoneAlarm to Comodo a couple years ago and from Eset Nod and Sypbot to MSE a month ago, though given Fred Langa's article in the current issue of Secrets, I am dumping MSE and going back to Eset, I hope they'll still have me after so unceremoniously dumping them for what Fred proved is now yet another deficient Microsoft product, MSE. I mean, really, I don't know what I was thinking in trusting ANY MS product no matter who recommends it, lol... :^)

  5. #5
    2 Star Lounger
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    There's also the problem of a bad boot sector for whatever reason. If Windows strangely won't boot properly anymore, you can put in the original Windows CD and boot from that. I forget the details, but before you start to reinstall Windows select an option to repair the boot sector.

    If you use backup software, and have created a boot disk for that, many of those also will repair the boot sector.

  6. #6
    New Lounger
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    CCleaner includes a module to disable startups (Tools -> Startup) -- no need to use MSCONFIG at all....

  7. #7
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    "For a list of all of your autoloaders, click the Start orb (Start, then Run in XP), type msconfig, and press Enter. Then click the Start tab. Experiment with unchecking some, restarting, rechecking, and unchecking others to see which are causing problems."

    Rather than msconfig you might use "
    Autoruns for Windows" by By Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell (Microsoft)
    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/s.../bb963902.aspx

    "This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them. These programs include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys. You can configure Autoruns to show other locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and much more. Autoruns goes way beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows Me and XP."

  8. #8
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    I've run CCleaner for years and just let it delete all the registry errors it finds. Honestly I don't even bother with a backup anymore (at least not for CCleaner, I still do regular backups). JV16 is much more powerful and can in fact damage the registry but CCleaner is much safer. I should also mention PTLite which is the free version of JV16. The free version is to my knowledge equally powerful but it's also without full support and probably not as nice of a GUI (Graphical User Interface). These things of course suit a Nerd like myself just fine.

    For Autorun I used to use CCleaner extensively but I recently started using Soluto. Soluto's still in beta and it does have it quirks but it's proven to be very powerful and offers not only to stop software from autoloading but also to delay it. Also one of it's chief features is to stop newer versions of software from reactivating their autoruns (which no other tool I know of can do that). I've had only a few instances where this didn't work.

    As far as MSE goes it was a stupid blunder (which MS is known for) but it's one any AV company could make. I use Comodo and regularly scan with Malwarebytes (yes I don't have an active AV app, I don't really think I need one with my habits and firewall). Even though I trust these two apps I don't think they can possibly stop all threats. Comodo cant' stop a threat that uses a trusted app (unless the problem is known then Comodo might have a block anyways, not really sure). mbam can't detect a virus using a completely new infection method (heuristics use known data patterns and analyze what it thinks the app will do). The only reason I don't use MSE is because it permanently subscribes you to a service that collects certain information. Though the info shouldn't contain anything personal MS is a prime target so I don't want to take that risk. (Last I heard they don't encrypt data on their servers, just data coming in).

    I should also mention that there's several Linux products that may be able to help. I use (or at least am in the slow for me process of setting up) a flash drive with Linux on it so I can more easily fix issues with Windows. I should note though that if you install grub it may mess with Windows (I can't install SP1 because Windows can't seem to access it's own launcher partition which obviously works fine since I'm typing this out on my Windows computer which I just booted...) that's why I suggest using a flash drive.
    Current Machine:HP Compaq 6910p with 4GB RAM, Core2Duo @ 2.20 GHz, Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset Family, Avast free, Malwarebyte's free, TP-Link wireless card (as the built in card has nothing but problems with empty solutions): The card identifies as "Atheros AR922X Wireless Network Adapter". [Not the best machine but it does internet, docs, and vids, and some games (PvZ, Spore)]

  9. #9
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    On the hardware side of things don't forget that the motherboard could be an issue. Here is my story:

    I bought a refurbished HP computer in 2008 running Windows Vista, and just over a year later I started experiencing standby issues. I tried unsuccessfully to resolve it with registry cleaners and new drivers. Figuring it was just Windows acting up I disabled standby and hibernate and all was well (I probably should have reinstalled Windows... but I didn't). A few months later my computer wouldn't boot with the first press of the power button, it would either freeze after the POST or partway through the loading of windows, but on the second attempt it would always boot properly. All my research pointed to a power supply issue, so I replaced it.

    The problem didn't go away with the power supply replacement, so I resorted to leaving my computer running all the time (ie. head-in-the-sand response). This lasted about a year before I started experiencing intermittent blue screens of death and then data corruption on my hard drives. This forced me into intensive debug mode: I reinstalled Windows Vista, installed Windows 7, ran disk and memory scans, unplugged all USB devices, pulled all unnecessary hardware, swapped around memory sticks, swapped out the power supply (again) but I still had problems.

    My last resort was to pull the heat-sink off the processor and reseat it thinking it might be overheating problems, BUT when I went to pull the processor I noticed that all of the capacitors surrounding the processor were bubbled on the top.
    Turns out that the capacitors on my motherboard went bad... I replaced the motherboard and kept all the other components and now everything is working fine.

    One good thing that I discovered is that Windows 7 handled the motherboard swap perfectly fine without needing to be reinstalled. I got a bunch of new hardware notifications and I had to reauthorized Windows, but I have had no problems since.

  10. #10
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    That's quite a story and I'd like to note some of the things you definitely did right (there were some area's you didn't do the right thing but let's focus on the positive):

    You took things a step at a time.

    You started by looking at software (presumably free). If the problem had been here you wouldn't have to pay out.

    You did your research before swapping hardware.

    You tried removing everything extraneous

    You tried moving RAM around (you actually should've tried this first as it never hurts to try and doesn't cost anything).

    You should've actually took a good look at the motherboard before replacing anything but I'll assume it was barely noticeable.

    It is kind of weird for the capacitors to go like that (and I'm surprised it ran at all without them). Chances are it was either already there when you got it (in other words someone ripped you off, someone missed the issue, or it was damaged in transit) or you had it stored somewhere it got damaged (moisture could cause a short, heat was a likely culprit).
    It's also possible that it was the first power supply and that damaged the motherboard and caused the rest of the issues (if one piece of hardware goes bad it can take your entire computer with it, especially the power regulation system).

    Also note: From the sound of it your talking about a desktop computer (really should specify). Something I've noticed on a lot of desktop computers is that the power switch tends to be cheaply done. Once it reached the weird power on stage I probably would've checked to see if the power button was well connected.

    Quote Originally Posted by rodenti View Post
    On the hardware side of things don't forget that the motherboard could be an issue. Here is my story:

    I bought a refurbished HP computer in 2008 running Windows Vista, and just over a year later I started experiencing standby issues. I tried unsuccessfully to resolve it with registry cleaners and new drivers. Figuring it was just Windows acting up I disabled standby and hibernate and all was well (I probably should have reinstalled Windows... but I didn't). A few months later my computer wouldn't boot with the first press of the power button, it would either freeze after the POST or partway through the loading of windows, but on the second attempt it would always boot properly. All my research pointed to a power supply issue, so I replaced it.

    The problem didn't go away with the power supply replacement, so I resorted to leaving my computer running all the time (ie. head-in-the-sand response). This lasted about a year before I started experiencing intermittent blue screens of death and then data corruption on my hard drives. This forced me into intensive debug mode: I reinstalled Windows Vista, installed Windows 7, ran disk and memory scans, unplugged all USB devices, pulled all unnecessary hardware, swapped around memory sticks, swapped out the power supply (again) but I still had problems.

    My last resort was to pull the heat-sink off the processor and reseat it thinking it might be overheating problems, BUT when I went to pull the processor I noticed that all of the capacitors surrounding the processor were bubbled on the top.
    Turns out that the capacitors on my motherboard went bad... I replaced the motherboard and kept all the other components and now everything is working fine.

    One good thing that I discovered is that Windows 7 handled the motherboard swap perfectly fine without needing to be reinstalled. I got a bunch of new hardware notifications and I had to reauthorized Windows, but I have had no problems since.
    Current Machine:HP Compaq 6910p with 4GB RAM, Core2Duo @ 2.20 GHz, Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset Family, Avast free, Malwarebyte's free, TP-Link wireless card (as the built in card has nothing but problems with empty solutions): The card identifies as "Atheros AR922X Wireless Network Adapter". [Not the best machine but it does internet, docs, and vids, and some games (PvZ, Spore)]

  11. #11
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grnorris View Post
    The only reason I don't use MSE is because it permanently subscribes you to a service that collects certain information. Though the info shouldn't contain anything personal MS is a prime target so I don't want to take that risk. (Last I heard they don't encrypt data on their servers, just data coming in).

    I should also mention that there's several Linux products that may be able to help. I use (or at least am in the slow for me process of setting up) a flash drive with Linux on it so I can more easily fix issues with Windows. I should note though that if you install grub it may mess with Windows (I can't install SP1 because Windows can't seem to access it's own launcher partition which obviously works fine since I'm typing this out on my Windows computer which I just booted...) that's why I suggest using a flash drive.
    You might want to document your accusations against Microsoft before posting in this forum. You are dead wrong in your assertions on both points.

    As for Linux, the tools which are most useful run from Linux Live CDs just fine. No need to install Linux to use its tools.

    And GRUB does not need to be installed as the Boot Manager when dual-booting with Windows and Linux. If you have Acronis Disk Director installed, you already have a perfectly good Boot Manager called the OS Selector. Unlike GRUB, OS Selector will not mess with Windows booting, nor mess up your ability to upgrade Windows with Service Packs. When using OS Selector as the Boot Manager, GRUB is installed into the same partition as your Linux System (Active) Partition, and acts solely as your Linux Loader.
    -- Bob Primak --

  12. #12
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    Go to: http://windowssecrets.com/forums/sho...-impact-of-MSE
    and look for Just Plain Fred's response. Him and one other guy mention MSE sending info and possibly demographic info (which I tend to avoid sending demographic info when I can).

    As for my accusation about them not encrypting data I know for a fact (or at least I'm quite sure I'm remembering this correctly) that there was a Windows Secrets newsletter which said for Office 2010's Cloud storage system it used encryption only for transmission. If that's how MS protects potentially sensitive office documents then chances are that's how they protect other information as well.

    You can get away with using Live Linux CD's but the USB method means saving settings, getting exactly what you need installed, and being able to use it on a netbook which lacks an Optical Drive (I don't have a netbook but it's still a good idea to be universally prepared).

    Acronis cost money. I prefer my loaders not cost money and if one uses the USB method then no disk loader is necessary. I'm personally planning on setting up a linux flash drive then just setting my boot to prefer USB devices. The only time I have a USB drive connected is when I plan to load another OS so this method works well for me and probably other people. I'm currently in a waiting process as I'm trying to fix my EHDD so I can run a backup before continuing my project to convert to this new setup.

    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    You might want to document your accusations against Microsoft before posting in this forum. You are dead wrong in your assertions on both points.

    As for Linux, the tools which are most useful run from Linux Live CDs just fine. No need to install Linux to use its tools.

    And GRUB does not need to be installed as the Boot Manager when dual-booting with Windows and Linux. If you have Acronis Disk Director installed, you already have a perfectly good Boot Manager called the OS Selector. Unlike GRUB, OS Selector will not mess with Windows booting, nor mess up your ability to upgrade Windows with Service Packs. When using OS Selector as the Boot Manager, GRUB is installed into the same partition as your Linux System (Active) Partition, and acts solely as your Linux Loader.
    Current Machine:HP Compaq 6910p with 4GB RAM, Core2Duo @ 2.20 GHz, Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset Family, Avast free, Malwarebyte's free, TP-Link wireless card (as the built in card has nothing but problems with empty solutions): The card identifies as "Atheros AR922X Wireless Network Adapter". [Not the best machine but it does internet, docs, and vids, and some games (PvZ, Spore)]

  13. #13
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    @gnorris --

    The old advice still applies -- Never argue with fanboys or fools.

    I stand by my statement that Microsoft Security Essentials does not collect or store personal information. And the Windows Secrets Newsletter article about Office Live's Cloud Storage features is uttterly irrelevant, as this has nothing to do with anything in MSE's features or functions.

    JustPlainFred did not document his mythical "MS Agent" conspiracy theory. He revealed in his previous post that he is a Norton fanboy. I use MSE, and have never had "MS Agent" on my two computers.

    But as a Linux fanboy, you clearly know more about Microsoft's inner workings than the editors of Windows Secrets Newsletter. They have never said that MSE collects or stores personal information. Again, please document -- specifically and accurately -- before ranting.

    My previous post about dual-booting Linux with Windows was in error. I notice upon re-reading your post that you stated that you planned to run Linux from a USB Drive, which does indeed render discussion of dual-booting unnecessary. As you implied, GRUB in that case can be loaded onto the Flash Drive with Linux, and the Flash Drive can even be made self-booting if the computer's BIOS is set to boot from USB as its first option. In this configuration, no boot manager is needed on the main hard drive. If the USB drive is not present, the computer will boot Windows from the internal drive. Upgrading Windows would then have no effect on being able to boot either Windows or Linux. Sorry about all of that dual-boot advice.

    Compared with Windows, it is amazing how flexible Linux is in terms of where it can be installed and how it can be run. That is one of the true strengths of Linux. That and the added security built into Linux. (Although I would still run Chkrootkit once in awhile.) No real need for add-on security in Linux -- not yet anyway.

    It is this flexibility which allows Linux Live CDs to function when Windows does not boot. So, getting back to the original topic of this thread, I like having my own Linux-based rescue and repair utilities sitting on CDs on my bookshelf, ready to assist when Windows gets into real trouble.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-04-17 at 02:40.
    -- Bob Primak --

  14. #14
    Super Moderator satrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grnorris View Post
    It is kind of weird for the capacitors to go like that
    Not really, I read as far as:
    A few months later my computer wouldn't boot with the first press of the power button, it would either freeze after the POST or partway through the loading of windows, but on the second attempt it would always boot properly.
    and immediately thought bad caps; it's been a problem for a number of years, probably 10+, there were a large batch of motherboards across several brands that had used cheap or counterfeit caps that were causing problems well within the first year. Since then, there's been a distinct push towards using quality Japanese, and more recently, solid-state caps to try to regain consumer confidence. You'll often see the caps type mentioned in the advertising blurb now.

    See http://www.badcaps.net/pages.php?vid=4

  15. #15
    Super Moderator Deadeye81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    @gnorris --

    The old advice still applies -- Never argue with fanboys or fools.

    JustPlainFred did not document his mythical "MS Agent" conspiracy theory. He revealed in his previous post that he is a Norton fanboy. I use MSE, and have never had "MS Agent" on my two computers.

    But as a Linux fanboy, you clearly know more about Microsoft's inner workings than the editors of Windows Secrets Newsletter. They have never said that MSE collects or stores personal information. Again, please document -- specifically and accurately -- before ranting.
    There are more effective ways to communicate ideas than with sarcasm and flaming. Let's keep the thread civil.

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