Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Will System Recovery Delete My Programs?

Most computers today come with manufacturer software and a partition on the hard-drive to provide the ability to do a “System Recovery”, oftentimes accessed through a program called “Recovery Center”.

hard-drives progs

I have received several inquiries recently as to whether or not running a “recovery” will remove (“delete”) installed programs and files.

A: Well.. Yes and no. It will “delete” your installed programs, and no, it probably won’t “delete” your files.

Huh?

What the recovery software — when launched — will do is offer to copy the files on your machine to a backup location,{usually, it depends on the manufacturer, but most do} and them restore them again after it wipes out your C:\ drive and re-Installs Windows.
(Actually, a factory “image” of your machine taken right before it left for market.)

[note: you already have a copy of your files.. right? You do make backups.. right?!? If you answered, “uh.. no, not yet..” please read this.]

Your computer will basically be “restored” to factory defaults, and you’ll have to reinstall all your programs, and visit Windows Update, and tweak your Desktop.. deja vu all over again. But, the contents of your Documents folder will be copied back.

Because of this, you should consider this type of recovery a method of last resort, not to be tried until other methods — such as the built-in Windows’ System Restore — have been tried first. https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/how-to-use-system-restore-to-fix-windows/
Maybe.. call a Pro first?

Today’s free download: Digsby helps you manage all your IM, e-mail, and social network accounts from one easy-to-use application.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 6, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, software, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How To Use System Restore To Fix Windows

Have you ever wished you could go back in time…and un-do something you did? Windows’ built-in recovery tool, System Restore allows your computer to do what you and I cannot do, jump back in history to a time when everything was working properly, and that’s a pretty neat trick!

Tip of the day: I should caution you that System Restore is not a panacea– there are some things it copies and restores and some things it doesn’t.
* It does not recover data once the Recycle bin has been emptied — you need to use Shadow Copy or an undelete utility for that.
* It doesn’t recover lost or corrupted User passwords.

It is, however, “user friendly” and simple to use. It does, automatically, take “snapshots” of the Registry and some dynamic system files, and is a good way to get an unstable and/or non-booting system back on its feet again without losing your files and user settings.

To get started, you need to make sure that System Restore is turned on, and that it has at least 200 megabytes of free hard-drive space to store snapshots on.

Turn on System Restore by clicking Start and right-click My Computer >Properties >System Restore tab and make sure there’s no check in the box next to “Turn off System Restore on all drives.”

While you’re there, select the drive, or partition, where you want to store the snapshots and click the Settings button. Now you can use the slider to denote the amount of memory you want to devote to System Restore. I set mine to about 500 MB’s, which gives me a good selection of Restore Points (snapshots) without losing too much storage. And now you are set: Windows will start taking snapshots whenever you make a ‘major’ change, like installing a program or device driver.

There are a couple of different ways to use System Restore to go back in time. In the first scenario, Windows still functions, and boots, but is unstable and crashes or freezes frequently.

1) Use System Restore by clicking Start >Programs >Accessories >Sytem Tools >System Restore. This will launch the System Restore Wizard. By default, the radio button “Restore my computer to an earlier time” is already selected so hit the Next button.

Now you will see a calendar, which has the available snapshots/times in bold.

2) Start with the most recent one first, and click “Next”, and then “OK”. Your system will reboot, take a while to load, and then a message saying “Your system has been successfully restored to date selected” will appear.

If this doesn’t happen, you will see an error message– retry using the next most recent Restore Point. You may have to try several.

The next scenario is when you’re in a bad situation where Windows just BSOD’s (“blue screens”), or won’t even boot. Boot your machine and hit, repeatedly, the F8 key as if you were trying to get into Safe Mode.

When the white-on-black Advanced Start Up screen appears do not hit any key(s) just yet. Before too long a dialogue will open asking whether you want to continue on into Safe Mode…Y/N? Type an “N” for “no”. This will launch the System Restore Wizard and you follow the steps as outlined above.

Should this dialogue not open after a suitable wait, use your up/down arrow keys to highlight (select) “Safe Mode” and hit Enter. You will now be in the funny-looking, petite version of Windows called, you guessed it, “Safe Mode”. It’s easy to know that you are, because it clearly says Safe Mode in all four corners of your desktop. Now you can access System Restore through the Start >Programs menu. Again, follow the steps as outlined above.

Occasionally System Restore cannot undo all the damage and it doesn’t work as we’d hoped. If the damage was done by malware such as a virus that also infected your snapshots, it may not work at all. But it is a powerful tool and has saved me many times over the years. It is quick, simple, and usually very effective– and it’s free!

[For more answers on System Restore, see my two follow-up posts; “A quick System Restore addenda“, and “questions answered”.]

Today’s free link: I mentioned undelete utilities, and there are many out there for you to try. Try to recover files by starting with a scan using Softperfect File Recovery. “…a free and useful tool to restore accidentally deleted files from hard and floppy disks, USB flash drives, CF and SD cards and other storage media. It supports the popular file systems such as FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS and NTFS5 with compression and encryption. If your important files disappeared and you can’t find them in the recycle bin, try this software product and get the files back to life. Easy to use, no installation is required.”

Copyright 2007-8 ©  Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 4, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, Safe Mode, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

System Restore/ID Theft/Startup programs

“System Restore won’t work”, “I’m worried about ID Theft, how do I know if an email is legit?”, “I can’t get this #$*& program out of my Startup folder” — these are examples of some of the questions I have received since posting my articles on these topics. Today I’m going to review, and provide more solutions and answers.

Tip of the day: Since I’m going to cover the questions above, there is not going to be a single “Tip of the day” today. Instead, there will be “Today’s three questions”…
More on System Restore: What to do when System Restore just refuses to work. As I mentioned in my first System Restore post, SR simply is not a failsafe miracle worker. There are troubles that can occur that it simply does not repair — such as a corrupted SAM database. It is however a good place to start. It does undo a lot of the damage you can accidentally do to your machine. This fact is why you should always make a back up of your system — either a “disk image” made with a 3rd-party utility like Acronis True Image, or Norton Ghost, and/or Windows Backup Utility (Start >Programs >Accessories >System tools >Backup).
I stated in the prior article, and will repeat here, that you may have to repeat the System Restore process several times before one “snapshot” finally takes. When you use SR, you will see a calendar with available snapshots in bold dates. You should see several. Start with the most recent date and time, and work your way backwards. If you have done this with no luck, you probably have one of those troubles System Restore is not designed for. Either look elsewhere for solutions, or call for some Tech Support (we Tech Support folks need to make a living too, you know).

Legit vs. Phishing: “how do I know if an email is legit?” In my post about the rocket scientist, I discussed phishing and recommended an anti-phishing site toolbar, which combats a form of phishing called “pharming“.
I suggest you take no chances with emails. Simply do not click on links in emails. Also, realize that your bank will not send you links. They know about phishing, and they figure you already know their URL (you should have it bookmarked, so use that…or call them directly). Also be aware that just because an email claims to be from a friend or relative, doesn’t mean that it is. If you are not expecting an attachment.exe “executable” (application) or “you gotta see this!” .jpg from Uncle Fred, by all means don’t open it! Email him and ask him, “did you send me a..?” It is an easy thing for an Evil Doer to spoof a Sender address.
And finally, make sure your antivirus definitions are up to date. If it is not already on by default, open your antivirus’ Options and look in “Update Options” for “Download and install new definitions automatically” (or words to that effect) and make sure it’s selected. If available, have it set to scan email and email attachments as well. (If it’s not, consider switching to the free Avast! or AVG antivirus programs..)

Removing stubborn start up programs: If the methods I described in “My Startup folder is a clown car” proved insufficient for getting rid of a really determined program, there are three more methods you can try. The first is to read my Manage your Startup programs; second is msconfig, and the last is editing the Registry.
If these easy methods in the article didn’t do the trick, start by opening the msconfig utility. Click Start >Run and type in “msconfig” (no quotes), and then click on the Startup tab. Here you will see a list of the programs scheduled to start when Windows boots. Uncheck the checkbox next to the program you are having the troubles with. You will need to restart your system for the changes to take effect.

The second method, editing the Registry, is for advanced users who are comfortable treading in such risky waters. Changes made to the Registry are immediate, and there’s no “undo” feature. If you feel you are determined to dive in, please create a Restore Point before starting and back up the Registry to a .txt file first. Please read (or re-familiarize yourself with) Microsoft’s detailed how-to here. They Key you’ll be working with is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run.
But please: this is not for the inexperienced. Do not try this without reading and understanding what editing the Registry is about, and what damage one mistake can do. First use the aforementioned methods and please consider simply using Add/Remove Programs to “retire” the troublesome program altogether…or try a program like StartUp Cop.

Today’s free link(s): I am satisfied with this freeware Startup manager: Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2.

If you have been a victim of a phish, have been clicking unsolicited links willy-nilly, or let a window that magically popped open one day “scan your computer to remove infections”.. or just want to know your scores — get a free credit report , and find out if you’re the only “you” accessing your credit.
[Note: I believe it is worth it to have your credit reports monitored.. which is not a free service. For $5/month, I use , which monitors the big three report companies.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 9, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, security, software, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Troubleshooting the Blue Screen Of Death

BSOD’s, spontaneous reboots, freezing, and “incorrect password” lockouts. Bad computer. Bad.

bsod.jpg

Ah yes, the Blue Screen of Death. I sincerely hope you never see this rascal. The BSOD, or more properly, the Windows Stop Message, occurs when Windows detects a problem from which it cannot recover. The operating system halts and ‘diagnostic information’ is displayed on a blue screen as a series of hexadecimal numbers (there actually are a few humans capable of understanding, and using this information to effect repairs…but as far as I know, they all live in Seattle) which, frankly, will be of little use to the average user. Usually, a simple reboot resolves the issue. But sometimes it doesn’t–you reboot, Windows loads, you get the Welcome screen, and bingo! BSOD. Wash/rinse/repeat. Aargh!!!

If this happens to you, the odds are pretty good that you have (quite recently) added a new device (or card) or memory module to your machine, or installed a program that your machine just doesn’t like.
If it was a module, device, or card, try removing it and restoring your machine to the way it was before the install. If you run for a day or so with no BSOD’s, then you can be fairly sure you’ve found the culprit. It may be that the device is defective. It may be that you didn’t install it exactly correctly [maybe it didn’t “seat” all the way into its slot?], or maybe your machine was being fussy the day you installed? Don’t give up on your new card/device/module just yet. Go to the manufacturer’s Website and download the latest device driver for your version of Windows, and “unzip” and install it (by double-clicking on the downloaded file). Then reinstall your card/device/module–taking extra care to fully seat it, and double check your wires and cables–and reboot. If it is a defective unit, it will not be long before our friend the BSOD revisits…return the unit to the seller (or manufacturer) for exchange or refund.

If you suspect a recently installed application (or…Microsoft Update) is the cause, then use the Add/Remove Programs tool to uninstall it. (XP+older: Start> Control Panel> Add/Remove Programs, Vista: Start> Control Panel> Uninstall a program.) [Note: in Vista, uninstalling Updates is done through Windows Update itself, not Add/Remove.]
If you are unable to get into Windows, reboot and start hitting the F8 key to get into Safe Mode. [For more info, click here] Again, run for a day or two, and if you do not experience any BSOD’s, you’ve (most likely) found the perp. Again, you need not despair and abandon the program. It may have simply been an incomplete or corrupted install that was causing the stop errors. Try reinstalling it, but first make sure that there are no other applications running–turn off your AV, your IM, and close IE. You will soon know whether it is simply an incompatible or poorly written application.

I am going to stop here, but I want to acknowledge that this is far from a complete discussion on all the possible causes (nor cures) for BSOD’s and the other woes mentioned at the top of this post. I will return to this topic again, and I invite your comments and critiques, and suggestions. I close by suggesting you also read my article on the Windows System Restore tool (click here) and reminding you that — should all your efforts fail, my services are available at http://aplusca.com.

Today’s free link: Sandra Lite from SiSoft. This is a benchmarking and system analysis tool that shows you a wealth of information about the workings of your computer, and detects areas that aren’t working as well as they should.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 3, 2008 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, Plug and Play, removing Updates, Safe Mode, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments