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January 03, 2008

Systems Restore To The Rescue

It was probably my fault. I installed a new Verizon control app while deleting a much older version and talking on the phone. When the drivers for my EVDO card disappeared, I downloaded and installed new ones, still while talking on the phone. My Windows XP Pro system became slower and slower so I rebooted.

Oh, oh!

Windows appeared to start normally but was so sluggish that it didn’t finish initialization even when I gave it half an hour. The Start menu took seconds, sometimes minutes, to appear after I clicked the button in the task bar. Shutdown didn’t work either. Task Manager wouldn’t load so I had no idea what Windows was so busy doing; the disk light only flickered on occasionally.

Virus? Hard disk problem? I was pretty sure (actually hoped) that I caused the problem with the installs I had just done. But how to undo them?

No matter how many times I rudely shut off power, Windows won’t show the screen that says startup failed and gives you the option of starting in safe mode or from the last known good version of the system. Of course, there’s a copy of the manual for my Panasonic Toughbook on the computer. Doesn’t do much good if you can’t boot, though. Mary and her machine are away so can’t go online to look for a manual or help either.

It’s my lucky day! I search for a CD ROM to boot from but, instead, find a paper copy of the Toughbook manual crumbled in the bottom of a desk drawer. Usually I recycle paper.

Manual says I can get the screen I want by holding down F8 after the Panasonic startup screen disappears obvious, of course. That causes a sequence of angry beeps but the screen appears. I do a start up in safe mode and that works; disk is probably good. Shut down (works in safe mode) and try a normal start hoping something fixed itself. No such luck.

Try starting from the last good version. Current version thinks it’s a good version but it’s wrong. Time to try System Restore.

System Restore is a very good feature of Windows. Each day the system remembers its state as a “restore point”; this state just has to do with system and application files; not your data. Every time you install a driver or do certain kinds of application installs, the system also creates a restore point. You can also create a restore point if you know you’re about to do something risky – which no one ever does, of course.

The Restore utility is available in several places including Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools and from Safe Start itself. It lets you choose on a calendar what point in your system’s history you’d like to go back to. It nicely tells you what caused it to create a particular restore point.

I chose the restore point created just before the system followed my instructions to monkey with the Verizon utility which was also prior to my installing drivers.

Voila! I’m back in business - with the old Verizon utility, of course, but with no loss of documents created right up to the time I unsuccessfully rebooted.

There’s plenty not to like about Windows (don’t even ask me about Vista); but system restore and automatic creation of restore points is goodness. Keep it in the back of your mind for the day when your system won’t boot or Windows won’t come to life.

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