In The Trenches: Reviving the Dead Windows 2000 Professional

Monday Oct 30th 2000 by ServerWatch Staff
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cMy primary workstation is a K7-500 with 512 MB of RAM on a FIC SD-11 motherboard. It was one of the earliest of the K7 generation systems, and the speediest kid on the block when I got it. However, from the first day I installed Windows 2000 on this machine (when Windows 2000 was still in beta), I've had to endure blue screens several times a week.

Thomas Shinder

My primary workstation is a K7-500 with 512 MB of RAM on a FIC SD-11 motherboard. It was one of the earliest of the K7 generation systems, and the speediest kid on the block when I got it. However, from the first day I installed Windows 2000 on this machine (when Windows 2000 was still in beta), I've had to endure blue screens several times a week.

What is causing these blue screens? Who knows. This machine has had dead and dying disk drives, whacked out cheapo RAM, USB hard disks, USB CD-Writers with buggier than heck Adaptec drivers, and a host of shareware, freeware and maulware that's impossible to count. 

The blue screen messages are always different, so I don't feel like a victim of monotony. Like they've usually been with Windows NT, they are absolutely worthless in troubleshooting the problem. However, they are somewhat friendlier than NT's BSODs because they tell you that it might be related to software or hardware. Armed that that information, how can you go wrong?

Living With A Dysfunctional Partner

Needless to say, I should get a new computer, or run Windows 98 on it (at least then the Blue Screens would be considered normal). But the relationship I have with the machine is like that of a woman in a dysfunctional relationship with a drunk. When he's not drunk, he's really nice. But you never know when he's going to come home drunk and beat you up. I never know when this computer is going to come home drunk and beat me up.

One morning I got up early to start a new project and he seemed fine. Didn't try to BSOD on me or anything. After about working for an hour, I noticed the sound disappeared. I continued working because sound wasn't an important aspect of the current project. About an hour after that I restarted the computer to get the sound back. That's when the fun began.

Thomas Shinder

A New Blue Screen Error!

I've learned to accept the Blue Screens as normal while working, but when they show up during the boot sequence, then its time to sweat. The BSOD message I got was along the lines "Registry Error: cannot write to HKLM\Software, its missing. Corrupt, or something else real bad". Huh? That was an entirely new one for me.

What could it have been? A virus? A single corrupted registry file? A wholesale disk error? I had no idea what might have led up to it. A virus scan was done the night before and no viruses were identified. The machine was actually up for almost 3 days, approaching a record! So, what would you do next?

What I did was turn the machine off, and then back on again. That didnt help. I then started the Recovery Console and did a chkdsk on the boot partition. The chkdsk program said there were errors found on the drive and that they have been repaired. Great! I typed exit to restart the computer from the Recovery Console and boom! The same Blue Screen error appeared.

Bring Out the Big Guns

What next? How about trying the Last Known Good Configuration? That didnt do it. Now it was time to bring out the big guns. I loaded the Windows 2000 Professional CD into the tray and booted the CD so that I could do an Emergency Repair. It asked for the ERD. Not having one, I told the Emergency Repair Program to search the hard disk. That has always worked before. Windows 2000 searched the drives for a previous installation of Windows 2000 and bang!

There are no other versions of Windows 2000 installed on this computer. Would you like to Try Again?

Huh? How can that be? I was just in the Recovery Console and it found the installation just fine! I figured I must be the victim of some sort of punishment for the article I had just finished writing on the changes in the MCT program. It looked like I was at the end of my rope. There was no way I could initiate the Emergency Repair process if Windows 2000 could not find the previous operating system.

Thomas Shinder

Coming In Through the Back Door

With no other options that I could think of, I decided to do a fresh install of Windows 2000 Professional on another volume. That went without incident. After the installation was complete, I opened up the Windows Explorer and took a look around. It was not time to get up yet.

When I got into the fresh installation I took a look at the winnt\repair folder. The repair folder contains information that is used by the Emergency Repair program to restore the registry in the event of a disaster. Note the subfolder called RegBack. This folder contains the registry information you saved when you created your last ERD (if you explicitly told the program to save this information.) What would happen if I just copied these files to the \winnt\system32\config folder? I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

That did it! The machine restarted and everything worked as it should have. But the mystery remains as to why the key was not accessible, and why the Emergency Repair program was not able to find the installation of Windows 2000, even though the drive was quite readable, and all the registry files were in place.

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