by August 1, 2000 0 comments

Windows 2000 is much more stable than any of its
predecessors. Having thrown a lot of garbage away, Win 2k can survive things
that would have killed Win 9x in an instant, and even NT 4 to an extent.
However, you still need to know how to recover from a crash if and when it
happens. Let me tell you about my own experience and how Win 2k’s built-in
features allowed me to recover from a crash.

Being an avid gamer, I like to massacre a few aliens or
monsters in shooters like the Quake series. I have a fairly high-end PIII
processor with lots of RAM and hard disk space, and a decent–though not too
powerful–Intel i740-based Diamond Stealth II video card. Win 2k is
plug-n-play, enough to recognize the card and install the correct drivers, and
that’s fine for normal Windows work. But if you really want to play any of the
latest games–including Quake III, you need to install OpenGL drivers for the
card. Windows 2000 didn’t install these, so off I went looking for them on the
Web.

I couldn’t find them even on Diamond Multimedia’s site.
The best I could find were a beta driver set for the i740 on Intel’s site. I
quickly downloaded and installed them. After a quick system reboot, I realized I
was in a 640×480 resolution–standard VGA. Thinking that I’d made a mistake,
I reinstalled the beta drivers, rebooted, and was back in VGA mode. Getting a
bit annoyed at Win 2k’s persistence–I was stupid enough not to realize the
amount of trouble it was trying to make me avoid later, but no one’s blessed
with the power of foresight–I went to the Windows folder and physically
deleted the VGA drivers. I also made sure that the display drivers point to the
new beta drivers by forcing in the Device Manager as the new drivers for my
Diamond Stealth, as well as copying these new files as if they were the VGA
drivers.

I quickly rebooted after this. To my ultimate horror, after
the initial character-based startup and then the GUI-based one, in place of the
normal Win 2k Professional login screen, I was staring at the Blue Screen of
Death (BSoD) that informed me that it could not initialize my video driver. The
terror of the Win 9x/NT days was back on my machine. But didn’t I have Windows
2000 on my side? So rebooting, I pressed F8 at the initial startup screen to
enter the Win 2k boot menu. I selected the VGA mode option and continued booting
up, and soon was staring at the same BSoD again. I tried and re-tried all the
other boot menu options to no avail, as I had foolishly replaced the VGA mode
drivers too. Looking at a full reinstall, or worse–reformat of the hard disk–was
not a pleasant thought at all. I was cursing the day I installed Win 2k, wishing
that I had a nice FAT/FAT 32 partition instead of the fully-secure NTFS 5 one,
so that at least I could do a DOS boot and retrieve my files.

It was then that I recalled something I’d seen during my
experiments with Win 2k. During an Emergency Boot Disk scenario–which I had
tried, but didn’t succeed–I’d seen an option of something called the
Recovery Console. As there was nothing to lose in trying something new now, I
booted off the Win 2000 CD and entered the "Repair a Windows
installation" option. Here, I was given the option of using an Emergency
Boot Disk or the Recovery Console.

Choosing the Recovery Console, I was dumped into a complete
DOS session look-alike. The first thing it asked me was which partition I’d
like to access, and then the administrator’s password. Giving both these, I
found myself at the ancient, but now ever-comforting C:\> prompt. I tried out
a couple of standard DOS commands like dir, cls, etc, and they worked fine. I
immediately cd’ed to the WINNT directory and looked for the VGA files.
However, now I was stuck with another problem–how to replace the original VGA
drivers here? Help was only a keystroke away–the command "?" gave me
a list of possible commands I could give at the prompt.

Typing the command with a /? after the name would give me
more help on that particular command. Going through the list, I found a lot of
useful and powerful commands that allow you to start and stop services, control
the registry, and more. The command EXPAND was the one I needed. The file
DRIVER.CAB–present in the C:\WINNT\ DRIVER CACHE\I386 folder–contains all
the drivers that Win 2k recognizes. I quickly expanded the files i740*.* and put
them in the correct place.

But before rebooting, I wanted to explore a bit more. I tried
going to some of the other directories under the root folder but was given a
message saying "Access denied". This meant that I couldn’t get
access to my files that I’d stored under a specific directory. I also was
unable to access the floppy drive from this console.

Anyway, booting up normally again, I was greeted with the
lovely sight of a functioning Win 2k installation. I quickly logged in with an
administrative account and opened the "Local Security Policy" option
from the Administrative Tools program group. Clicking the small "+"
sign next to the entry "Local Policies" and then selecting
"Security Options", I found two options relating to the Recovery
Console. One allows automatic administrative login to the file system and was
disabled by default–I would recommend keeping it that way. The other one, also
disabled by default, was to allow copying of local files to the floppy drive as
well as access to all files and folders. I immediately turned this one on.

As you can see, the Recovery Console can be a lifesaver when
in a dire situation. And as rugged and stable Windows 2000 may be, you’ll
thank your lucky stars for this option one day–when your installation goes
south and nothing seems to revive it.

You can also install the Recovery Console to be always
available to your system without requiring the CD-ROM. To do this, open up a
Command Prompt window and change to the \I386 folder on the Windows 2000 install
CD. Run the command WINNT32 /CMDCONS. After a couple of prompts, this will
install the Recovery Console on your hard disk. The next time you boot, you’ll
see the recovery console in the operating system list of the boot menu. Handy
when you don’t have the CD-ROM accessible quickly enough, or if you want to
quickly copy a file to a floppy without waiting for Win 2k to boot completely.

Though I did all this on Win 2k Professional, it works
equally well on the server.

Hopefully, you’d have learnt a few things from my
experience. Don’t try forcing Win 2k to do something that it’s trying to
prevent you from doing. First, try to understand why it isn’t allowing you to
do it. That just might save you a lot of trouble. Two, the Recovery Console is a
powerful option to get you up and running again in case of trouble. Three, the
tips for disaster recovery given (see box) above may just be your lifesaver when
in a bad situation.

Here’s to a long-running, crash- and disaster-free Win 2k
installation.

Vinod Unny
is with iSquare Technologies

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