May 13, 2011, 2:11 a.m.
posted by oval
Introduction: Hacks #71-79
Whenever I have to use the Windows Recovery CD, I cringe. It isn't because my Windows system needs to be rescued; I've come to expect that. What I dislike is the actual recovery CD itself, and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way. While the Windows Recovery CD does an adequate job with a few tasks (i.e., resetting an MBR, replacing a boot.ini file, or restoring default system files), expect to come up empty-handed and frustrated if you try to complete a task that Microsoft hasn't explicitly created a tool for. Here are just a few things the Windows Recovery CD should be able to do but can't:
- Edit text files
While Microsoft has shied further and further away from allowing you to configure anything with a text file, there are still plenty of reasons why you might need to, including fixes to the boot.ini files beyond the abilities of the recovery CD.
- Copy to a floppy
You can't edit a text file in the Recovery Console, so you may think "I'll just copy the file to a floppy disk, edit it on another computer, and copy it back." However, the Recovery Console only allows you to copy from CD-ROMs or floppies and not to them.
- Browse your full hard disk
With the recovery CD, you are only allowed to browse the root directory (C:\, for instance) or the %systemroot% directory (the WINNT\ or WINDOWS\ directory). If you stray from those two directories to access your My Documents directory, you get the "Access Denied" error message.
Fortunately, Knoppix makes up for the Windows Recovery CD's shortcomings. This chapter covers how to repair many of the common problems that plague Windows systems, including how to fix the boot.ini file, scan for viruses, reset lost passwords, and even edit the Windows registry. After you read this chapter, you"ll see how Knoppix can trump Windows on its home turf.
Many of these hacks aren't too complicated. Not too long ago, a friend of mine had a problem with her Windows machine. Her daughter had come home from college and accidentally infected the machine with a virus, and the machine refused to boot. My friend was pretty upset, because there were some important files on the drive, including tax receipts and, more importantly, some irreplaceable photos. While she could just attempt to reinstall Windows over the top and hope that it fixed things, she was nervous about risking the loss of those files. If she accidentally installed with the wrong option, she could format the drive and lose everything.
I had my laptop handy, so I burned a Knoppix CD for her and explained how it worked. She would boot up, click on the hard drive icons on the desktop, and locate her important files. She happened to have a USB key drive, so I explained how she could simply drag-and-drop files from the hard drive to the key drive, and then back them up to another machine.
The next time I saw her, she met me with a big grin. The CD had worked perfectly, and she was able to recover everything. She even gave me a USB key drive as a token of her appreciation—something I currently carry with me and use all the time.