It really annoys me when people say, “oh, why don’t you just re-install Windows” or “do a repair install”. Over the past few years I had numerous machines come in that plain wouldn’t boot in to Windows, and even other technical colleagues would comment that it needed Windows reinstalled or repaired.
To me this is just a complete waste of time. Consider this. Reinstalling or repairing Windows (XP or Vista in the majority of cases), takes an hour or so. If you are reinstalling from a factory disk, the process of getting everything up and running is alot less tedious, and thus alot quicker. However, if you do a clean install from legitimate Windows media, you generally have to go and dig out drivers for everything possible. This is more time you don’t want to be spending whilst working on a machine.
Sure, the client might be paying by the hour, but what if you could reduce all this time to say, a 15 minute fix, and still charge for an hour? I’d call that efficiency.
And so there is my case.
For me, the most common non-boot problems can be quickly and easily solved by using bootable CD’s to manipulate the Windows registry and drivers.
For instance, any non-boot error message pertaining to the registry, including the common “\windows\system32\config\system” file being corrupt or missing, can be fixed using the “Registry Restore Wizard” tool from my favorite boot CD, the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. Simply restoring to the last known good date can fix this issue immediately. Of course, there may be an underlying hardware or virus issue in addition, so you’d want to check that as well, but hey, you just saved yourself 2 hours of stuffing around reinstalling/repairing Windows.
Another good one is “stop” errors when booting, that is, the infamous “blue screen of death”. When booting the machine, by default, the blue screen will leave you in a reboot loop, unless you disable the auto-reboot by pushing F8 right after the BIOS screen disappears. Once this has been disabled, you can get an understanding of what is causing the stop to occur. In most cases, this is a file system or device driver error. Again, this can be fixed using a boot CD or even loading into Safe Mode (sometimes even using the Last Known Good Configuration boot option will work, but keep in mind this must be the first option as logging in under Safe Mode will discredit this option).
Without going into too much detail, just keep these in mind next time someone comes to you with a Windows problem. Increasing your own productivity by knowing which tools to use and when should be a given, yet most people still live by the reinstall mindset. It certainly has to be quashed if you have customers lining up machines to be fixed right before their eyes (as is the expectations of people).