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Fix a Problem With Your Computer


By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide Is your computer locking up? Are you getting a weird error message that you can't figure out? Are you having trouble even starting your computer? No matter what kind of problem you're having, big or small, you've come to the right place in your search to find the solution! It doesn't matter if you're a seasoned computer professional, a fix-it novice, or somewhere in between - these resources will help you get your computer back up and running in no time. 1. Common Error Messages 2. Reverse Damages and Mistakes 3. Repairing & Reinstalling Windows 4. Working Inside Your Computer 5. Testing Hardware & Software 6. Need More Help?

Common Error Messages

Anyone who regularly uses a computer knows all about error messages. Those of you who are also Windows users probably see more than your fair share of them. As a computer service professional, I see more error messages than anyone should in a lifetime! Listed below are troubleshooting guides for some of the more common error messages that my readers and clients see on their computers.

404 Not Found Hal.dll is Missing or Corrupt NTLDR is Missing Res://ieframe.dll/dnserror.htm# 500 Internal Server Error Unknown Hard Error C:\Winnt\System32\Ntdll.dll D3dx9_41.dll Not Found 403: Forbidden LAME_ENC.DLL Was Not Found STOP: 0x0000007B (Blue Screen) Xlive.dll Was Not Found ...see an Alphabetical List of Error Messages

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Reverse Damages and Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes... and Microsoft (and other software makers) know that. No matter if you've made a bad change in the registry or emptied the Recycle Bin after deleting your only copy of a report due the next day, there are ways to "undo" the damage.

Use Last Known Good Configuration to Back Out of a Recent Change Go Back in Time With System Restore Restore Important Files With System File Checker Undelete Files With a File Recovery Program

Repairing & Reinstalling Windows

Microsoft knows that problems happen - which is why it provided tools like Safe Mode, Startup Repair, and Recovery Console. You can see complete walkthroughs below. Sometimes, however, the only solution to some Windows problems involves a complete reinstallation of the operating system. Below are step-by-step guides to each kind of installation, complete with images and detailed instructions. These resources make a traditionally complicated procedure easy enough for anyone to take on!

Install/Reinstall Windows 7 Install/Reinstall Windows Vista Install/Reinstall Windows XP Start Windows in Safe Mode Recovery Console (XP Only) Perform a Startup Repair (Vista/7) or Repair Install (XP)

Working Inside Your Computer

If you've never done it, opening up your computer to service or replace something inside can seem overwhelming. The thought alone sends many people speeding toward the expensive repair shop.

Working inside your computer is much easier than you may believe, especially when you have a little help. These resources will help you get in and out of your computer like an expert!

How To Open a Standard PC Case Important Safety Tips to Remember What is a Motherboard? What is a Hard Drive? What is a CPU? What is RAM? What is a UPS? What is a Power Supply? What is an Optical Disc Drive? Take a Visual Tour Inside Your Computer

Testing Hardware & Software

A big part of solving nearly any computer problem is testing, especially when a piece of hardware might be to blame. The last thing you want to do is replace an expensive part when it wasn't the problem to begin with. Here are several different tests that might come in handy during the troubleshooting of a problem:

Hard Drive Test Power Supply Test Memory (RAM) Test Internet Speed Test

Need More Help?

As much as I'd love to believe that I have everything covered already on my site, I don't. But that's OK, because as I work to make that more true, there are several ways you can keep in touch. Below are links to my forum, my Facebook and Twitter pages, and some other great resources on getting more help with your PC.

Ask Questions in My Forum Like My Page on Facebook Follow Me on Google

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Safari Club FurnitureHand made furniture for your Trophy Roomwww.AndySanchez.com Free proxy serverSecure web access with encryption Free to unblock any websitewww.webFreer.com How You Might See the 404 Error 404 Not Found error messages are frequently customized by individual websites, so keep in mind that the 404 error may show up in just about any way imaginable depending on what website it's shown from. Here are some common ways in which you might see the HTTP 404 error displayed:

"404 Error" "404 Not Found" "Error 404" "HTTP 404" "Error 404 Not Found" "404 File or Directory Not Found" "HTTP 404 File Not Found" "404 Page Not Found"

404 Not Found error messages can appear in any browser and in any operating system. The 404 Not Found error displays inside the Internet browser window, similarly to webpages. Cause of HTTP 400 Errors

A 404 error is an HTTP status code that means that the page you were trying to reach on a website couldn't be found on their server. Technically, an Error 404 is a client-side error, implying that the error is your mistake, either because you typed the URL in wrong or the page has been moved or removed from the website and you should have known. No matter the reason for the 404 error, there is plenty you can do to try to get to that page you were after: How To Fix the 404 Not Found Error 1. Retry the web page by clicking the refresh/reload button or trying the URL from the address bar again. The 404 Not Found error has been known to appear on occasion even if there is no real issue so a simple refresh will often load the page you were looking for. 2. Check for errors in the URL. Often times the 404 Not Found error appears because the URL was typed wrong or the link that was clicked on points to the wrong URL. 3. Move up one directory level at a time in the URL until you find something. For example, if www.w.com/a/b/c.htm gave you the 404 Not Found error, move up to www.w.com/a/b/. If you get nothing here, move up to www.w.com/a/. This should lead you toward what you're looking for or at least confirm that it's no longer available. 4. If you move all the way up to the website's main page, try to run a search for the information you're looking for. If a search function isn't available, try finding your information by using links from this page to dig deeper into the site. 5. It's also possible that you simply have the wrong URL - entirely. You might be trying to access a webpage that exists as another name. When you're this lost, the best course of action is to search for the page at a popular search engine, like Google. Chances are you'll find the page you're looking for. 6. Finally, if all else fails, you may want to attempt to contact the webmaster for information on where you might locate the page you're looking for. The webmaster of most Internet sites can be reached via email at webmaster@website.com, replacing website.com with the actual website name. Errors Like Error 404 The following error messages are related to the 404 Not Found error because they're all client-side errors: 400 Bad Request | 401 Unauthorized | 403 Forbidden | 408 Request Timeout Several server-side HTTP status codes also exist, like the popular 500 Internal Server Error, 502 Bad Gateway, and 503 Service Unavailable, among others: List of HTTP Status Code Errors.

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How To Fix Missing Hal.dll Errors in Windows XP


A Troubleshooting Guide for Missing Hal.dll Errors in Windows XP
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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Hal.dll Error Message There are few different ways that the "missing or corrupt hal.dll" error may present itself, with the first listing being the most common:

"Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: <Windows root>\system32\hal.dll. Please re-install a copy of the above file." "<Winnt_root>\System32\Hal.dll missing or corrupt: Please re-install a copy of the above file." "Cannot find \Windows\System32\hal.dll" "Cannot find hal.dll"

The "missing or corrupt hal.dll" error displays shortly after the computer is first started. Windows XP has not yet fully loaded when this error message appears. Windows 7 & Vista: Hal.dll errors in Windows Vista and Windows 7 are often a different issue entirely. See How To Fix Hal.dll Errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista for help. Cause Causes of the "missing or corrupt hal.dll" error include, naturally, a damaged hal.dll DLL file or a hal.dll file that has been deleted or moved from its intended location. Additional causes may include a damaged or missing boot.ini file or possibly a physically damaged hard drive. Hal.dll Error Troubleshooting 1. Restart the PC. The hal.dll error could be a fluke. 2. Check for proper boot order in BIOS. You might see the hal.dll error if the boot order in BIOS is first looking at a hard drive other than your main hard drive. Note: If you've recently changed your boot order or recently flashed your BIOS, this may be what's causing your problem. 3. Run Windows XP System Restore from a command prompt. If this doesn't work or you're receiving the hal.dll error message before you're able to complete this process, move on to the next step. 4. Repair or replace the boot.ini file. This will work if the cause of the problem is actually Windows XP's boot.ini file and not the hal.dll file, which is often times the case. Note: If repairing the boot.ini does correct the hal.dll issue but the problem reappears after a reboot and you've recently installed Internet Explorer 8 in Windows XP, uninstall IE8. In this specific situation, IE8 could be the root cause of your hal.dll problem.

5. Write a new partition boot sector to the Windows XP system partition. If the partition boot sector has become corrupt or isn't properly configured, you may receive the hal.dll error. 6. Recover data from any bad sectors on your hard drive. If the physical part of your hard drive that stores any part of the hal.dll file has been damaged, you're likely to see errors like this. 7. Restore the hal.dll file from the Windows XP CD. If the hal.dll file is truly the cause of the problem, restoring it from the original Windows XP CD may do the trick. 8. Perform a repair installation of Windows XP. This type of installation should replace any missing or corrupt files. Continue troubleshooting if this does not resolve the issue. 9. Perform a clean installation of Windows XP. This type of installation will completely remove Windows XP from your PC and install it again from scratch. Note: While this will almost certainly resolve any hal.dll errors, it is a time consuming process due to the fact that all of your data must be backed up and then later restored. Important: If you can't gain access to your files to back them up, you should understand that you will lose them all if you continue with a clean installation of Windows XP. 10. Test the hard drive. If all else has failed, including the clean installation from the last step, you're most likely facing a hardware issue with your hard drive but you'll want to test it to be sure. If the drive fails any of your tests, replace the hard drive and then complete a "new" installation of Windows XP. Applies To This issue applies to the Windows XP operating system, including Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Home Edition. Windows 7 and Windows Vista might also experience hal.dll errors but the causes are so different that it constituted an entirely different troubleshooting guide: How To Fix Hal.dll Errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Still Having Hal.dll Issues? Let a community of PC support enthusiasts help out! Post the details of your problem in the PC Support Forum. Be sure to let us know what steps you've already taken to resolve the "missing or corrupt hal.dll" issue.

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Unknown Hard Error Ntdll.dll Error Resolution


Steps to Resolve Ntdll.dll Unknown Hard Error and Related Errors
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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Repair Service SoftwareComprehensive software for any size and type of repair service businesswww.AysSoftware.com Ntdll.dll Error Messages There are many different ways that ntdll.dll errors may be displayed on your computer. Ntdll.dll errors can be caused by a number of different things which result in many different error messages, but some of the most common are listed below:

"STOP: 0xC0000221 unknown hard error C:\Winnt\System32\Ntdll.dll" "STOP: C0000221 unknown hard error \SystemRoot\System32\ntdll.dll" "AppName: [PROGRAM NAME] ModName: ntdll.dll" "[PROGRAM NAME] caused a fault in module NTDLL.DLL at [ANY ADDRESS]" "Crash caused in ntdll.dll!" "NTDLL.DLL Error!" "Unhandled exception at [ANY ADDRESS] (NTDLL.DLL)"

Ntdll.dll error messages might appear before or after a program is used, while a program is running, when Windows is started or shutdown, or even during a Windows installation. Cause of Ntdll.dll Errors The causes of ntdll.dll error messages can vary greatly. However, most ntdll.dll errors result from a corrupt or damaged version of the ntdll.dll file itself, corrupt hardware drivers, or issues between Windows and other programs. Ntdll.dll errors can sometimes mean that a piece of hardware in your computer is malfunctioning, but this is rare. Resolution 1. Restart your computer. The ntdll.dll error you're receiving could be due to a one-time, temporary issue and a simple reboot may resolve the problem completely. 2. Reinstall the program if the ntdll.dll error only displays when you use a specific program. If the software program has any updates or service packs available, install them too. The software's programmers may have identified an issue with the program that caused the ntdll.dll error and then issued a patch for it. Note: Third party software programs that have been installed on your computer are almost

always the cause of ntdll.dll errors. The remainder of these troubleshooting steps resolve ntdll.dll issues only rarely. 3. Check the Windows service pack level you're running and then check Microsoft's support site to see if there is a more recent service pack available for installation. Some issues that caused ntdll.dll errors have been corrected in these service packs from Microsoft. 4. Selectively disable Internet Explorer add-ons. If your ntdll.dll error is displaying when you start, run, or close Internet Explorer, an add-on may be causing the problem. Disabling each add-on, one by one, will determine which add-on is the culprit (if any). Note: As a workaround, assuming the ntdll.dll error really is Internet Explorer related, install and use a competing browser like Firefox. 5. Rename the NLSPATH system variable. If your Windows system does not have this environment variable, skip this step. Note: This is a troubleshooting step for this issue only. Be sure to set this path back to its original name if this does not resolve the ntdll.dll issue. 6. Disable Data Execution Prevention for Explorer.exe. As in the previous step, this is for troubleshooting the ntdll.dll issue only. If this doesn't resolve the problem, return the Data Execution Prevention settings to their previous settings. 7. Update drivers for any hardware in your computer where updated drivers are available. Outdated drivers sometimes cause ntdll.dll errors. 8. Test your memory for damage. If you're receiving ntdll.dll messages, one possible cause could be a bad memory module in your system. Testing your memory will either identify a problem or clear your RAM of any responsibility. Replace your memory if it fails any of your tests. 9. Ntdll.dll errors could occur if you have an Iomega Zip drive on the same IDE cable as the hard drive inside your computer. If so, move the Zip drive to a dedicated IDE controller. 10. Replace the IDE cable connecting the hard drive to the motherboard. If this cable is damaged or malfunctioning, one symptom could be the ntdll.dll error you're seeing. 11. Repair your installation of Windows. If individual software reinstallations fail to resolve the problem, a repair installation of Windows will replace the ntdll.dll file. 12. Perform a clean installation of Windows. A clean installation will completely remove Windows from your PC and install it again from scratch. I don't recommend this option unless you've exhausted all previous troubleshooting ideas and you're comfortable that the ntdll.dll error is not caused by a single program (Step #2). Note: If a single program or plugin is causing the ntdll.dll error, reinstalling Windows and then reinstalling all of the same software may lead you right back to the same ntdll.dll error. 13. While extremely rare, if everything else has failed, including the clean installation from the last step, you could be dealing with a hardware issue with your hard drive. If so, replace the hard drive and then perform a new installation of Windows. Applies To

Ntdll.dll error messages can apply to nearly any Windows based software program, driver, or plugin on any of Microsoft's operating systems from Windows NT to Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Still Having Ntdll.dll Issues? Let a community of computer support enthusiasts help out! Post the details of your problem in the PC Support Forums. Be sure to let us know the exact ntdll.dll error message that you're receiving and what steps, if any, you've already taken to resolve it.

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How Do I Start Windows Using Last Known Good Configuration?


By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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Question: How Do I Start Windows Using Last Known Good Configuration? Starting Windows using Last Known Good Configuration (LKGC) is very often the best first step when troubleshooting a Windows startup problem. As the name implies, starting Windows using Last Known Good Configuration starts Windows using the registry and driver configuration that worked the last time Windows was started and shut down properly. Since drivers and registry issues are common reasons why Windows won't start, Last Known Good Configuration can be a very valuable tool in troubleshooting Windows startup issues. Answer: You can start Windows using Last Known Good Configuration from the Advanced Boot Options menu. Starting Windows using Last Known Good Configuration is pretty simple but the exact method differs a little depending on which Windows operating system you're using:

How To Start Windows 7 Using Last Known Good Configuration How To Start Windows Vista Using Last Known Good Configuration How To Start Windows XP Using Last Known Good Configuration

Note: In most cases, if your Windows startup problem is not solved by starting with Last Known Good Configuration, the next step would be to attempt a System Restore. However, if you came here from a specific troubleshooting guide, your best bet is to follow whatever troubleshooting step is listed next. Important: The changes made when starting Windows using Last Known Good Configuration can not be undone. Don't let this deter you from trying Last Known Good Configuration - a working Windows with the previous session's driver and registry data is much better than Windows that you can't access at all. Related Articles

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How Do I Use the Windows System Restore Utility?


By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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How To Use System Restore to Undo System Changes in Windows 7 How To Use System Restore to Undo System Changes in Windows Vista How To Use System Restore to Undo System Changes in Windows XP

Note: The Windows System Restore utility will not in any way affect your non-system files like documents, music, video, emails, etc. If you were hoping that Windows System Restore would in fact restore deleted non-system files, try a file recovery program instead.

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How To Use SFC /Scannow to Repair Protected Windows Operating System Files
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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The sfc scannow option is one of several specific switches available in the sfc command, the Command Prompt command used to run System File Checker. Sfc /scannow is the most common way that the sfc command is used. Sfc /scannow will inspect all of the important Windows files on your computer, including Windows DLL files. If System File Checker finds an issue with any of these protected files, it will replace it. Important: You must be logged in as a user with administrator rights in order to run the sfc /scannow command. Follow these steps for using sfc with the scannow option to repair important Windows files: Difficulty: Easy Time Required: Using sfc /scannow to repair important Windows files usually takes 5 to 10 minutes. Here's How: 1. Open Command Prompt. Important: You must run Command Prompt as an administrator in Windows 7 and Windows Vista to use System File Checker. 2. Once Command Prompt is open, type the following command and then press Enter.

3. sfc /scannow
Note: There's a space between sfc and /scannow. 4. System File Checker will now verify the integrity of every protected operating system file on your computer. Note: In some situations, especially in Windows XP and Windows 2000, you may also need access to your original Windows installation CD or DVD. 5. Restart your computer if sfc /scannow did actually repair any files. Note: System File Checker may or may not prompt you to restart but even if it doesn't, you should restart anyway.

6. Repeat whatever process caused your original problem to see if sfc /scannow corrected the issue. Tips: 1. Having trouble using sfc /scannow? Let a community of PC experts help out! Post your question in the PC Support Forum.

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16 Free File Recovery Software Programs


A List of the Best Free Undelete Software for Windows
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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file recovery programs data recovery

Many free file recovery programs exist that can help recover your accidentally deleted files. These file recovery programs can help you "undelete" files on your computer. Files you have deleted and then recently emptied from your Recycle Bin are often still present on your hard drive (or USB drive, or media card, etc.) and can be recovered using free file recovery software. Important: You can greatly increase the chance of recovering a file by minimizing your computer use as soon as possible. Your first step should be to install a free file recovery program. Undelete files you thought were gone forever with any one of these freeware file recovery tools: 1. Recuva

Recuva is the very best free file recovery software available, hands down. It's very easy to use but has many optional advanced features as well. Recuva can recover files from hard drives, external drives (USB drives, etc.) and memory cards. Recuva can even undelete files from your iPod! Recuva will undelete files in Windows 7, Vista, XP, Server 2008/2003, and older Windows versions like 2000, NT, ME and 98. 64-bit Windows versions are also supported. There is also a 64-bit version Recuva available. Piriform provides both an installable and a portable version of Recuva. I tested file recovery with Recuva using their portable version in Windows 7. Undeleting a file with Recuva is as easy as deleting one! I highly recommend that you try Recuva first if you need to recover a file.
Recuva v1.40.525 Review and Free Download

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Glary Undelete is an excellent free file recovery program. It's very easy to use and has one of the better user interfaces that I've seen.

The biggest advantages in Glary Undelete include the easy "Folders" view, a Windows Explorer-style view of recoverable files, and a prominent "State" indication for each file, suggesting how likely a successful file recovery will be. One disadvantage of Glary Undelete is that installation is required before you can use it and it asks you to install a toolbar, which you can of course decline. Aside from those facts, Glary Undelete is top notch. Glary Undelete can recover files from hard drives and any removable media you might have including memory cards, USB drives, etc. Glary Undelete is said to work in Windows Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, NT, ME, 98, and 95 but I had no problem recovering files with it in Windows 7.
Glary Undelete v1.6 Review and Free Download

3. Pandora Recovery

Pandora Recovery is another excellent free file recovery software program. It's super easy to use and has the best wizard to help you undelete files that I've seen in any file recovery app. A more advanced "Surface Scan" is available in Pandora Recovery that should recover more files than the standard search as long as they are of a popular format. Pandora Recovery will undelete files from hard drives, memory cards, etc. Nearly anything that stores files that you can also connect to your PC should be supported. Pandora Recovery lists support for Windows Vista, XP, Server 2003, and 2000 but it worked perfectly well for me in Windows 7. You will need to install Pandora Recovery to your hard drive which is a major reason I haven't ranked it higher than some other file recovery tools.
Pandora Recovery v2.1.1 Review and Free Download

4. SoftPerfect File Recovery

SoftPerfect File Recovery is another superb file undelete program. It's very easy to search for recoverable files. Anyone should be able to use this program with very little trouble. SoftPerfect File Recovery will undelete files from hard drives, memory cards, etc. Any device on your PC that stores data (except for your CD/DVD drive) should be supported. SoftPerfect File Recovery supports Windows Vista, XP, Server 2008 & 2003, 2000, NT, ME, 98, and 95. According to SoftPerfect, 64-bit versions of Windows operating systems are also supported. SoftPerfect File Recovery is a small, 500KB, standalone file making the program very portable. Feel free to run File Recovery from a USB drive or floppy disk.
SoftPerfect File Recovery Free Download

5. Restoration

The Restoration file recovery program is similar to the other free undelete apps on this list. The thing I like most about Restoration is how incredibly simple it is to recovery files. There are no cryptic buttons or complicated file recovery procedures - everything you need is on one, easy to understand program window. Restoration can recover files from hard drives, memory cards, USB drives, and other external drives. Restoration supports Windows Vista, XP, 2000, NT, ME, 98, and 95. I successfully tested Restoration with Windows Vista. Like some of the other popular file recovery tools on this list, Restoration is small and does not need to be installed, giving it the flexibility to be run from a floppy disk or USB drive.
Restoration Free Download

6. Avira UnErase Personal

Avira UnErase Personal has to be one of the most simple free file recovery programs I've ever used. After installation (there is no standalone version), you're a single click from seeing every deleted file on a drive. Recovering a file with Avira UnErase Personal is a single click operation as well. UnErase Personal can recover files from hard drives, USB drives, memory cards, and other similar sources. According to Avira's documentation on UnErase Personal, the program should work with Windows XP and Windows 2000 Pro only. However, I also successfully tested Avira UnErase Personal with Windows Vista.
Avira UnErase Personal Free Download

7. FreeUndelete

FreeUndelete is self explanatory - it's free and it undeletes files! FreeUndelete is another great file recovery tool, very similar to other undelete utilities around this rank in my list. The major advantage of FreeUndelete is its easy to use interface and "folder drill down" functionality (i.e. files available for recovery are not listed in a big, unmanageable listing). FreeUndelete will recover files from hard drives, memory cards, and other similar storage devices in or connected to your PC. FreeUndelete supports all versions of Windows - Vista, XP, etc. I successfully tested FreeUndelete with Windows Vista. Note: OfficeRecovery.com's website is often down. You can also download FreeUndelete from MajorGeeks.com.
FreeUndelete Free Download

8. ADRC Data Recovery Tools

ADRC Data Recovery Tools is another great, free file recovery program. File recovery with this program is uncomplicated and could probably be accomplished by the average computer user without any kind of documentation. ADRC Data Recovery Tools should be able to undelete files from any non-CD/DVD storage device like memory cards and USB drives, as well as hard drives, of course. Data Recovery Tools officially supports Windows XP, 2000, and 95 but I successfully tested data recovery with this program on Windows Vista. ADRC Data Recovery Tools is a standalone, 132KB program making it a very portable file recovery tool that will easily fit on any removable media you might have.
ADRC Data Recovery Tools Free Download

Working Inside Your Computer

If you've never done it, opening up your computer to service or replace something inside can seem overwhelming. The thought alone sends many people speeding toward the expensive repair shop. Working inside your computer is much easier than you may believe, especially when you have a little help. These resources will help you get in and out of your computer like an expert!

How To Open a Standard PC Case Important Safety Tips to Remember What is a Motherboard? What is a Hard Drive? What is a CPU? What is RAM? What is a UPS? What is a Power Supply? What is an Optical Disc Drive? Take a Visual Tour Inside Your Computer

How To Open a Computer Case


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Turn the Computer Off

Turn the Computer Off Tim Fisher

Before opening the case, you must turn the computer off. Shutdown your operating system as you normally do. On the back of your computer, locate the power switch and turn it off, as shown above. Some computers do not have a power switch on the back of the computer. If you do not find one, skip to the next step.

Unplug the Power Cable

Unplug the Power Cable 2007 Tim Fisher

Unplug the power cable that is currently plugged in to the power supply on the back of your computer. Note: This is an important step! It may seem overly cautious to remove the power cable in addition to powering off the computer normally, but some parts of a computer remain powered on even when the computer seems to be off.

How To Open a Computer Case


By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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working inside your pc pc cases the parts of the pc

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Remove All External Cables and Attachments

Remove All External Cables and Attachments 2007 Tim Fisher

Remove all cables and other devices attached to to your computer. This will make it much easier to work inside your computer and to move it around as needed.

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Remove the Side Panel Retaining Screws

Remove the Side Panel Retaining Screws 2007 Tim Fisher

Remove the outermost screws from the case - the ones that are holding the side panels to the rest of the case. You will likely need a phillips-head screwdriver to remove these screws. Set these screws aside. You will need to use them to secure the side panels to the case again when you are through working inside your computer. Note: Take care not to remove the screws that are securing the power supply to the case. These screws are more inset than the case retaining screws and may cause the power supply to fall into the computer, possibly causing damage.

Remove the Case Side Panel

Remove the Case Side Panel 2007 Tim Fisher

The case side panel can now be removed. Sometimes the panel can simply be lifted off while other times it may be attached to the case in a slide-lock manner. No matter the mechanism, you should be able to easily jar the panel loose.

Important Computer Repair Safety Tips


How To Stay Safe While Working On Your Computer
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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safe pc repair practices working inside your pc electrical safety power supplies

Tim Fisher

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Electronic ConceptsFilm Capacitors for a wide range of applicationswww.ecicaps.com Slaughter CompanyCost-effective Safety Testers AC/DC Hipot, IR & Ground Bondwww.hipot.com Instrument RepairsYour Cryogenic Equipment Repaired and Refurbishedwww.iceoxford.com In addition to being an afternoon of great fun, PC repair can save you loads of time and money. No amount of fun, money or time is enough, though, to compromise your safety. Keep these important tips in mind as you work inside your computer: Remember to Flip the Switch Always, always, always remember to turn the power off before servicing anything. This should always be your first step. Do not even open the computer case unless the power is turned off. Many computers have a number of lights inside that serve certain functions so check to see that no lights are on. If any are still on then the power is probably not completely off. Many power supply units have a switch on the back, killing power to the device and ultimately the rest of your PC. If your PSU has one, be sure to turn it to the off position. Unplug for Extra Safety As a second precaution, it is wise to unplug the computer from the wall or power strip. If there was any doubt as to whether the computer was off before, it's settled now. Avoid Smoke and Smells See smoke coming from the power supply or inside the case or smell a burning or solder scent? If so: 1. Stop what you're doing immediately. 2. Unplug the computer from the wall.

3. Allow the PC to cool or discharge unplugged for at least 5 minutes. Finally, if you know which device was generating the smoke or smell, remove and replace it as soon as you can. Don't try to repair a device that's been damaged to this extent, especially if it's a power supply. Remove Hand Jewelry An easy way to get electrocuted is to work around a high voltage device like a power supply with metal rings, watches, or bracelets on. Remove anything conductive from your hands before working inside your computer, especially if you're doing something like testing your power supply. Avoid Capacitors Capacitors are miniature electronic components contained in many of the parts inside a PC. Capacitors can store electric charge for a short while after the power is turned off so it's a wise decision to wait a few minutes after pulling the plug before working on your PC. Never Service the Non-Serviceable When you come across labels that say "No serviceable components inside" don't take it as a challenge or even a suggestion. This is a serious statement. Some parts of a computer are just not meant to be repaired, even by most professional computer repair persons. You will usually see this warning on power supply units but you may also see them on monitors, hard drives, optical drives and other dangerous or highly sensitive components.

Stay Safe by Learning More About:


Power Supply Units Hard Disk Drives Optical Drives

What is a Motherboard?: The motherboard serves to connect all of the parts of a computer together. The CPU, memory, hard drives, optical drives, video card, sound card and other ports and expansion cards all connect to the motherboard directly or via cables. The motherboard can be thought of as the "back bone" of the computer. The Motherboard is Also Known As:

mainboard, mobo (abbreviation), MB (abbreviation), system board, logic board Important Motherboard Facts: Motherboards, cases and power supplies all come in different sizes called form factors. All three must be compatible to work properly together. Motherboards vary greatly in respect to the types of components they support. For example, each motherboard supports a single type of CPU and a short list of memory types. Additionally, some video cards, hard drives and other peripherals may not be compatible. The motherboard manufacturer should provide clear guidance on component compatibilities. Popular Motherboard Manufacturers: ASUS, AOpen, Intel, ABIT, MSI, Gigabyte, Biostar Motherboard Description: The motherboard is mounted inside the case, opposite the most easily accessible side. It is securely attached via small screws through pre-drilled holes. The front of the motherboard contains ports that all of the internal components connect to. A single socket/slot houses the CPU. Multiple slots allow for one or more memory modules to be attached. Other ports reside on the motherboard which allow the floppy drive, hard drive and optical drive to connect via ribbon cables. Small wires from the front of the computer case connect to the motherboard to allow the power, reset and LED lights to function. Power from the power supply is delivered to the motherboard by use of a specially designed port. Also on the front of the motherboard are a number of peripheral card slots. These slots are where most video cards, sound cards and other expansion cards are connected to the motherboard. On the left side of the motherboard (the side that faces the back end of the case) are a number of ports. These ports allow most of the computer's external peripherals to connect such as the monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, speakers, phone line, network cable and more. Most motherboards also include USB and FireWire ports here that allow compatible devices to connect to your computer when you need them - devices like digital still and video cameras. The motherboard and case are designed so that when peripheral cards are used, the sides of the cards fit just outside the back end, making their ports available for use. What is a Hard Disk Drive?: The hard disk drive is the main, and usually largest, data storage device in a computer. The operating system, software titles and most other files are stored in the hard disk drive.

The Hard Disk Drive is Also Known As: HDD (abbreviation), hard drive, hard disk, fixed drive, fixed disk, fixed disk drive Important Hard Disk Drive Facts: The hard drive is sometimes referred to as the "C drive" due to the fact that Microsoft Windows designates the "C" drive letter to the primary partition on the primary hard drive in a computer by default. While this is not a technically correct term to use, it is still common. For example, some computers have multiple drive letters (i.e. C, D, E) representing areas across one or more hard drives. Popular Hard Disk Drive Manufacturers: Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi Hard Disk Drive Description: A hard drive is usually the size of a paperback book but much heavier. The sides of the hard drive have pre drilled, threaded holes for easy mounting in the 3.5 inch drive bay in the computer case. Mounting is also possible in a larger 5.25 inch drive bay with an adapter. The hard drive is mounted so the end with the connections faces inside the computer. The back end of the hard drive contains a port for a cable that connects to the motherboard. The type of cable used will depend on the type of drive but is almost always included with a hard drive purchase. Also here is a connection for power from the power supply. Most hard drives also have jumper settings on the back end that define how the motherboard is to recognize the drive when more than one is present. These settings vary from drive to drive so check with your hard drive manufacturer for details. Common Hard Disk Drive Tasks: Here are some common things you might do that involve a hard disk drive:

Central Processing Unit (CPU)


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the central processing unit

the parts of the pc installing a cpu intel amd

Intel Xeon E3-1200 CPU (Front and Back) Intel

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What is a CPU?: The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is responsible for interpreting and executing most of the commands from the computer's hardware and software. The CPU could be considered the "brains" of the computer. The CPU is Also Known As: processor, computer processor, microprocessor, central processor, "the brains of the computer" Important CPU Facts:

Not all central processing units have pins on their bottom sides, but in the ones that do, the pins are easily bent. Take great care when handling, especially when installing onto the motherboard. Each motherboard supports only a certain range of CPU types so always check with your motherboard manufacturer before making a purchase. Popular CPU Manufacturers: Intel, AMD CPU Description: A modern CPU is usually small and square with many short, rounded, metallic connectors on its underside. Some older CPUs have pins instead metallic connectors. The CPU attaches directly to a CPU "socket" (or sometimes a "slot") on the motherboard. The CPU is inserted into the socket pin-side-down and a small lever helps to secure the processor. After running even a short while, modern CPUs can get very hot. To help dissipate this heat, it is necessary to attach a heat sink and a fan directly on top of the CPU. Typically, these come bundled with a CPU purchase. Other more advanced cooling options are also available including water cooling kits and phase change units.

Random Access Memory (RAM)


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pc memory the parts of the pc installing memory improving pc performance motherboards

Memory Module Tim Fisher

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What is RAM?: Random Access Memory (RAM) is the "working memory" in a computer. Additional RAM allows a computer to work with more information at the same time which can have a dramatic effect on total system performance. RAM is Also Known As: main memory, internal memory, primary storage, memory "stick", RAM "stick" Important RAM Facts: RAM is typically referred to simply as "memory" even though other types of memory may exist inside a computer. Each motherboard supports only a certain range of memory types in certain combinations so always check with your motherboard manufacturer before making a purchase. Popular RAM Manufacturers: Kingston, PNY, Crucial Technology RAM Description: A standard "module" or "stick" of desktop memory is long, thin and resembles a short ruler. The bottom of the memory module has one or more notches to guide for proper installation and is lined with numerous, usually gold-plated connectors. Memory is installed in memory module slots located on the motherboard. These slots are easily locatable by looking for the small hinges on either side that lock the memory in place. Certain sizes of

modules may need to be installed in certain slots so always check with your motherboard manufacturer before purchase or installation. Memory modules come with various storage capabilities. Modern memory modules can be purchased in 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB sizes. What is a Battery Backup?: A battery backup, or uninterruptible power supply (UPS), is primarily used to provide a backup power source to the parts in the computer case, the monitor, and any other device plugged in to the battery backup. A Battery Backup is Also Known As: UPS, uninterruptible power supply, uninterruptible power source Important Battery Backup Facts: In addition to acting as a backup when the power goes out, most battery backup devices also act as power "conditioners" by ensuring that the electricity flowing to your computer and accessories is free from drops or surges. If a computer is not receiving a consistent flow of electricity, damage can and often does occur. While a UPS system is not a required pieces of a complete computer system, including one as part of yours is always recommended. The need for a reliable supply of electricity is often overlooked. Popular Battery Backup Manufacturers: APC, Belkin, CyberPower, Tripp Lite, Ultra Battery Backup Description: The battery backup sits between the utility power (power from the wall outlet) and the parts of the computer. In other words, the computer and accessories plug into the battery backup and the battery backup plugs into the wall. UPS devices come in many shapes and sizes but are most commonly rectangular and free standing, intended to sit on the floor near the computer. All battery backups are very heavy due to the batteries located inside the device. One or more batteries inside the UPS provide power to the devices plugged into it when power from the wall outlet is no longer available. The batteries are rechargeable and often replaceable, providing a long term solution to keeping your computer system running.

The front of the battery backup will usually have a power switch to turn the device on and off and will also sometimes have one or more additional buttons that perform various functions. Higher-end battery backup units will also often feature LCD screens that show information about how charged the batteries are, how much power is being used, etc. The rear of the UPS will feature one or more outlets that provide battery backup. In addition, many battery backup devices will also feature surge protection on additional outlets and sometimes even protection for network connections, as well as phone and cable lines. Battery backup devices are manufactured with varying degrees of backup ability. To determine how powerful of a UPS you need, first use the Journey Systems Power Supply Calculator to calculate your computer's wattage requirements. Take this number and add it to the wattage requirements for other devices you would plug into the battery backup. Take this totaled number and check with the UPS manufacturer to find your estimated battery runtime when you lose power from the wall.

Popular Battery Backup Systems


APC BR1500LCD

Power Supply Unit


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power supplies the parts of the pc installing power supplies power problems safe pc repair practices

Power Supply Tim Fisher

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What is a Power Supply Unit?: The power supply unit's job is to convert the power provided from the outlet into usable power for the many parts inside the computer case. The Power Supply Unit is Also Known As: PSU, power supply, power pack, power converter Important Power Supply Unit Facts: Motherboards, cases and power supplies all come in different sizes called form factors. All three must be compatible to work properly together. A PSU is not usually user serviceable. For your safety, it's usually wise to never open a power supply unit. Popular Power Supply Unit Manufacturers: CoolMax, Ultra, (Most power supply units are preinstalled in computer cases) Power Supply Unit Description: The power supply unit is mounted just inside the back of the case. The side of the PSU facing outside the case has a male, three pronged port that a power cable, connected to a power source, plugs into. There is also often a power switch and a power supply voltage switch. Large bundles of colored wires extend from the opposite side of the power supply unit into the computer. Connectors at the opposite ends of the wires connect to various components inside the computer. Some are specifically designed to plug in to the motherboard while others have connectors that fit into fans, floppy drives, hard drives, optical drives, and even some high powered video cards. Power supply units are rated by wattage to show how much power they can provide to the computer. Since each computer part requires a certain amount of power to function properly, it's important to

have a PSU that can provide the right amount. The very handy Journey Systems Power Supply Calculator tool can help you determine how much you need.

More on Power Supply Units


How To Test a Power Supply

Optical Disc Drive


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Optical Drive (Internal BD/DVD/CD Burner) PriceGrabber.com

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What is an Optical Disc Drive?: Optical drives retrieve and/or store data on optical discs like CDs, DVDs, and BDs (Blu-ray discs) which hold much more information than classic portable media options like the floppy disk. The Optical Disc Drive is Also Known As:

optical drive, ODD (abbreviation), CD drive, DVD drive, BD drive, disc drive Important Optical Disc Drive Facts: Most optical drives can play and/or record onto a large number of different disc formats. Popular optical drive formats include CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVDRW, DVD+RW, DVD-R DL, DVD+R DL, BD-R, and BD-RE. Reference your optical drive's manual before purchasing media for your drive to avoid incompatibility issues. Popular Optical Disc Drive Manufacturers: Lite-On IT, Memorex, NEC Optical Disc Drive Description: An optical drive is about the size of a thick soft cover book. The front of the drive has a small Open/Close button that ejects and retracts the drive bay door. This is how media like CDs, DVDs, and BDs are inserted into and removed from the drive. The sides of the optical drive have pre-drilled, threaded holes for easy mounting in the 5.25 inch drive bay in the computer case. The optical drive is mounted so the end with the connections faces inside the computer and the end with the drive bay faces outside. The back end of the optical drive contains a port for a cable that connects to the motherboard. The type of cable used will depend on the type of drive but is almost always included with an optical drive purchase. Also here is a connection for power from the power supply. Most optical drives also have jumper settings on the back end that define how the motherboard is to recognize the drive when more than one is present. These settings vary from drive to drive so check with your optical drive manufacturer for details.

Optical Drive Tips


Paperclip Drive Opener Trick

Inside the Case

Inside the Case Tim Fisher

Understanding how the many parts of a computer connect to each other inside your PC begins with the case, which physically houses most of the components.

Power Supply: The power supply connects to nearly every device in the PC to provide power. It is located at the rear of the case. Drive Bays: The 5.25" and 3.5" drive bays house the many kinds of storage devices a computer might contain. Expansion Slots: The expansion slots at the rear of the case are specially cut out so the peripherals connected to the motherboard can extend from the case for easy connection to external devices such as printers, monitors and other external devices.

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The Motherboard

The Motherboard Tim Fisher

The motherboard is mounted inside the computer case and is securely attached via small screws through pre-drilled holes. All of the components in a computer connect to the motherboard in one way or another.

Expansion Cards: Motherboards usually contain a number of slots for internal peripheral cards like video cards and sound cards to connect to. Back Panel Connectors: The back panel connectors extend out the back of the case for connection to external peripherals. CPU & Memory Sockets: The CPU and memory connect directly to the motherboard via the CPU socket connector and memory slots. Storage Drive Connectors: Storage devices are connected via cables to the motherboard. There are special connectors for floppy drives, optical drives and hard drives.

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CPU and Memory

CPU & Memory Sockets Tim Fisher

CPU: The CPU attaches directly to a CPU socket on the motherboard located inside the computer. The CPU is inserted into the socket pin-side-down and a small lever helps to secure it. In the pictured example, a large fan sits on top of the CPU to help disperse heat. Memory: Memory is installed in memory sockets located on the motherboard. These are easily locatable by looking for the small hinges on either side that lock the memory in place.

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Storage Devices

Hard Disk Storage Devices & Cables Tim Fisher

Storage drives such as hard drives, optical drives and floppy drives all connect to the motherboard via cables and are mounted inside the computer.

PATA & SATA Cables: This example shows two hard disk drives that connect in different ways to the motherboard. One uses the older PATA cable connection while the other uses an SATA cable which provides for faster hard drive access. Power Connectors: Power from the power supply is delivered to both drives via cables that plug into the power port on the drives.

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Peripheral Cards

Network Card Connection Tim Fisher

Peripheral cards, such as the wireless network card pictured, connect to compatible slots on the motherboard, inside the computer.

PCI Connector: This peripheral card was designed with a PCI connector and must be used in this type of slot on the motherboard.

Other types of peripheral cards include sound cards, video cards, modems, and more. More and more functions typically found on peripheral cards, such as video and sound, are being integrated directly onto the motherboard to decrease costs.

External Peripherals

Motherboard Peripheral Connections Tim Fisher

Most external peripherals connect to the motherboard connectors that extend from the rear of the case.

PS/2 Ports: Standard keyboards and mice often connect to the computer via the PS/2 ports. Serial & Parallel Ports: The serial port and parallel port allow connections to printers and other external devices. USB Ports: Devices like digital cameras, scanners and printers often connect to the motherboard via the USB ports. LAN Port: The LAN port is used to connect the PC to a local network or to high speed Internet services. VGA & Audio Ports: On this particular motherboard, the VGA port provides access to integrated video while the line-out, microphone and line-in ports provide access to integrated audio meaning there is no need for video cards or sound cards.

How To Perform a Startup Repair in Windows 7


By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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windows 7 startup repair windows 7 system recovery options

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Boot From the Windows 7 DVD

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 1

The Startup Repair tool repairs Windows 7 by replacing important operating system files that might be damaged or missing. Startup Repair is an easy diagnostic and repair tool to use when Windows 7 fails to start properly. To begin the Windows 7 Startup Repair process, you will need to boot from the Windows 7 DVD. 1. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD... message similar to the one shown in the screenshot above. 2. Press a key to force the computer to boot from the Windows 7 DVD. If you do not press a key, your PC will try to boot to the operating system that's currently installed on your hard drive. If this happens, just restart your computer and try to boot to the Windows 7 DVD again. Note: Not using Windows 7? Every modern Windows operating system has a similar operating system file repair process.

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Wait for Windows 7 to Load Files

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 2

No user intervention is required here. Just wait for the Windows 7 setup process to load files in preparation for whatever task you might want to complete. In our case it's a Startup Repair but there are a lot of tasks that could be completed with the Windows 7 DVD. Note: No changes are being made to your computer during this step. Windows 7 is only temporarily "loading files."

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Choose Windows 7 Setup Language and Other Settings

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 3

Choose the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method that you'd like to use in Windows 7. Click Next.

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Click on the Repair Your Computer Link

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 4

Click on the Repair your computer link on the bottom-left of the Install Windows window. This link will begin the Windows 7 System Recovery Options which contains several useful diagnostic and repair tools, one of which is Startup Repair. Note: Do not click on Install now. If you already have Windows 7 installed, this option is used to perform a Clean Install of Windows 7 or a Parallel Install of Windows 7.

Wait for System Recovery Options to Locate Windows 7 on Your Computer

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 5

System Recovery Options, the set of tools that contains Startup Repair, will now search your hard drive(s) for any Windows 7 installations. You don't need to do anything here but wait. This Windows installation search shouldn't take more than a few minutes at most.

Choose Your Windows 7 Installation

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 6

Choose the Windows 7 installation that you'd like to perform the Startup Repair on. Click the Next button. Note: Don't worry if the drive letter in the Location column does not match the drive letter that you know Windows 7 is installed on in your PC. Drive letters are somewhat dynamic, especially when using diagnostic tools like System Recovery Options. For example, as you can see above, my Windows 7 installation is listed as being on drive D: when I know that it's actually the C: drive when Windows 7 is running.

Choose the Startup Repair Recovery Tool

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 7

Click on the Startup Repair link from list of recovery tools in System Recovery Options. As you can see, several other diagnostic and recovery tools are available in the Windows 7 System Recovery Options including System Restore, System Image Recovery, Windows Memory Diagnostic, and Command Prompt. In this guide, however, we're only repairing operating system files using the Startup Repair tool.

Wait While Startup Repair Searches for Problems with Windows 7 Files

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 8

The Startup Repair tool will now search for problems with important Windows 7 files. If Startup Repair finds a problem with an important operating system file, the tool may suggest a solution of some kind that you have to confirm or may solve the problem automatically. Whatever happens, follow the prompts as necessary and accept any changes suggested by Startup Repair. Important Note: If you want the Startup Repair to work properly, you must remove any flash drives or other USB storage devices, like external hard drives, from your computer before running the tool. Due to the way some computers report the storage space on USB connected drives, the Windows 7 Startup Repair may incorrectly report that it found no problems when in fact there may actually be an issue. If you've already started, or completed, the Startup Repair and you realize that you have a USB storage device connected, just remove it and restart these instructions at Step 1.

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Wait While Startup Repair Attempts to Repair Windows 7 Files

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 9

Startup Repair will now attempt to repair whatever problems it found with Windows 7 files. No user intervention is required during this step. Important: Your computer may or may not restart several times during this repair process. Do not boot from the Windows 7 DVD on any restart. If you do, you'll need to restart immediately so the Startup Repair process can continue normally. Note: If Startup Repair did not find any problem with Windows 7, you won't see this step.

Click Finish to Restart to Windows 7

Windows 7 Startup Repair - Step 10

Click the Finish button once you see the Restart your computer to complete the repairs window to restart your PC and start Windows 7 normally. Important: It's possible that Startup Repair didn't fix whatever problem you were having. If the Startup Repair tool determines this itself, it may automatically run again after your computer restarts. If it does not automatically run but you're still seeing problems with Windows 7, repeat these steps to run Startup Repair again manually. Also, be sure to read the Important Note on Step 8. If it becomes apparent that Startup Repair is not going to solve your Windows 7 problem, you do have some additional recovery options including a System Restore or a System Image Recovery, assuming you have previously backed up your entire computer. You could also try a Parallel Install of Windows 7 or a Clean Install of Windows 7.

However, if you've tried a Startup Repair of Windows 7 as part of another troubleshooting guide, you're probably best served by continuing with whatever specific advice that guide is giving as your next step.

System Restore
By Tim Fisher, About.com Guide

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What is System Restore?: System Restore is a recovery tool in Windows that allows you to reverse certain kinds of changes made to the operating system. What is System Restore Used For?: System Restore is used to return important Windows files and settings - like drivers, registry keys, system files, installed programs, and more - back to previous versions and settings. Think of System Restore as an "undo" feature for the most important parts of Microsoft Windows. How To Access System Restore: System Restore can be accessed from the System Tools program folder in Windows. See the How To Use System Restore section below for detailed steps.

If you can't access Windows, System Restore can also be started from outside of Windows via Safe Mode in Windows XP or via System Recovery Options in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. How To Use System Restore: The System Restore utility is designed as a step-by-step wizard, making it really easy to choose a point in the past (called a restore point) to return your important files and settings to: How To Use System Restore to Undo System Changes in Windows System Restore Availability: System Restore is available in Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Me. System Restore is not available in any Windows Server operating systems.

More About System Restore


How To Use System Restore in Windows