Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Troubleshooting a uninstall gone bad

Today I was doing a little maintenance on my daughters Gateway laptop, uninstalling one ant-spyware program and upgrading another to real-time protection. It seemed to go fine, I ran the Uninstall from Programs and Features in Vista and enabled the full time protection in Malwarebytes with the registration codes and rebooted. When the computer shut down I noticed it installing several updates, I didn’t think much of it at the time but when the machine restarted, the brown stuff hit the fan. I didn’t have any mouse! The trackpad was totally unresponsive so I plugged in a old USB trackball mouse, success! So I clicked on the admin account I keep on the machine and went to type my password, nope the keyboard didn’t work either. So I rebooted after plugging in my usb keyboard. Windows went through its usual routine and told me the keyboard had installed and was ready to use, except, it wasn’t. It wouldn’t work at all.

Basically I was hosed, I couldn’t run the device manager from the limited account, or do a system restore. I had to get into the admin account or I was stuck. So I did what any red-blooded geek would do I Googled “resetting a password in Vista”. I came up with usual Microsoft solution, you know the one where you use the password reset CD you made when you set up the com-pu-ter, yep that one, the one no-one ever makes! Fortunately for me I also found a reference to TRK or the Trinity Rescue Kit. TRK is a Linux based bootable CD, that can be used for resetting passwords, recovering files and a few other things relating to Windows calamities. It took a few tries, TRK is command Line based tool and none of the instructions worked exactly as they said they would. Once the CD booted normally I ended up typing winkey u admin, this started TRK searching and mounting all the files in the system. I choose 2/enter in the next dialog then typed an * confirmed with a y, and this created a new administrator account with no password.

I was able to log into the Administrator account and then began the next phase of fixing the corrupted drivers. This took a while longer than I anticipated, I tried deleting the trackpad and keyboard in Device Manager , both had the little caution signs next to them indicating a damaged or corrupted driver, rebooted but this didn’t work. I finally resolved the problem but using a restore point, fortunately you can get there with just a few clicks of the mouse. So I got lucky, the USB mouse worked and the TRK worked after some trial and error. Get the Trinity Rescue Kit here http://trinityhome.org/Home/index.php?wpid=1&front_id=12, I recommend it for your toolkit, it definitely saved my bacon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Repair Install in Vista

I’ve heard a number of tech experts including the esteemed Mr. Lloyd Case from Extreme Tech podcast as well as others like Steve from the Podnutz podcast state that there is no way to do “repair install” in Windows Vista similar to XP, or all recent editions of Windows for that matter. Actually Microsoft has given Vista users a way to repair Vista with the install DVD, they're just hiding it a little. And although Vista doesn’t make it obvious like it used to be, it still exists.

So here’s where they're hiding it, you get a repair install in Vista by doing a “In-Place Upgrade”.

1. Start the computer boot to Vista OS.

2. Insert the Windows Vista DVD in the computer's DVD drive.

3. Use one of the following procedures, as appropriate:

If Windows automatically detects the DVD, the Install now screen appears. Click Install now.

If Windows does not automatically detect the DVD, follow these steps:

a. Click the Start Button, type Drive:\setup.exe in the start search box and then click OK.

Note: Drive is the drive letter of the computer's DVD drive.

b. Click Install now.

4. When you reach the "Which type of installation do you want?" screen, click Upgrade to upgrade the current operating system to Windows Vista. Please make sure the edition of Windows Vista is selected correctly.

I didn’t get these instructions by reading a 1000 page manual, I got them from Microsoft when I needed tech support installing SP1. I followed the instructions and it worked great for me. Of coarse if you’re doing anything this extreme make sure you have a full backup and are using the correct disk. If you have SP1 already installed you need have a SP1 disk to do what Microsoft calls an In-Place upgrade (Repair install) in Vista.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Using Malwarebytes Antispyware Program

I spend a lot of my day listening to podcasts and one of favorites is Podnutz and Podnutz Daily hosted by Steve Cherubino. In his latest episode Steve talks to Bruce Harrison lead researcher for Malwarebytes which is the best antispyware product currently out there, in my humble opinion. The biggest eye opener for me was that Bruce kind of squashed two old habits I've had for running antimalware programs, since I started using them. Bruce stated that Malwarebytes should be run in normal user mode, not safe mode as I've done for ages. He also stated that for the vast majority of users need only run the "Quick Scan" and not the deep scan which can take hours, especially on my Terabyte desktop drive. Bruce stated that Malwarebytes concentrates on folders where malware is targeted these days and ignores folders not targeted in the quick scan. He also gives good advice about running as limited user, and actually sounds pretty optimistic about the war against the cretins who create this junk. For once someone not spreading FUD, it was refreshing.

Check out Podnutz at http://podnutz.com/ and take a look at all of Steve's great content. He's a regular working stiff who still finds the time to put together an amazing amount of online audio and now video content for tech junkies interested in either fixing their own computers or people with their own computer repair business.