TCS HTML Email 08 Sys Recovery Part 1

Become the Master of Disaster Recovery (part 1- using a recovery partition)
Wikipedia's article on system recovery

Dell's article on restoring a Windows XP computer

HP's article on restoring a Windows XP computer

Did you miss any of John's HTML Emails?  Click Here.

Thomas Computer Services Web Site
There are situations when you will not be able to get Windows XP or Vista to start the computer.  Important system files may have gotten destroyed.  Sometimes there's a message from Windows or from the computer manufacturer about a fatal error.  If there's a reinstall/recovery CD set or DVD, you can get the system to start up from Disc 1 of the set, and reformat the hard disk and reinstall Windows and recover your computer to its original factory condition.  If however you have no such discs, it may be that the manufacturer has instead included a separate recovery partition on your hard drive.  It may appear as a D: drive when you click Computer or My Computer, next to your C: drive under Local Disks.  It's also just as likely that it won't appear at all because it has been hidden so that you will not be tempted to use it as regular storage, like you normally do with the C: drive.  Visible or not, it's also possible that this recovery partition has become virus-infected, or overwritten by you or the system itself, or it may have been erased as part of a reformat of the hard drive.

It's a good resource to know about before trouble strikes.  You can see for yourself if it's available by accessing the recovery program on your PC by pressing a specific key combination (AKA the “hotkey”) during the startup process while the manufacturer's “splash screen” is visible.  For Dells and some other brands, it's the F11 key, or Control-F11.  If this doesn't work for you, google your PC's manufacturer’s name with the words system recovery (e.g., acer system recovery).  Pressing the system recovery hotkey will bring you to the first screen of the recovery program, if one is available.  At this point, just read the info on the screen and know that you have this resource, and DO NOT CONTINUE WITH THE RECOVERY because it wants to erase your hard drive.  Instead, look for an option onscreen to cancel the process or to continue with a normal startup, or in the absence of any such option, just use the power button to turn the PC off.

Here in brief outline are the steps for using your system recovery partition, once you have the correct hotkey for your computer.

1. Shut down the PC if it is currently on.

2. Disconnect everything from your PC except keyboard, mouse and monitor.

3. Turn on the computer and immediately press your hotkey repeatedly, a few times a second, until the recovery program appears.  If Windows starts to load, then let it and just restart and try again.  Repeat a few more times until you get the system recovery program going or until you are satisfied that there is none available.

4. Select the system recovery program and let it run to completion.  It will reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows and some other programs to get you going as it did when it was new, including an antivirus program, like Norton or McAfee.

5. I recommend getting rid of the antivirus that gets installed by the system recovery program and replacing it with Avast Home Edition (Free) antivirus, so before you reconnect to the Internet, access your antivirus program and get it to stop all its functions.  After you've got it stopped completely, restart the computer and click Start, then Control Panel, then Add/Remove Software.  Find the installed antivirus in the list and select and remove it.

6. Reconnect the Internet and browse to  Enter avast in the search field at the top of the page and select avast free antivirus. Download, install and run this program.  Make sure it updates itself as it installs.  Do a full system scan.  Be patient.  It will probably take an hour or more.  In case it finds any infected files, it will ask you to schedule another scan at reboot.  Select this option and reboot the computer and let it scan again.  Be sure to register Avast.  It's free and the registration lasts a year, after which you register it again for another year for free.

7. Browse back to and enter malwarebytes in the search field this time.  Download, install, update and run this excellent, free spyware sweeper, as with Avast.  No need to register it.  Restart.

8. Browse back to and repeat the process with ccleaner, the excellent, free maintenance tool, as with Avast and Malwarebytes.  No need to register Ccleaner, either.  Restart.

9. Open Internet Explorer again and click Tools and then click Windows Update.  Follow the onscreen instructions to download and install the latest Microsoft update software.  Select Express and let Windows install any and all critical, high-priority updates.  Restart and then repeat this step until there are no more critical updates to get.

That's it.  Next month's will be a lesson in obtaining and using a System Recovery Disc Set or DVD.
July 20, 2011

John G. Thomas, your geek for

• Training • Troubleshooting • Setups • Installs • Maintenance • Home networks • Windows • Mac • Unix • Special price for seniors • Satisfaction guaranteed
Picture of John by Angie Milinowicz

Click here to get off John's mailing list. He knows you get enough emails already. Your email program will open and show you a blank New Message form with the subject filled in. Just click the Send button.

You can also use this trick to send him feedback. He'd love to hear from you.