Windows and Sisyphus
Ray Levasseur (c) May ,2001

Condemned for all eternity to load my PC, have the system registry get corrupted and to re-load over and over again.

A year ago my home PC had it's registry so royally mucked up, I had no recourse but to wipe it clean and start over again. I repeated this procedure when I upgraded to Windows 98. I have learned a lot in the last year. Like the Marine in boot camp who learns to field strip his rifle and reassemble it blindfolded, I'm getting better and total system reloads.

One saving grace I learned from my VAX days was so distribute applications and data across multiple devices. In the case of my current (3 plus year old work horse) the first thing I did was to wipe the disk clean, re-format and partition the disk into 3 partitions; C, D and E drives. For me this helps to better organize my stuff into system, application and data areas. I have a mere 6.5 GIG hard drive compared with today's 40-50-60 and larger GIG drives.

Everything was all peachy until I decided to add a CD ROM burner to my machine. It seemed simple enough, connect the new drive to the IDE jumper and reboot. Everything in DOS and BIOS, but when windows came up and I tried using Explorer got a blue screen. I removed the second drive and rebooted. The error was gone, but windows claimed that I did not have a CD ROM drive at all now. To make a long story even longer, I tried every possible (wild ass guess) at fixing things based on what hardware types thought was the solution, reading, and my own fumbling around. I did manage to get the system to see the original CD, but device manager said that the controller was either missing, out of date or corrupted.

After much gnashing of teeth was talking with my friend Bob on the phone who had experienced similar problems and suggested I do a total re-load. The first time I reloaded my PC took the better part of a week to complete, but I took notes, which would help me out this time around.

The first rime I reformatted the C drive a year ago, I neglected to back up my mailbox, address book, bookmarks, miscellaneous self extracting install sets and network (ISP) settings.

It was a picture perfect day a couple of Saturdays ago and I was walking around Boston (bored) when the voice of God commanded me to return home and do something useful like reloading my PC.

I first made sure that mailbox, bookmarks, addresses, zipped up install sets for freeware were on the E drive and also backed up on a zip drive. I also backed up full image of my web site pages, VB projects, Excel, Access and Word documents, updated drivers and patches that I could not live without. When I was sure everything was ready, put a pot of coffee on, smoked a couple of cigarettes, recited the Rosary, made the stations of the Cross (such a Catholic I am), then booted into DOS and issued the fateful command.

A:> Format C:

OK that went wall, and since I have to do a total reload may as well blow away D

A:> Format D:

I have a couple of copies of my Windex 98 emergency boot disks with CD ROM support, so rebooted with CD support, then inserted the Windows 98 install CD. As an aside I usually toss out the paper CD slip bases that come with a lot of software and store my disks in jewel boxes. Always remember to keep the serial numbers/product keys in a safe place. I securely tape these in the jewel boxes. Windows liked the key number but barked at me that I did not have 95 installed so it would not upgrade to 98. Luckily I had 2 fully operational (from DOS) CD's so inserted the 95 install disk in the free drive. "Whew!" Windows fell for my ruse and proceeded to install Windows 98.

When I upgraded to 98 last year, the install must have crashed a dozen times and taken all afternoon to complete. This time it zipped through the install in about 25 minutes with no problems and correctly found all the "Plug-n-Pray" devices I have, including the CD burner. Then there were the legacy (according to 98) that it said I had to find the disks for. From my last trial, I keep all these disks clearly labeled and together in a large zip lock bag. And then Windows 98 came up without any problems after everything was done.

I hate active desktop, so spent the next half hour tailoring 98 to my tastes, copying back the backed up wallpaper files and screen savers I have. And next was installing all the layered applications; Norton Systemworks, MS Office 97, Visual Basic, Allaire Homesite, re-installing the zipped files I have for Netscape, FTP client, ICQ, etc. I then started up all applications to make sure they were working ok, plus the pain in the ass tasks of setting all the defaults the way I had them. I then ran setup for the CD burner (Adaptec) software, which "Praise de Lawwwddd" ran with no errors. On my last reload my sound card never worked properly, but this time, everything is working fine.

Getting connected again

Perhaps the hardest part was getting connected to my ISP. Although I had written down all the important stuff, modem settings, servers, IP addresses, etc, etc. When I tried dialing in, the modem would connect, go through the motions of verifying who I was, tell me I was being connected to the network, then hang up or get hung up. I had entered the wrong settings in a couple of boxes and tried again. What I found out later was that the problem was not me but on the server side. I took a break, drank some coffee, smoked a few butts, then walked over to a local diner to have dinner "geeeze, I forgot to eat today."

After eating I resumed the final phase of restoration. Once I got back online, set up default browser, newsgroup and mail stuff, importing my saved mailbox, addresses and bookmarks. While I was logged on did a virus update from the Norton site. All told, the entire process took about 3-4 hours, versus the 4-5 days it did last time.

Before going to bed, I decided to try burning a CD, since this is what started this whole mess in the first place. The Adaptec software is very easy and intuitive to use. Since I already had a 500 MB directory structure of JPG's decided to make a test data CD. Wow! the entire process only took less than 10 minutes.

I could finally rest now, released from the computer Purgatory I had gotten myself into. Everyone should have to rebuild their entire system at least once, it builds character :-)

Cheers, Ray