Zinstall and zPOD

Zinstall and zPOD aren’t marketed or sold as Windows rescue tools, but you’d be surprised just how effective both can be when it comes to getting a damaged PC working again. Even if your PC has failed completely, as long as your hard disk or your copy of Windows 7 isn’t damaged, you can use Zinstall or zPOD to rescue the system, complete with all of your software, and be back up and running again quickly.

They’re slightly different types of software, but both get a copy of Windows running in a virtual machine (VM). Here’s a brief description of their primary functions.

Zinstall was designed primarily to ease the upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 by creating a VM of your copy of Windows XP to run in the new Windows 7 environment, complete with all of your programs. This means that when upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP, you can keep downtime to an absolute minimum and perform a clean install of all of your software and files into Windows 7 in your own time.

zPOD works in the same way as Zinstall, but it allows you to copy the VM it creates to an external USB hard disk or even to a pen drive and run Windows from that device on any other computer. Both programs operate in an incredibly simple way by allowing you to create a VM with a single click. They automatically search for your installed operating systems and then enable you to quickly and easily choose a destination. Both software packages will work with any version of Windows, including Windows 7, and can even rescue a copy of Windows from a dead PC.

To rescue a copy of Windows 7 from a dead PC, follow these instructions.

1. Plug the hard disk from the dead PC into another computer. Remember to make sure both computers are turned off and disconnected from the electrical outlet before working inside the case.

2. Boot the working computer into the copy of Windows that’s installed on it.

3. Install the Zinstall or zPOD software on the working PC, and run it.

4. By default, Zinstall or zPOD will find the main, running copy of Windows. To point the software toward the copy of Windows on the imported hard disk, press Advanced.

5. You can choose to omit certain file types. By default, Zinstall and zPOD exclude any files in the Users folder. Indicate whether to include or omit other files in the Copy Filters panel of the Advanced settings window.

6. zPOD uses 256-bit encryption to secure the VM so you can carry it around with you, safe in the knowledge that only you can access this copy of Windows and your programs. Activate this option by setting up a password in the Security Settings panel of the Advanced settings window.

7. It could take several hours for Zinstall or zPOD to create the VM. When the process is complete, a utility for running the VM appears.

The single biggest advantage of zPOD and Zinstall is continuity of productivity. Simply put, this means that, as long as there is a spare computer available that you can use, you will always be able to keep working.

Although you can’t use Complete PC Backup, you can use other disk imaging utilities, such as Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image to create an image of the rescued copy of Windows 7. You might also be able to use a third-party tool to rescue programs from the damaged Windows 7 installation that you do not have the original installers for.

Either way, you now have a rescued copy of Windows 7 and your programs that you can continue using.

Zinstall or zPOD: Which is right for you?
If you intend to use the VM only on the PC that you create it on, then Zinstall will do, since it creates the VM to run on the computer where it is created. Use zPOD if you want to use your virtual copy of Windows 7 on other computers, too.

Source of Information :  Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Useful Software in Linux

The software packages covered in this section vary in name, location, and availability depending on the version (distro) of Linux you are using. However, some are very useful tools in the operating system if you have access to them.

Remote Desktop
Some Linux packages include remote access software similar to Remote Desktop in Windows. You can use the Linux version of the remote desktop software to allow a remote support person access to your PC, so they can help diagnose and repair problems with Windows 7. The remote support person might need to be running the same version of Linux that you are, but other operating systems and some third-party remote desktop packages are compatible.

System Monitor
System Monitor in Ubuntu, as in many Linux distributions, is very similar to the live System Monitor in Windows. System Monitor provides live details of CPU, memory, and network activity on a PC. This can be useful for helping diagnose hardware errors; for instance, it can help determine if you are having difficulty getting online because of networking problems.

System Testing
Some Linux distributions come with advanced system testers. These will test many aspects of computer hardware to find and diagnose problems. The system tester in Ubuntu is an excellent example. It tests every aspect of the hardware and guides you through automated diagnostics with a helpful, wizard-based interface.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Jump-Starting Your PC

If you suspect that the power supply has failed on your desktop PC, you can try to jumpstart it if you have another computer available. To do this, remove the two power connectors from the motherboard in both PCs. Place the computers side by side, and plug the power connectors from the working power supply into the motherboard in the nonworking PC. (If the cables aren’t long enough. simply unscrew the working power supply, supporting it carefully, and hold it closer to the other PC.)

Next, try to start the nonworking PC. If lights and fans activate on the motherboard, it is drawing power perfectly well, and you can be certain that the power supply in your PC is not working.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Resetting the BIOS

Sometimes the computer’s BIOS (Basic Input Output System) can become corrupt. This can cause Windows to fail to boot or malfunction when the operating system cannot properly communicate with your hardware. On these occasions, you can reset the BIOS to its default configuration.

The first and easiest way to reset the computer’s BIOS is to access the BIOS by pressing Delete or F2 on your keyboard at startup and then restore the default BIOS settings.

Your motherboard, which houses your BIOS chip, has a CMOS battery and a BIOS/CMOS reset button or jumper. You can remove the battery for between 20 seconds and two minutes to reset the CMOS.

1. Place the PC on a level, firm surface, and make sure it is turned off and disconnected from the electrical outlet. Ground yourself by touching an unpainted area on the PC case, using an anti-static wristband if possible, and open the side of the PC to expose the motherboard.

2. Locate the battery on the motherboard. It looks like (and, indeed, is) a large watch battery. Unclip the battery to remove it from the motherboard.

3. There is a Clear CMOS jumper on the motherboard, close to the battery; check the motherboard manual for the exact location. The jumper is three pins with a small connector covering two of them. Remove the connector, and move it to cover the center pin and the uncovered pin. A small pair of tweezers is useful for doing this.

4. Leave the jumper as described in step 3 for 10 seconds, and then move it back to its original position.

5. Replace the motherboard battery.

6. Reassemble the PC case, and reconnect it to the main power supply.

On some motherboards, instead of a CMOS jumper, there is a small reset button on the back of the panel.

This button, which you can normally press with a paper clip, can make it easier to reset the BIOS.

If you find that you can’t use new hardware with your PC, you might need to update your computer’s BIOS to a newer version. To do this, check your motherboard manual or the support section of the manufacturer’s website.

Source of Information :  Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Minimal Hardware Boot

There are so many components inside a PC that it can sometimes be difficult to determine which one is causing a problem. If your PC won’t start or is crashing regularly, the problem could be a hardware fault.

The best way to determine if you have a hardware fault is to perform a minimal hardware boot. To do this, first remove all external devices from your PC except for the mouse and keyboard. This includes USB-attached devices.

If your PC is still malfunctioning after you disconnect all of the external hardware, then open the case and remove the following components.
• The optical drive
• Any hard disks except the one on which Windows 7 is installed
• All but one of the memory cards
• Any expansion cards except the graphics card (if present)

Removing these components enables your PC to start with the minimum number of hardware components. If the computer is still malfunctioning, you can conclude that no external devices are causing the problem. However, if the PC works properly, you can begin adding the components back one at a time, restarting and testing the PC every time you reattach a component. This process of elimination can help you diagnose what hardware component is at fault.

If you perform a minimal boot and the computer still doesn’t work, your task is harder because you cannot remove anything else except the graphics card, and that only if your motherboard has on-board graphics. In this case, the first thing to do is try each memory card in turn, turning off the computer to change the card and restarting it each time to see if the computer works. This will establish whether you have a faulty memory card.

If the problem persists, then it can only be caused by one of four components: the power supply, the primary hard disk, the motherboard, or the processor. I’ll cover how to jumpstart your PC in the next section, which can help determine if you have a faulty power supply, but how do you check the other components?

You can check the hard disk by plugging it into another computer as an extra drive and seeing if any problems are transferred with it. Don’t try to use it as the boot drive on this second PC, because the installed copy of Windows 7 won’t have compatible hardware for the new computer and Windows will fail to start.

If you determine that the hard disk is not the problem, then the processor or the motherboard might be the culprit. Because you can’t start the PC without either of these, you might consider consulting a technical professional. But before you do so, there are some other things you can try first.

Sometimes changing graphics cards can result in a blank display if the currently set resolution is higher than your screen can support. When you are changing a graphics card or removing one for testing purposes to use the motherboard graphics chip instead, it’s a good idea to first lower your screen resolution to 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768. You can do this by right-clicking on any blank area of the Windows 7 desktop and selecting Screen Resolution from the options that appear.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Windows 7 Third-Party Websites

There are hundreds of PC help websites, some of which require a subscription (although I wouldn’t recommend these). You should decide for yourself about the value of specific websites, but I recommend the following sites.

Tom’s Hardware
Tom’s Hardware is a long-standing website devoted to hardware and hardware problems. This site includes extensive forums containing a huge wealth of information, and experts are always available to help diagnose and fix difficult problems.

Tech PC Forums
Tech PC Forums is a forum website that contains a wealth of valuable information. Experts are available to answer your questions and help solve your computer-related problems.

Run by the people behind Tom’s Hardware, Computing.net is an excellent resource for help with complex and difficult PC problems.

How-To Geek
How-To Geek helps you perform a wide variety of tasks in Windows 7 and other operating systems and software packages. Many tasks help resolve PC issues and problems.

This is the accompanying website to the book Windows 7 Annoyances: Tips, Secrets, and Solutions by David A. Karp (O’Reilly Media, 2010). It’s an excellent archive of problems that you can search through to find solutions to common Windows 7 problems.'

Gibson Research
Steve Gibson is a well-respected IT security expert. On the Gibson Research website, he provides many tools to help diagnose and repair security flaws in your installation of Windows.

ATI Support
Graphics card problems are common with Windows. Fortunately, there are only two major manufacturers providing the core hardware for graphics card technology, so help is centralized. You can find support for an ATI-based graphics card at the ATI support website.

nVidia Support
Similar to the ATI support page, the nVidia support website is the place to visit if you have an nVidia-based graphics card in your PC.

MSDN Diagnostics
The Microsoft MSDN site offers an extensive section for diagnosing and troubleshooting Windows 7. This includes the Windows Troubleshooting Platform (WTP) that enables system administrators to write custom troubleshooting packs.

Within Windows
Software author Rafael Rivera has years of experience delving deep into Windows, producing fixes to undocumented features and providing software to enhance the functionality of Microsoft products.

The Long Climb
The Long Climb is my own website. I offer PC support and updates on security and other issues with PCs and Windows. I can also be contacted through this website with any questions you may have.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Windows Third-Party Software

You can download many different utilities, some for free and others for a fee, that will help solve problems on your PC. Some of these are more helpful than others. You should decide for yourself about the value of individual software packages, but I recommend the following packages.

Sisoftware Sandra Utilities
Sisoftware Sandra is an excellent information and diagnostic utility. This package’s extremely detailed reports about every aspect of your PC, including hardware, drivers, and installed software, can help enormously when diagnosing computer-related problems.

Create Report on the Tools tab in Sandra utilities is a useful tool that generates a complete report about your computer. This tool does everything the Windows 7 System Information panel and System Health Report do, but it provides even more detail about your PC.

Windows Sysinternals
Windows Sysinternals is a suite of tools and applications from Microsoft that help you manage, troubleshoot, and diagnose your Windows systems and applications. These extensive tools provide huge amounts of detail about your PC when troubleshooting problems. However, some of these tools are quite complex and are designed for experienced computer users.

Zinstall zPOD
Zinstall zPOD is an excellent software package that enables you to turn your copy of Windows and all of your software into a virtual machine that can be stored on a removable hard disk or even a USB pen drive. You can then use this virtual machine on any PC. This means you can always have your copy of Windows and your programs (perhaps even your files) with you whenever you need them.

GoToAssist is software that performs the same functions as Windows Remote Desktop and Windows Remote Assistance but offers a few additional functions for serious technical support. Most notably, it allows you to restart the remote computer (which can be essential when performing some support functions), and it runs on and from Apple Mac computers.

Another software package held in extremely high regard by many computer professionals is SpinRite from computer security specialist Steve Gibson. This utility runs from a disk or USB flash drive and checks your hard disk for errors, physical or otherwise, that are causing malfunctions and/or data loss, then helps repair problems. It is an extremely useful piece of software.

Windows Memory Diagnostic
The Windows 7 installation DVD contains a memory diagnostic tool, but Microsoft also provides this other memory diagnostic tool if your Windows 7 install DVD is lost or damaged and you can’t boot into the computer repair console in Windows 7.

Norton Ghost
Norton Ghost from Symantec is one of two packages on this list that create system images of Windows. Although this functionality is already built into Windows 7, these packages offer additional backup and restore functionality for people who work in a corporate environment.

Acronis True Image
Acronis True Image is another system image backup and restore application. This package is useful in business scenarios where you need more control over Windows 7 system images than is available through the Microsoft Windows Image Backup that ships as part of Windows 7.

Paragon Partition Manager
Sometimes you need a utility to manage the partitions on your hard disks. Windows 7 includes a partitioning tool, but it’s not especially powerful. Paragon Partition Manager can make working with partitions much simpler.

Acronis Disk Director Suite
Acronis Disk Director is another partitioning management package that will make working with and managing partitions on your hard disks much simpler.

Source of Information :  Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

Windows 7 Remote Assistance

Although Remote Desktop is helpful and common in organizations where the computers are owned by the employer and people do not keep personal files and data on their machines, home users need something that can give them more control over what a remote user can access. Furthermore, Remote Desktop grants complete, unfettered control of a PC to a remote user for long periods of time, but it isn’t so user-friendly for the person sitting in front of the computer. He is logged out of the computer and unable to see what is happening.

Windows Remote Assistance addresses this issue by enabling the user receiving the support to monitor exactly what’s being done throughout the remote help session. Remote Assistance also provides controls to enable a user to regain full control of the PC and terminate the remote connection at any time.

Remote Assistance is intended for use over the Internet; you will need a broadband connection that’s not busy with other activities, such as downloading files.

1. Access Remote Assistance by typing remote assistance in the Start menu search box and selecting Windows Remote Assistance from the results that appear (the easiest method) or by pressing F1 on your keyboard to open Windows Help, clicking More Support Options in the bottom-left corner of the window, and then clicking Windows Remote Assistance when the options change.

2. When Windows Remote Assistance opens, you can select either Invite Someone You Trust To Help You or Help Someone Who Has Invited You. Click the second option to help someone if you received an invitation through Easy Connect.

3. If you are requesting assistance, you will need to indicate how to send a remote assistance invitation. This will commonly be sent via email. If you have an email program installed on your PC, such as Windows Live Mail or Microsoft Office Outlook, click Use E-Mail To Send An Invitation. Otherwise, click Save This Invitation As A File, and then send it via webmail. Alternatively, you can click Use Easy Connect.

4. You will now be given a password. If you are using Easy Connect, tell or send the password to the person providing the support. Otherwise, email the invitation file that’s been saved to your PC.

5. If you are the person providing the support, either enter the password in the dialog box that appears on your screen, or open the invitation file you received.

6. If you are the person receiving the support, allow the person providing support access to your computer by clicking Yes in the dialog box that appears. At this point, the person providing the support can look at what’s happening on the other PC but cannot control it by default. This can be a useful security feature and handy when you just want to show someone what’s happening on your computer.

7. If you are providing support, in the Remote Assistance console, click Request Control. If you are receiving support, do not be too alarmed about someone taking control of your computer because you will be able to see at every stage what is going on.

8. When someone requests control of a remote computer, a dialog box appears asking if this is allowable. If you allow the access, you should also select the check box allowing the help provider to respond to User Account Control security prompts. This will mean that the person supplying remote support will have full control of your PC to repair it. If you do not select this option, you will have to respond to the UAC prompts yourself. This is a more secure approach and can be used if you do not completely trust the person providing the support, but it can also slow the process, and you will have to remain at your PC throughout the entire session.

The PC offering the remote assistance does not need to be running Windows 7. It could be running an older version of Windows that supports this feature.

Remote assistance using Easy Connect. Easy Connect allows two computers running Windows 7 to connect using Remote Assistance without the need to send an invitation file. This may not always be available depending on whether your router supports the Peer Name Resolution Protocol. Easy Connect is a very useful and easy way to connect two computers for remote assistance and is worth trying to see if you can get it to work. It uses a secure peer-to-peer network managed by Microsoft to handle the connection.

Source of Information :  Microsoft Press - Troubleshooting Windows 7 Inside Out

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