There’s Good News and Bad News (Computer Edition)

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been having computer issues. My experiences, and what I did to resolve them, may help you in similar situations.

The good news is that theoretically I’m fairly well prepared for problems. The bad news is that even when you’re prepared, reality can raise unexpected issues that undermine theoretical preparedness.

My first problem was when I had a graphics issue with some new software and thought I needed an updated video driver to fix it. But after downloading the driver, I found I had a virus and could not boot normally.

One way I am “prepared” is by having an excellent free virus / malware removal program called Malwarebytes. Despite the virus, I could boot into “safe” mode and run the program. It found and eliminated the virus. Problem solved!

Wednesday, a new problem appeared. When I turned the computer on, I received an error message:  “Page Fault in Non-Paged Area” and Windows would not load normally. I have a vague knowledge of “paging” and it did not seem to me to be related to loading Windows but to operating in Windows.

I had been seeing this error message regularly after loading Windows and the computer would shutdown but I could start up again. A Google search of that error suggested it could be a failing power supply. Since my computer is eight years old that seemed plausible.

But since the computer would attempt to start, a failed power supply could not be the problem. I called a friend who has a Microsoft certification and he said that error message is often associated with a corrupted registry. I have another excellent free utility program called Glary Utilities which includes registry scan and repair. Since I regularly scan the registry using that program, I was surprised to hear a corrupted registry might be the problem.

I took my friend’s advice to try boot into safe mode and scan the registry. I was able to do that and the program fixed a problem about “ARP cache” which I had not previously seen during other scans. But my relief was short-lived….

Thursday, I could not load Windows again. This time, the error message was about a missing or corrupt DLL (hal.dll). I tried to boot into safe mode but received the same error message.

I was prepared for catastrophic failure because I have an imaging program (Acronis True Image but there are others) which creates a clone of your entire hard drive or a partition (most hard drives have a C and D partition). These disk cloning programs include creating a bootable CD from which you can bring up the program and install the cloned disk image to the existing hard drive or a new hard drive.

But my optimism quickly faded. During an “analysis” of my hard drive before transferring the cloned image, the program reported a “runlist corrupted error.” It seemed I could complete the transfer and fix the error later but when I was asked where I wanted to transfer the image my C: drive did not appear as an option. Rather, an external USB hard drive which is normally my J drive showed up as C.

This seemed to be a minor inconvenience. I could “recover” Windows to the version when I bought the computer, fix the “runlist” problem and then install the clone.

The “problem” with using only “recover” is that you will not be able to run many programs since they were installed after you created the recovery file and so you will need to install the programs again. And, the “recovered” Windows you get will not include all the updates made since the recovery file was created. A regularly updated cloned image avoids those issues.

My recovered Windows XP turned out to be the version with Service Pack 2, so I’m missing whatever is in SP3 plus all the security and other updates over the last eight years. Although even a program I installed a few days ago is there on the desktop, it of course does not run. Only some of my shortcuts are on the desktop. I was surprised that my Internet connection worked without reinstallation.

After Internet research, “runlist corrupted” means there is problem on the hard drive which requires running a utility called “check disk” available through the “run” command on the “Start” screen or through third party software such as the Glary Utilities I mentioned earlier.

But “check disk” takes a long time. Over an hour on a small (140 Gigs) hard drive. Which is why I like a small drive as my “Windows” drive. (My external USB hard drive is 500 Gigs.)

“Check disk” found and corrected four errors and I was excited that I was ready to roll with the cloned image. But when I ran the image recovery manager, it did not show my C drive and wanted to install the image to my external J drive. Theoretically, that is an option but I want to be able to use that C drive in case my J drive fails.

After some 20 hours trying to install my cloned image, I haven’t been able to do so. Since I have an Internet connection, I can research problems.

But I’ve noticed some strange issues. For example, I prefer Chrome as my browser but whenever I visit a “secure” (https) website, I get a message that it may be trying to hack me and will not allow me to access it. But I have no problems with such sites using FireFox.

I need to be able to use some of my programs and I don’t want to have to reinstall the large ones. Also, unless I find and install SP3, I have some limitations which may (or may not) be related to my not being able to use my wireless mouse or USB keyboard. But since I throw away none of my computer stuff, I have three “spare” keyboards and two other mice.

I’m going to try a few more things but if I cannot do it then I still have another option. Put in a new hard drive. I just happen to have a 200 Gig drive sitting in a box that I bought on sale years ago as a “spare” and this may be the time to use it. With a new drive, I should be able to install the cloned image.

If you do not have programs similar to Malwarebytes, Glary Utilities and Acronis True Image, you need to get them. The first two are free and you can find them through a Google search. Acronis and other imaging programs must be bought but you can often find a version one or two releases older than the current one that is “clearance” priced. Just make sure it works with your version of Windows (XP, 7, 8, etc.)

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8 responses to “There’s Good News and Bad News (Computer Edition)

  1. It may be free (or not) to use the programs you mention, but then you would have to know how to use them. I have neither the time nor the inclination to learn. And 8 years old? It’s a wonder the on/off switch works 🙂 I just buy a new computer if I get into trouble, keep my anti-virus program current (now, having learned my lesson), and hope for the best. I try to have my files transferred from the old computer to the next, but if I lose them, my attitude is, You can’t take it with you. RIP old files and photos. Que sera, sera.
    I’m running Windows 8 on my home computer, which after giving it a long chance, I still don’t like much. At work, our computers are Windows 7, because our parking equipment will not run on Windows 8. And even then, the software which runs the equipment has to be in Virtual XP mode on Windows 7. (I guess you can’t used Virtual XP on Windows 8). So when Microsoft told you that XP was dead, they kept sneaky little versions around.

    • The utility programs are somewhat intuitive and often have summary explanations of the function.
      When you open Malwarebytes, all you do is click “Scan Now” and it does the rest. if you don’t have it, you should get it. Very effective.

      Now the disk cloning programs require some basic knowledge about hard drives but there is the user manual for reference.

      I’ve held off on a new computer because what I do doesn’t need much. But if Windows 9, which is supposed to be out next year is decent, I may get a new box.

      • But don’t your basic protection programs scan for malware already? I use Web Root at home, Norton at work.

        • They may scan to stop an infection but not sure if they remove an infection that slipped by. Malwarebytes is to remove an infection; it does not scan while you are on the Internet, as does Norton, etc.

  2. Computer world is an interwoven one. So I always try to keep it very very simple as possible. My attitude is: malwares, trojans etc will make its way through the machine no matter what. Theyre smarter than you think.

    If bugs becomes intolerable — reformat. What is important are the files anyway. Which I always make sure are in a safer place.

  3. I have a headache. Call my computer guy!!! – LOL!

  4. Makes my head hurt too.

  5. I think you have way more knowledge than the average computer user. But you’re definitely getting the most for your money computer-wise!

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