Thanks again, Bill

A friend asked me to look at her computer to see if I could fix. There wasn’t anything in particular wrong with it, but it was running Windows and had enough miscellaneous little issues that, to me, warranted a rebuild of the system. Since this is something I do many times a day at work, I have the whole process of re-installing Windows down to an art and could almost do it in my sleep. However, since I was doing this for a friend and not for work, there are a few things I had to do differently. For instance, I don’t have access to nifty imaging backup software, so I was doing this the old fashioned way… Manually back up all the data, take notes of the user settings, format, install, download drivers, etc, etc…

Now, I should know better than to trust Microsoft to make a reliable solution for preserving a user’s profile upon a system rebuild, but in my laziness I decided to try out Windows XP’s built in “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard”. I had used this tool a few times at work in the past, but have since become accustomed to Norton Ghost and other solutions for dealing with this. I ran the wizard, backed up all the Documents and Settings to an archive on my Linux server and proceeded to format the machine, re-install Windows, all the drivers and third-party software, millions of Windows updates and got the system running and looking pretty smooth.

When I was satisfied that the system was running nicely, I went to the nice “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard” and told it to restore all the files and settings from the archive that it created on my server.

“Your migration store was created with a previous version of Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. Please collect your settings using the current version of the Files and Settings Transfer wizard.”

What?! It was seriously telling me that I need to go back and re-create the archive with a newer version of the software. Unfortunately this is not possible, as there is no more data to recreate the archive from. I don’t think I could have felt more anger towards Microsoft at this point.

Since I didn’t want to inform my friend that although her computer is now “fixed”, I lost all of her data, and since I have been doing Windows builds for a while now and never lost any data before, I was determined to work through this. A little bit of googling led me in the right direction: One specific Windows patch (KB896344) updated the software and for some unknown reason made it incompatible with its own data.

So I uninstalled the responsible Windows update, which by the way broke most of the other Windows components, like Internet Explorer 7 (Don’t even get me started on that one…). But after a restart, I was able to restore all of the data. Now that the data was back on the machine, I still had to fix all the things that broke by uninstalling that update. My first thought was to run Windows Update again to re-install the patch. Well this was no longer possible, since IE didn’t work at all anymore. So I had to fire up Firefox, navigate to the Microsoft Support site, download the patch, install it (which only gave a few errors and IE still didn’t work). Then I had to uninstall IE7 from Add/Remove Programs, fire up IE6, run Windows Updates (2 or 3 restarts later) and re-install IE7. 3 days later than expected and many restarts later, the machine is back up and running with no problems. My advice: Stay away from Windows!

9 Comments

Jean PierreMarch 31st, 2007 at 18:29

“There wasn’t anything in particular wrong with it, but it was running Windows […]”.

Well, then there was something wrong with it! :-p

Have you ever seen the Migration Assistent of Mac OS X? It’s just great and saved me a LOT of time at work. It just moves your $HOME from one computer to another (Macs of course) that are connected by firewire. No network needed, just a simple Firewire cable. And as OS X’s core is based on a REAL operating system (as to say U..N.. you know what I mean), everything of the user preferences is also stored in $HOME. No need to look for strange directories or Windows registry keys.

JabbaMarch 31st, 2007 at 19:14

Yeah, not to mention that you can’t even copy an entire user profile in Windows without it chocking on the NTuser.dat file unless you log out of the user account, reboot and log into another account with administrative privileges. Even WITH their built in Files and Settings Transfer wizard, which just skips over the file…

RandApril 2nd, 2007 at 02:07

Wow. Sorry to have to see the next generation reliving the same nightmares that I had almost 15 years ago. Some Germans have a great saying: MSFZ – Micrsoft free zone. Find one, get into it, and if you really, really, really have to use Windows, then put it into an isolated virtual machine! Don’t let it escape!

KatieApril 2nd, 2007 at 18:38

Thank you for fixing my computer. I am so grateful!

JabbaApril 2nd, 2007 at 21:05

You are very welcome. It was my pleasure. ๐Ÿ˜‰

muddaApril 3rd, 2007 at 08:58

Yes, I have a dream…. someday all of our friends will have Apples and problems will be a thing of the past. You will no longer be judged by the color of your computer but by clarity of your itunes and the cuteness of your built in camera. Yes, I have a dream……

Jean PierreApril 3rd, 2007 at 12:19

Weird. I have the same dream ๐Ÿ˜‰

TrabbaApril 12th, 2007 at 01:15

Weird, I normally have dreams of Krusty the Clown looking reeses monkeys attacking me while I’m driving a steam powered Krispy Kream donut. OSs? Not so much.

AlanMay 25th, 2007 at 05:06

Just wanted to drop a line to say a big “thank-you”. I was tearing my hair out with exactly the same problem except that although I had the original files to work from they had taken about 12hrs to compile into a whopping multi-gb file and I didn’t want to go through that again.
I followed your method on here and it worked like a charm.

Thanks again,
Alan

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