Recovery Tactics

In event of a system failure, how many recovery tools can you use?

Best Practice (Litmus Test)

Professionals:  Have a tried and test list of recovery tactics

Amateurs:  Can only reinstall the server from scratch

Recovery Toolkit

The situation is that your machine crashes and will not restart properly, what do you do next?

  1. Safe Mode
  2. Recovery Console – CD
  3. Directory Services Restore
  4. Windows Server 2003 Repair
  5. LKK
  6. Restore Points XP
  7. (ERD)

Safe mode

Those coming from NT 4.0 will be impressed with all the options revealed by pressing F8 on boot up; those who know Windows 98 will find old friends amongst these options.  Safe Mode is my favourite strategy, I find it usually works, and I can get into the system and reverse what ever was stopping it booting normally.

Recovery Console

This is a great strategy if you have to repair a corrupted file by copying the original from CD.  What happens is the command console boots into a shell which looks like dos, then you can copy the files from the CD to the WINNT folder.

Organized administrators prepare by installing the command console with winnt /cmdcons.  As ever Microsoft provide two ways of doing everything, and you can also access the command console by inserting the CD and choosing R = Repair from the appropriate menu.

Directory Services Restore

This is a specialist technique for recovering parts of active directory that you have inadvertently deleted, for example, you delete an OU and you want it back.  I say specialist because you have to understand LDAP and ADSI to select the items to be restored.

Windows Repair

When crucial operating files get damaged, you could carry out a repair.  The technique is to pretend you wish to install a new copy, but at the crucial menu, select Windows Repair on the menus.  Note this is a different technique from Recovery Console, you will need the Product Key for this Repair option.

LKG – Last Known Good

This is used in one specialist situation, you have just installed a rogue driver which you are pretty sure is preventing the machine booting.  I say specialist because it only solves incorrect configuration errors, if you did something that changed the registry, then you have a spare control set that you can revert to, however the moment you logon you create a new Last Known Good so would lose that spare set.  LKK is first on my list because it is the first you should try.

Restore Points (XP and Longhorn only)

If you can get as far as logging on, then the restore points are one of the great recovery features of XP.  The operating system creates a fixed point before you make any major changes, or else you can create the restore points yourself.  Note, restore points are not available on Windows Server 2003 only XP. See more on restore points.

(ERD) Emergency Recovery Disk

I put this last and in brackets because I have never had any success with this procedure.  The idea is worthy, all the registry configuration settings can be saved and later restored.  The fatal flaw is that the disk /file has to be updated manually every time you make a change, and for ordinary mortals that just does not happen.  If there is one thing worse than not having an ERD it is having an out-of-date disk which corrupts the system.

If you would like to create an ERD then Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, then click Backup. Amateurs believe that the ERD is bootable – wrong.  However, you CAN create a bootable disk by formatting a floppy in Windows 2003, and copying NTLDR, NTDETECT.COM and BOOT.INI on to the floppy.  This is the same strategy as used in NT 4.0.

Summary: Pros have a rich variety of recovery tools and strategies.

Kiwe CatTools - Free downloadGuy’s Challenge – Download this free device backup utility


Kiwi CatTools is a free program for backing up configuration settings on hardware devices.  Here is Guy’s challenge.  If you download CatTools, then it will not only take care of backups, but also it will show you something new about the hardware on you network. I could give you a money back guarantee – but CatTools is already free!  Thus, I just make a techie to techie challenge, you will learn more about your network if you:

Download your free Kiwi CatTools configuration backup tools

Download my Jumbo Litmus Test eBook $5.95

Litmus TestsOver 40 of Guy’s litmus tests.  Have fun while you learn about aspects of computing.  Stacks of ideas to check your servers, networks and security.

Your eBook has printer friendly pages and lots more screen shots.


Litmus Tests

Guy’s Litmus test is a concept that you can apply anywhere.  Each test gives you an instant answer to the simple question:-  ‘Are you dealing with a professional, or are they an amateur?   Is this the real deal, or is it a turkey?’   The Litmus Test concept is rather like Best Practice, but it reduces a 27 page report to one sentence. 

Try another of my Litmus tests »

Learn about Windows 8

Windows 8   • Litmus Test Circular Logging   •Dynamic Disc    •ReadMe Litmus

Review or Mobile IT App  • Disk Quotas  •Recover Litmus Test  •Security Litmus Test

Review of Trivial File Transfer Server  •Windows Server 2012   •Exchange 2010 Circular Logging