Microsoft Product This is Microsoft’s main online technical support site. Through this
Support Services site you can access frequently asked questions about Windows XP,
see a list of known problems, download files, and send questions
to Microsoft support personnel: support.microsoft.com/.
Microsoft Knowledge Base The Microsoft Product Support Services site has links that enable
you to search the Microsoft Knowledge Base, which is a database
of articles related to all Microsoft products including, of course,
Windows XP. These articles provide you with information about
Windows XP and instructions on using Windows XP features. But
the most useful aspect of the Knowledge Base is for trouble-
shooting problems. Many of the articles were written by Microsoft
support personnel after helping customers overcome problems. By
searching for error codes or keywords, you can often get specific
solutions to your problems.
Microsoft TechNet This Microsoft site is designed for IT professionals and power
users. It contains a huge number of articles on all Microsoft
products. These articles give you technical content, program
instructions, tips, scripts, downloads, and troubleshooting ideas:
Windows Update Check this site for the latest device drivers, security patches,
Service Packs, and other updates: windowsupdate.microsoft.com/.
Microsoft Security Check this site for the latest information on Microsoft’s security
and privacy initiatives, particularly security patches:
Vendor websites All but the tiniest hardware and software vendors maintain
websites with customer support sections that you can peruse for
upgrades, patches, workarounds, frequently asked questions, and
sometimes chat or bulletin board features.
Newsgroups There are computer-related newsgroups for hundreds of topics
and products. Microsoft maintains its own newsgroups via the
msnews.microsoft.com server, and Usenet has a huge list of
groups in the alt and comp hierarchies. Before asking a question
in a newsgroup, be sure to search Google Groups to see whether
your question has been answered in the past:
Recovering from a Problem
Ideally, solving a problem will require a specific tweak to the system: a Registry setting
change, a driver upgrade, a program uninstall. But sometimes you need to take more of a
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“big picture” approach to revert your system to some previous state in the hope that
you’ll leap past the problem and get your system working again. Windows XP offers five
ways to try such an approach—last known good configuration, System Restore, Recovery
Console, reinstalling Windows XP, and Automated System Recovery—which should be
used in that order. The next five sections discuss these tools.
Booting Using the Last Known Good Configuration
Each time Windows XP starts successfully in Normal mode, the system makes a note of
which control set—the system’s drivers and hardware configuration—was used.
Specifically, it enters a value in the following Registry key:
For example, if this value is 1, it means that control set 1 was used to start Windows XP
If you make driver or hardware changes and then find that the system won’t start, you
can tell Windows XP to load using the control set that worked the last time. (That is, the
control set that doesn’t include your most recent hardware changes.) This is called the
last known good configuration, and the theory is that by using the previous working
configuration, your system should start because it’s bypassing the changes that caused the
problem. Here’s how to start Windows XP using the last known good configuration:
1. Restart your computer.
2. When the OS Choices menu appears, press F8 to display the Advanced Options
menu. (If your system doesn’t display the OS Choices menu, press F8 immediately
after your system finishes the Power-On Self Test, which is usually indicated by a
3. Select the Last Known Good Configuration option.
Recovering Using System Restore
The Last Known Good Configuration option is most useful when your computer won’t
start and you suspect that a hardware change is causing the problem. You might think
that you can also use the last known good configuration if Windows XP starts but is
unstable, and you suspect a hardware change is causing the glitch. Unfortunately, that
won’t work because when you start Windows XP successfully in normal mode, the hard-
ware change is added to the last known good configuration. To revert the system to a
previous configuration when you can start Windows XP successfully, you need to use the
System Restore feature.
I showed you how to use System Restore to set restore points in Chapter 12 (refer to the
section titled “Setting System Restore Points”). Remember, too, that Windows XP creates
automatic restore points each day and when you perform certain actions (such as
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