Troubleshooting Windows

First steps

Hardware Problems

Right-click on the My Computer icon and select Properties. Go to the Device Manager tab. Look for any entries for each of the components that should appear.

If any are missing, they may be faulty, or incorrectly installed. Go to the Control Panel and run the Add New Hardware applet to see if this detects the missing component. Some items will appear with yellow exclamation marks or red question marks next to them. In these cases, there may be a configuration or driver problem. Try reinstalling the driver. If the device is an old ISA (especially non-PnP) device, you may have to go into CMOS settings and change the PCI Options, to reserve an IRQ for the slot in which the card is fitted.

It makes life much easier if the Windows installation files are stored on the hard disk. This is because, during some hardware installations, Windows cannot access the CDROM, so if the software associated with the hardware is on the CD, you're stuck. Avoid this by copying all the files from the Win98 folder (you don't need its subfolders) to a folder (call it C:\WINCD\ for simplicity, but it is sometimes already stored in C:\WINDOWS\OPTIONS\CABS\). Change the registry entry at HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\SourcePath to match the path to the folder containing the windows setup files. This will save Windows from requesting the path during subsequent setups.

Auto-run Software

Many software installations add items to Windows' auto-start list. These can be seen and disabled with the msconfig (Start | Run | msconfig) utility.

The autoexec.bat and config.sys tabs control settings used by DOS programs. The System.ini tab doesn't contain much of interest. The area of interest in the Win.ini tab is the Windows folder that appears at the top of the list. The Load and Run entries are run at start-up, so check that these don't contain any unwanted applications. The Startup tab lists items that appear in the registry start up lists and the Start | Programs | StartUp menu. This is where most of the problematic entries appear.

Network Settings

Check for IP connectivity by running the web browser. Ensure that the Network Interface Card's (NIC's) MAC address has been registered with LIS. Double check the NIC by running Winipcfg from Start | Run, and check that the MAC address appears normal.

Right-click on Network Neighborhood and select Properties. Remove the Dial-up adapter if the computer has no modem. Remove the NetBEUI protocol. CLick on TCP/IP and check that the DNS and DHCP options are enabled. Check under the properties for the IPX/SPX protocol that the Frame Type is Ethernet II.

System File Corruption

Check for missing or damaged system files using System File Checker (Start | Run | sfc ). Check for Registry corruption using Start | Run | Regedit. After uninstalling applications, run RegClean (available from under System Utilities | Power Tools). This will enable you to remove registry entries left behind by the uninstall feature. But be careful that you are certain what the entries that you are deleting refer to. Items marked [Unknown] usually belong to software that has been uninstalled. But this is not always true, so only delete them if you are absolutely certain. Microsoft also have a registry fixing utility called RegClean.


WIndows 98 automatically creates a Bootlog.txt file in the root directory of the C: drive when booting to Safe Mode. On the next reboot, this file is renamed to bootlog.prv, and a new bootlog.txt is created. This continues for the rest of that day. Also, pressing F8 or CTRL just before the Windows splash screen appears brings up the boot menu. You can select a logged boot from this menu.

The bootlog menu can be automatically preset by adjusting the following lines in the MSDOS.SYS file:


BootMenu activates the menu, BootMenuDefault sets the default to Logged Boot, and BootMenuDelay waits 5 seconds in case the user needs to change the selection.

The following code can be added to autoexec.bat so that a sequence of 5 bootlogs is automatically maintained.

if exist c:\bootlog3.txt  del  c:\bootlog3.txt
if exist c:\bootlog2.txt  ren  c:\bootlog2.txt bootlog3.txt
if exist c:\bootlog1.txt  ren  c:\bootlog1.txt bootlog2.txt
if exist c:\bootlog.prv   attrib -h bootlog.prv
if exist c:\bootlog.prv   ren  c:\bootlog.prv  bootlog1.txt
if exist c:\bootlog.txt   attrib -h bootlog.txt

The Bootlog files are normally hidden, so you need to configure Explorer to show hidden files to access the bootlogs.

Useful Web sites

Google USENET Newsgroups search
Windows Support Centre
Microsoft Support
Microsoft Technet
Microsoft Developer Network (primarily documentation) Useful Freeware Utilities

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Copyright © Neil Carter

Content last updated: 2003-09-23