Identifying Windows File-Related Problems

The first set of specific Windows problems we’ll discuss are those that can be traced to missing, corrupt, or misconfigured files. These issues can cause consternation to no end because they can be troublesome to fix. Thankfully, the error message usually gives an indication of which file is the problem.

In this discussion board, you will learn about some of the various file-related problems that can occur in Windows, as well as their solutions. These problems can be categorized into four main areas:

*System files not found
*Configuration file issues
*Swap file issues
*Boot issues

System Files Not Found:
Every operating system or operating environment has certain key system files that must be present in order for it to function. If these files are missing or corrupt, the OS will cease to function properly. Files can be deleted by accident rather easily, so it’s important to know what these system files are, where they are located, and how to replace them.

When you boot, the presence of the system files is checked, and each file is loaded. If you remember, the computer’s BIOS first checks the PC’s hardware and then looks for a boot sector on one of the disks and loads the OS found in that boot sector. However, if the computer can’t find a boot sector with an OS installed on any of the disks, it displays an error similar to the following:

No operating system found

This error means the computer’s BIOS checked all the drives it knew about and couldn’t find any disk with a bootable sector. This could be due to any number of reasons, including these:

An operating system wasn’t installed.
The boot sector has been corrupted.
The boot files have been corrupted.

Thankfully, there are a couple of solutions to these problems. First, if the file or files are missing, copy them from the original setup diskettes or CD-ROM, or copy them from a backup (assuming you have one). The same holds true if you have a corrupt file, except you must delete the corrupt file first and then replace it with a new copy. These same concepts hold true for another system file–related problem:

Missing NTLDR

This error means that the NTLDR file is either missing or corrupt. Just replace it with a fresh copy. The error should go away, and the computer will function properly. In the worst-case scenario, an OS reinstall should take care of these issues.

Configuration File Issues:
In older versions of Windows, this was a common problem because users could easily edit their configuration files. Now, the Windows Registry stores nearly every configuration parameter available, but on many computers it’s not secured: People can edit it. And worse yet, its structure is incredibly complex and there’s no “undo” feature or Save button. Once you delete
something, it’s immediately gone. In addition, most software installation programs modify the Registry when a new program is installed. An error you might see is this:

A device referenced in the Registry can not be found

If you just added hardware, then it might make sense that the particular piece of hardware or its driver might be causing the problem. If not, then you would have to use the Registry Editor (REGEDIT.EXE or REGEDT32.EXE) to search for corrupt or invalid entries.

Swap File Issues:
Windows uses swap files (also called page files or paging files) to increase the amount of usable memory by using hard-disk space as memory. However, sometimes problems can occur when a computer doesn’t have enough disk space to make a proper swap file. Because Windows
relies on swap files for proper operation, if a swap file isn’t big enough, Windows will slow down and start running out of usable memory. All sorts of memory-related problems can stem from swap files that are incorrect or too small. Symptoms of swap-file problems include an extremely slow system and a disk that is constantly being accessed. This condition, known as hard disk thrashing, occurs because Windows doesn’t have enough memory to contain all the programs that are running, and there isn’t enough disk space for a swap file to contain them all. This situation causes Windows to swap between memory and the hard disk.

The solution to this problem is to first free up some disk space. With hard drives big and cheap these days, the easiest thing to do is install a bigger hard disk. If that solution isn’t practical, you must delete enough unused files that the swap file can be made large enough to be functional.

Windows Boot Issues:
Troubleshooting Windows boot issues is another type of Windows troubleshooting that is commonly performed. To understand Windows boot issues, you must first understand the Windows boot process, Let’s take a brief look at some common Windows XP boot errors, what might be
causing them, and how to solve them:

*Invalid Boot Disk You get the Invalid Boot Disk error when the BIOS finds a partition that could be bootable but is missing the essential system files. You can correct this problem by reinstalling the OS.

*Operating System Not Found This error means exactly what it says. Essentially, the system could not find an OS, or even a valid boot partition, on any of the boot devices (floppy, hard disk, or CD-ROM). You will get this error on a brand-new computer that you have just built, until you install the OS. Inaccessible Boot Device If, on bootup, you receive an error that states STOP: 0x0000007B

*Inaccessible Boot Device, you may have one of several problems. The most common is that Windows could not load the driver for the disk controller on the boot device. This could be because it is the wrong driver or because the disk controller is conflicting with some other hardware in the system.

*Missing NTLDR As you’ve learned, NTLDR is relied on heavily during the boot process. If it is missing or corrupted, Windows NT will not be able to boot, and you’ll get an error similar to Can’t find NTLDR.

On the other hand, if you get an error such as NTOSKRNL.EXE missing or corrupt on bootup, it may be an error in the BOOT.INI file. This is a common occurrence if you have improperly used the multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" syntax for partition entries or had the partition table modified in a multidisk setup. If these entries are correct, the NTOSKRNL.EXE file may be corrupt or missing. Boot from a startup disk and replace the file from the setup disks or CD-ROM.

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