Windows Restore

February 25, 2011

Last Saturday Sibylle's brand new Toshiba laptop started acting funny. First would lock up anytime the computer went to sleep, and then it stopped recognizing USB devices. It also stopped recognizing SD Cards. Not good things.

My bag of Windows tricks has diminished as I don't work on or use a Windows machine any more. We tried several things with no success, including using the most recent restore point. Thursday evening I called Toshiba support and worked with a very helpful and patient woman named Karen. She verified the problem and we tried a couple of things to fix the machine.

Deleting a registry file didn't help, nor did running a Windows "fix it" routine downloaded from the Microsoft site. In the end she said our only option was to run the recovery process and reset the machine to its factory state. The problem with this option is that it means the drive will be formatted and all data on it lost. We bought her machine the last week of January so there isn't a lot of new data on there, but we didn't want to lose any of it.

Normally I'd plug a USB hard drive into her machine and back up files that way. Only the USB part of the Toshiba isn't working. A quick survey of the files created or modified after the purchase date on her machine revealed a number of photos and videos that might be elsewhere on a SD Card or other computer, but wanting to be safe we wanted to back them up. The sum total of these files is 21 GB. Five DVDs worth. Hm. Fortunately we have a network drive and the network is still working on the Toshiba.

I started the proces of copying files to the network drive and we went to bed.

Friday morning the copying process had completed and I was able to verify that the files were safely on the network drive. However not from the Toshiba. This morning I was unable to view network attached devices from the Toshiba. Using another computer I verified that the copy operation had completed and I started the restore process. Instead of using the DVDs I had made (all 4 of them) the technician told me how to run a restore using the partition on the hard drive. By restarting (at least this model of Toshiba) while holding the zero key (0) down you can trigger the restore function. After saying yes to a dire warning about formatting the drive and losing all data contained on it, the process started. The Toshiba representative had warned me that based on hard drive size it could take 1 to 2 hours for this process to complete. I starte it about 6:15 am this morning and by 7:30 I was adding a new account to the machine.

By 7:45 the restore process had wrapped up and I was looking at a "factory fresh" Toshiba desktop again. Complete with BestBuy App. Since then the trial versions of Norton and Microsoft Office have been removed, along with the BestBuy App, and AVG Free AntiVirus was installed. Also, a fully licensed academic version of Microsoft Office has been installed, along with Dropbox.

Still left to accomplish is reinstalling Sibylle's Kodak camera software, WordPerfect, and iTunes. Then we'll copy her files and documents again.

The machine appears to be working normally now. USB drives and SD Cards are recognized. Network drives are visible and accessible. When put to sleep the machine doesn't freeze anymore. While we may never know how something got corrupted, or indeed what exactly was corrupted, restoring the machine has solved the problem. I strongly suspect that a failed attempt to add a driver for the network drive was the issue. As long as we are able to work with that drive without installing Western Digital's software, we will.

And, I'll be setting up a backup program on her laptop to make a nightly copy of all her data so that in the future if there are problems we don't have to worry about finding a way to get data off the computer before restoring it.

While I wasn't pleased to have to jump through so many hoops to get her computer working again, I was pleased with how responsive Toshiba Support was. Karen knew her stuff and was able to lead me through the steps to try and fix Sibylle's computer. I know I don't have that kind of patience, so I am impressed when I am its recipient.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.