Windows

Don't let a bad device driver ruin your day when working with NT

Your Windows NT system just crashed because you installed an incorrect device driver. Now what do you do with the Blue Screen of Death? Brien Posey's got your answer.

Have you ever installed an updated driver, only to have it crash your computer? It’s not uncommon for a buggy driver to cause such a problem. Even if the driver isn’t buggy, you could have similar problems if it’s not an exact match for your hardware.

With Windows 9x and Windows 2000 beta, this situation isn’t that big a deal. You can simply boot to Safe Mode and remove the driver that’s causing the problem. If you have a problem too extreme to fix within Safe Mode, you can boot a Windows 9x machine to MS-DOS and correct the problem manually. Unfortunately, neither of these options will work on most Windows NT systems.

As you probably know, Windows NT doesn’t have a Safe Mode. The closest thing it has to Safe Mode is VGA Mode. However, VGA Mode helps you only if the problem is caused by the video driver. If it happens to be the network card driver or a sound driver causing the problem, VGA Mode won’t help you a bit.

Unfortunately, unless your hard disk is formatted as FAT, you can’t boot to MS-DOS to correct the problem either. And formatting a hard disk as FAT undermines Windows NT’s security. Even if the hard disk is formatted as FAT, you still won’t be able to boot to MS-DOS if it’s part of a RAID array.

In a situation like this, a good alternative is to install a second copy of Windows NT on the system. If a bad driver causes a problem with the primary copy, you can always use the secondary copy to access the hard disk and then edit the Registry files that reference the driver that’s causing the problem.

Of course, installing a second copy of Windows NT takes some time and consumes a considerable amount of hard disk space. So if you don’t have the time or the resources to install a second copy of Windows NT, there’s another technique that sometimes works.

As you may know, Windows NT is written with 32-bit code that’s designed to run the various modules and services in separate memory spaces, in a way that keeps them from interfering with each other. If Windows NT is producing a Blue Screen of Death, you’ll pretty much have to install the second copy to correct the problem. However, if Windows NT is running, but the user interface isn’t functioning, chances are that Windows NT’s network services are still functioning.

If this is the case, you can edit the Registry from another computer. To do so, first log on to another computer within the domain as the administrator. Next, open the Registry Editor using the REGEDIT command. When the Registry Editor starts, select Connect Network Registry from the Registry menu. When you do, you’ll see the Connect Network Registry dialog box. Specify the name of the malfunctioning computer and click OK. If the network services are functional, you should now be able to edit the malfunctioning computer’s Registry. When you finish, close the Registry Editor and restart the malfunctioning computer.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.
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