failed systems is often the most stressful of IT tasks. Whether users have lost
data, registry or system errors are preventing Windows from working properly, a
hard drive is experiencing difficulty or parasitic programs are compromising a
PC’s performance, users’ ensuing stress typically results in a harried request
for fast recovery.
variety of tools exists for diagnosing and repairing such issues. Iolo’s System Mechanic 6 Mobile Toolkit packs four products
— System Mechanic 6, Search and Recover 3, System Shield 2 and Drive Scrubber 2
— on a single CD-ROM. As covered in an earlier article (System
Mechanic 6 Mobile Toolkit simplifies field support), the Mobile Toolkit
license enables using the software on multiple systems at various locations
without requiring that the software be purchased separately for use at each
TechRepublic’s System Mechanic 6 Photo Gallery here).
Repairing systems using System Mechanic 6
you first start System Mechanic, the program generates a dashboard (shown in Figure A) that includes a series of
buttons, system status and an analysis report, among other items.
|System Mechanic 6 Mobile Toolkit displays System Status, an Analysis Report
and more upon startup.
program also presents a number of buttons along the home menu’s left edge. Use
the Repair icon to access the following System Mechanic tools:
and Clean the Registry
Drive and System Problems
and Remove Spyware
explore repairing Windows registry first.
Repairing the Registry
selecting the Repair and Clean the Registry option, System Mechanic presents
three tools. Registry Optimizer eliminates outdated and invalid registry
entries that can slow Windows operations and wreak other havoc. Backup or Restore
the Registry simplifies the process of creating registry backups and restoring
backed up registry files created using System Mechanic. Compact and Defragment
the Registry, meanwhile, optimizes registries by compressing and defragmenting
Windows’ hierarchical database.
that, whenever working with the Windows
registry, you should always verify you have a working backup before making
any changes. As with other administrative tools, System Mechanic’s utilities
can’t guarantee registry operations will work perfectly, so ensure a working
backup is in place before attempting any registry tweaks. Thus, it’s a good
idea to routinely back up not only system data, but the system’s registry, too.
you select Registry Optimizer, System Mechanic presents several choices. You
can set the utility to automatically optimize and repair the Windows registry,
or you can elect to configure custom and even advanced options. Figure B provides an example of just
some of the registry problems the Registry Optimizer can diagnose and repair.
|Use the Configure Complete Optimization And Repair
Actions dialog box to specify the registry actions to perform.
addition to removing invalid application folders, the registry optimizer can
locate references to outdated software uninstallers, shared DLLs that are no
longer required, bad font libraries, invalid auto-run programs, bad drivers and
more. Options that can be configured for the actual repair process include
having the utility automatically repair all the problems it finds, saving the
information required to undo fixes and automatically excluding irreparable
items from subsequent searches.
the options you wish to use, as shown in Figure
C and click Next.
|The Registry Optimizer menu is straightforward and simple to use.|
registry repair actions will execute, as shown in Figure D.
|The Registry Optimizer will display its progress, and then report on its
success once run.
the fix button to repair any remaining issues.
or Restore the Registry presents a simple menu for backing up or restoring a
registry. Once you’ve opted to backup or restore the registry, just make the
appropriate selection from the menu. The utility will walk you through any
Compact and Defragment the System Registry utility presents a single checkbox.
Titled Compact And Defragment The System Registry Next Time
The Computer Is Restarted, use the box to specify compaction and defragmentation.
To run the utility the next time Windows starts, check the box and click the
Exit button. The next time Windows boots, the utility will seek unnecessary
free space within the system registry, clears it and defragments the database
to improve performance and regain lost space.
Fixing drive and system issues
Mechanic’s Fix Drive and System Problems option also provides three choices. The Drive Medic Hard Drive Repair Tool diagnoses and repairs hard
disk problems, while also providing the ability to perform surface scans.
The Drive Medic Disaster Recovery Wizard helps repair failed hard drives,
recover partitions, restore data access and repair unstable operating systems.
The Create Disaster Recovery Diskette does just what it says: creates a disaster
recovery diskette to later enable disaster recovery efforts should something go
options exist when using the Drive Medic Hard Drive Repair Tool. As with the
Registry Optimizer, you can run a quick search and repair in which the utility
automatically fixes the errors it finds, or you can opt to configure specific
options associated with the search and repair operation. Among the options you
can customize are the hard disks tested. You can also specify whether all
detected problems are automatically repaired, drive analysis should be run on
reboot if a drive is locked and full surface scans should be run, as shown in Figure E.
|In addition to specifying hard disks, the Drive Medic Hard Drive Repair
Tool offers additional customization options, including the ability to perform
full system scans.
full surface scans search for errors at the sector level, such scans can
eliminate the cause of corrupted data due to a hard disk’s possessing bad
sectors. However, surface scans take longer to complete. Other Drive Medic
features include the ability to examine and repair Master Boot Records and
Drive Medic Disaster Recovery Wizard helps recover a failed system or a PC that
crashes repeatedly. Triggering the wizard opens the menu shown in Figure F.
|The Disaster Recovery Wizard walks technicians through several available
options that often help fix damaged drives, boot unbootable systems, recover
data and restore stability.
the wizard by specifying the type of difficulty from which you’re trying to
recover. For example, the wizard presents two options: Highly Unstable
Operating System and Unable to Start Windows. Specify your preference and the
wizard takes it from there.
select Highly Unstable Operating System, the wizard presents three options. You
can Run System Mechanic’s PC Repair Wizard, which
searches for and repairs typical problems. The Go Back to a Previous Windows
Restore Point helps the technician leverage Windows System Restore feature and
load a Restore Point Windows created in the past. The third option, Restore the
System Registry from a Saved Backup, simplifies restoring system stability by
reverting to a previous stable Registry backup made using System Mechanic’s
Registry backup utility.
you select the Unable to Start Windows option two choices appear: Bootable
CD-ROM and Bootable Floppy Disk. Unless you’ve already created a bootable
floppy disk or booted using Safe Mode, the odds that you can even get to this
screen on a failed system are remote. That’s why I recommended you create
bootable floppies for systems you intend to support using System Mechanic before trouble arises. When creating
such a disk, System Mechanic writes the system’s master boot record information
and command.com, kernel.sys and other files to the
diskette along with additional Drive Medic utilities. Such a disk can prove
invaluable in resurrecting a troubled system.
if you skipped creating a bootable floppy disk, you can still trigger Drive
Medic by booting directly from the System Mechanic CD-ROM. Running Drive Medic
directly from the CD results in a scaled-back toolset featuring a basic GUI you
can use to specify disks to be scanned and the options that should be applied
to the scan (including attempting repairs of master boot records and partition
Fixing broken shortcuts
minor problem, even by user standards, broken shortcuts nonetheless prove
annoying. Using System Mechanic’s Clean or Fix Broken Shortcuts tool,
administrators can make quick work of such tasks.
can elect automatic discovery and repair using the utility’s Quick Cleanup and
Repair option. Alternatively, you can perform a Deep Clean and Repair, which
performs cleanup and repair operations on all drives, whereas the quick
iteration only cleans and repairs items on Windows’ Start Menu and Desktop.
of whether you select a quick or deep repair, several additional options are
available. Click the Options button to access the Automatic Cleanup Options
dialog box, shown in Figure G.
|Specify shortcut repair options using the Automatic Cleanup Options dialog
the Search For And Assign New Targets To Broken
Shortcuts box to instruct the utility to repair broken shortcuts. From the
Removal section, specify how the tool should manage the information it deletes.
anti-spyware programs exist, and it’s quite likely your organization has
already deployed at least one such program. When sitting down at an end user
system to perform routine service, recover deleted data, optimize the registry
or perform other maintenance, it’s helpful to also be able to scan a system for
spyware and eliminate offending programs. As spyware programs can also prevent
a Windows system from operating properly, having an additional potent antispyware program in your toolkit doesn’t hurt.
two options are available from System Mechanic’s Find and Remove Spyware
feature. You can open the Spython Spyware Removal
Tool or check for updates. Check for updates first, which will download updated
updates are loaded, open the Spython spyware removal
tool to both scan systems for offending spyware and remove parasitic files. In
addition to detecting malware and adware, Spython also detects key loggers.
with other System Mechanic utilities, several options are available including a
Quick Clean and Disinfection or Deep Clean and Disinfection. The quick clean
performs a basic search and removal of basic files, folders and the system
registry, while the deep clean performs a more thorough, complete system scan.
default, System Mechanic automatically removes parasites and saves undo
information associated with the removal action. Should you wish to change the
default behavior, click the Options button to make the appropriate adjustments.
When Spython completes its search and disinfecting operations,
it presents the results of its work in a summary screen.
Recovering deleted files
the most stressful service request IT professionals receive is the lost data call
for help. Accidentally deleted files constitute a significant problem, but
often data can be retrieved even if it’s been removed from Windows’ Recycle
files are replaced in Windows’ Recycle Bin, they’re not actually removed from
the PC. Only the references to those files, or the actual pointers within the
hard disk’s table or directory entry, are removed. Iolo’s
Search and Recover is one tool you can turn to when needing to recover lost
and Recover offers several options, including a File Rescue Wizard, a Media
Recovery Wizard, Advanced Deleted File Search and Recover Lost E-mail.
that have recently been deleted, without much new data being written to the
hard disk since the file was trashed, can usually be recovered using the File
Rescue Wizard. However, even a simple scan using the wizard can turn up
hundreds of recovered files. Thus, it’s a good idea to use the wizard’s
built-in filter to limit the type of files targeted. For example, if the file
in question is a Word document, use the Things To
Search For tab, shown in Figure H,
to specify documents as the file type. Other options include pictures and
images, music, sounds and videos, programs and applications and Web pages.
|Specify the type of file you seek to recover using the Things To Search For tab to help limit the number of files the
significant time has lapsed since a file was deleted, and numerous new files
have been written to the hard drive, it may still be possible to recover the
lost data. Even if a drive has been
partitioned or formatted, Search and Recover may be able to reassemble it. To
attempt such a recovery, be sure to check the wizard’s StrongScan
search checkbox from the Places To Look tab, where you also need to specify the
actual drive location where the file resided before being deleted.
the recovery scan’s been run, recovered files are listed on the Recovery tab.
Highlight the file you wish to restore and select Recover from the menu bar (as
shown in Figure I).
|Search and Recover presents the results of its search on the Recovery tab.|
Advanced Deleted File Search presents a different menu, with additional search
options and parameters, as shown in Figure
|System Mechanic’s Advanced Deleted File Search utility provides additional
parameters you can specify when seeking lost data, as well as a window for
viewing a file’s hex data.
informal tests, the Advanced Deleted File Search quickly found files the Search
and Recover wizard failed to locate.
addition to viewing a file’s condition, you can view its hex code in the lower
window using the advanced tool. To recover files the Advanced Deleted File
Search locates, just highlight the respective file and click the Recover
button. Note that you’ll be asked to specify the location where the file should
Recover Lost Email, special applications are provided for recovering messages
within Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, Qualcomm’s Eudora and Netscape
Email. The tool’s Email Safety Configuration feature simplifies turning off
Microsoft Outlook Express’s Automatic Compacting, which can make recovery more
difficult. The tool also simplifies turning off Outlook’s AutoArchive
feature and suspending automatic compacting within Eudora.
included Media Recovery Wizard, meanwhile, provides a specialized utility for
attempting recovery of deleted data from a wide variety of different devices,
including digital cameras, MP3 players, flash-based media and more. Its menus
are essentially the same as System Mechanic’s other recovery tools.
A serious toolkit
Mechanic 6 Mobile Toolkit collects a wide variety of repair and recovery tools
in a single, bootable CD-ROM. Most all of its utilities boast multiple
operating modes and are easily customized. While the number of optional
settings is limited, options presented cover the basics, making System Mechanic
6 Mobile Toolkit a serious consideration for any technician’s toolkit.