Tag Archives: Microsoft Windows 7

Technology

Visual C++ runtime error R6034 caused by duplicate startup entries

I think I’ve logged more IT support calls this week than ever before… most of which have resulted in frustration (possibly on both ends of the phone) – I guess that’s the danger of being a technical end user, who doesn’t really want to have a 90-mile round trip for a desktop support technician to look at a problem when I can really fix things for myself.

Yesterday’s call was really just a “niggle” though – but, as I was in the process of fixing some of the issues on my PC, one I wanted to be rid of…

Every time I booted the PC (not resumed from hibernation – just on a cold start or warm reboot), I was presented with a Visual C++ Runtime Library error:

Runtime Error! Program: C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\BeCrypt\BCSystray.exe R6034 An application has made an attempt to load the C runtime library incorrectly. Please contact the application's support team for more information

It wasn’t a major issue – more of an annoyance – but Googling didn’t turn up much so, once again, I tried the IT support route. When it didn’t look like I was getting very far, I also tweeted ByCrypt – who were very helpful but, in the meantime, the correct support channels came back with the solution (and a 100% success rate, I’m told).

The issue was that a previous software update had left two startup entries for the BeCrypt system tray application active – one 32-bit and one 64-bit:

Disabling the 32-bit C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\BeCrypt\BCSystray.exe entry (not the 64-bit C:\Program Files\Common Files\Becrypt\BCSystray.exe version) and restarting the computer cured the problem.

 

 

Technology

Registering MSCOMCTL.OCX on Windows 7 (x64) to run the FLAC Front End

I’ve mentioned before that iTunes mangled my MP3 library and then a multiple disk failure on my ReadyNAS took it away completely and, eventually, I will re-rip the hundreds of CDs that (thankfully) I still have in my loft…

In the meantime, I’ve been researching (aka asking followers on Twitter) what’s the best way to re-rip my music and the general consensus was to rip as Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) and then convert to MP3 as required:

@ Haven't we done this before? Encode to FLAC and use dBpoweramp Music Converter to change to anything else http://t.co/HTI3nx8t
@GarryMartin
Garry Martin

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded FLAC from Sourceforge but the installer gave an error message, complaining that it failed to register MSCOMCTL.OCX (on my Windows 7 x64) system.

Neil C. Obremski describes the problem in his 2008 blog post and the problem file is a Visual Basic 6.0 control which, not surprisingly, Microsoft no longer ships with Windows. Whilst there are unofficial downloads available, Microsoft also makes the Visual Basic 6.0 Common Controls (MSCOMCTL.OCX and COMCTL32.OCX) available as free downloads but they are contained in a .EXE file that didn’t want to play ball either.

No problem, 7-Zip opened the .EXE and I successfully extracted the file I wanted, copying it to C:\Windows\SysWOW64 on my machine.

Following this, I dropped into a command prompt (running as an administrator) and typed:

regsvr32 mscomctl.ocx

With the OLE control extension (.OCX) registered, I was able to run the FLAC front end (although I actually used dBpoweramp instead… it’s tremendously powerful and the CD ripper setup guide helped me to get going).

Technology

File copy issues with Symantec Endpoint Protection on Windows 7

I’ve been trying to copy some files from my work PC to my home PC. That should be straightforward enough – after all they are both running Windows 7 (x64) with all current updates installed – but I frequently found that Windows Explorer would hang in the middle of a file copy.  I found anecdotal evidence that disabling anti-virus software may help as the file filters can get in the way but my attempts to disable Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) were thwarted by the policies that my admins have, understandably, put in place.

It seems that certain versions of Symantec Endpoint Prevention (ahem…) Protection 11 have an issue with Server Message Block (SMB) 2.0 file copies. Disabling SMB 2.0 is one option, using the following commands on the client machine:

sc config lanmanworkstation depend= bowser/mrxsmb10/nsi
sc config mrxsmb20 start= disabled

(I’m not sure if a reboot is required, but I rebooted anyway.)

Whilst this could potentially reduce performance of the file copy operation, I could that it did at least allow it to work. (There’s also an unofficial Symantec tool that can be used to disable/enable SMB 2.0 on Windows 7.)

Unfortunately, the copy process was still not flawless and several times a dialog box appeared warning about Error 0x8007046A: Not enough server storage is available to process this command. Restarting the Server service on the remote PC (net stop server, then net start server answering Y to continue the operation when prompted about existing sessions or dependant services such as Computer Browser or HomeGroup Listener) and then clicking Try Again on the client, let the copy process continue

Once the file copy was completed, I enabled SMB 2.0 again, using:

sc config lanmanworkstation depend= bowser/mrxsmb10/nsi
sc config mrxsmb20 start= auto

Sadly, the lost time circumventing issues caused by security software doesn’t seem to be a criteria used by IT departments when considering their approach to desktop service provision, which is another reason I believe that a “dirty” network is not such a bad thing

Technology

Souping up SyncToy

I used to back up my work PC to a set of Virtual Hard Disk (.VHD) files until one day I needed to recover from a failure, and I found that the hard drive encryption software we use prevented me from running a restore. That forced me to find another solution and one of my ReadyNAS devices (sadly not the one that recently suffered two disk failures on the same RAID 1 volume, taking with it a big chunk of my data) is now dedicated to backing up my work PC, with a regular file copy taking place.

I have a drive mapped to a share on the NAS and the command line version of Microsoft’s SyncToy tool (synctoycmd.exe) is set to run as a scheduled task every evening at 10pm. Then, at 11pm, the NAS powers down until 8am the next day. The idea is that, as long as my PC is connected to my home network, it backs up all of the important files, at a time by which I should have stopped working.

Unfortunately I’m not convinced that it’s working as it should be – just because the Windows 7 Task Scheduler tells me that the task completed doesn’t mean that SyncToy ran successfully (incidentally, if you are having problems with SyncToy on Windows 7, this thread might help).  I was googling for a solution and came across eXDee’s batch files (sometimes the old ways are the best) to check for network connectivity, presence of the appropriate volume and then run synctoycmd.exe, recording a log file on the way. Bingo.

So, here are my versions (only minor updates from eXDee’s originals), called each night from Task Scheduler and a simple check of the lastsync.log file should tell me whether the backup worked or not.

Incidentally, don’t be fooled (as I was) by the synctoycmd.exe output that says it saved time by not copying any files. That’s the output from the preview run and there is a long period after this during which there are no status updates whilst the actual file copies take place.

synctoy.bat

This is the control file, to be called from Task Scheduler or run manually from the command line:

@echo off
title SyncToy run in progress...
echo Attempting file sync. Please wait...
sync.bat >lastsync.log

sync.bat

This is the file that checks for the presence of my NAS and for a mapped drive before it backs up my data. You’ll need to subsititue your own IP address but I’m particularly impressed by eXDee’s code to look for a TTL rather than a ping success/failure (smart move). Note I haven’t mapped a drive if the connection is not there, although that is a possible enhancement:

@echo off
echo SyncToy Log starting at
time /T
date /T
echo ##############################################
echo Checking connection to NAS...
echo ##############################################
PING -n 2 -w 10 192.168.1.14 |find "TTL=" && goto NAS
goto PINGFAIL

:NAS
echo ##############################################
echo NAS is online. Checking for share...
if exist "F:\Synced with Company PC\" goto SYNC
goto NASFAIL

:SYNC
echo ##############################################
echo Drive is mapped. Begin syncing files...
echo ##############################################
cd "C:\Program Files\SyncToy 2.1\"
SyncToyCmd.exe -R
if %ERRORLEVEL% == 0 goto SUCCESS
goto SYNCFAIL

:PINGFAIL
echo ##############################################
echo NAS not found. Exiting
goto END

:NASFAIL
echo ##############################################
echo Share not found. Exiting
goto END

:SUCCESS
echo ##############################################
echo Synctoy finished successfully. Exiting
goto END

:SYNCFAIL
echo ##############################################
echo Synctoy Failed. Exiting
goto END

:END
echo ##############################################
echo Synctoy Log ending at
time /T
date /T

lastsync.log

An example of a run (the failures were down to file access, rather than any issue with the scripts):

SyncToy Log starting at
21:00
08/11/2011
##############################################
Checking connection to NAS…
##############################################
Reply from 192.168.1.14: bytes=32 time=3ms TTL=64
Reply from 192.168.1.14: bytes=32 time=39ms TTL=64
##############################################
NAS is online. Checking for share…
##############################################
Drive is mapped. Begin syncing files…
##############################################
Preview of Work Folder Backup (C:\Users\markw\Documents\Work\, F:\Synced with company PC\Work\) in time 00:03:08:253.
SyncToy action was ‘Echo’
Found 2 actions to perform.
Found 47,158 files that did not require action.
Analyzed 250.5 files per second.
Avoided copying 135,013,767,205 bytes in 47,158 files.
Saved approximately 03:00:27:00 by not copying any files.

SyncToy run of Work Folder Backup (C:\Users\markw\Documents\Work\, F:\Synced with company PC\Work\) completed at 08/11/2011 21:03:27.
SyncToy action was ‘Echo’.
SyncToy options were:
Active for run all
All files included
No files excluded
Do not check file contents
Include read-only files
Include hidden files
Include system files
Backup older files (send to Recycle Bin)
All subfolders included
SyncToy run took 00:00:00:610.
Copied 5,932,607,488 bytes in 2 files in 00:00:00:610.
Bytes per second 9,725,586,045.9, files per second 3.3.
Avoided copying 135,013,767,205 bytes in 47,158 files that did not require action.
Saved approximately 00:00:13:882 by not copying all files.
Warning: 4 failures occured.
You can retry by selecting “Run” again or select “Preview” to see
the operations that remain to be performed.

The Sync operation completed successfully on folder pair ‘Work Folder Backup’ but some files were skipped. Please look at the logs for more details.
##############################################
Synctoy Failed. Exiting
##############################################
Synctoy Log ending at
21:03
08/11/2011

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Justifying a Windows/Office update – those “little things” add up

It’s often hard to justify a Windows or Office upgrade, but I think I might just have found a way to identify some of the advantages – try going back to an older version.

A few weeks ago, my company-supplied notebook was rebuilt onto the corporate standard build. I realised that it’s been about 4 or 5 years since I was last in that situation, as I’ve always been in a position to be trialling new versions of Windows and Office but these days my role is largely non-technical (so I have no real justification to be different to anyone else) and my team actually sits within the IT department (so I guess I should be setting an example!). I do have local administration rights on the machine, and I did install some software that I need for my role, but which is officially unsupported (examples would be TweetDeck, Nokia PC Suite and the drivers for my company-supplied HP OfficeJet printer). I also tweaked some power settings and turned off the corporate screen saver (thereby keeping my green credentials intact by balancing the lack of automatic shutdown with the lack of increased processor/fan activity to run a screensaver) but I’ve been trying to stick to the company build where possible/practical. That means I’m back to Office 2007 (with Visio 2003) although I am at least on a Windows 7 (x64) build in order that I can use all 4GB of RAM in my notebook.

I have to say that it’s been driving me insane. I had a similar experience when I went back to XP for a couple of days after a hard drive failure a couple of years ago but I’ve really missed some of the newer functionality – particularly in Outlook 2010:

  • I’ve lost my Quick Steps (I use them for marking an e-mail as read and moving to my archive folder in one action, or for sending a team e-mail).
  • Conversation view is different (I can’t tell you how, but I’m missing some new e-mails as a result).
  • When I receive a meeting request, I don’t see my other appointments for that day in the request.
  • [Update 15 April 2011: Access to multiple Exchange accounts from one Outlook instance.]

These are just examples off the top of my head – I should have noted each feature I’ve missed in recent weeks but I didn’t (maybe I’ll come back and edit the post later) but, for a knowledge worker like me, they are significant: a few minutes extra in Outlook to triage email 7-8 times a day, represents half an hour of lost productivity – every day.

…none of this is likely to convince a company to invest in an upgrade, even if they have the software (software costs are generally quite insignificant in relation to resource costs), but it’s all part of the business case – employee productivity is never easy to measure, but the little things do add up.

I’m now running Internet Explorer 9 (I need to test certain websites on the latest browser version), although I’m ready to revert to 8 if there are issues with any of the business applications I need to use, and my PC is fully patched including the latest service pack. I am resisting the temptation to install my own (licensed) copy of Office 2010 though… at least for now.

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Is the Windows Experience Index really of any value?

Those who follow me on Twitter (@markwilsonit) may have seen a few comments about the Windows Vista laptop that I’m currently fixing for a family member, who decided not to “bother” me when they bought a new computer, yet still relies on me for help when it doesn’t work as intended…

The laptop was woefully underpowered, with just 1GB of RAM (but only 768MB available) and an Intel Celeron 540 CPU running at 1.87GHz.  Patching the operating system seemed to improve things slightly (it was running Windows Vista RTM, with no updates successfully applied for over 18 months) but what it really needed was more RAM. The Crucial System Scanner told me it had a single memory module, with room for one more, so I invested the princely sum of £13.67 in making the system usable.

Not surprisingly, the addition of the extra memory to the machine changed the Windows Experience Index values for memory operations per second but it also significantly increased the graphics score:

Component What is rated? Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo V5535, Celeron 540, 1GB RAM Fujitsu-Siemens Esprimo V5535, Celeron 540, 2GB RAM
Processor Calculations per second 4.1 4.1
Memory (RAM) Memory operations per second 3.9 4.4
Graphics Desktop performance for Windows Aero 3.5 4.9
Gaming graphics 3D business and gaming graphics performance 3.2 3.2
Primary hard disk Disk data transfer rate 5.1 5.1

Unfortunately, Windows Vista Home Basic doesn’t include Aero (there are some workarounds on the ‘net but they didn’t seem to work for me), so I left the system running as normal.

What I found bizarre though was that even the crippled system with 1GB of RAM and only a few MB free (which was almost unusable, it was so slow) had similar Windows Experience Index scores to my everyday laptop – a much more powerful machine with an Intel Core 2 Due P8400 CPU at 2.26GHz, 4GB RAM and Windows 7 x64:

Component What is rated? Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook S7220, Core2Duo P8400, 4GB RAM
Processor Calculations per second 3.1
Memory (RAM) Memory operations per second 4.3
Graphics Desktop performance for Windows Aero 4.1
Gaming graphics 3D business and gaming graphics performance 3.4
Primary hard disk Disk data transfer rate 4.5

Perhaps Microsoft updated the Windows Experience Index algorithm between Vista and 7, or between 32- and 64-bit systems, (I thought they just increased the maximum score from 5.9 to  7.9) but it seems to make a mockery of the “experience index” when a basic consumer system scores more highly than a mid-range business machine.

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First signs of a tablet strategy at Microsoft

I’ve been pretty critical of Microsoft’s tablet strategy. As recently as last October they didn’t appear to have one and Steve Ballmer publicly ridiculed customers using a competitor devices. Whenever I mentioned this, the ‘softies would switch into sales mode and say something like “oh but we’re the software company, we don’t make devices” to which I’d point out that they do have a mobile operating system (Windows Phone 7), and an application store, but that they don’t allow OEMs to use it on a tablet form factor.

But it seems that things are changing in Redmond. Or in Reading at least.

Ballmer got a kicking from the board (deservedly so) for his inability to develop Microsoft’s share of the mobile market and it seems that Redmond is open to ideas from elsewhere in the company to develop a compelling Windows-based tablet offering. A few days ago, I got the chance to sit down with one of the Slate vTeam in the UK subsidiary to discuss Microsoft’s tablet (they prefer “slate”) strategy and it seems that there is some progress being made.

Whilst Windows 8 (or Windows vNext as Microsoft prefer to refer to it) was not up for discussion – Microsoft’s Jamie Burgess was happy to discuss the work that Microsoft is doing around slates that run Windows 7.  Ballmer alluded to work with OEMs in his “big buttons” speech and there are a number of devices hitting the market now which attempt to overcome the limitations of Microsoft’s platform. The biggest limitation is the poor touch interface provided by the operating system itself (with issues that are far more fundamental than just “big buttons”).  There seems little doubt that the next version of Windows will have better slate support but we won’t see that until at least 2012 – and what about the current crop of Windows 7-based devices?

[At this point I need to declare a potential conflict of interest – I work for Fujitsu, although this is my personal blog and nothing written here should be interpreted as representing the views of my employer – for what it’s worth, I have been just as critical of Windows slates when talking to Fujitsu Product Managers but, based on a recent demonstration of a pre-production model, I do actually believe that they have done a good job with the Stylistic Q550, especially when considering the current state of Windows Touch]

Need to do “something”

Microsoft has realised that doing nothing about slates does not win market share – in fact it loses mind share – every iPad sold helps Apple to grow because people start using iTunes, then they buy into other parts of the Apple ecosystem (maybe a Mac), etc.

Noting that every enterprise user is also a consumer, Microsoft believes enterprise slates will sneak back into the home, rather than consumer devices becoming commonplace in the enterprise. That sounds like marketing spin to me, but they do have a point that there is a big difference between a CIO who wants to use his iPad at work and that same CIO saying that he wants 50,000 of those devices deployed across the organisation.

Maybe it was because I was talking to the UK subsidiary, rather than “Corp” but Microsoft actually seems to acknowledge that Apple is currently leading on tablet adoption. Given their current position in the market, Microsoft’s strategy is to leverage its strength from the PC marketplace – the partner ecosystem.  Jamie Burgess told me how they are working to bring together Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), System Integrators (SIs) and device manufacturers (OEMs) to create “great applications” running on “great devices” and deployed by “great partners”, comparing this with the relatively low enterprise maturity of Apple and their resellers.

Addressing enterprise readiness

I could write a whole post on the issues that Google has (even if they don’t yet know it) with Android: device proliferation is a wonderful thing, until you have to code for the lowest common denominator (just ask Microsoft, with Windows Mobile – and, to some extent with Windows too!) and Google is now under attack for it’s lack of openness in an open-source product.  But the big issue for the enterprise is security – and I have to agree with Microsoft on this: neither Apple nor Google seem to have got that covered. Here are some examples:

  • Encryption is only as strong as its weakest link – root access to devices (such as jailbroken iPhones) is pretty significant (6 minutes to break into an encrypted device) and Apple has shown time and time again that it is unable to address this, whilst Google sees this level of access to Android devices as part of its success model.
  • And what if I lose my mobile device? USB attached drives provide a great analogy in that encryption (e.g. Microsoft BitLocker)  is a great insurance policy – you don’t think you really need it until a device goes missing and you realise that no-one can get into it anyway… then you breathe a big sigh of relief.

After security we need to think about management and support:

  • Android 3 and iOS have limited support for device lock down whilst a Windows device has thousands of group policy settings. Sure, group policy is a nightmare in itself, but it is at least proven in the enterprise.
  • Then there’s remote support – I can take screenshots on my iPad, but I can’t capture video and send it to a support technician to show them an application issue that they are having trouble replicating – Windows 7’s problem steps recorder allows me to do this.
  • There is no support for multiple users, so I can’t lock a device down for end users, but open up access for administrators to support the device – or indeed allow a device to be shared between users in any way that provides accountability.

Windows 7 has its problems too: it’s a general purpose operating system, that’s not designed to run on mobile hardware; it lacks the ability to instantly resume from standby; and touch support (particularly the soft keyboard) is terrible (unless an application is written specifically to use touch) Even so, when you consider its suitability for enterprise use, it’s clear that Windows does have some advantages.

Ironically, Microsoft also cites a lack of file system access as restricting the options for collaboration using an iOS device. Going back to the point about security only being as strong as the weakest link, I’d say that restricting access to the file system is a good thing (if only there weren’t the jailbreak issues at a lower level!). Admittedly, it does present some challenges for users but applications such as Dropbox help me over that as I can store data within the app, such as presentations for offline playback.

The Windows Optimised Desktop

At this point, Jamie came back to the Windows Optimised Desktop message – he sees Windows’ strength as:

“The ability for any user to connect using any endpoint at any time of day to do their day job successfully but be managed, maintained and secured on the back end.”

[Jamie Burgess: Partner Technology Advisor for Optimised Desktop, Microsoft UK]

OK. That’s fine – but that doesn’t mean I need the same operating system and applications on all devices – just access to my data using common formats and appropriate apps. For example, I don’t need Microsoft Office on a device that is primarily used for content consumption – but I do need an app that can access my Microsoft Office data.  Public, private and hybrid clouds should provide the data access – and platform security measures should allow me to protect that data in transit and at rest.  Windows works (sort of) but it’s hardly optimal.

At this point, I return to Windows Touch – even Microsoft acknowledges the fact that the Windows UI does not work with fat fingers (try touching the close button in the top-right corner of the screen…) and some device manufacturers have had to offer both stylus and touch input (potentially useful) with their own skin on top of Windows. Microsoft won’t tell me what’s coming on Windows 8 but they do have a Windows Product Scout microsite that’s designed to help people find applications for their PC – including “Apps for Slate PCs” on the “featured this week” list. That’s a step towards matching apps with devices but it doesn’t answer the enterprise application store question – for that I think we will have to wait for Windows “vNext”. For 2011 at least, the message is that App-V can be used to deploy an application to Windows PCs and slates alike and to update it centrally (which is fine, if I have the necessary licensing arrangements to obtain App-V).

Hidden costs? And are we really in the post-PC era?

Looking at costs, I’ll start with the device and the only Windows slate I’ve heard pricing for is around £700-800. That’s slightly more than a comparable iPad but with also some features that help secure the device for use with enterprise data (fingerprint reader, TPM chip, solid state encrypted disk, etc.).

Whilst there is undoubtedly a question to answer about supporting non-Microsoft devices too, the benefits of using a Windows slate hinge on it being a viable PC replacement.  I’m not sure that really is the case.

I still need to license the same Windows applications (and security software… and management agents…) that I use in the rest of the enterprise. I’ll admit that most enterprises already have Active Directory and systems management tools that are geared up to supporting a Windows device but I’m not convinced that the TCO is lower (most of my support calls are related to apps running on Windows or in a browser).

An iPad needs a PC (or a Mac!) to sync with via iTunes and the enterprise deployment is a little, how can I put it? Primitive! (in that there are a number of constraints and hoops to jump through.) A BlackBerry Playbook still needs a BlackBerry handset and I’m sure there are constraints with other platforms too. I really don’t believe that the post PC era is here (yet) – for that we’ll need a little more innovation in the mobile device space. For now, that means that slates present additional cost and I’m far more likely to allow a consumer owned and supported device, for certain scenarios with appropriate risk mitigation, than I am to increase my own “desktop” problem.

In conclusion

I still believe that Windows Phone 7, with the addition of suitable enterprise controls for management and maintenance, would be a better slate solution. It’s interesting that, rather than playing a game of chicken and egg as Apple has with Jailbreakers, Microsoft worked with the guys who unlocked their platform, presumably to close the holes and secure the operating system. Allowing Windows Phone to run on a wider range of devices (based on a consistent platform specification, as the current smartphones are) would not present the issues of form factor that Windows Mobile and Android suffer from (too many variations of hardware capability) – in fact the best apps for iOS present themselves differently according to whether they are running on an iPhone or an iPad.

So, is Microsoft dead in the tablet space? Probably not! Do they have a strategy? Quite possibly – what I’ve seen will help them through the period until Windows “vNext” availability, but as they’re not talking about what that platform will offer, it’s difficult to say whether their current strategy makes sense as anything more than a stopgap (although it is certainly intended as an on ramp for Windows “vNext”). It seems to me that the need to protect Windows market share is, yet again, preventing the company from moving forward at the pace it needs to, but the first step to recovery is recognising that there is a problem – and they do at least seem to have taken that on board.

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Solving the mystery of my drowsy PC

One of the many annoyances resulting from my company laptop being rebuilt onto a corporate standard build has been that it keeps on shutting down overnight. That might sound very green, but it’s actually not very useful – for example when certain processes are running – and there’s the added complication that I need to supply a username and password to the hard disk encryption software, using the built-in keyboard hidden under a document stand, because my Bluetooth keyboard is not available pre-boot.

After checking the Windows Power Options, my next assumption was that my employer’s administrators had installed something on my machine that was what was switching it off at night. After a little digging, I found the answer and it wasn’t some piece of systems management software – it’s a bit of poor user interface design by Microsoft.

In their quest to simplify the Windows UI, Microsoft has presented a very simple Power Options interface to “Change when the computer sleeps”.

Windows 7 Power Options

My computer is set to never sleep, when plugged in – but that’s not the whole story. It seems that, by clicking the link to change advanced power settings, there are many more settings I can change – including when the computer hibernates (hidden under a sleep heading).

Windows 7 Power Options Advanced

It turned out that my computer was set to hibernate after 360 minutes (6 hours) – since changing this to 0 (never), my PC has happily spun down its disks and turned off its display but, crucially, kept running overnight.

I know the difference between hibernate and standby – but does the average Windows user? I’d argue not! I’ve criticised Apple before for over-simplifying tasks in OS X and it seems that Microsoft has fallen into the same trap with Windows too.

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Rambling thoughts: Windows 7 service pack 1, full drive encryption, mounting virtual hard disks, and a PC rebuild

Every now and again, a whole heap of stuff “happens” to me that I think would make a good blog post, if only I had the time to do a little more research and pull it all together. This time, I haven’t done the extra research and I don’t have an answer, but I’ll publish my thoughts anyway. Maybe, someone else can fill in the gaps, if they think it might help.

It all started out in 2009, when one of my colleagues left the company and I inherited his (slightly newer than mine) notebook PC, complete with a 250GB hard disk (I was pushing the limits of my 120GB disk at the time). Transferring my data was easy – I just used Symantec Ghost (or something similar) to image my 120GB drive onto the 250GB disk, but someone had created the original system with the Windows 7 system reserved partition at the end of the disk, leaving me with the following layout:

  • C: System
  • D: Data
  • System Reserved
  • Free Space

I could probably have moved the reserved partition and expanded D: but, in the interests of time, I created a new partition (E: Extra) and used that instead.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I wanted to install Windows 7 service pack 1 on my machine. Unfortunately the installer needed 8GB of free space on C: and I only had 7GB, even after housekeeping. My intention was to shrink D:, move it, expand C:, and maybe even move the reserved partition, merging D: and E: to come up with a sensible layout.

There was just one problem – in the meantime my organisation had started to use a full disc encryption product (not Microsoft BitLocker, because deployment commenced whilst most of the organisation was still on Windows XP), so I couldn’t use third-party disk partition editors (like GPartEd) as booting from a Live CD left the disk locked.

One possible answer lay in a complete system image, which, helpfully, creates some virtual hard disks for my multitude of drives. Then, I thought, I could mount the VHD copy of D:, remove the letter from the physical drive D: and reboot, to use the virtual disk instead (before removing the original D: and expanding C:). Still with me? Even if you’re not, it didn’t work…

It seems there are two problems with mounting VHDs:

“No worries”, I thought, I’ll reassign drive letter D: from the virtual hard disk, back to the original physical partition. That worked, but I still couldn’t load any user profiles – only the administrator could log on, and they were given a new profile based on system defaults. Oh dear.

I couldn’t find any obvious advice on viewing/restoring whatever identifiers Windows was looking for in order to find the correct partition for my domain user account, so I decided to restore the partition from backup. Except that the full disc encryption software seemed to prevent it, not just when booted from a recovery disc or from a boot time selection to repair my computer, but also when attempting the restore from within Windows Backup.

In the end, the simplest solution was to have my machine rebuilt onto the latest corporate build, and then to restore my data by mounting the VHDs in my backup set (which are no longer identical to my physical disk partitions and so do not cause problems). Perhaps it really is time for me to stop being a geek, and to concentrate on using my PC as a business tool…

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A couple of potential fixes for Windows 7 system image backup failures

I’ve been trying to back up my notebook PC in the form of a Windows 7 System Image (which will, helpfully, create some VHDs for me) but kept on coming up against the following error:

Create a system image

The backup failed.

The operation failed due to a device error encountered with either the source or the destination. If the source or the destination volume is on a disk, run CHKDSK /R on the source or destination volume and then retry the operation. (0x8078012D)

Additional Information:
The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error. (0x8007045D)

I’m pretty sure that my disks are OK but it struck me this might be a side effect of using a third-party full disk encryption product (BeCrypt DiskProtect) so I checked to see if colleagues were able to back up their systems (they were).

Unfortunately, it takes a couple of hours to reproduce the error, so I didn’t take the usual, logical, step by step approach to resolving this one.  It was either:

  • 0x8078012D – Bad sector, fixed with chkdsk /r (which takes an age to run on an encrypted volume)

or

  • 0x8007045D – Manually starting the Volume Shadow Copy service.

Either way, these to changes let me complete the backup successfully – and this post may help someone else in the same situation on day…

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