Tales from the Trailing Edge

Last Ditch Disaster Recovery

Gregg Eshelman - 2001.10.04

At some point you may be confronted by your Windows 9x PC giving you nothing but a blank screen with a movable mouse pointer when you boot it up. This may be preceded by various error messages about "missing" or "damaged" files with the hopeful tagline "Press any key to continue." It may just stop at the blank screen or it may try to load Explorer and then crash.

As with any time Windows 9x refuses to boot into Normal mode, try to go into Safe Mode by pressing and releasing the F8 key continuously after you turn the PC on. This will run the boot menu where you can select Safe Mode. If you can get into Safe Mode, you (or your favorite tech down at the PC Shop) have a chance to save your important files. You need to be pressing F8 immediately after the system makes its "AOK" single beep. Windows 98 shortened the amount of time you have to hit F8 after the beep. Some systems will do fine if you just turn them on and hold F8 until the boot menu appears.

But what if it won't even boot into Safe Mode? There is one last ditch tactic that sometimes works. Do a double-click with the left mouse button on the blank desktop. Hopefully a window will appear showing all running tasks, if any. This is Taskman; its titlebar will be labeled Tasks. Task Manager can be used to launch other programs through the File > Run Application menu selection. The default folder is C:\Windows.

Select Explorer and see if it will run. If not, find Winfile and run it. Its titlebar will be labeled File Manager. At the very least you'll be able to copy files to floppy disks or to another hard drive or partition if you have them.

File Manager does not support long filenames. Any files you move, copy, or rename with it will lose their long names. You can also run Progman (Program Manager) and use it to run other programs, but sometimes it will crash. There will be no Program Groups in it unless your PC was upgraded from Windows 3.1x.

If you don't feel comfortable proceeding further, at least you'll be able to tell your favorite PC tech, "When I double-click the desktop I can bring up taskman and run Winfile to access my data. Can you save my important data?"

P.S. Double-clicking the Desktop outside of the Program Manager window in Windows 3.x will always run Taskman, even when Windows is running fine.LEPC

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