I'm looking for one set of tools that I can use to troubleshoot, fix, and restore Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4.0. Do you have any suggestions?

Many tools work with all three OSs. To put together a fix-it kit, grab a few 3.5" bootable Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98SE) or DOS 6.22 disks.

First, store a copy of fdisk.exe, format.com, sys.com, and Symantec Ghost (Personal Edition or Corporate Edition) on one of the 3.5" disks. Make this disk read-only.

On a second disk, place a copy of Disksave (from the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit), a text version of disksave.doc (these instructions for using Disksave are also available on the resource kit), and Disksave-created images of your machines. (Each image is a mere 512 bytes.) Be certain to name these images with descriptive names that will make sense at all times. (For example, using the computer's name might not be helpful when you can't boot the machine.) If you're strong at heart, you can also include a DOS disk editor, which you can use to examine and fix a hard disk. However, use such an editor at your own risk. (A mistake can corrupt a hard disk and leave you with no recourse but to reformat and reinstall the entire system.) Make this disk read-only as well.

You can create an Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) on a third DOS disk, but you must keep this disk updated if it's to be of any use whatsoever. Also, using an ERD forces you to use the Repair option on the OS Setup disks or CD-ROM. That option can replace updated files with outdated versions (if, for example, you've applied a service pack).

Finally, you need to make a set of boot disks. For each machine, format a 3.5" disk with the appropriate OS, then copy boot.ini, NT Loader (NTLDR), and ntdetect.com onto the disk. With the DOS disks and a full set of up-to-date boot disks, you should be ready for any situation.