ERD Commander from Winternals Software is my favorite software package. This disaster recovery utility creates a set of Windows NT boot diskettes and displays an NT command prompt that lets you work with your system even if it's unable to boot up into the NT GUI. Although I used this utility only once, it turned out to be the most essential software I used this year.

I needed ERD Commander because of one of the dumbest moves I made all year—I installed an NT Service Pack (SP) minutes before I had to leave for the airport. Sure, I'd installed this SP before, even on this target machine. But you know Murphy's Law—the one time I counted on the SP install to work, it failed, sending the server belly-up with the blue screen of death that it couldn't reboot from. My subsequent attempts to reboot displayed the blue screen of death with the not-so-friendly error message Corrupt DLL. The server had fallen, and it couldn't get up. On a dual-boot system or a system with two copies of NT installed, this problem would have been a minor inconvenience. Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten around to that setup, and this system didn't have a second copy of the OS to fall back on. With my flight time rapidly approaching, I had to leave with the system dead in the water along with some very unhappy users. I was sure a lynching party was awaiting my return.

Luckily, on my way to the airport I remembered I had installed a copy of ERD Commander on my system. I called in and told the users how to find and run the software. They successfully created a set of NT boot disks and revived the dead server. When the server came up, it displayed the NT command shell that the users could execute the standard NT commands from. The users issued the COPY command to copy over the corrupted file in the NT system directory with a working (albeit a bit older) version of the DLL that was on the NT Server installation CD-ROM. After the COPY command completed, the users restarted the server from the hard disk. Lo and behold, the system was alive again.

ERD Commander helped me get this downed server up and running quickly, even though I was on the road. The product provided an easy-to-use graphical interface that guided the users through the steps to make a set of NT boot disks. When they used the disks to boot up the server, it displayed the NT command prompt, which let them issue standard NT commands. ERD Commander helped me avoid the lynching, but my users made me promise that I would never again install anything just before leaving town.

ERD Commander
Contact: Winternals Software * 520-330-9130
Web: http://www.winternals.com