Don't reinstall, repair

When you install new software on your Windows NT system, do you have difficulty rebooting? Systems administrators have criticized NT because (unlike UNIX) the system doesn't let users access the command prompt to perform basic system-maintenance tasks during the boot process. ERD (Emergency Repair Disk) Commander 1.0, from Winternals Software, solves this problem.

ERD Commander is a compact NT command-line shell containing a set of 3.5" boot disks that you use to access an unbootable NT system. The software performs a variety of file- and directory-related functions to repair common problems that render an NT system unbootable. Examples of these problems are Registry problems, outdated system files, and buggy device drivers. ERD Commander also updates locked system files.

Installing and Using the Software
To install ERD Commander, insert the distribution disk into your system and run the setup program. Screen 1 shows ERD Commander's startup window. When the installation completes, you don't need to reboot or use special device drivers.

Using ERD Commander is as simple as installing it. When you first run the software, you receive a prompt to insert your NT installation CD-ROM. When you insert this CD-ROM, the software executes the WINNT/OX command to create a set of three 3.5" boot disks. To create these disks, you must feed three blank 3.5" disks into your system. You can also convert your own set of 3.5" boot disks to use with ERD Commander. However, if you convert a set of boot disks to ERD Commander, you can't use them later to boot your system or perform other system-recovery activities. After you configure your ERD Commander 3.5" boot disks, store them in a safe place. (Hopefully, you'll never have to use them.)

When you have a dead or otherwise inaccessible NT system, you can pop in ERD Commander boot disk number 1 and reboot your system. As your system reboots, you receive prompts to insert the remaining two disks. When the boot process completes, the software automatically returns you to the NT command-line prompt. After ERD Commander reboots your system, you have full access to your hard disk partitions, including all NT and CD-ROM file systems.

ERD Commander's repair operations are varied but limited. For example, you can't execute an executable program on the NTFS partition (e.g., you can't run the CHKDSK command against your hard disk drive), but you can perform a wide range of other file-based operations.

Executing Commands
ERD Commander's commands perform the same disk and file operations as their NT command-shell counterparts. You can execute more than 20 file operation commands from the ERD Commander shell prompt (e.g., XCOPY, ATTRIB, ACCESS). You can also execute directory-level commands, such as CD, MKDIR, and RMDIR. However, the available command set is limited.

To make changes to a file (e.g., the boot.ini file), you must copy the file to another 3.5" disk using ERD Commander. You then edit the file on another system using Edit or NotePad, and copy the file back to the 3.5" disk on your damaged system.

Acquiring Licenses
Licensing for ERD Commander is based on the number of 3.5" boot disk sets you need to create. You can use one set of boot disks to repair an unlimited number of computers running the same version of NT. However, if you have an NT 3.51 system and an NT 4.0 system, you need to purchase two licenses because you need to create two sets of boot disks.

Repair Without Reinstalling
ERD Commander offers a way to repair malfunctioning NT systems that might otherwise require a full reinstallation of NT. The software can save you hundreds of dollars in support costs. The first time you use ERD Commander, it will more than pay for itself in time savings.

You can download a trial version of the software from Winternals Software's Web site. If I were you, however, I wouldn't bother with the demo. I'd go ahead and buy the full version today.

ERD Commander 1.0
Contact: Winternals Software * 512-427-5873 or 800-408-8415
Web: http://www.winternals.com
Price: $249
System Requirements: Intel or Alpha, Windows NT 4.0 installation CD-ROM, 3.5" drive