Chapter Excerpt

System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Memory Diagnostics tool

Service provider takeaway: Learn how to use Vista's two tools for addressing memory issues at customer sites: the Resource Exhaustion Detection and Recovery tool and the Memory Diagnostics tool. This section of the chapter excerpt titled "System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks" is taken from the book Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters.

Download the .pdf of the "System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks" chapter here.

It's a fact of life that memory problems are hard to diagnose, and it's frustrating if you are the one dealing with them. Microsoft used to make the memory diagnostics tool available as a separate download for those in the know, but now it's included in the Vista OS.

In fact, two tools are running in the background to address memory issues with Vista. The first one is titled Resource Exhaustion Detection and Recovery (RADAR), runs completely in the background, and monitors the system-wide virtual memory commit limit. That is to say, it basically keeps track of all your virtual memory on the system, so it can tell when your virtual memory is running low and also identifies which programs are using the most virtual memory. When it detects a shortage of virtual memory, it displays a warning and lists the highest-level offenders for you to shut down. This is a nice enhancement from earlier times where you had to start shutting down programs to conserve virtual memory but couldn't be sure which ones were the culprits.

The other tool is Memory Diagnostics, which also runs in the background (if it discovers a problem, it runs diagnostic tests, which is added to the event logs), but you can kick start it if you think your system is having memory issues. You can run the tool from the Administrative tools or from a command prompt: MdSched.exe. You'll have to restart the computer for the test to be run, so be sure you save your work before the test.

To get a more detailed look at the tool, you can download the User Guide from http://oca.microsoft.com/en/windiag.asp.

But what if you cannot even install your OS or boot to your OS to run this tool?

Parveen Patel
Developer on the WinRE team blog
http://blogs.msdn.com/winre/default.aspx

Running Windows Memory Diagnostic without installing Vista. I have gotten multiple queries on this. Yes, it is possible to run Windows Memory Diagnostic without installing Vista!
You can do it through the Windows installation disc. To run memory diagnostic, insert the installation disc in the computer and reboot. When you get the prompt Press any key to boot from CD or DVD, press and hold the spacebar or tap it multiple times. This should bring up the Windows boot manager menu that lists Windows Memory Diagnostic as an advanced tool. Hit the Tan key to select Windows Memory Diagnostic and then hit Enter to run it.
After Memory Diagnostic is done, the machine will continue booting into the installation disc.

The System Recovery Options (shown in Figure 8.10) have a variety of tools, including Memory Diagnostics. By using this tool, you just might find out why Vista isn't installing.

FIGURE 8.10
System Recovery options using the DVD.

We are discussing Memory Diagnostics, but you'll note that Figure 8.10 shows several other important recovery options you might need at any given time to restore your system or bring it back from a major issue. One of those is Startup Repair. In the event your system cannot start, try this option. The Startup Repair Tool (SRT) looks through startup logs and runs a set of diagnostics to determine the failure's cause. It could be incompatible or corrupted device drivers, missing or corrupted startup configuration files, or even corrupted disk metadata. SRT attempts to fix the problem. If it does, it writes to a log file to let you know what the cause was. If it cannot, it tries to use the Last Known Good Configuration as a last resort. If this doesn't work, it writes the diagnostics information to a log and offers to assist you in trying to fix the problem yourself.

The SRT log is located at %WINDIR%System32LogFilesSrtSrtTrail.txt.

Parveen Patel
Developer on the WinRE team blog http://blogs.msdn.com/winre/default.aspx

In this post, we describe how to use Startup Repair to repair a missing file that is preventing Windows Vista from booting. The goal is to familiarize yourself with Startup Repair so that you can use it when you or your customers need it. We really hope no one will need to use it; but if you do, this knowledge might come in handy.

Warning: Try this at your own risk. If things don't work as planned, you might not be able to boot into your Vista installation or might even lose your data.

Preparation: Before we try to make Vista unbootable, please make sure that your machine has a good restore point. The restore point is not needed for file repair, but would be useful if things go wrong. To create a restore point: search for System Restore in the search box from Vista's Start button, click on Open System Protection, click Create. And then follow the instructions to create a restore point.

Making Vista unbootable: To demonstrate how to use Startup Repair to repair a file we will move the %windir%system32winload.exe file, which is a must-have for booting Vista. We cannot easily delete this file from Vista itself, so we'll use WinRE to delete it, as follows:

  1. Boot into Vista installation DVD.
  2. Choose your language settings and click Next.

  3. Click Repair Your Computer.

  4. Choose your operating system and click Next. This should bring up System Recovery Options.

  5. Click on Command Prompt.

  6. Once on the command prompt move the winload.exe file from your Vista installation. For example, if Vista is installed on C:, run
    move C:WindowsSystem32winload.exe
    C:WindowsSystem32winload.exe.backup

  7. Now restart your computer using the Restart button on System Recovery Options.

Your Vista should now fail to boot! It should instruct you to use Repair Your Computer from the Vista installation disc.

Repairing your computer: To repair your computer using Startup Repair follow these steps:

  1. Boot into Vista installation DVD.

  2. Choose your language settings and click Next.

  3. Click Repair Your Computer.

  4. Choose your operating system and click Next. This should bring up System Recovery Options.

  5. Click on Startup Repair.

Startup Repair should now start diagnosing your system to identify the root cause of the failure. Once it has identified the root cause, it would automatically start repairing your computer. If you are curious to know what Startup Repair did, you can click on the details link and see which tests Startup Repair ran to diagnose the problem.

After Startup Repair has finished the repairs, click Finish to reboot your computer.

Your computer should now be able to boot normally into Vista!!

Note: If your computer cannot boot into Vista even after repairs, then go back to System Recovery Options and run System Restore.

That's it! This is how you use Startup Repair for most unbootable situations.


Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Backup and Restore Center
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: The System Rating
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Windows System Assessment Tool
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Problem Reports and Solutions
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Reliability and Performance Monitor
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Memory Diagnostics Tool
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: ReadyBoost and SuperFetch
  System Recovery and Diagnostic Tricks: Vista Recovery: Advanced Boot Options, WinRE, and WinPE

About the author
J. Peter Bruzzese is an independent consultant and trainer for a variety of clients, including New Horizons and ONLC.com. Over the past 10 years, Peter has worked for and with Goldman Sachs, CommVault Systems and Microsoft, among other companies. He focuses on corporate training. Peter is the author of Tricks of the Microsoft Windows Vista Masters and writes for Redmond Magazine. He travels frequently to speak at conferences and has been an MCT since 1998.


This was first published in July 2008

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