Product Reviews

Bouncing Back From Crashes

Recovery Manager takes repair disks to the next level.

No matter how diligently systems are maintained, some will eventually crash. That’s just the way things work, and like it or not, IT pros have to accept it.

Given that unfortunate reality, admins all need a way to recover systems when they go down. One way is to reapply the corporate image to the downed machine. It can also be restored from backup. Either approach will wipe out any custom software or locally saved documents.

There’s also the option of running Windows setup and selecting repair mode, which may work if there’s an updated Emergency Repair Disk handy, and if someone can remember the local administrator password from when the disk was created.

All these scenarios take a lot of time, and in IT, a lot of time is a lot of money. Luckily there’s a better way: Winternals Recovery Manager.

Most know the Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) and the Windows XP restore point technology. Each of these saves vital system configuration information and Registry files for individual machines that can be used to bring them back after a crash. Recovery Manager takes this same technology and feeds it steroids.

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Winternals’ Recovery Manager gives a number of recovery options not available with normal ERDs or system restore points.

Like ERDs and restore points, Recovery Manager saves system configuration information.

But unlike them, it also saves information from multiple machines over the network on a scheduled basis through its Recovery Manager Console. All you need to do is create a scheduled task, add computers to the task, and let it run. There’s no need to install any software on the remote machines.

When the time comes to use the restore points the scheduled task has created, it’s a simple matter of selecting the crashed machine in the console, right-clicking it, and launching the Recovery Wizard. The wizard connects to the machine and lists repair options. If a quick repair is needed, you can roll back the entire machine to a specific restore point. Or the software can get fancy and perform an advanced restore, which will allow IT to restore only specific settings (try that with an ERD). The recovery wizard can even be used to reset passwords on the local machine, read the event logs and modify the Registry.

But what if the machine isn’t bootable? Fear not—Recovery Manager comes complete with a bootable CD that can either be burned to another CD, or pre-installed on every machine so the CD isn’t needed. When the machine won’t boot, the boot CD can start it and connect to the network. Then the Recovery Manager can be used just like normal.

The only issue I really had was with the help files. They’re not very comprehensive, but that can be overcome by downloading the documentation from the Web site. This is great software that does just what it says it will do—and it does it very well. And at the price Winternals is asking, it’s definitely worth a look.

About the Author

Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates (www.Dugger-IT.com). He was one of the first 100 people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.

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