Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Admin Pak v3.0
by
Chris Taylor

Last month I looked at Winternals Software’s flagship product, ERD Commander 2002. This month, I continue with two other products included in the Admin Pak v3.0; Remote Recover and Disk Commander. Next month, I will wrap up with a review of the final portions of the Admin Pak; NTFSDOS Pro and Monitoring Tools.

Remote Recover v2.0

While ERD Commander is the best overall product for fixing broken copies of Windows NT/2K/XP, there are times when all you really need to do is get access to the hard drive of a system that won’t boot properly. Maybe you know the fix is as simple as replacing a corrupted boot.ini. Maybe you just need to get some data off the drive before scrapping the existing OS on the machine. Or maybe you don’t have a CD-ROM drive that supports booting on the machine — you have to be able to boot from the CD-ROM in order to use ERD Commander. Under circumstances like these, Remote Recover v2.0, available as part of the Admin Pack v3.0 and as a separate product, may be just the ticket.

With Remote Recover, you can boot a sick system using a floppy disk or PXE-downloaded image. PXE stands for Pre-boot eXecution Environment and is typically used to allow the installation of an operating system across the network when the target machine has no OS. Once booted, you can then access the disks on the sick system from another computer on the network. The drives on the sick system appear exactly as if they are local disks.

To get started, you use the client wizard which helps you set up either a client boot disk or a PXE boot image. PXE requires a PXE-capable network adapter and BIOS as well as a DHCP server that supports the PXE boot protocol, so I just went with the client boot disk.

The wizard was very simple to work with and in a matter of a couple of minutes I had a boot disk prepared. If you are using an ISA network card, you need to know some details about the resources the card uses such as the IRQ and IO port. If it’s a PCI card, this is all automatic. Even I managed to get it working, so it must be pretty foolproof. Security options in the wizard may be selected to restrict what machines will be able to connect to this client.

Once you have booted a computer from the client disk, you run the Remote Recover host software on a working copy of Windows NT/2K/XP. It broadcasts a query over the network and any client machines respond and present a list of available disks. If they happen to be on a different subnet, where a broadcast may not function, you can manually add them by specifying the IP address of the client machine. Then, you simply use the Mount command to make the remote disks appear as through they are local disks. You may optionally mount a drive in read-only mode. This can be useful if you suspect damage and don’t want to make things worse by writing to the disk while recovering data

What can you do with these remote disks? Anything you can do with a local disk. You can copy files back and forth, partition and format disks, run chkdsk or other repair software, run anti-virus programs, etc. Remote Recover also includes the Locksmith program mentioned in the ERD Commander 2002 review, which allows you to reset the password on any account on the client system, as long as the System Registry hive is intact.

For many circumstances Remote Recover will allow you to either salvage data or repair a broken installation. A real time-saver.

Disk Commander v1.1

What if you have damaged disks? How about deleted files? What if you accidentally deleted a partition? ERD Commander and Remote Recover are not designed to help you out there. Included in the Admin Pak, and available as a separate product, is Disk Commander v1.1, which is specifically designed to recover data from FAT, FAT32 and NTFS volumes that have been deleted, damaged or even reformatted.

Disk Commander provides what, at first glance, appears to be a confusing array of options on how you can use it. But it turns out this is a good thing, because it provides maximum flexibility. If the damaged portion is on an otherwise working copy of Windows (from 95 through XP), you can run it as a standard Windows program. If the system is unable to boot, you can run it from an MS-DOS 6.22 or better floppy. Finally, you can run it from either a set of WinNT/2K/XP boot floppies or from a bootable CD-ROM.

While running the setup wizard, you are prompted for various options, depending on your configuration. There are options for FAT32 support when running on NT4, SP4 integration when running on NT4 to enable access to IDE volumes larger than 8GB, and integration of OEM drivers for SCSI adapters not natively supported. If you are creating a bootable CD-ROM, the instructions are long and involved, but quite clear and easy to follow.

If the volume you want to deal with is accessible, you can choose a drive letter to start the repair process. Otherwise, you can have Disk Commander do an exhaustive search of your drive looking for partitions, such as deleted partitions and those that are so damaged as to be not recognized by Windows.

You can bring up an explorer-style window and select “normal” files and copy them to another location. You can also look for deleted files and directories. As always, when trying to recover deleted files, directories or partitions, the sooner you do it, the better your chances are that the items you want will be recoverable.

To test, I used PowerQuest’s Partition Magic to resize my D drive down by about 300MB and created a new logical drive; E. I formatted it as FAT32 so I could easily identify it later, since this machine has never had a FAT32 partition on it. I then copied four directories to drive E, and deleted a few of the files. Finally, I deleted the logical drive.

As the deleted partition was no longer available as a drive letter, I had Disk Commander search for all partitions. I have used Partition Magic a number of times on this drive, so there were a number of phantom partitions that showed up. But, as I expected, I could easily find the partition because I knew its approximate size (300MB), the location (the end of the disk), and the format (FAT32).


I first thought I was going to have to recover the partition before I could access the files. This is the sort of operation that always makes me nervous. What if I accidentally selected the wrong partition? What would it do if it overlapped an existing partition? What if my configuration somehow confused Disk Commander and garbage was written to disk when it tried to recover the partition? Well, it turns out that you don’t even have to recover the lost partition. I was able to bring up the explorer-like interface and copy the files off the lost partition, including the deleted files. Very slick!

The version of Disk Commander that runs from within Windows does not allow you to recover entire partitions, so I booted from the DOS floppy version of Disk Commander. The search for lost partitions took a lot longer to run from the DOS floppy version, but I was able to easily find and recover the deleted partition, with all files intact.

All in all, I found Disk Commander to be a powerful program for recovering data. A tip; if all you are looking to do is recover deleted files, Winternals has an inexpensive (US$39) program called File Restore specifically designed for recovering deleted files. It won’t help with deleted or damaged partitions, but if the partition is accessible, it actually provides some extra searching capabilities that Disk Commander does not provide.

System Requirements

Remote Recover requires Windows NT/2K/XP for the host machine. The client machine has no special requirements, other than the need for a Network card. The network must be using TCP/IP.

Disk Commander requires Windows 9x/ME/NT/2K/XP for initial setup. Program may be run from a system with any (or no) operating system. Supported disk formats are FAT, FAT32, and NTFS.

Admin Pak v3.0 $US699 (includes ERD Commander, Remote Recover, Disk Commander, NTFSDOS Pro, and Monitoring Tools)

Remote Recover v2.0 $US349

Disk Commander v1.1 $US299

See www.winternals.com for information and to download demo versions of most products


Bottom Line:

Admin Pak v3.0
Remote Recover v2.0 $US349
Disk Commander v1.1 $US299
from Winternals Software
Web site: http://www.winternals.com


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.