Last month I looked at Winternals Software’s
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
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
For many circumstances Remote Recover will
allow you to either salvage data or repair a broken installation. A real
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
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.
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 http://www.winternals.com for information
and to download demo versions of most products
Admin Pak v3.0 $US699
Remote Recover v2.0 $US349
Disk Commander v1.1 $US299
Originally published: April, 2002