Scenario: When your Windows fails to boot up, Microsoft tech support tells you the typical answer: Re-install Windows. You follows this advice, but some devices such as the sound card and the video adaptor cannot be detected by Windows 95.
You expect that the device drivers must be in the original system CD, but no one, including the network administrator, knows where the CD is.
You want to find out the device models so that you can download the drivers from the web. After you open the CPU case, you find the brand name, but not the model, of the devices.
You go to the secretary and hope that the invoice of your PC would indicate what models they are. But the invoice does not list the information.
At last your network administrator find the System CD in the kitchen. It has been used as a cup holder. You want to reinstall only two drivers and keep your data, but the System CD tells you that it will reformat your hard drive and load all the drivers!
You call the tech support of the PC manufacturer. After she laughs at you for messing up the system, she kindly tells you which file you need to download from their website in order to get the driver. With a grateful heart you open the Add Hardware under Control Panel in attempt to install the driver. But you find a list of drivers. You make an educated guess. Unfortunately, your Windows cannot boot up again!
Building a hardware device profile for Windows 95
You should build a device profile when your computer is still healthy. A device profile can tell you what devices the PC has, what drivers and what resources (e.g. Interrupt, I/O Base) they use. With this information, you can restore your system to exactly what it was before. To print a device profile:
- Open Control Panel.
- Open System.
- Select the Device Manager tab.
- Click the Print button to get a hardcopy of the profile.
- In the print dialog box select all devices and system summary, then click OK.
If you are a network administrator, I recommend you to print the profile to a file and place it in the server so that other computing support personnel can access the profile easily. In my experience, hardcopies are easily lost or misplaced and are difficult to share.
- Do the preceding Step 1-5, but check the box Print to file
- Make sure the chosen printer is a PostScript (PS) printer. If not, select a PS printer by pressing the Setup button. You can tell whether the printer is PS-enabled or not by checking if the name has the letter "PS."
- Click OK to print. It will prompt you to save the file with a given name. The default file name extension is prn, which stands for printer file (for Excel prn files are space delimited files. But if you open them in Excel, you will see garbo only). Change it to ps. Your file name should look like "my_profile.ps."
- Save all workstation profiles in the server. Later if you want to look at it, go to the command prompt and type print my_profile.ps. When you are prompted for a printer, type lpt1.
- You may also use Adobe Acrobat Distiller to convert the postscript file to a PDF file. Then the profile can be accessible via the Intranet. The conversion procedure is very easy: Open the PostScript file in Acrobat Distiller and the file will be converted. Here is an example.
Remember that whenever you add new hardware to your system, you must update the hardware device profile.
How about Windows NT?
However, when you go to Windows NT, you cannot find much device information from the System control panel like from Windows 95. First, Windows NT does not support plug and play as good as Windows 95. Second, Windows NT uses a different approach for device recognition. The hardware detector of NT is NTDECTECT.COM. When the NT starts up, NTDETECT.COM scans the system hardware and sends the information to the Registry. Then the Registry information is used to load the device drivers and set the resource parameters.
To view device info, you need to go to different device control panels. For example, you can open SCSI-Adapters to check the CD-ROM drive type. You can also open Network to check the Netowrk Interface Card. There are many other device control panels such as UPS, tape devices, keyboards, and so forth.
To view the driver and resource information, open Run from Start menu, type WINMSD and press enter. It will open Windows NT Diagnostics as shown in the following:
Unlike the System control panel in WIN95, WINMSD provides you more software information (e.g. drivers and resources) than hardware information (e.g. devices).
You can also output the information by clicking the Print button. Unlike WIN95, NT let you print a hardcopy, save it to clipboard, or to a file. Further, you can save it as a text file rather than a PostScript file. However, this info from NT, in my opinions, is not as useful as that of Win95.
To obtain the hardware profile, you need the Windows NT setup CD. The procedure is as the following:
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