What to do when Windows breaks

Every once in a while I get a question like this one, which showed up Thursday night on this page:
I did a stupid thing last night. A friend thought I might need to upgrade my Windows 98SE to Windows ME, but didnt get me an upgrade version, but the full version. Through the installation process, I did not copy the unistall files to my hard drive as I didnt think I would need to uninstall, plus I wanted to get rid of all elements of any old system files, as they were the ones causing me problems (errors in cd-rom line 2, 3 4 etc)…
Now, my computer stays in dos mode, and says that windows cannot run on ms dos version 8.00!?
Please help!? I need to wipe my hard drive and start again. How do I do that?

Please help

This question opens up a huge can of worms, like whether Windows ME really was an upgrade over 98SE, but in this case it sounds like it’s too late for that argument. How do you install Windows cleanly?

Here’s what I do. At a DOS prompt, I enter this command:

REN WINDOWS WINBAK

This gets your old Windows directory out of the way, but without deleting it. This is important because you might want to harvest stuff out of there: IE bookmarks and fonts are the two most likely things.

Next, because these files under any 32-bit Windows cause nothing but problems:

DEL C:\CONFIG.SYS
DEL C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT

If you’re really paranoid, rename them instead:

REN C:\CONFIG.SYS C:\CONFIG.BAK
REN C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT C:\AUTOEXEC.BAK

Next, start Windows setup. Run it off a CD–grab a boot floppy from bootdisk.com if you don’t have one–or the CAB files might, if you’re lucky, be on your hard drive. The standard place OEMs put it is C:\Windows\Options\Cabs. We just renamed Windows, so you can try these commands:

CD \WINBAK\OPTIONS\CABS
SETUP

That’ll start up Windows Setup for whatever version came with your computer.

If the directory’s not there, or Setup.exe isn’t there, you’re stuck using the CD. Boot off the CD, or use the bootdisk if the CD isn’t bootable.

Run Windows setup, and setup will say it found an installation in C:\WINBAK and ask if you want to upgrade it. SAY NO!!!!! (I feel so strongly about this that I’m tempted to use the dreaded blink tag, but I’ll spare you.) It’ll ask where you want to install. Say good ol’ C:\WINDOWS, and you’re on your way to a fresh, clean build.

2 thoughts on “What to do when Windows breaks

  • March 16, 2003 at 6:21 pm
    Permalink

    Really useful.

  • November 27, 2003 at 2:48 am
    Permalink

    Spam from Bob Thomas soliciting Googlejuice for his home improvement business deleted. I left his e-mail address though. I have no objections to you getting a throwaway mail account and e-mailing him telling him just what you think of his business practices.

    Funny, I might have been in the market for those types of services. But I don’t do business with spammers. Do you? — Dave F.

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