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Troubleshooting Setup Problems

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If you're a hardware service technician preparing for the Operating System Technologies module of the A+ Certification examination, let Charles J. Brooks, author of A+ Certification Training Guide, Third Edition, help you by explaining how to troubleshoot setup problems. He offers clear guidelines and helpful test tips so you can pinpoint areas that need more study and concepts you need to master to pass the exam.
This article is adapted from A+ Certification Training Guide, Third Edition, by Charles J. Brooks (2001 Charles J. Brooks and Marcraft International Corporation, ISBN 0-7357-1088-0), part of New Riders Publishing's Training Guide Series.

This article addresses the following objective in the "Domain 3.0: Diagnosing and Troubleshooting" section of the A+ Certification exam:

  • 3.1: Recognize and interpret the meaning of common error codes and startup messages from the boot sequence and identify steps to correct the problem.

Troubleshooting operating system (OS) problems involves the same steps as any other logical troubleshooting procedure. The steps are just adapted to fit the structure of the operating system. Analyze the symptoms displayed, isolate the error conditions, correct the problem, and test the repair.

After the installation process has been successfully completed, operating system problems can be divided into three basic categories:

  • Setup problems (those that occur during installation or upgrading)

  • Startup problems (those that occur when the system is booting up)

  • Operational problems (those that occur during the normal course of operations)

By isolating a particular software problem to one of these areas, the troubleshooting process becomes less complex. This article focuses on setup problems, which typically involve failure to complete an OS install or upgrade operation. In some cases, this can leave the system stranded between an older OS version and a newer OS version, making the system unusable.

Sources of Setup Problems

Setup problems are those errors that occur when installing the operating system on the hard disk drive. With early DOS versions, installation was a simple matter of making a \DOS directory on the hard drive and copying the contents of the DOS disks into it. For operating system versions from MS-DOS 5.0 forward, however, the installation procedure became an automated process requiring an Install or Setup program to be run.

One of the most common OS setup problems involves situations in which the system's hard drive does not have enough free space to carry out the installation process. When this occurs, you must remove files from the disk until you have cleared enough room to perform the installation. Unless you can remove enough obsolete files from the drive to make room for the new operating system, the files should be backed up to some other media before erasing them from the drive.

Setup problems also occur when the system's hardware does not support the operating system being installed. These errors can include the following:

  • Memory speed mismatches

  • Insufficient memory problems

  • Incompatible device drivers

The memory speed mismatch or mixed RAM-type problem produces a Windows Protection Error message during installation. This error indicates that the operating system is having timing problems that originate from the RAM memory used in the system. Correcting this problem involves swapping the system's RAM for devices that meet the system's timing requirements.

It is not uncommon for mouse or video drivers to fail during an OS installation. If the video driver fails, normally you must turn off the system and attempt to reinstall the operating system from scratch. Conversely, if the mouse driver fails during the install, it's possible to continue the process using the keyboard. This problem is usually self-correcting after the system reboots. A similar problem occurs when the operating system is looking for a PS/2 mouse and the system is using a serial mouse. It will not detect the serial mouse, and you need to finish the installation process using the keyboard. Afterward, you can check the CMOS Port Settings for the serial port the mouse is connected to and install the correct driver for the serial mouse if necessary.

The best way to avoid hardware-compatibility problems is to consult Microsoft's Web site to see that the hardware you are using is compatible with the operating system version you are installing.

Most error messages produced during an operating system installation stop the system. However, some errors offer to continue the process. Continuing the installation rarely works out, however. Instead, just shut down the system, attempt to clear the problem, and then reinstall the operating system.

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