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Automated System Recovery is a new feature in Windows XP that adds another way to perform a system recovery should things go bad. ASR, shown in Figure 3.29, replaces an older tool from Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0: the Emergency Repair Disk (see Figure 3.30).

Figure 3.29Figure 3.29 Locating ASR in Windows XP.

Figure 3.30Figure 3.30 ERD from Windows 2000.

Automated System Recovery (ASR) uses the Windows XP Professional Backup utility and consists of two parts: a backup of critical files that is made to a local (recommended) or remote storage device, and a floppy disk containing three files critical to the restoration phase.

The files that are backed up include the system state data and all files stored on the system volume. System state refers to all of the components that determine the current state of the operating system (hence the clever name) and includes such things as user accounts, hard drive configuration, network configuration, video settings, hardware configuration, software settings, and various other critical files that are required to run Windows XP Professional properly. Additionally, the system state includes files that are required to start the operating system properly, including those that are found in the %systemroot% directory and boot files such as ntldr and ntdetect.

The floppy disk contains three files: asr.sif, asrpnp.sif, and setup.log. If you're thinking that the .SIF extension sounds familiar—you're right! .SIF files are used for answer files to customize unattended installations of Windows XP Professional. The functions of these three files are outlined as follows.

  • Asr.sif contains information about your computer's storage devices including hard drives, partitions, volumes, and removable storage devices. A portion of the asr.sif file is shown in Figure 3.31.

  • Asrpnp.sif contains information about the Plug and Play information installed in your computer.

  • Setup.log contains a listing of all system state and critical files that were backed up. It aids in the restoration of these files when you invoke ASR recovery.

To learn more about Answer Files, see "Using Interactive Answer Files for Installation."

Figure 3.31Figure 3.31 Asr.sif contains information about hard drives and removable storage.

Using asr.sif and asrpnp.sif

Although not the intended purpose of asr.sif and asrpnp.sif, they provide a great wealth of information about installed devices and configurations for exploration into Microsoft Product Activation.

Using Automated System Recovery

The Automated System Recovery process is one that is not to be taken lightly. You should not consider using ASR until you have unsuccessfully tried to use other recovery methods, such as Driver Rollback, System Restore, Parallel installations, Last Known Good Configuration, Recovery Console, Safe Mode, or restoration using Windows XP Professional Backup. ASR will restore the system state and other critical files that were backed up at the time of its creation.

Backup Frequency

The frequency at which you make your ASR backups is critical to having a good experience when using ASR for recovery. Make them regularly, at least weekly—more often if you make frequent changes to the computer.

The process to create an Automated System Recovery set is outlined here.

  1. Start the Windows XP Professional Backup utility by clicking Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Backup.

  2. If the Wizard view appears, as shown in Figure 3.32, click Advanced Mode to switch to Advanced Mode as seen previously in Figure 3.29.

  3. Figure 3.32Figure 3.32 The Windows XP Professional Backup utility in Wizard mode.

  4. Click the Automated System Recovery Wizard button.

  5. Click Next to dismiss the opening page of the ASR Wizard.

  6. From the Backup Destination page, shown in Figure 3.33, configure the location for the backed up files to be placed. For best results, a local storage location is preferred over a network location that may not be available later. After configuration your location, click Next to continue on.

  7. Figure 3.33Figure 3.33 Configuring the backup destination.

  8. On the Completing the Automated System Recovery Preparation Wizard page, click Finish to initiate the ASR creation process.

  9. When prompted, insert a blank 3-1/2 inch 1.44 MB floppy disk in the A: drive of your computer. Click OK to create the floppy disk portion of the ASR set.

  10. Label and store the floppy disk in a safe, secure location for future use.

Should the day come when you need to use ASR to recover your computer, proceed as outlined here.

  1. Start your computer with the Windows XP Professional Setup CD-ROM.

  2. When prompted to press a key to boot from the CD-ROM, do so. If your computer does not support booting from a CD-ROM, you will need to use Setup floppy disks to start the process.

  3. When prompted to press F2 to start Automated System Recovery, as shown in Figure 3.34, do so. You will be prompted to supply your ASR floppy disk.

  4. Figure 3.34Figure 3.34 Starting ASR.

  5. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete the Automated System Recovery process.

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