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System Restore for Win98se. Possible ?

Dr. Mac

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I've been working on my own solution to Windows 98 backup/restore problem for many years, already. The result is something in between to partition copy and built in system restore function.

I started from copying the Windows files to another partition with Explorer. It worked, but restoring of such a copy was not an easy task. After many experiments I've noticed it is possible to restore just 8:3 file names from the Windows folder, then to run the system with such a partial copy, then to restore files with long names from WINSTART.BAT script. And this idea and ARJ compression utility becomed the foundation of my backup application.

The final version makes snapshots of Windows and Program Files folders excluding temp and Temporary Internet Files folders. This covers the system registry and all config data. With such a copy it is possible to restore the system to a new disk drive in case of a critical HDD failure, or to replace the current damaged or infected system with the previously made copy.

The whole solution was targeted towards my clients needs. If the system became problematic it is possible to restore it from the CONFIG.SYS menu. That way I do not have to go to my clients office by myself, because the client can restore the system by himself in most cases, sometimes with a minor telephone help or suggestion.

I found it takes much less time to restore the whole system, than to clean it with AV software. The system copies can be stored on the same partition as the Windows is located. It is possible to restore from a bootable CD drive, as well.

The application was made in the Polish language only, I'm afraid.

Edited by Sfor
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I still didn't test you software, sfor. Did you make a new version since you sent it to me?

There is a simple solution for the long filename and using hta in dos mode, in fact very simple:

If the file exists hta will overwrite it under the long filename eventhought it has only the shortname as an information.

This if the file with the long name has the same short name than the file to restore. But most of the time it's the case.

If the file doesn't exists then write a fake file while still under Windows and hta will overwrite it in DOS mode.

Like this you can get a full restore before Windows restarts but you need Windows running before starting or at least befopre preparing the DOS script.

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Yes, I have a new version. I added a few improvements:

- the program always expected the Temporary Internet Files folder is in the Windows folder. Now it can be anywhere.

- Microsoft Win32 Smart Card Base Components addition is creating a smartcrd.dat file in the windows folder. It is always kept open. So, it can not be backed up. It is a temporary file created on every boot, so the backup utility has to treat this file the same way as win386.swp.

- I enabled the application to use DOSLFNMS utility for backup and restore. But, I did not tested it yet. The only conclusion I got so far is, the DOSLFNMS depends on the DOS codepage and requires own codepage settings files to work correctly. So, it it necesary to load codepage files before backing up or restoring. Also DOSLFNMS can not handle the file names with certain characters. It is necesary to restore those files with WIN32 application (like ARJ32 for an instance). That's why I do prefer the Windows built in LFN support.

I do believe the system should not be restored by overwriting the current system file set. Such a procedure will leave unwanted software and malware. My application changes the names of the current system folders and restores the whole file set to replace them, instead. It is much easier to keep the system clean, that way. The old system folders can be deleted by the user, later.

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The LFN support is necesary to create a long file name. If we have the LFN support the simplest thing is to write the file with a correct name in a single operation. I see no reason to create a long name and then to write a file in a separate operation.

Your procedure is logical only when restoring a copy over the old operating system files. When creating the system files leaving the old ones in a different folder creation of empty file names and then writing them over would be just an unnecesary complication.

Another problem is this procedure would work only, when the system is bootable. As the initial write of long file names is necesary. On the other hand, my procedure is effective also when there are no system folders, or the system does not boot.

Another fact is, my procedure is not suited for partial system backup/restore operations. It always has to restore the whole system. So, in case of a incremental backups it would be necesary to process the initial backup and then all incremental backups more than once.

Edited by Sfor
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If you can make ARJ use LFN under Dos without difficulties, that's of course a good solution.

Repairing unbootable system is a good reason for that.

I see that we have different goal and different aproach: Your goal is a complete system repair, without risk of "forgeting" stuffs behind, and for a more professional use.

My goal is rather anable a quick fix and fast restore-point back ups without, I admit, the garantee that all problem will be fixed.

I'm not building a tool which I would use for professional purpose, like you. Indeed partial back up is very complicated.

The advantage I'm looking for is to be able to run the system back up often (like every week) without losing too much time, then not being obliged to roll back one year the day the system needs to be restored. Also to be able to restore the system quickely and often with or without windows running, with or without even restarting.

Hence the partial back-ups and partial restores.

I also plan to let the user choose which files to restore or delete, from which date etc.... when the system file restore utility will be ready.

At this time I'm still testing and improving the back up utility only. It works fine.

Today I'v backed up the new installation of The Gimp + other stuffs (thousands of files). I just had to add a progressbar, beside that it was working very well.

Just a question,

Which file are necessary to keep for restarting in DOS mode?

Because I guess, these files cannot be restored, replaced or modified while DOS is running (which means never).

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Well. there are just three files responsible for the DOS boot. All are located outside of the Windows folder, by default.

IO.SYS, MSDOS.SYS and COMMAND.COM. Other files used during boot will be listed in CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, but are not mandatory.

It is possible to modify those files when DOS is running. The exception can be COMMAND.COM. It would be good to reboot the system right after changing the COMMAND.COM. As, it is loaded and unloaded dynamicaly by DOS. Quite often, Windows GUI kernel uses the COMMAND.COM from the Windows folder, instead of the one in the main folder. IO.SYS can use the one in the main folder, when the other one is not available.

IO.SYS should not be deleted. It's first cluster has to remain in the same location. So, it is possible to just overwright it. The file has to be located in the main/root directory. There is a copy in the Windows\Command\EBD folder. But it is used just to create emergency boot disks by Windows.

IO.SYS will check the registry settings during boot. If the registry file is damaged or missing it will display the boot menu with the "Safe Boot" option.

Edited by Sfor
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  • 7 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I've used for years cloning as an excellent substitute of any other backup system, because it allows you to work as having two, three or more computers on the same machine spending only a few minutes to create each one of them. Supposing you have your Windows directory in C: and you have a D drive (you may repeat it in all drives you want), the procedure is as follows:

1.- Download and install Notepad + +, an excellent editor, preferably an older version (freeware).

2.- Copy C: \ Windows with all its subdirectories in D: \ (copy-paste), excepting Win386.swp. Then go to D: \ Windows, select all files (no subdirectories), click "Properties" and remove all their attributes.

3.- Run Notepad + +. On the toolbar click File> Open. Find D:\ Windows and select "*. ini". You'll find about 10 programs. Open all at once. Click File> Open again and select *.dat. You'll see System.dat and User.dat. Open also both.

4.- Go to the toolbar and click "Replace" button. On "Search" write "C:\Windows", and on "Replace by" write D:\Windows. Click Replace on all files and wait a few seconds. You'll get a message saying that about 2,500 changes were made. Then confirm and click on the toolbar button "Save all." That's all. You have now two computers.

5.- To boot D: \ Windows you have two options:

Option one: Replace "C: \ Windows" by "D: \ Windows" on AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS and MSDOS.SYS (in this replace C by D at HostWinBootDrv).

Option two: Create a boot floppy by formatting it and copying from C:\ the files IO.SYS, COMMAND.COM, AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS and MSDOS.SYS, and then do the same in all them. You don't need to touch your present OS on drive C: you may boot using D:\Windows by simply booting your system with the floppy.

In the future you will never more get hung, because you have the possibility of booting this way even when C:\Windows were totally destroyed. And you can delete C:\Windows and restore it from a previously saved .rar or .zip file at any time. For best results it is convenient to empty the bin and defrag C before unzipping.

It is a great pleasure to have the possibility of trying all kind of software or downloading all kind of things having the security that you may restore your whole system this way in less than 5 minutes.


Edited by cannie
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And talking about the old PowerQuest "Second Chance" ... would anybody by any chance know of a link where it can still be downloaded from ?

I am not sure whether SecondChance is even worth while installing, the mule has only two instances, which looks like a thumbs down. :rolleyes:

If you have on your computer a 2nd opsys which can handle long filenames, a system backup/restore of Win98 is very easy:

Backup: just copy, while in the other opsys, the 3 directories \Windows\, \Program Files\ and \My Documents\

Restore: while in the other opsys, delete the 3 Win98 directories \Windows\, \Program Files\ and \My Documents\,

then copy the 3 backed-up directories into their locations.

This procedure has worked for me for over 8 years, is very simple & doesn't require the installation of tricky software.

Edited by Multibooter
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Although I found the last retail "SecondChance" on eBay and bought it, when I was using SecondChance it was the latest version made that had Windows Me compatibility as well. In the old days when PowerQuest existed they used to offer the update to owners of the retail version, and just offer the package itself as an OEM version for manufacturers installing Windows Me on their systems.

I got the final version off of the "PowerQuest System Tools 2005" cd. It was a torrent download, so perhaps if you search for it you can still find that. The registration key is included in the nfo file included with the torrent download.

That backup method of copying those folders over looks neat though. Wouldn't work for me from Linux since utf8 messes up case sensitivity but for someone dual-booting with XP or Vista that looks to me like it would be a pretty good backup system.

Mostly I just stick to the backups 98SE does daily of its registry but I found that SecondChance worked just fine when I used it. Saved my neck a few times when things went a bit nuts. It's the program Microsoft used and relabeled it SystemRestore, only changing the files to backup from the whole hard drive to only the Windows folders and assorted other Windows files. SecondChance has a GUI control panel where you can set it up to back up any folders you want instead of being stuck with only the defaults like SystemRestore does.

I think the only difference from the retail version is that they moved the startup process from autoexec.bat to the win.ini file so it would also work with Windows Me.

I found it to be a good program, and it doesn't suffer from the "chugga, chugga," hard drive thrashing and wait times like GoBack or Windows Vista's System Restore does because it doesn't have that "previous file versions" backup logging like those do. It was the thing I hated about GoBack and then Microsoft goes and incorporates it into Vista's SystemRestore to make Vista a disgusting operating system to use on anything but late model computers.

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The method above is no good if you only have 1 drive.

Of course I would never try it in that case.

Nevertheless, if you allow me an opinion, using Windows 98 it is always convenient to divide the HD into two partitions: a main active one and another extended with at least 1 logical unit, by using Fdisk (from DOS) or Partition Manager or similar (from Windows). If the HD is small you may leave 1 GB for unit C (for Windows) and the rest for unit D (to preserve My documents and Program Files). So you avoid to have "all eggs in the same basket", as it is commonly said. This way you could also use D to have an alternative cloned Windows to use it inmediately at any moment by simply using the boot floppy. All this gives you a lot of security and freedom.


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I got the final version off of the "PowerQuest System Tools 2005" cd.
That backup method of copying those folders over looks neat though. Wouldn't work for me from Linux since utf8 messes up case sensitivity but for someone dual-booting with XP or Vista that looks to me like it would be a pretty good backup system.
This backup method also works if you install a 2nd Win98 opsys. With 2 Win98 or a Win98/XP combo you have a rock-solid situation, it really doesn't matter anymore if Win98 gets shot up with same bad software.

The next level of system resilience is when you have several identical computers. About 2 years ago one of my laptops went dead, black screen, just after a reboot. After 15 minutes I concluded that something on the motherboard went bad. I removed the HDD, inserted it into an identical spare laptop, and within 5 minutes I continued my work as usual. Win98 detected a couple of new hardware devices (even identical laptop models have different chips), and after a reboot everything Ok. And WinXP also accepted the spare laptop immediately!

About a year ago I closed my laptop, but I had to use more force than usual & it made an unusual noise. I opened again the laptop and found a hinge completely broken & the cables from the motherboard to the screen partially torn. The 2nd dead laptop! I pulled out the HDD, put it into another identical spare laptop, and everything was back to normal.

A 2nd identical computer is a wise backup measure, in contrast to, for example, a RAID system, which for an individual person is just a waste. I only once had a nearly-bad HDD, and I could hear it coming. And what would you do with 100 nicely backed up applications, if your computer goes bad? Buy a new computer, re-install windows and lock yourself away for 4 weeks installing 100 applications. Win98 will choke on the RAID backup because you will not find drivers for the new hardware, and WinXP will choke with the new hardware because of problems with the transfer of the license for activation and problems with repair installs.

Mostly I just stick to the backups 98SE does daily of its registry but I found that SecondChance worked just fine when I used it... I found it to be a good program

I put SecondChance onto my list of software to be tried out, even if it's not popular with the mule, thanks.

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