Windows 7 Startup Repair Tool Unhelpful Results

19 11 2009

Being impatient, I hit the power button when I went past the bootloader and started loading Windows 7 by mistake. Next time I booted into Windows it asked if I wanted to run the Startup Repair Tool. Not paying attention, and assuming it was just the usual file system checking after an unsafe shutdown, I went ahead and let it run. 20 minutes later, after I moved to my netbook and started Googling, I found that the tool does all sorts of stuff that I really didn’t want it to.. In the end, it finally came out with the following as my problem,

Root cause found: Unspecified changes to system configuration might have caused the problem.

Thank you Windows… for diagnosing the root cause of all my problems, as some UNSPECIFIED configuration change which MIGHT have caused the also unspecified problems.

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Windows Vista/Windows 7 Junctions (Access Denied “Problem”)

7 11 2009

All I wanted to do was sit down, watch some Andromeda episodes, and drink my Monster Energy drink. Windows 7 decided to be confusing and kill 10 minutes of my time reading about the NTFS file system though, so I thought I’d blog about my findings.

It all started when I wanted to access My Videos. I went into my Documents “Library” in Windows 7, clicked on My Videos, and got an access denied error. Then I went in a little deeper and found,

C:\users\PherricOxide\Videos\ really exists.

C:\users\PherricOxide\My Videos\ is what’s shown in Explorer. This works when clicked.

C:\users\PherricOxide\My Documents\My Videos\ gives an access denied error.

The explanation? NTFS Junction Points. It’s a type of Reparse Point like symbolic links to files or mount points. In simple terms, a shortcut to a directory. This isn’t the same as the Windows Shell Shortcut though, like you would create with a new -> shortcut button. Junction points act entirely like the directory they point to.

For example, Vista and Windows 7 have a Junction “C:\Documents and Settings\” which points to “C:\users” to add legacy support for old applications now that the user data has been moved to a new location. If you move a file foo.txt into “C:\Documents and Settings\PherricOxide\” it will really move it into “C:\users\PherricOxide\”. This allows older applications to read, write, and modify files inside “Documents and Settings” without ever knowing it doesn’t exist anymore. Nifty, huh?

Now the odd part is the “Access Denied” messages when you try and access a Junction inside Vista or 7. The reason for this is that the file permissions are set so that you can’t list the files inside the these Junction/Directories. If you change the permissions or take control of the junction you can, but I wouldn’t advise it, because this is actually a feature and not a bug. The reason is that programs like virus software, backup software, or anything else that scans your entire drive likely wouldn’t realize they are traversing a junction. Using the above example during a virus scan, the scanner would scan both “C:\users\PherricOxide\foo.txt” and “C:\Documents and Settings\PherricOxide\foo.txt” for viruses, and waste quite a bit of time. To avoid this, permissions have been set up so all the Junctions in Vista and Windows 7 can’t be opened and listed, but the files inside can still be modified if you know the exact path to them.

permissions

Interesting notes,

  • To view the junctions with the command prompt, you can run dir /aL in a folder. This is also the easiest way to see where a Junction points. Just a normal dir won’t show them.
  • To view all the junctions in your computer, dir /aL /s > c:\JunctionsList.txt
  • Someone finally came to their senses and got rid of all the My this and My that crap in the file system, plus spaces in tons of file names, yay! Unfortunately for the user, they still think they see it all, due to collections of junctions, symlinks, and Libraries for reverse comparability and new features.
  • In Windows Explorer, Junction points are indicated with an arrow icon
  • Deleting a Junction in Windows Vista and 7 is usually safe, but in XP or 2000 will likely delete the contents of the folder that the Junction points to.

 





Windows 7 on Dell Vostro 1400

4 11 2009

I finally got around to pulling a copy of Windows 7 professional off MSDN and giving it a try. The install went fairly smooth, the boot loader automatically gave me options for both Windows XP and Linux, and the installer let me choose which partition to install to. The only bump in the install process was the lack of Dell drivers. Audio did not work at first, but a quick visit to Dell’s driver page and installing the Sigmetel Audio driver for Vista fixed that. It also detected my Nvidia 8400 as a “generic VGA adapter”, which gave my Vostro a nice 1 rating on the video hardware and wouldn’t let me use the fancy new transparency and Aero theme settings. Finally, I noticed the touchpad scroll wasn’t working, and required another visit for drivers. After all the driver updates my hardware rating came out to,

vostroscoreNot too bad. It seems to run the new Aero theme just fine, and I have to admit that it actually looks okay. I’ve used Gnome and KDE fully pimped out with transparency and special effects before, and though the Aero theme doesn’t quite measure up to a full Compiz install on Linux, it certainly looks nice enough to use. The default Windows 7 theme on the other hand, though faster, looks a little… cluttered? I’d prefer the good old XP look. Although Windows 7 has a “Classic” theme, it doesn’t look much like 2k/XP. The taskbar and taskmenu is forever stuck in the new Windows 7 look, as well as a handful of other things like icons.

Going back to performance, it boots, connects to wifi, and launches Firefox in under 60 seconds, which is a bit slower than XP but still not a big deal.

As for the downsides, both the control panel and taskmenu consistently bother me. The control panel has a horribly cluttered feel, and it seems hard to find things no matter which layout (icons, categories) I use. I’ve also never really liked the new taskmenu, and miss the option to put it back into the classic version like in Vista.

Actually, in general I can’t help things feel cluttered. Explorer, for instance, is brimming with helpful buttons to create new folders, burn CDs, view favorites, homegroups, and libraries. A big feature is the new searching ability from the taskbar, but I’m the type that generally knows where the programs and files I want are, and never need to search. The taskbar itself is filled with things like the ability to pin applications to it, and by default looks quite a bit taller than the XP taskbar.

Time will tell how it fairs in the category of stability. I’ll at least resist jumping back to my XP partition for a little while to let myself adjust to it.