Section 11.1. Performance, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting

Administrative Tools

Provides a simple way to run a variety of troubleshooting and performance tools.

To open

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] Administrative Tools


This Control Panel applet opens a Windows Explorer window that includes shortcuts to a variety of performance and troubleshooting tools, such as the Reliability and Performance Monitor and other Microsoft Management Console applications.

See also

"Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10

Backup and Restore Center

Back up (copy) files from your hard drive to a CD drive, DVD drive, removable storage device, or another PC or drive on a network for the purpose of safeguarding or archiving your data, or for saving your computer configuration so that you can restore it in the event of a crash.

To open

Control Panel Back up your computer

Control Panel System and Maintenance Backup and Restore Center


The Backup and Restore Center (Figure 11-1), new in Windows Vista, offers tools for backing up data as well as creating a restore "image" of your computer, which can be used to re-create the state of your PCincluding the operating system, applications, and settingsin the event of a hardware failure. It fixes a variety of shortcomings in the backup program built into Windows XP, such as not being able to back up across a network. On the other hand, it's less flexible than the XP backup program because it doesn't allow you to customize it to a great extent. You can't, for example, choose specific folders, or files from specific folders, to be backed up. Instead, you have to back up all files of a particular file type, such as documents.

Figure 11-1. The Backup and Restore Center, which lets you back up data, as well as create an image of your PC that can be used in the event of a system failure

Click "Back up files" to back up data, or "Back up computer" to back up an image of your PC, called a Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore image. (Note that the Complete PC Backup and Restore feature is not available with Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium.)

A wizard appears that walks you through the backup process. You'll choose where to save the backup, such as to a network drive or PC.

You choose the backup location, as well as the location of the files or image being backed up and the types of files to back up. You also choose a backup schedule (Figure 11-2) so that backups can be performed automatically.

Figure 11-2. Scheduling a backup

If you back up to a drive on a PC attached to the network, you'll need to have a user account on that PC, and you'll need to enter your username and password for that account. Make sure when entering the username that you include the computer name as well, such as MainPC\joeuser.

When you do all this, you create what's called a backup seta collection of selected files to be backed up. The set and all the settings you've chosen, are collectively known as a backup "job."

After your first backup, you can change the backup settingsfor example, the backup location, the files to be backed up, and the backup scheduleby clicking Change Settings in the Backup and Restore Center.

To restore files from a backup that you've made, select Restore Files (or Restore Computer, if you've chosen to make a Complete PC backup). A wizard appears, letting you restore files. You can restore not only from the most recent backup, but also from previous backups so that you can restore previous versions of your files, not just the most recent versions. Or you can restore files that you have deleted since an earlier backup (see Figure 11-3). In addition, you can restore individual files and folders rather than the entire backup. Browse to the files or folders you want to restore, and select them.

You can also restore backup files from a different computer. For example, if a backup has been made from another computer to the computer that you are currently using, you can restore files from that backup. To do so, select Advanced Restore from the Backup and Restore Center, choose "Files on a backup made from a different computer," browse to the location, and restore the files as you would normally.

Figure 11-3. Restoring files from a previous backup


  • When files are backed up, they are stored in compressed .zip files inside normal files. So you can restore them without having to actually use the Windows Backup and Restore Center. Browse to the location of the backup file and look for backup files. The folder will be named something like Backup Set 2006-09-05 125516 or Backup Files 2006-09-05 125516. Open the folder and any other folders beneath it until you come to compressed files named Backup Files, Backup Files, and so on. Double-click the files, and you'll open the compressed folder. You can now extract and use the files.

  • You can use Windows Backup and Restore to recover shadow copies of files.

See also

"System Protection and System Restore"

Chkdsk: \windows\system32\chkdsk.exe

Check the disk for errors and fix any that are found.

To open

Command Prompt chkdsk (requires an Administrator command prompt)


chkdsk [drive[filename]] [/f] [/r] [/x] [/i] [/c] [/v]


Chkdsk scans the disk surface, checks the integrity of files and folders, and looks for lost clusters (among other things), correcting any problems that it finds and sometimes even freeing disk space consumed by unusable fragments of data.

If you run Chkdsk with no command-line parameters, it will check the current drive for errors. Or you can specify a drive letter to check a specific drive, like this:

chkdsk e:

However, running Chkdsk this way will only report problemsit won't correct them. The report you'll get looks something like this:

The type of the file system is NTFS.

WARNING!  F parameter not specified.
Running CHKDSK in read-only mode.

CHKDSK is verifying files (stage 1 of 3)...
  36480 file records processed.
File verification completed.
  33 large file records processed.
  0 bad file records processed.
  0 EA records processed.
  44 reparse records processed.
CHKDSK is verifying indexes (stage 2 of 3)...
  144121 index entries processed.
Index verification completed.
  5 unindexed files processed.
CHKDSK is verifying security descriptors (stage 3 of 3)...
  36480 security descriptors processed.
Security descriptor verification completed.
  6991 data files processed.
CHKDSK is verifying Usn Journal...
  3478288 USN bytes processed.
Usn Journal verification completed.
Windows has checked the file system and found no problems.

  16774143 KB total disk space.
   7062360 KB in 29402 files.
     18156 KB in 6992 indexes.
         0 KB in bad sectors.
    106959 KB in use by the system.
     65536 KB occupied by the log file.
   9586668 KB available on disk.

      4096 bytes in each allocation unit.
   4193535 total allocation units on disk.
   2396667 allocation units available on disk.

The report starts with a warning about the /f parameter (discussed in the following list), followed by descriptions of the stages of the scan. Without the /f parameter, Chkdsk will note errors but not fix them. Next comes the summary of the total disk space, used space, and other statistics, which are fairly self-explanatory.

To use Chkdsk effectively, you'll need to use the following optional parameters:


Fixes any errors found. If /f is omitted, errors are merely reported and no changes to the disk are made. If you are running Chkdsk on your boot disk, the check won't be performed until you reboot.


Locates bad sectors and recovers readable information. Using the /r parameter implies /f (see preceding entry). Think of the /r parameter as a beefed-up version of /f. Keep in mind that bad sectors represent physical errors on the disk surface, and safe recovery of the data residing in those areas is not guaranteed. Use the /r option only if you have reason to believe you have one or more bad sectors, either because Chkdsk is reporting this problem or because you encountered another symptom, such as your computer crashing or freezing every time you attempt to access a certain file.


Forces the volume to dismount before the scan is performed. Using the /x parameter implies /f (discussed earlier). This effectively disconnects the drive from Explorer and all other programs, closing any open files stored on the drive before any changes are made. You may want to use this option when checking or repairing a shared drive used frequently by the several users on a network; otherwise, access to the drive might interrupt Chkdsk, or even corrupt data further.


Performs a less vigorous check of index entries. You can use the /i option only on NTFS disks, as index entries exist only on NTFS volumes. You'll probably never need this option, although you may choose to use it to reduce the amount of time required to check the disk.


Skips checking of cycles within the folder structure. Like /i, you can use the /c option only on NTFS disks. Likewise, you'll probably never need this option either, although you may choose to use it to reduce the amount of time required to check the disk.


Use of the /v parameter abandons Chkdsk's primary purpose and instead simply displays a list of every file on the entire hard disk (in no particular order). The /v parameter exhibits this behavior only on a disk with a FAT or FAT32 filesystem; on NTFS, it displays additional information about the volume's state.


  • To get to the Administrator command needed to run Chkdsk, locate Command Prompt in the Start menu, right-click on it, and choose Run as Administrator.

  • You also can use Chkdsk to check a single file or a specific group of files for fragmentation (see "Disk Defragmenter," later in this chapter), but only on FAT or FAT32 disks. To do this, specify the full path- and filename (or use wildcards, such as *.*, to specify multiple files) instead of the drive letter on the command line.

  • In Windows 9x/Me, regular usage of Scandisk was recommended, but that's not necessarily the case with Chkdsk and Windows Vista. Whenever Windows isn't properly shut down, or when it detects a potential problem during startup, Chkdsk is run automatically during the boot process. Additionally, given the added stability of Windows Vista, you may never need to run Chkdsk manually unless you suspect a problem.

  • When Chkdsk is launched during Windows startup, it is preceded by a message and a 10-second delay, giving you the option of skipping the scan. While Chkdsk is running, either during Windows startup or at any other time, you can interrupt it by pressing Ctrl-C.

  • During normal use of Chkdsk, you'll see references to various terms describing problems on your hard disk. Among the more popular players are lost clusters (pieces of data no longer associated with any file), bad sectors (actual flaws in the disk surface), cross-linked files (two files claiming ownership of the same chunk of data), invalid file dates and filenames, and a few other, more obscure errors.

  • On a FAT or FAT32 disk, the /v parameter is a funny option, especially considering that it has very little to do, at least in terms of results, with the other functions of this program. However, when used in conjunction with pipe operators (see Chapter 14), this feature can generate filtered reports of the contents of a drive.

  • If you want to schedule Chkdsk at regular intervals to help ensure a healthy disk, you can configure the Task Scheduler (discussed later in this chapter) to run Chkdsk, say, every Friday at 3:30.

See also


Chkntfs: \windows\system32\chkntfs.exe

Display or change the checking of a disk (using Chkdsk) at Windows startup.

To open

Command Prompt chkntfs


chkntfs [drive | /d | /t:time | /x drive | /c drive]


Chkdsk, described in the preceding section, is run automatically during Windows startup, either if the previous session was not ended gracefully (the computer was turned off without shutting down) or if errors are detected. Chkntfs is used to modify this behavior for one or all of your drives.

If you run Chkntfs with only a drive letter (e.g., chkntfs c:), you get a somewhat cryptic report, like this:

The type of the file system is NTFS.
C: is not dirty.

The identification of the filesystem type on the first line is fairly self-evident. The "not dirty" report implies that the drive was properly "cleaned up" the last time the system shut down. In other words, the system shut down properly. If the system isn't shut down properly, any drives in use (drives containing one or more files that were open when the computer lost power, for example) are marked "dirty," and those drives are scanned the next time Windows starts. To change this behavior, use one of the following options. Note that all options, including the specification of the drive letter, are exclusive; you can use only one at a time.


Type chkntfs /d to restore the default behavior of the entire machine; all drives are automatically checked at boot time, and any drives found to be "dirty" are checked with Chkdsk.

/t: time

Used to change the countdown before this scan is started, during which time the user can press the Space bar to skip the scan. Time is simply any number, in seconds: chkntfs /t:5 configures Windows to wait five seconds before running Chkdsk.

/x drive

Excludes a particular drive from those checked at startup. For example, type chkntfs /x e: to exclude drive E: from the auto-check.

/c drive

Includes a particular drive in those checked at startup; /c is the opposite of /x. For example, type chkntfs /c e: to instruct Windows to check drive E: during startup, and if it is found "dirty," to run chkdsk e: /f.

See also


Component Services: \windows\system32\dcomcnfg.exe

See "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10.


Shows an overview of all your system's drives.

To open

Start Computer

Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Computer


Gives a quick overview of all of your computer's drives and folders in Windows Explorer (see Figure 11-4).

Figure 11-4. Computer, which provides a quick view of all of the drives attached to your PC

Computer Management: \windows\system32\compmgmt.msc

Perform computer management tasks and run tools such as the Task Scheduler.

To open

Run as a plug-in for the Microsoft Management Console

Command Prompt compmgmt


This plug-in to the Microsoft Management Console lets you perform a variety of computer management tasks, including monitoring performance and reliability. It also provides a way to run tools such as the Task Scheduler.

For more details, see "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10.

See also

"Reliability and Performance Monitor"

DirectX Management Tool: \windows\system32\dxdiag.exe

Test, diagnose, and tweak DirectX drivers.

To open

Command Prompt dxdiag


DirectX is the system that allows applicationsusually gamesto directly access graphics, audio, and input devices to maximize performance. Unless you're experiencing a problem with DirectX or a program that uses DirectX, you should never need to use the DirectX Management Tool. If you do indeed encounter a problem, such as poor performance, an apparent glitch in a game, an error message, or some other compatibility issue, follow these steps to diagnose and treat it:

  1. DirectX relies on hardware drivers, so the first thing you should do whenever you encounter problems with it is to make sure you have the latest drivers for your display adapter, sound card, and game controller (if applicable).

  2. Next, go to and see if there's a more recent version of DirectX than the one installed on your system. To determine the currently installed version, open the DirectX Management Tool and read the DirectX Version on the bottom of the System tab.

  3. If you're experiencing problems with only a certain application or game, check with the manufacturer of that software to see if there's an update or compatibility issue with your specific hardware. Often, manufacturers will post workarounds, patches, or other fixes on their web sites.

  4. If you want to start exploring troubleshooting options, run the DirectX Management Tool and then choose the appropriate tab (e.g., display, sound, etc.) and see the test results, as shown in Figure 11-5.

    Figure 11-5. The DirectX Management Tool, which can help track down the cause of problems with DirectX

Disk Cleanup: \windows\system32\cleanmgr.exe

Reclaim disk space by removing unwanted files from your hard drive.

To open

Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Disk Cleanup

Control Panel [System and Maintenance] Free up disk space

Command Prompt cleanmgr


Disk Cleanup summarizes the disk space used by several predefined types of files, such as Temporary Internet Files and items in the Recycle Bin (see Figure 11-6). If you have more than one hard drive, Disk Cleanup prompts you to choose one. It also asks whether you want to clean up only your files, or files from all users on the computer (you'll need Administrator rights to do the latter).

Figure 11-6. The Disk Cleanup dialog, which shows several locations of files that can probably be safely deleted

When you run it, after asking which drive you want to clean up, Disk Cleanup calculates how much space can be saved by doing a cleanup. Then, it presents a list of file categories from which desired items can be checked to have the corresponding files deleted. The approximate space to be reclaimed by any category is shown to the right. Here are descriptions of the various categories:

Downloaded Program Files

This folder contains mostly ActiveX and Java applets downloaded from the Internet. If you clean out this folder, these components will simply be downloaded again when you revisit the sites that use them.

Temporary Internet Files

Temporary Internet Files, commonly known as the browser cache, are web pages and images from recently visited web sites, stored in your hard disk for the sole purpose of improving performance when browsing the Web. Deleting the files will have no adverse effects other than requiring that they be downloaded again the next time the corresponding web sites are visited.

You can set the maximum size of this folder. Choose Control Panel [Network and Internet] Internet Options, and from the dialog box that appears, click the General tab, then click Settings in the Browsing History area. Select the amount of space in the Disk Space area.

Offline Webpages

If you store web pages on your PC so that you can view them when you're not connected to the Internet, they take up disk space. If you no longer need to view those pages, you can delete them here to free up disk space.

Hibernation File Cleaner

The Hibernation file contains information about your computer that is used to restore your computer from a state of hibernation. If you don't use hibernation, you can safely delete this file. If you do use hibernation, deleting it will disable hibernation.

Recycle Bin

By default, files that are deleted aren't really deleted; they are simply moved to the Recycle Bin for deletion at a later time. You can empty the Recycle Bin at any time by right-clicking the Recycle Bin icon on your Desktop and selecting Empty Recycle Bin. Right-click the Recycle Bin and select Properties to change the maximum amount of disk space allocated to the storage of deleted files (or to disable the Recycle Bin and have files permanently erased immediately).

Temporary Files

Many applications open files to store temporary data but aren't especially meticulous about deleting those files when they're no longer needed. Application crashes and power outages are other reasons why temporary files might be left behind. The disk space consumed by temporary files, especially after several weeks without maintenance, can be several megabytes.


Windows keeps copies of all of your pictures, videos, and documents so that they can be displayed as thumbnailsfor example, when browsing in Internet Explorer. If you delete thumbnails, they will be re-created when they are needed, but it will slow down browsing.

System Archived Windows Error Reporting

These files are used for troubleshooting and error reporting. If you delete them, you will lose that information.

Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files

Temporary offline files are local copies of recently used documents normally stored on remote computers and marked "Offline." If you take advantage of the Offline Files feature in Windows Vista, you may want to examine the files in these folders before you indiscriminately delete them with this utility.


  • You may find other files in addition to what's listed. Some programs store installation files, and if Disk Cleanup is aware of them, it will list them here. For example, Microsoft Office setup files are listed here if they have been stored on your PC.

Disk Defragmenter: \windows\system32\dfrgui.exe

Reorganize the files on a disk to optimize disk performance and reliability.

To open

Control Panel [System and Maintenance ] Defragment your hard drive

Command Prompt dfrgui


As you create files on your hard disk, they become defragmented so that a single file is stored in several different noncontiguous locations. As more files become fragmented, the reliability and performance of the hard drive diminish. Disk Defragmenter reorganizes the files and folders on a drive so that the files are stored contiguously, and the free space is contiguous as well.

Running the Disk Defragmenter (Figure 11-7) is one of the simplest tasks you'll ever perform in Windows Vista. Click Defragment Now, and it goes to work rearranging the files and folders on your disk for optimal performance. If you don't need to defragment, you'll see the message "You do not need to defragment at this time." You'll get this message if the percentage of defragmented files on your hard disk is lower than about three percent.

Figure 11-7. Disk Defragmenter, which reorganizes the data on your hard disk for quicker, more reliable operations and offers advice on whether your disk needs to be defragmented

Click Defragment Now to begin the defragmentation. Unlike with previous versions of Windows, when you defragment your hard disk, you get no visual feedback that the job is being performed. And you get no time estimate; you're told only that it will take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The time it takes will depend on the speed of your drive and processor, the level of fragmentation, and the amount of data to move.


  • You can automatically schedule the Disk Defragmenter to run at specified times. Check the box next to "Run on a schedule," click Modify Schedule, fill out the form that appears, and click OK.

See also

"Chkdsk," earlier in this chapter, and "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10

DiskPart: \windows\system32\diskpart.exe

Prepare and partition a hard disk.

To open

Command Prompt diskpart


DiskPart is a full-featured program used to prepare hard disks and, optionally, divide them into two or more partitions. It's a command-line program and has no interface to speak of. When you start DiskPart, you'll see a simple prompt: DISKPART>. Type help and press Enter to view a list of all the available commands:


Activates the current basic partition so that it can be used as a boot disk; using it is not necessary if there's only one partition in the volume.


Adds a mirror to a simple volume.


Assigns a drive letter or mount point to the selected volume. Note that it may be easier to use the Disk Management Tool; see "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10, for details.


Lets you change the attributes of the volume.


Enables and disables the automatic mounting of basic volumes.


Breaks a mirror set (undoes the add command).


Clears the configuration information, or all information, off the disk; this effectively erases the disk.


Converts between different disk formats; most users will never need this command.


Creates a volume or partition; this is the first step in preparing a hard disk.


Deletes an object (undoes the create command).


Displays details about a disk, partition, or volume. Note that you'll need to use select first.


Exits DiskPart (Ctrl-C also works).


Extends a volume.


Displays the current and supported filesystems on the volume.


Formats the volume or partition.


Assigns attributes to the selected GUID Partition Table (GPT) partition. GPT offers a more flexible mechanism for disk partitioning than does the older Master Boot Record (MBR) partitioning scheme.


Imports a disk group.


Marks the selected basic partition as inactive.


Prints out a list of objects; similar to detail.


Changes the status of the disk from offline to online.


Used to add remarks in scripts.


Removes a drive letter or mount point assignment (undoes the assign command). Note that it may be easier to use the Disk Management Tool; see "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10, for details.


Repairs a RAID-5 volume.


Rescans the computer, looking for disks and volumes.


Places a retainer partition under a simple volume. If you delete a partition at the end of a disk, you will change a dynamic volume to a basic volume. If you place a retainer partition on a dynamic volume, it will keep the volume as dynamic.


Chooses a disk, partition, or volume to view or modify. Even if you have only one disk or partition, you'll still need to select the object before carrying out any other commands. Use list to obtain object numbers for use with select, and then use detail to get more information.


Changes the partition type.


Shrinks the size of the volume.

Each of these commands (with the exception of exit) has one or more subcommands. For example, if you simply type detail at the prompt, you'll get a list of the subcommands for use with the list command: disk, partition, and volume. So, to display a list of all the disk volumes on the system, you would type:

list volume

and you'll get a report that looks look something like this:

Volume ###  Ltr  Label   Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
----------  ---  ------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  ------
Volume 0     C           NTFS   Partition     16 GB  Healthy    System
Volume 1     D                  DVD-ROM         0 B  No Media

From the report, it is clear that drive C: is Volume 0; the next step is to select the volume, like this:

select volume 0

Subsequent commands will then apply to the currently selected volume.


  • Disk partitioning is tricky business and unless you're preparing a new drive, you'll probably never need to use DiskPart. If you need to repartition a drive that you're currently using, DiskPart is not the way to go, as it will erase any drive you attempt to repartition. A better choice is to use PartitionMagic by Symantec (, which allows you to add, remove, and resize partitions without destroying the data they contain. Note that the Disk Management Tool of the Microsoft Management Console allows you to perform some elementary volume resizing as well.

See also

"Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10

Dr. Watson: \windows\system32\drwatson.exe; drwtsn32.exe

Records system error information when a system error occurs. It has been replaced by Vista's new error reporting mechanism and is used for compatibility with older applications and tools.

To open

Command Prompt drwatson


Dr. Watson is a diagnostic tool that records information on the internal state of Windows when a system error occurs. It collects information such as system details, running applications, startup applications, kernel drivers, and user drivers. Although the reports that Dr. Watson produces are of little use to most users, they contain diagnostic information that may be helpful to developers and Microsoft support technicians for diagnosis of the problem.

If activated, Dr. Watson waits invisibly in the background until a system error occurs, at which time a dialog box appears, asking for comments on the activities prior to the error. The comments you type will be added to a file as long as you select File Save or File Save As from the dialog. The two available formats include Dr. Watson logfiles (.wlg) and plain-text files (.txt). The default is a .wlg file, and it is recommended if you want to subsequently use the Dr. Watson application to view a GUI version of the information.

If Dr. Watson detects a fault that might not be fatal, you'll have the opportunity to ignore the fault or close the application. If you choose to ignore the fault, Windows continues without performing the faulting instruction. You might be able to save your work in a new file at this point, but you should then restart Windows.

When you run Dr Watson, it also issues a report indicating whether it has found any current problems with your system, and then runs in the background.

See also

"System Properties" (specifically, the topic of error reporting in the Advanced tab)

Event Viewer: \windows\system32\eventvwr.msc

Read system logs and view other system events.

To open

Run as a plug-in for the Microsoft Management Console.

Command Prompt eventvwr


A plug-in to the Microsoft Management Console, the Event Viewer (Figure 11-8) provides an easy way to read system logs and view other system events.

Figure 11-8. The Event Viewer, which provides a way to read a variety of performance and troubleshooting logs

For more details, see "Microsoft Management Console," in Chapter 10.

FAT to NTFS Conversion Utility: \windows\system32\convert.exe

Convert a drive using the File Allocation Table (FAT) filesystem to the more robust NT File System (NTFS).

To open

Command Prompt convert


convert volume /fs:ntfs [/v] [/cvtarea:fn] [/nosecurity] [/x]


The filesystem is the invisible mechanism on any drive that is responsible for keeping track of all the data stored on the drive. Think of the filesystem as a massive table of contents, matching up each filename with its corresponding data stored somewhere on the disk surface. The FAT filesystem first appeared in DOS and has been the basis for each successive version of Windows, including Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows Me. A slightly improved version of FAT, called FAT32, was introduced in Windows 95 OSR2 and included support for larger drives and smaller cluster sizes.

Meanwhile, the Windows NT/2000 line of operating systems also supported the newer and more robust NTFS filesystem. Among other things, NTFS provides much more sophisticated security than FAT or FAT32 does, as well as encryption and compression. However, NTFS and FAT/FAT32 are not compatible with each other, and because Windows 9x/Me doesn't support NTFS, you'll need to stick with FAT or FAT32 if you intend to have a dual-boot system. This tool is used to convert a FAT or FAT32 drive to an NTFS drive without damaging the data stored on it. To convert drive C:, for example, type the following:

convert c: /fs:ntfs

The following options are also available:


Run the Conversion Utility in verbose mode (provide more information).

/cvtarea: filename

Specify a contiguous file in the root directory as the placeholder for NTFS system files.


Include this parameter if you want the initial security privileges for all files and folders on the newly converted volume to be set so that the files and folders are accessible by everyone.


Force the volume to dismount firstif necessary, closing any opened files on the volume. Use this option if you're on a network and are concerned that other users may disrupt the conversion by accessing your drive during the process.


  • To determine the filesystem currently used on any drive, right-click the drive icon in My Computer or Explorer and select Properties.

See also

"Chkntfs" and "DiskPart"

Format: \windows\system32\

Prepare floppy diskettes, hard disks, and some removable media for use.

To open

Command Prompt


format volume [/q] [/c] [/x] [/v:label] [/fs:file-system] [/a:size]


Before you can store data on a floppy disk, hard disk, or many removable media disks (such as ZIP disks), you must format the disk. This process creates various low-level data structures on the disk, such as the filesystem (FAT, FAT32, NTFS, etc.). It also tests the disk surface for errors and stores bad sectors in a table that will keep them from being used. If there's any data on the disk, it will be erased.

The options for Format are:


The drive letter, followed by a colon, containing the media to be formatted. For example, to format the floppy in drive A:, type:

format a:

If the specified drive is a hard disk, you'll be prompted to verify that you actually want to erase the disk.


Performs a "quick" format, a process that wipes out only the file table, resulting in an empty disk. This option does not check for bad sectors, nor does it rewrite the filesystem. Also, it does not write over data on the disk, meaning that files could potentially be recovered or "undeleted." The advantage of the /q option is that you can erase a disk in a few seconds.


Files created on the new volume are compressed by default (NTFS volumes only).


Forces the volume to dismount first, if necessary. All opened handles to the volume would no longer be valid. This effectively disconnects the drive from Explorer and all other programs, closing any open files stored on the drive, before any changes are made.

/v: label

Specifies the volume label, an arbitrary title you assign to any disk. It can be up to 11 characters and can include spaces. The volume label will show up next to the drive icons in Explorer (hard disks only) and at the top of dir listings (see Chapter 14). See "Label," in Chapter 4, for more information. If the /v option is omitted or the label isn't specified, a prompt for a volume label is displayed after the formatting is completed. If a label is specified with /v and more than one disk is formatted in a session, all disks will be given the same volume label.

/f: size

Specifies the size of the floppy disk to format (such as 160, 180, 320, 360, 720, 1.2, 1.44, 2.88). The format size (specified with the /f option) must be equal to or less than the capacity of the disk drive containing the disk to be formatted. For example, a 2.88 MB capacity drive will format a 1.44 MB disk, but a 1.44 MB drive will not format a 2.88 MB disk.

/fs: filesystem

Specifies the type of the filesystem; can be fat, fat32, or ntfs.

/a: size

Overrides the default allocation unit size, which, when multiplied by the number of clusters, equals the final capacity of the disk. Allowed values for size depend on the filesystem:

  • NTFS supports 512, 1,024, 2,048, 4,096, 8,192, 16K, 32K, and 64K.

  • FAT and FAT32 support 512, 1,024, 2,048, 4,096, 8,192, 16K, 32K, and 64K (and 128K and 256K for sector size greater than 512 bytes).

  • Note that the FAT and FAT32 filesystems impose the following restrictions on the number of clusters on a volume: for FAT, the number of clusters must be less than or equal to 65,526; for FAT32, the number of clusters must be between 65,526 and 4,177,918.

  • NTFS compression is not supported for allocation unit sizes greater than 4,096.


  • The /f, /t, and /n parameters are also available for use with Format but are essentially obsolete. Type format /? for more information.

  • If formatting an ordinary 3.5-inch floppy diskette, the disk will always be formatted to a capacity of 1.44 MB. The DMF diskette format, which squeezes about 1.7 MB on a standard floppy, is not directly supported by Format. If formatting a preformatted DMF diskette, use the /q parameter to preserve the format and erase only the files. To create new DMF diskettes, you'll need the WinImage utility (version 2.2 or later), which you can download from

  • The easiest way to format a disk is to right-click on the drive icon in Explorer or My Computer and select Format. However, using Format from the command line is more flexible and, in some cases, faster.

See also

"FAT to NTFS Conversion Utility," earlier in this chapter, and "Label," in Chapter 4

Help and Support

The primary online documentation for Windows Vista.

To open

Start Help and Support


Think of Help and Support (see Figure 11-9) as a Windows help file on steroids. It provides documentation for many of the components included in Windows Vista, a collection of tips and tricks, troubleshooting information, and walkthroughs for such tasks as keeping your computer up-to-date and adding hardware and software. It's more than just a plain-text file, though, because it also includes direct links to the tools you need to accomplish tasks. So in the entry on connecting to a network, for example, a link opens the Connect to a Network screen.

Figure 11-9. The Help and Support Center, which includes links to tools, as well as information on how to accomplish Windows tasks

Help and Support works particularly well when you're connected to the Internet, because it integrates with Microsoft help and other tools. After you do a search, click "Ask someone or expand your search" at the bottom, and a new screen launches with links to posting a question or searching for an answer in Microsoft newsgroups, launching Remote Assistance to get online help, and most useful of all, accessing Microsoft Knowledge Base, an immense database of troubleshooting information, frequently asked questions, bug reports, compatibility lists, and other technical support issues. In addition, you can click the link to Windows Online Help to visit the Windows Vista online help site.


  • If you need help with a specific Windows component, such as WordPad or Explorer, use that application's Help menu, rather than the more general Help and Support.

See also

"Remote Assistance"

Memory Diagnostics Tool: \windows\System32\MdSched.exe

Check a PC's memory for problems.

To open

Command Prompt mdsched


This tool checks your PC's memory for any errors and reports on the results. You should save all your files and close all your programs before running the program, because it restarts your computer in order to run the tests. After the restart, it runs tests before your system boots. (They take several minutes to run, so be patient.) After the tests run, you boot into Windows, and after you log in, a report will be displayed telling you whether any errors have been found.


  • You can specify which memory tests to run and set other options, such as how many times you want to repeat the tests. When the Memory Diagnostics Tool starts, press F1, make your selections, and then press F10 to start the test.

  • You can also run this tool from the boot menu. Press F1 when you restart your PC to display the boot menu, and then run the tool from there.

Performance Information and Tools

Rate your computer's capability to run Windows Vista.

To open

Control Panel System and Maintenance Performance Information and Tools


This screen (Figure 11-10) rates your PC according to how well it runs Windows, using what it calls a Windows Experience Index. It rates the processor, RAM, graphics subsystem, gaming graphics subsystem, and primary hard disk on a scale of one to five. The higher the number, the better the performance. The lowest rating of any of those is called the system's Base Score.

Figure 11-10. Rating how well a PC can run Windows Vista

The rating system is designed to be used in concert w

Part II: Nutshell Reference