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PC Backups & Recording Hardware Settings

If the worst happened, and your PC lost its memory, you could quickly recreate the same settings again. Couldn't you? Martin Walker takes an inventory.

We all do it — nodding wisely when telling other people to always make backups, but rarely getting round to doing it ourselves. Two events this month highlighted a very important fact — anyone who still hasn't got records of all of their hardware settings is sitting on a time bomb. Let me explain. (Are you sitting comfortably?) It all started after I downloaded an update to Adaptec's EZ‑SCSI 4 from their web site (the new version is 4.01b, and this can be found at When I ran the executable update file, it installed fine, but when I re‑booted the computer I received some cryptic message about a 'Windows protection error' and Windows 95 refused to load any further. Using Safe mode (see 'A Guide To PC Crash Recovery' in May '97's SOS) showed that something strange had happened. I now supposedly had three floppy disk drives, two monitors and two sets of serial and parallel ports, and all of my disk drives were working under DOS compatibility mode, which basically meant that something had been corrupted (or an incorrect version of a file was interfering with something else). To cut a long story short, I eventually had to completely re‑install Windows 95 (the whole episode lasted about four hours, but the actual re‑install only took about 20 minutes). I hasten to add that the Adaptec update installed fine next time round, and my original problem may have been due to some other updated files.

Two hours after I had solved my problem, I received a call from fellow SOS contributor Paul Ward, who also had a sorry tale to tell. He had also installed Adaptec EZ‑SCSI a few days previously, as well as some Iomega utilities for his new Jaz drive. However, he had decided to use the Adaptec utilities, and so was carefully following instructions to remove the final few references for the old Iomega ones from the Registry (notice those dark warning clouds on the horizon?). All was going fine until he clicked OK to delete all the references below the one he actually wanted to delete. In a flash, not only did the required single entry disappear, but also a whole host of others that were vital to his system. We talked through the possibilities, and tried several routes to restoring previously backed up versions of the Registry (well done, Paul), and finally managed to come across a backup made using Norton Utilities, saved a week or two earlier, but reasonably current, which saved the day.

However, after trying the easy options (and before finally discovering the Norton files spread across several floppy and hard drive folders), I did suggest re‑installing Windows 95, as this would have taken far less time overall, and probably been more thorough. The big problem, and the difference between my crash and his, is that although we both had many manual tweaks to our hardware settings (including several in his case to enable his Fiji soundcard to work with other hardware), Paul had no hard copy of the settings that finally worked. Although reinstalling Windows 95 would have been fairly easy, the thought of possibly having to rework all of his previous alterations to the IRQ, DMA and I/O address settings, to return to his working system, gave him a nasty feeling of the cold sweaty kind.

Hence the main subject of this month's PC Notes — how to easily produce hard copy (on pieces of recycled rain forest) for all of your hardware devices, which should make a complete re‑install a comparative breeze. If you do ever need to re‑install Windows 95, and find that any settings previously changed by hand have returned to default values, then all you have to do is dig out your printouts, dive into Device Manager and alter these settings to the ones that you know worked before. Then reboot and sit back with a satisfied smile on your face. Here's how to do it.

The first stage is to print out all your BIOS settings. Even if you never alter them yourself, they are stored in non‑volatile RAM (which retains its contents even after the power is switched off). It is not unknown for a stray glitch to wipe out some or all of these. If you ever turn on your PC to be greeted by the message 'Invalid configuration. Run Setup or press F1 to continue', and then on pressing F1 you see 'Invalid drive specification', don't panic. Thankfully, utility programs such as those from the Norton stable allow you to save the contents of your CMOS memory, and can restore them if this scenario ever happens to you. However, if you have the settings to hand, it only takes 5 or 10 minutes to type them in again. The alternative may require a brand new anorak, as well as replacement undergarments.

OK — let's get started. Boot up your machine, and when you see the message 'Press DEL to enter SETUP' or something similar, do just that. The main selection screen contains no data, but each of its options will take you to a single text screen of information. The main ones that you need to copy are: Standard CMOS Setup, Advanced (or BIOS Features) Setup, Chipset Features, Power Management, PnP/PCI Configuration, and finally Integrated Peripherals. Six pages in all, holding the sum total of all basic hardware settings, many of which will have been tweaked by the manufacturer for best overall performance (don't dabble unless you really know what you are doing). Now for the easy bit. Switch on your printer and then, for each page, press the 'Print Scrn' key (above the cursor keys). A neatly formatted printout then appears, occupying about half a sheet of A4 — you can go to a second screen and press the key again, giving you two screens of printout per side of A4. Easy, eh?

Having completed this, exit the BIOS (you don't need to Save, as no values have been changed, so answer 'No' to this question) and then allow Windows 95 to finish booting. Go into Control Panel, then System Device Manager. Underneath the main part of the window are four buttons. Leaving 'Computer' highlighted in the Device Manager window, click on the rightmost button, Print. Choose Summary, then click on the OK button, and a neatly formatted readout of all current Windows 95 hardware settings is yours for ever. The 'All devices and system summary' option also includes details of every driver known to the system, and ran to 11 pages for my PC. I suspect that the summary alone at two pages will contain sufficient information for most people.

The only remaining settings are any for devices that are still using Windows 3.1 drivers, such as old soundcards. The settings for these can be found in Control Panel, Multimedia, Advanced. Click on the appropriate driver, and then look at Settings. An old‑fashioned pen and paper will be required here. After your efforts, you will be rewarded with a full set of resource information for your machine. Et voilà! Even if you upgrade from an AWE32 soundcard to the AWE64 Gold, as I did recently, you avoid having to repeat any resource shuffling, since you still have a record of the settings that worked previously, and can re‑enter them with a smile on your face.

Tiny Tips

Many people never use the Find utility provided with Windows 95, but it can be very useful. I often use it to show me every MIDI file on my hard disk (wherever they are hiding); to search for any files containing a particular word; or, more often than not, to find every file written that day. This can often highlight files updated by other applications, and is also very useful when you saved something an hour ago, but can't remember what name you gave it. Unfortunately, the Date Modified tab in Find doesn't allow you to enter 'Find all files created or modified during the previous 0 days', and entering 1 day will find files altered yesterday as well as today. The trick is to use the 'between' selection. The second entry here defaults to today's date (for example 14/07/97), so all you do is to enter the same today's date in the first box, so that the full selection reads 'between 14/07/97 and 14/07/97'. Clicking on the Find Now button will collate every file changed so far that day. This certainly beats trawling through your hard disk looking for a stray file using Explorer!

Finally, a couple of really tiny tips that not everybody may have come across yet. If you dislike how the Recycle bin fills up with files that you really do want to delete, simply hold down the shift key when deleting files — they will actually be deleted, rather than being sent to the Recycle Bin. Secondly, if you want to refresh the view in Explorer (maybe you've just popped in a different CD‑ROM), just press the F5 key.

Xgedit 95

If you have a Yamaha XG synth, or one of the XG soundcards, and haven't visited the Yamaha web site recently, you're in for a treat. There's now a host of tools, utilities, tip files, Cubase Mixermaps, and Logic Environment pages, as well as specific XG support for other machines such as the Mac and Archimedes. Have a look at www. While browsing, I used the link through to Gary Gregson's home page, to see whether he had managed to make any more improvements to the already excellent XGedit. Ten minutes later I was the proud owner of a downloaded copy of the new XGedit 95 (registered users of previous versions get the Save function, new users get this when they register). The first thing I noticed (after the new heavy metal colour scheme) is that the time it takes to download a complete data bank to my DB50XG is much shorter. There are numerous small improvements: remembering the most recent files and screen position between sessions, the ability to reverse the previous up/down knob movement (feels far more natural to me), and selection of whether a new file is automatically downloaded to the synth immediately after loading. The MIDI port setup has now been safely tucked away in a small separate window to make way for extra options in the Master Module, which help you select various options when you're producing stand‑alone XG files containing SysEx data. There's now specific MU10 support, in addition to the existing support for the MU80, MU50, DB50XG, SW60XG, and basic XG Level 1.

However, possibly the most useful change is the new cascading menu system for choosing sounds. Left‑clicking on a sound name brings up a sorted set of every available sound from the complete range of banks. Right‑clicking does the same thing, but sorted by bank. This will save hours of tedious scrolling. If you're reading this, Gary, can I suggest two small additions in your search for perfection? An option to select your own colour scheme would be useful (my monitor brightness needed turning up for this one). Also, to help all those people who used to cycle through different sounds while playing back a MIDI file, it would be great to have an Auto Audition option, giving you a way to try out different sounds in context without losing your place in those huge but wonderful cascading menu lists.