You sit up suddenly in a cold sweat, and scream. But you're in bed, and it was just a bad dream. Sighing with relief, you get up, get dressed, go to work, and turn on your PC.
Then you sit up suddenly in a cold sweat, and scream - but this time, it's not a dream. It's a Windows nightmare.
Compared with its predecessors, Windows 7 is remarkably secure and dependable. It's far from perfect, though: an unbootable PC, a nasty piece of malware or a single but important file gone missing can make you lose days or even months of work. And you can't solve every nightmare by waking up.
Here are ways out of six common Windows 7 disasters. I'll tell you how to fix a PC that won't boot, retrieve files from an inaccessible hard drive, stop frequent Blue Screens of Death, restore a forgotten administrator password, remove malware, and find a missing file.
1. Your PC won't boot
If turning on your PC doesn't bring you into Windows, try booting from a Windows 7 DVD or a recovery disc. You may already have the DVD. If Windows 7 didn't come with your computer but you installed it yourself, you have the disc. If you don't have it, you can borrow someone else's disc.
Alternatively you can borrow someone else's Windows 7 computer and use it to create a System Repair Disc (you can also do this on your own PC before it has a problem). To create the disc, click Start, type system repair, select Create a System Repair Disc, and follow the prompts.
If your computer won't boot from the CD, go into its setup screen and change the boot order so that the optical or CD/DVD drive comes before the hard drive. I can't tell you exactly how to do this since it differs from one PC to another. When you first turn on the computer, look for an on-screen message telling you to press a particular key 'for setup'.
If your PC fails before you can enter setup or boot from a CD, you have a hardware problem. If you're not comfortable working inside a PC, take it to a professional.
But let's assume that the CD boots. When it does, follow the prompts. Likely the utility will tell you very soon that there's a problem, and it will ask if you want to fix the problem. You do.
If it doesn't ask you, or if the disc can't fix the issue, you'll see a menu with various options. Startup Repair and System Restore are both worth trying.
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