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Who killed HAL?
Written by skool h8r   
Monday, 23 October 2006 11:04
   When Windows XP goes down, it tends to try and take all your personal files and programs with it. A lot of the time, people experience errors with crucial system files, one of the worst offenders being HAL.dll.

So, who is Hal?
HAL stands for Hardware Abstraction Layer and is the way that Windows XP interacts with your hardware. When XP was released, Microsoft was pushing for developers of DOS games to use HAL as their “gate” to interact with hardware, rather than direct interaction. For some developers, this wasn’t a problem, but for others, it meant that their games became abandonware as they either couldn’t change the way the game worked, or couldn’t be bothered.

However, enough of the history. What happens when Hal decides to go walkabout or worse, decides it wants to end it all (dies)? Windows decides that it too is going to try and take its own life, but is unsuccessful and ends up in a coma. When it awakes, it tells you that Hal has gone missing, or worse. So how do you find Hal, or replace him if he’s gone?

This is the problem that many users of Windows XP face every single day. Since Hal is a crucial component of XP, when it goes missing or dies, it’s bound to end in disaster. Or so you would think. There is a way to get back to working state if such a disaster happens.

This guide is designed to help you get from a total massacre, up to running stable (if not more stable) than before Hal died. All in just a few hours.

Firstly, you need to make sure you have plenty of space on your Hard Drive. I’d recommend about the same amount as you had before the crash. Next, you need to make sure you have your XP disc and product key with you. If you made it yourself, make sure you can boot from it. And finally, you may need a program called Paragon Partition Manager (if your drive is over 137 GB, then you will need it, otherwise, you won’t need it) (needs to be a full version but is worth the money).

Firstly, insert the XP disc and boot from it as normal. When you are presented with the choices screen, go into the setup as you would do if you were installing on a fresh Hard Drive. Now, from here, there are 2 paths. One is the simple way but may not be available, and the other is long but always available. So it’s kind of a dark forest or grandmas’ house situation. The easy way, if it’s available, is to select the partition that’s damaged. Press [ENTER]. If you are presented with the option to repair, go that way as you really have nothing to lose and it works about 90% of the time.

But oh no, what’s this, repair isn’t an option, whattodo?
Breathe. That’s the best thing to do. Calming down is the best thing to do when you’re in such a predicament. If you need 10 minutes to calm down, go away from computer, nothing’s gonna have changed when you get back, but don’t start getting high or drunk, you’re bound to mess up your computer if you do. Once you’ve calmed down, you need to go to the partition that’s damaged, or even better, a separate partition. You could even go one better and go on a different disc as it will speed things up a lot later (you’ll see what I mean). If it’s a SATA II drive, this is the best thing you could do. So, decide where you are going to install XP and the install it. Go all the way through setup until you are at the desktop of your new XP installation.

From here, you have access to everything you need to get back to where you were before Hal died. The first thing you should do is open the backup utility. The one included with Windows XP is one of the best and so under-rated. To get to it, you need to open My Computer. Right click the damaged partition and select Properties. Click the Tools tab and click the Backup now button. When it opens, you need to click the Advanced mode link. This will bring you to the main interface. Click the Backup button (the top big button). Click next. In the dialog you can see now, click the middle radio button and click Next. From this screen, you need to click the + symbol next to My Computer on the left panel. Then click the checkbox at the side of the damaged partition. You should see a blue checkmark appear next to it. Click the next button. You’re almost there. You will see in the new dialog that the top selection box is disabled/greyed out. The middle box will have a Browse button at the side of it. Click it and select somewhere to backup you’re data. It needs to be large enough to store all your data. Double the size is even better (if this is the case, you will need to split it into 2 separate partitions). Once you have selected a place to backup your data, click Save. You will be returned to the Backup wizard screen. In the bottom box, you can enter a name for your backup. I recommend something easy to remember. When you are ready, click Next.

You will now be given the option of backing up using default settings, or using your own advanced settings. We need to change settings so click the Advanced button. From the first drop down box, select Copy. Selecting this will save you a hell of a lot of time as Windows doesn’t have to mark each file as backed up. Click next. In the next step, you need to check that the top checkbox (Verify data after backup) and the bottom check box (Disable volume shadow copy) are both unchecked. If they’re checked, uncheck them. Click next, and then click next again. From where you are now, you can set the backup to run either now, or at a scheduled time later on. Since you probably want to get all your files back, click Next without changing anything. You will be presented with a summary of the settings that the backup tool will use. When you are ready, take a deep breath and click finish.

It has begun. From here on in, there’s nothing you can do until the process has finished. So it’s a matter of make something to eat, have a drink, (no getting drunk or stoned though), even go to sleep for a few hours (if it’s 2am and you’re actually following this guide, sleep is a good idea). When the process has finished, you should click Close. If you want to restore your files immediately, click the Restore and Manage Media tab. Otherwise, shut the computer down and get some more rest.

Bringing order to the chaos.
So now you want your files back. Hmmm, well that’s too bad because I’m not going to tell you what to do. Just kidding, it’s an easy job from here. From the Restore and Manage Media tab, click the top checkbox in the left panel. Then select the new checkbox that’s just been displayed. Then, in the right panel, select the checkbox that relates to the drive you backed up. Once selected, in the Restore files to dropdown box, select Single folder. In the alternate location box, browse for the folder or type the path manually. Once that’s done, click Start Restore. In the next dialog that appears, click Advanced. If you don’t, you won’t be able to access your files. In the Advanced Restore Options dialog, uncheck the Restore security option and click OK. The program will then start to restore your files to the folder you specified in Alternate location. Leave it to run all the way through.

Last little hurdle.
Since you have now restored all your data, you will probably want to set your desktop to the same folder you had before Hal died. To do this, you will need to download a program called Free-locater. I created this program myself (it is based off a pre-made project though). You can download it from AOAFiles and it is completely free. Once it is downloaded, you need to open it. From the top dropdown box, select Desktop. In the bottom box, enter the path you the folder you want to use as your Desktop. Click Set, and then click Apply. If you want to change My Documents, follow the same procedure except in the top box, select My Documents, and in the bottom box, enter the path to the My Documents folder. Once again, click Set and then click Apply. Then you can exit the program. Are you ready for happiness? If you are, take a deep breath and restart the computer.

What’s wrong now? Hal’s still causing problems!
I am personally experiencing this problem and the only way to get round it is to have the XP disc in your drive when the computer boots. (But DO NOT let the disc boot into setup). I have yet to find a way around this but will update the guide if I find one. Just let the computer boot and you’ll be back at Windows with everything as it was before the crash.

If you want to customize any more of the Special Windows Folders, simply open Free-locator and select the relevant folder. Then enter the path, click Set and then click Apply. Done! Restart the computer and you’re done.

You can delete the backup file you created earlier. If you aren’t getting a message about Hal anymore, you can unmount the partition so Windows doesn’t pick it up. If you don’t get an error message, you can simply format the partition and if you want to, resize your new Windows installation partition so that it uses the entire disc. For this you will need Paragon Partition Manager. The program is pretty self explanatory and easy to use.

There you have it; you destroyed the Hal Demon, and got back to working. Of course, you might need to install device drivers and software, but that’s nothing when you think that you could have lost all your data.

This is Scott Pritchard, signing out.

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