Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No User Names at Windows XP Login Screen

365 days ago this past Saturday, my computer booted as normal until it went to the Windows login screen asking me to select a user name. Two problems with this: 1) My computer should go to the desktop after I turn it on; and 2) There were no user names to select. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, but this past Saturday the same error occurred. I called Dell support knowing the end result – the computer needs a complete reformatting and operating system install. Just great. We tried CTRL+ALT+DEL twice to bring up a Windows network login window, but passwords (none were assigned to the user name) nor user name changes to Administrator did anything. A recovery install followed from my SO’s XP CD with no luck.

So it wasn't this bad, but my computer is still craptastic.

Fortunately I had made backups of 90% of my data (MP3s, pictures, and sports videos) last month on DVD to clear some hard drive space. Unfortunately, the 10% I had not backed up in the last month was data like frequently updated documents. Perhaps it was a blessing, but I didn’t reinstall XP because I couldn’t find the original CD from Dell. I also held out hope that I could somehow get the data off of the hard drive.

I thought about doing this, but Linux saved the day.

On Monday, I spoke with my buddy about this problem and he recommended I use Knoppix - a Linux operating system. I had heard of Linux, but had never used it. Well, I’m a huge fan of it now! I booted to the CD and a few minutes later I was copying any file I wanted onto a thumb drive through the operating system. On the surface, it looks and works much like Windows so it was easy enough once I gave the thumb drive read/write access.

If only my login screen had had user name options.

So your lesson in all of this? Backup your data regularly, even if it’s just emailing yourself a copy, especially the files that change frequently. If your computer didn’t boot tomorrow, what data can you afford to lose? My lesson in all of this is that it’s time to replace my computer from 2000. Anything that has had three reformatting and operating system installs will just as well breakdown in another 365 days.
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