Flying Blind - Need a data migration strategy to use with a Gateway Profile whose monitor has gone bad.

The monitor on my family's Gateway Profile 4X has developed a problem and I need help sorting out an effective way to migrate the contents of the hard drive to a new PC.  

This all-in-one PC's monitor has gone blank (bright white) making it very difficult to do much of anything.  The OS is XP Professional.  On power up the hard drive is active, evidenced by its normal noises.  By mousing around on the white screen, I have been able to click on one of the users and finish the windows start-up, evidenced by the "ta-da" that comes during a start-up and a normal shutdown.  After using the keyboard to bring up the start menu and then typing "u" and "u" to turn-off the computer, we get another "ta-da" followed by the power going off and screen going black.

A phone call with Gateway conviced us that useful help would not be foruth coming and that we were probably going to have to replace the PC.  Given the hard drive and data appear to be intact and functioning properly behind the white screen, I'm hoping we can find a way to migrate data and applications.  I just don't quite know how to approach this without being able to see what I'm doing on the Gateway.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.  

Thanks - JWM

Who is Participating?
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
You do have to log in with administrative privileges -- but most home users have never created non-admin accounts, so it probably doesn't matter.   I'd be more concerned about whether or not there's a password on the account -- changing passwords "in the blind" is NOT a good idea;  and you MUST have a password for Remote Desktop to work.

mooneyjw -- Does your account have a password?   If not, I'd suggest your best approach here is to do one of the following:

(1)  Use an external monitor, as I suggested above.   If this lets you use the PC, then you can easily transfer your data to a new system with a simple network connection (either through a router or with a crossover ethernet cable).

(2)  Remove the current hard drive and mount it in an external USB enclosure, such as the one I suggested above.   This eliminates any question about whether you need IDE or SATA connections, and doesn't require you to do any internal modifications to your new system.   After you've transferred the data you want, you can reformat the drive and have a handy external USB drive.
You would be best to open up the machine, and pull the hard drive out of it.  On the back there will be 1-2 small jumpers.  It will be set to "master".  Change the jumpers to set it to "slave".  Now buy a new PC that is UPGRADEABLE, meaning you can change components without throwing the whole thing away.  When you get the new PC, open it, and put the gateway hard disk on the same cable as the main hard drive in the new PC.  

Now when you boot, you will have 2 drives, a C drive for the new system, and a "D" drive, which is your original data.  now just run this command in windows --

xcopy D:\*.* C:\original\ /r/d/h/c/k/s/e

Your entire setup will be under the "original" directory on the C drive.  Go from there, copy over the files you need to My Documents and so forth.

If when you open the case of the new system, the CD / DVD is on the same cable as the main hard disk, that is NOT a good way to run it.  Put the CD/DVD on the second cable to the motherboard, and put the original hard disk in place of where the CD/DVD was.  When you are finished copying, you can remove the gateway hard disk, and redo everything back to the way it was when you bought the system.
BTW, it is also possible to get into the gatway and attach an extension monitor, but why buy a second monitor, when what you really need to do is buy a new machine.  Your data on the drive is safe, as long as you do not run any "disk repair" utilities, and you put it in the new machine and do the copy, as I said above.
Ultimate Tool Kit for Technology Solution Provider

Broken down into practical pointers and step-by-step instructions, the IT Service Excellence Tool Kit delivers expert advice for technology solution providers. Get your free copy now.

The system should have a VGA port. did yo utest if you get any signal out of this on a separate monitor ?
Otherwise I'd say you'll have to remove the harddisk and copy the contents by attaching the hd to another pc and copying all the data there.

For remonte operation, VNC or so would be cool, but there are too many steps to perform for installing it.
Even setting the remote desktop to "active" so you can work with that machine from another computer would be very difficult when you can't see anything.

If that computer is attached to a network, you might try this
and thus enable the remote desktop then connect to the remote desktop and save your data.

If that doesn't succeed, you could try this:

Make a text file "remon.reg" with this content:
----------------------- File "remon.reg" -----------------------
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server]
Remember to name the file "remon.reg" and not "remon.reg.txt"

Copy that file to a CD-R or a floppy. I assume that the Computer does'nt have a floppy, so take a CD

Reboot the dead PC.

After you assume that you are on the logon screen, hit Ctrl-Alt-Del repeatedly
Now you are in the administrator logon form.

Type "Administrator" <Enter>
Type the Password if any <Enter>
You should now be logged on.

Type [left Windows key]-R (the Windows Key is between Ctrl and Alt)
Now the "Execute Command Window is opened"

Type "cmd" <enter>
Now you should be in a shell.
If you wan to verify this: type  "echo ^G"<enter> (^G is Ctrl-G), this gives you a beep

Insert your CD with "remon.reg"
Type "d:"<enter>    For "d"  insert whatever the CD drive's letter is.
If you want to verify: type  "dir" <enter> and the drive's status led will blink
Now you are on the cd-drive.

Type "regedit remon.reg"<Enter>
<wait some time for regedit to load> Regedit now asks you if the registry information should be merged. "Yes is the default button".
Hit <enter> (confirms Question for merger)
<wait some time for regedit to finish>
Hit <enter> (confirms Information about the registry being updated)
Regedit is now closed becaus it was started from the shell with a filename.

Type "shutdown -r"<Enter>
Now the computer should reboot, with Remote Desktop enabled.

For the remote Desktop, follow Microsoft:

If I was you, I'd try this procedure first with a computer where you can see sth. to learn the "blind flight" befory you acutally have to carry it out.

Good Luck
Before I forget: If you have trouble accessing the remote desktop, you might need to disable the Windows Firewall if you know that it is installed/enabled (should be). For other firewalls (like Symantec/Norton), you're out of luck.

For the Windows Firewall, before executing "shutdown -r" do this:
Type "sc config SharedAccess start= disabled"<Enter>
This will stop the Windows Firewall after the next reboot.
Please note that between "start=" and "disabled" there IS A SINGLE SPACE SIGN in between.

If you want to shutdown the Firewall immediately (till the next reboot) you can issue this:
Type "sc stop SharedAccess"<Enter>
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
The Remote Desktop Connection idea should work fine -- as long as you known your user name and password.

However, all of the Profile computers I've seen had a VGA output.   Before doing anything else, I'd attach another monitor to the computer and see if you can simply boot normally and "see" what you're doing :-)

If by change the video output is bad, then you can either try the "flying blind" approach for a Remote Desktop Connection;  or simply remove the drive from the profile and mount it as either (a)  a slave drive in a new system; or (b)  in an external USB enclosure.   This is a nice external enclosure if you decide to use that approach:

Note:  With a new system your hard drives may very well be Serial ATA drives -- and you may not have an easily-used IDE cable for an IDE hard drive.   You'll probably have at least one IDE channel (for the optical drive), but the cable may not have dual connectors.  If not, you can simply disconnect the optical drive and attach the old hard drive temporarily while you copy the data you need from it.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Wish there was a "preview" button here !!  In my post above ...

... 1st line:  "known" should be "know"
... 3rd line:  "change" should be "chance"
I think he'd better log in as "Administrator". If his user doesn't have Administrator rights, regedit may be unable to change the registry setting for enabeling the Terminal Server (Remote Desktop host service). Then the "flying blind" procedure I outlined would fail.
mooneyjwAuthor Commented:
Thanks to all of you for very helpful advise.

To some of your questions...  
> Our user accounts do have administrator privledges...  that's good
> We are using Zone Labs Security Suite... that's bad and probably eliminate remote control as a viable solution.

We are having a local tech look at the machine today and should learn whether the video output is bad or not.  Once we know this, we should be able to choose the best course of action.  

"> Our user accounts do have administrator privledges...  that's good"
That's bad - from a security point of view. Who set that up ? Slap'em.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Having admin privileges on a home system isn't all that bad -- what I suspect is BAD is that the accounts probably have blank (i.e. NO) passwords :-)    That's not only bad from a security perspective; but also eliminates Remote Desktop as an option here.
And the first virus you download ist readily allowed to install itself everywhere in the registry (HKLM/Soft/M$/Win/Cv/run)
and modify Windows executables in C:\WINDOWS and so on ? That sounds disgusting to me.
Alas - you run into tons or trouble making all apps work for the "user".
But I agree to some point - the worst thing is the blank password.

Isn't there a system that allows no password from local Terminal (aka Keyboard,Monitor) and enforces a passwd from the outside? Most people leave the password blank because they don't like typing it every now and then wehen starting the pc. Locally, I keep the wrong users away by physical lockdown of the machind (closed room). Plus a warning for the perpetrator: touch that pc and get shot (so far not litarally - my policy may change) ?
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
As long as there's a password protected account on the PC you can log into that from a Remote Desktop client.   As for the registry getting trashed & Windows files replaced -- that's what a good image is for -- that's why the system and data partitions should be separate, and you should always have a good image backup.   ... regardless of whether you normally run admin privilege levels or not !!
Question has a verified solution.

Are you are experiencing a similar issue? Get a personalized answer when you ask a related question.

Have a better answer? Share it in a comment.

All Courses

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.