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Diagnostic Software for Windows XP, Vista, 7

Posted on 2013-01-21
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Last Modified: 2013-02-15
Hello all,

	I have been building computers and administrating networks for some time now (Before Windows, but only Microsoft Windows now).  However, in the past several years, I have had a person to take care of most of the troubleshooting of hardware and software issues on individual workstations.  I also try to help family and friends that bring me their computers or want advice and I have had him as a resource.  As of a month ago, that is no longer the case.  Now, I am not completely ignorant, just a bit out of practice.  I used to use products like the UBCD and other collections of utilities, but those that I have are out of date and, frankly, a bit tiresome to run back to back to find a solution.  Discussion group searches used to be more fruitful, and, furthermore, OS based problems have become more difficult to resolve for me.

	Unfortunately, after the latest batch of Microsoft Updates, I have had 4 people bring me their computer with complaints ranging from Vista 0xa BSOD to Windows 7 unable to boot.  Instead of asking for help on each case, I would rather ask for help to finding a professional grade solution to help myself (teach a guy to fish, hehe).

	What I am looking for is a bootable solution that can also run in safe mode (if safe mode is reachable) that 1.  Scans for hardware problems.  2.  Scans for software problems (ESPECIALLY OS) and driver/program conflict issues.  3.  Is easy to use with wizards and comprehensive scans instead of having to run each tool independently.  4.  Hopefully has fixes or some internet based portal for repairs for OS and driver issues.  5.  Does not cost an arm and a leg.

	I will try to better explain my requirements as I examine your recommendations.

Thank you very much for your time.

eric
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Question by:-ewass-
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
ID: 38803411
If such a thing existed then there would be lots of chatter.  I've not run into it.  Sounds like a panacea.  With your experience, you should know that there are a huge variety of problems and one size does not fit all.

You need a toolkit in your head and a variety of tools to do these jobs.  That's what I do.

I don't believe the TV commercials although, I must admit, I've been intrigued.  But "too good to be true" is generally "not true".

Consider this:
The best tools are developed and maintained by folks who are really good at the one or two things that the tool focuses on.  It's "too hard" to corral bunches of folks in order to get a really good product.  Then there is the "whirlpool" effect that sucks app's into OS releases and leaves behind (sometimes and sometimes not) superior apps.

So, do you use Microsoft Security Essentials at $0 or Trend Micro Internet Security at $xx?
Which is really better?  Which is best suited to your needs?  etc.
Do you use Microsoft's defragging tools in XP or do you use Defraggler?
Why not 100% Microsoft when it's available?
(I know these examples aren't exactly "on the mark" but I hope you get the idea).

I would recommend that you get back into the swing of things.  There's really no substitute.
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38803546
I am not expecting one “magic” program.  A small suite of utilities is what I really expect.  If I did not want to “get back into the swing of things,” why would I be asking other professionals what diagnostic tools they use instead of taking my friends computers to a shop?  I am just asking.  You don't have to answer if you don't want to, but I would appreciate some help.

I hope your mind finds peace...   eric
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Assisted Solution

by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 100 total points
ID: 38803553
I used several different Bart's PE with different tools for different systems. Ultimate Bood CD still works, but you may want several. Thinks that work in 32-bit don't always work in 64-bit.

I also keep all past generations of Windows as Virtual Machines, and all recent versions of Office as well. Some machines have the same version because I have more machines than versions of Office.

Which then brings me to my point/question: There is nothing wrong with the latest Microsoft updates that natively cause machines not to boot. I have kept all my machines up to date and they are all working.

So you might wish to find out what people were doing. Perhaps they have viruses and the updates conflicted. That is a likely scenario.

... Thinkpads_User
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Expert Comment

by:dbrunton
ID: 38803594
Have a look at http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/Windows_7/Q_27741803.html

Your base hardware problems are usually memory and hard disk.  The UBCD can do those plus stress test the system.

A software/driver conflict application would be interesting.  I don't think I've ever seen one of those and I suspect that I never will.
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38803699
Thank you both very much for your comments and for sharing.  I hope this thread is not only helpful to me, but to others as well, so I will focus on the utilities.  But, maybe comment on my specific problems just a bit.

1.      I am glad the UBCD project is still producing a useful utility set.  I will create x86 and x64 images soon.
2.      I will also update my Bart’s PE disk (I likely lost the last one).  If I remember correctly, there were people that collected their own recommended set of tools and put out an iso of their customized disk (for example (Thinkpads_User Bart’s PE).  Is there any special expert’s disk that you recommend?
3.      I have always kept install disks or downloads from technet, but VMs are a good idea too, but I will have to do that a bit later.
4.      I mentioned the software/driver conflict because that is what Microcenter said was a part of their $75 diagnostic when I called them.  They said something like “we will do a test to see if any drivers or software is conflicting with each other or the OS.”  I thought this was pretty awesome and asked what they were using, but they would not say.  I don’t know if it is as simple as they will check to see if some driver or program was installed that is not on the compatibility list with Windows 7 or something else.  It sounded too good to be true which is why I asked.
5.      Number 4.  Begs the question What utilities are the major computer shops using?  I seriously doubt that they are using 10 different utilities each time a box comes in.  What about the manufacturers?  They all seem to claim to be able to scan for quite a few problems that would take me most of the day running different utilities.  Or are their claims exaggerated?
6.       I will check out the driver update tools.  They look like a good resource.
7.      Please keep the comments coming!!!


RE my immediate cases, most of the pc’s/laptops will not boot (2 Vista 2 Windows 7).  Most will not allow system restore to run or backup from an image (I am pretty strict with family and close friends about backups if they want my help).  In my experience I believe Thinkpad is correct that the updates are usually ok, but there is usually a small percentage that has some type of problem if they allow for all updates.  In this case, there are too many people having problems.  It is just strange.  They all claim that they did nothing.  The updates installed then the computer would not boot or Blue Screened after log in.  One did admit (and in my experience the others likely had similar or other situations) that she hard booted the computer during the update installation.  That is a simple cause for a corruption for me.  For the rest, I am sure that the computers have been hard cycled several times by the time they reached me, but the users did not admit to doing anything wrong.  On one (windows 7) memory/hd checked and are fine.  Symantec ran and no virus/malware.  Still will not boot.

         Thank you and please keep it coming.  I would particularly like to learn about any new developments regarding utilities for scanning/troubleshooting Windows OS from a boot CD (besides the install cd) if it exists.

  eric
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38803773
In terms of hardware utilties, you need memtest and a hard drive test tool for each major hard drive type from the manufacturer. Lenovo used to use PC Doctor which was decent, but they have discontinued it with Windows 8.

One major reason for the Virtual Machines is to keep them up-to-date, mostly to disprove the notion that Microsoft Updates are breaking machines in good repair. I have not seen that happen.

With respect to boot disks, running at length with a boot disk can tell you if the motherboard and memory are working properly. From the boot disk you can usually run a disk test. You can always run CHDSK (but not fixing anything) to see if it reports errors. Some older systems have scandsk as well. Keep a temperture application (Real Temp) to see if the CPU or GPU are heating up.

.... Thinkpads_User
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38803843
Also, always remember that most problems with computers are caused by the loose nut behind the keyboard. 'Twas ever thus.

.... Thinkpads_User
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38804217
I concur with the nut behind the keyboard.  Following safety (or any) instructions have always been a problem for any user.  I believe that is part of the process that will remain a constant.   I will process and research the information you both have provided so far and reply ASAP.  If you or anyone else has any other ideas or recommendations, please keep them coming.

Thank you for your interest in helping me and those that may read this in the future…   eric
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Accepted Solution

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nobus earned 300 total points
ID: 38805231
here a ful description of the tools fora techician, by one of the best members of EE :
http://www.lwcomputing.com/tips/static/techtoolkit.asp
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38819277
I apologize to the group.  I have been down for several days with the flu that is going around and will likely be in “emergency only” mode for several more days.  Thank you for your patience with me.  This topic is very important to me and I will return to it as soon as possible.  Thanks again.   eric
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by:nobus
ID: 38819493
take your time - just revive this Q every 3-4 days with a comment
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38836952
Hello All,

I am sorry to say that I am still very ill and spending my limited uptime performing networking requests.  I am still a few days away from continuing our discussion in an informed manner.

I did quickly skim the lwcomputing.com toolkit suggestions from nobus.  From a very quick glance, it looks like a great reference.  It does, however, look like the bill is going to compile fairly quickly.  I know that not everything is necessary and one could probably get away with only the free programs listed (I have most of the hardware and tools already), but I have not done any quality comparisons on tools for the same purpose to do a ROI assessment.  That said, again, I will be looking at this closely later.

Secondly, I have heard about PC Doctor before and was interested when thinkpads_user brought it up.  It looks like the homepage says it is actually Windows 8 compatible.  This must be new since the last time you had a chance to check it out, or I may be misunderstanding something.  Here is the url to make sure we are talking about the same product.  http://www.pc-doctor.com/  As before, I have not had a chance to really review the products or call them and ask questions.  Here is a product comparison that I found http://www.pc-doctor.com/product_comparison.php?group=enterprise Here is a quote from their service center line “The Diagnostics CD with Microsoft Windows PE provides access to the NTFS file system in a pre-boot environment, the ability to perform Windows testing outside of the installed OS, and the same customized reporting available in Service Center for Windows.”  Does this mean it can diagnose and possibly fix Windows that will not boot?  That may be worth the investment. I know there are tons of problems that can affect windows, but a boot disk that analyzes the installation sounds cool even if it only works part of the time.  I would really like your opinions on this product and which solution looks most appealing.  Here is the service center line site that makes those claims http://www.pcdservicecenter.com/features.php#premier_anchor  but I believe there are other options as well.  Also, are there any other solution providers that have similar packages?

These are kind of the solutions I was thinking about from the start.  Of course we all need the hardware and tools along with a certain number of specific individual diagnostic/repair programs or collections (and most are likely on nobus’s list), but I am wondering if any of the solutions offered by PC Doctor’s professional grade line will cross off a large percentage of the utilities in one comprehensive package or will be more cost effective than purchasing several tools individually, and, possibly, run in a more efficient manner than opening small util after util.


Thanks again for your patience.  I hope my flu rambling makes sense.  Again, I would appreciate your opinions, but I cannot do my own assessment of these products/concepts for a few more days.  Have a wonderful day.   eric
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by:nobus
ID: 38838577
as you say - not all on leew's site is needed
it is only a rather complete list of things that can be used - in different circumstances - up to you to decide which ones to get.
personally, i have never had any need for anything like PC doctor - i use the free ram and disk diags -  and other free tools on the net
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38849188
Sorry guys, I need a few more days.  If anyone does have a comment about PC doctor, I would like to hear their opinion.  Thanks...  eric
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by:Fred Marshall
Fred Marshall earned 100 total points
ID: 38849511
I posted this some time ago but somehow it didn't happen:

I have two CD cases - one for the office more and one to take around in the field:

      In Office Case Top                                      In Office Case Bottom
1      CD #1                                                      CD#2
2      SARDU                                                       BLEEPING      
3      XP SP2 HRO Home Retail OEM Boots      XP SP3 HRO Home Retail OEM Boots
4      XP SP2 HRR Home Retail Retail Boots      XP SP3 HRR Home Retail Retail Boots
5      XP SP2 HOO Home OEM  OEM Boots      XP SP3 HRV Home Retail Volume Boots
6      XP SP2 PRR Pro Retail Retail Boots      XP SP3 PRR Pro Retail Retail Boots
7      XP SP2 PRO Pro Retail OEM Boots      XP SP3 PRO Pro Retail OEM Boots
8      XP SP2 PRV Pro Retail Volume Boots      XP SP3 PRV Pro Retail Volume Boots
9      XP SP2 POO Pro OEM OEM                      XP SP3 POO Pro OEM OEM
10      XP SP2 POO Pro OEM OEM Dell Micro     XP SP3 Update
11      XP SP0 PRR Pro Retail Retail Boots      XP SP2 HOO Dell
12      MCE 2005 OEM Disk 1                      MCE 2005 OEM Disk 2
13      Vista HP OEM                                      Vista HP OEM
14      Vista Home Premium 32 Dell                      Vista Home Premium 64
15      Vista Home Premium 32 Retail      Vista Home Premium 64 Retail
16      Vista 32 SP1                                      Vista 64 SP1
17      Vista WAIK                                      Vista SP2 64
18      Vista HP Premium                                      Vista HP OEM VLite
19      Vista 32                                                      Windows Server 2008 R2 Trial 64
20      Win 7 Home Premium 32 Retail      Win 7 Home Premium 64 Retail
21      Win 7 Pro 32                                      Win 7 Pro OEM Dell
22      Win 7 Ultimate 32 SP1                      Win 7 Repair Disk Boot
23      Bauer-Puntu 11.0.4      SIW Sys Info             Windows Install
24      Ubuntu 12.10 Desktop X86 Boot      KNOPPIX 7.04 DVD Boot
25      UBCD4WIN 3.6 Boot                      KNOPPIX 7.04 CD Boot
26      Miray HD Clone 4.2.2 Boot                      CLONEZILLA Boot
27      Paragon Drive Copy Clone Adjuster BootAcronis 11 Boot
28      SPINRITE v6 Boot                                      NTPW
29      HDD Regen Boot                                      Win 7 Rescue PE
30      Uneraser Setup                                      TUFF TEST Boot
31      PARTED Magic Boot                                      SEATOOLS Boot
32      Memory Test Boot                                      GWScan Boot CD

      Mobile Case Top                                       Mobile Case Bottom
1      CD #1                                                       CD#2
2      BLEEPING                                                       SARDU
3      XP HOME SP3 HOO                                       XP HOME SP3 HRR
4      XP PRO SP3 POO DELL                       XP PRO SP3 PRR
5      VISTA HOME PREM 32 OEM DELL      VISTA HOME PREMIUM 32 HRR
6      WIN 7 PRO OEM DELL (32/64?)      VISTA HOME PREMIUM 64 HRR
7      WIN 7 PRO 64  RETAIL?                      WIN 7 PRO 32 RETAIL?
15      DOS Boot      Win 98SE Boot
22      Win 7 Repair Disk Boot
23      Bauer-Puntu 11.0.4                                      SIW Sys Info Windows Install
24      Ubuntu 12.10 Desktop X86 Boot      KNOPPIX 7.04 DVD Boot
25      UBCD4WIN 3.6 Boot                      KNOPPIX 7.04 CD Boot
26      Miray HD Clone 4.2.2 Boot                     CLONEZILLA Boot
27      Paragon Drive Copy Clone Adjuster BooAcronis 11 Boot
28      SPINRITE v6 Boot                                      NTPW
29      HDD Regen Boot                                       Win 7 Rescue PE
30      Uneraser Setup                                       TUFF TEST Boot
31      PARTED Magic Boot                                       SEATOOLS Boot
32      Memory Test Boot                                       GWScan Boot CD

The directories of CD#1 and CD#2 are attached.  Bleeping is a collection of tools from bleepingcomputer.  All 3 of these are updated fairly often; the others not so much.
Note the memory and drive testing tools are in the back of each folder for ready access.

Not that I use *all* of these things that much but obviously some more than others.
CD-1.bmp
CD-2.bmp
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38849584
I have Microsoft Technet and, for some reason, have always purchased the online version instead of the disk/action pack (whatever it is called).  For this reason, I have lost access to some of the boot disks you suggest (and I agree) should be in the collection.  Is there any source, besides purchasing them, where I can acquire the boot disks for some of the older OS versions without the key of course?  That seems legal enough?

The boot disks are important, but not as important as the utilities for the purpose of this thread.  Thank you for the list.  I will start to check them out when I can in the next few days.

Thanks again.   eric
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 38850093
i have never needed programs like pc doctor - though it can be useful
90% of the hardware is resolved with UBCD - and swapping parts
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38850308
After looking at the links I provided about PC Doctor, what makes it unique?  Can it really resolve those difficult, non hardware, related issues such as an OS that will not boot?  Or, is it just a collection of freeware programs in a tight package?  

Again, I will call and research when I can spend some time on it, but if PC Doctor, or similar products, has special tools (especially OS related that would prevent even a few complete reinstalls) I would really like to know about them.  

The ability to check mark several utilities to run and then have the option to walk away and wait for a report instead of running several freeware programs independently is alluring.  If PC Doctor can do this, then the time saved may be worth considering.

I acknowledge that the toolsets provided so far will do the job, and I will put together one or update my old ones.  But, if PC Doctor provides a majority of these tools and runs them as a single solution, it may simply be more cost effective and easier to implement.  I just don’t know the answer.

I still have not taken a good look at the list of tools, and I will, but I am just wondering (or maybe hoping for something that is not what it appears to be).  I hope to get back in gear in a few days, but welcome any comments.

Thank you all for your comments so far, continued patience, and assistance.     eric
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Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 38851472
i can't answer your question about pc Doctor, since i never used it - and have no use for it
every software claims that it can do all sorts of things - mainly as selling argument
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38882378
Ok, so are reviews of PC Doctor and other professional grade diagnostic suites outside the scope of experts-exchange?  I was really hoping to get some input from those options in addition to the freeware, shareware, and individual programs.  If this is the case, I will close this question out as there is plenty of information here, but if anyone knows of an expert that can add some insight to professional grade software, I would appreciate it, and be happy to open a new question.  Thank you all for your time and patience with me on this thread.   I will wait for a response or two before I close this out.  eric
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Expert Comment

by:younghv
ID: 38882486
<<Ok, so are reviews of PC Doctor and other professional grade diagnostic suites outside the scope of experts-exchange? >>

Not at all. In fact, some of our members actually create trouble-shooting/diagnostic tools for others to use.

I agree with 'nobus' on PC-Doctor. Never used it, never will, never needed it. I've looked at it before, but there just isn't anything there for me.

I agree with the comments above about MS updates NOT causing any of the these problems you're having. I remember all too well the bad old days of having to test every update MS published - and wait until they fixed the fix before installing them. To my knowledge, MS hasn't had that kind of problem for a very long time.

I will bet dollars (pounds, euros, etc.) to donuts that all of the problems you describe are being caused by malware and/or hardware problems.

You've been given some good scoop on available tools (and I use Lee Wilbur's list), but the best (IMO) way for you to get going down the road is to start a new question for each individual system you're working on.

Describe the system and the problem you're having and let the E-E experts start helping you a step at a time. They will (should) give you specific tools/actions to take and that will give you a chance to start personally evaluating the various tools that are available.

We have a lot of people around here who really enjoy solving specific problems, but many of them will not participate in general discussion threads.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38882603
@ -ewass-

so are reviews of PC Doctor and other professional grade diagnostic suites outside the scope of experts-exchange?  

No, but some tools do not get wide exposure. PC Doctor was (I think) used mostly in IBM and later Lenovo Products. It did a decent job testing Hard Drive, CD Drives, Serial and Parallel ports when they existed, memory and basic CPU.  But (as I noted earlier) it has been discontinued with the advent of Windows 8. Drive manufacturers have their own test tools, and memtest does a good job on memory. Serial and Parallel ports are gone. So there is not really the need.

Do you know of any "professional grade diagnostic suites" ? Please let us know of any that you know of.  I don't, but then I have not had a lot of need either. I get 3 or 4 year warranty upgrades on business grade computers and let the vendor's support group look after break fix.

... Thinkpads_User
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Author Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38882680
Thinkpads_User,

      This has nothing to do with the merits of building your own toolset.  I would ask that you review the links in my post Posted on 2013-01-30 at 20:26:39ID: 38836952  It appears that PC Doctor does support Windows 8.  I wrote this post and included the links for you to make sure we were discussing the same product and to get your opinion on the feature set the product line appears to include.

      Is this the same product that you are describing in your latest post, or has it been upgraded to fit current specifications?  I am just asking a question as I was then.  I know that you cannot comment on a solution that you have not used, but I believe that you can make some assessment on a list of functions that the product performs.  I am not asking if they are better than putting together a custom toolset (I seriously doubt that is possible), but are all of the same functions there that would otherwise exist in a custom toolset?

      That was my intention with my previous post.

      Thanks and I will see if I can find any other professional software suites for the sake of the thread, and try to find independent reviews if I have the time (I need to start fixing computers pretty soon) I will address the custom toolsets soon and finish this thread up.  It appears that everyone has come to a consensus.

Thanks again.  eric
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by:John Hurst
ID: 38882727
I was commenting from the vantage point of Lenovo systems (the only hardware I specifiy and use myself). It is Lenovo discontinuing PC Doctor on their systems and going with their own diagnostic tools. I should have been more clear. I have used PC Doctor on Lenovo systems, which is why I commented.

As computers get less and less expensive, they become ever more uneconomical to fix. That was my point on warranty.

... Thinkpads_User
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Author Closing Comment

by:-ewass-
ID: 38882974
Thank you all for your help.  I found all of the comments helpful in some way and it was an interesting discussion.  I am highlighting the two posts that I believe provided the closest path toward building my own toolset.  Thank you all.   eric
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Expert Comment

by:Iain MacMillan
ID: 38892698
i have used PC-Check for pro diagnostics over the years, complete tech kit has loop-back plugs for serial, parallel, USB and Ethernet.  Not used as much now, as most of the EE techys have already mentioned, in most cases hardware is cheaper now, if we can't fix it in a few hours and it has no warranty, it's normally a no brainer to replace.

other software which can sometimes help is SuperAntiSpyware, i have a technician license and download the daily single .COM file when i need to do a stand alone scan, and System Mechanic is not bad a resurrecting older systems to do a spring clean and keep them alive long enough to get data off them before a rebuild, or as a minor stop gap until a replacement system is ready.

HD Clone is a fantastic disk clone package, very easy to use, just like the old Ghost app was in DOS -- free version not bad, but Std & Pro improve the features and speed.
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