Sad saga of Windows Recovery

By jobeard
Jan 30, 2015
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  1. OMG, the laptop hd died. This really stinks as I THOUGHT I was careful when I created a System Recovery Image - - some 11 cds full. The plain(a) was to restore the image and then copy replicated data from other media.

    I disembowel the Dell Inspiron and replace the hd. Not fun on this model, but doable.

    First, I try to execute PLAN-A; the Image Restore fails complaining it can' find the hardware specifications.
    The SR sequence is
    1. boot the recovery disk
    2. select system repair
    3. select restore image
    Nice, but for me it's a no-show :s**t:

    SO, now the long PLAN-B. I down load a SR disk.iso, burn it to dvd and boot that one.
    (3) still fails, and I opt to perform a Clean Install. That runs and the system boots. This leaves the lenghty path to
    • activate the new install
    • and spend xx hours reinstalling critical software {Quickbooks, PGP software, Apache, Perl, PHP, MySQL plus all the fun stuff like our photo albums and music library
    Having thought that I just might need the original windows activation key, I knew where it was stored and tried to use it. ANOTHER OMG moment: error 0c004F061
    This key can only be used for updates and not on a clean install.​
    The help note on this error says plainly, a reformated drive (and new hd looks reformatted) will cause this error.

    HMM; Perverse MS. HDs crash and get replaced. So I call MS Support.
    Spent goodly amount of time with help desk person-one and it took forever to reach the understand that this is not an update and not a fresh install on a new system. Put me on hold - - only to get disconnected.
    :grrrrr: Call back and get help desk person-two. At least this person gets the picture quickly. Placing me on hold and - - - (yep, you can guess it) - - I get disconnected AGAIN.

    I'm updating drivers, adding A/V and security stuff, reloading the pictures and basically making lemonade awaiting Monday morning.

    I suspect that licensing will be an issue for every purchase software packing, but I'll deal with that bridge when I come to it.

    I'll post status changes as they occur.
  2. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,689   +395

    Windows Vista or 7? You can clean install, but not provide a key. Then 'upgrade' that install with your key.
  3. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,143   +597

    That's what I did. HOWEVER, the key matches the OEM Home Premium which was later upgraded to Pro. 'Support' felt badly for me, but the upgrade to 7/Pro is no longer possible AND they will not even sell me another key.

    My first error was to create the MS Image; it just has too much structure (ie attempts to know or require too much). I should have gone with Acronis True Image which reformats the disk and r/w sectors. I used that with a client very successfully, but did not have a copy for myself (my second error).
  4. bazz2004

    bazz2004 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,213   +200

  5. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,143   +597

    @bazz2004 Thank you - - but INSTALL wasn't the problem, but rather the Activation process didn't like the previous key from the failed system. As shown, the Home Premium key that allowed upgrading to Pro could not be used on a Clean Install. I also had a friend with an install pack for a group of 5 systems gave me a win/7 pro key but that failed too to our amazement.

    SO, the final solution I reached on Wednesday evening was:
    1. go online per a prompt to solve the so-called Not Genuine issue. This pointed to a download for WindowsActivationUpdate.exe and was the back door to
    2. MS getting satisfied that the install was in-fact genuine and that allowed
    3. an offer to purchase a new key
    Yea, that stinks, but it worked. Recall, Win/7 can not be officially purchased, so getting to (3) above is a true back door.

    Want to also mention the tool Magical Jelly Bean which provides keyfinder.exe
    This tool will display the existing license key of the OS installed and for dell systems, the service tag. My tag is now lost due to MS Help actions attempting to uninstall and reinstall the prior OEM key :sigh: This means that tools like Belarc Advisor no longer can report the service tag.

    *However, Dell provides which is effective in recovering the tag.
    BE ADVISED: Other cruff is packaged with it, but can be avoided via the custom install.

    *The service tag is also available in the BIOS itself.

    I've recovered almost everything with a license and as soon as the web server is properly configured, I will get another system image using my new Acronis True Image software.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Would this be the same software? If I had a Dell, I would try it myself.

    Service Tag Lookup

    CNet will always package other software.
  7. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,143   +597

    BTW: Here's another means to get the service tag:
    get a cm prompt and enter
    wmic csproduct get vendor,name,identifyingnumber
  8. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,143   +597

    And the registry path to dell (on 64bit systems) is

    HLM\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Dell Computer Corporation\SysInfo
  9. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,423   +77

    It may be too late if you have already purchased Acronis True Image, but just in case, the usual advice on is not to use Acronis due to past big troubles with that software. It installs changes to drive handling (upper and lower filter drivers which bypass the HAL) that cannot be uninstalled, even with Acronis own installation.

    Personally swear by Terrabyte and have been happy also with Macrium Reflect which is great for a free one.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015
  10. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Topic Starter Posts: 9,143   +597

    Good input - - thanks. However, I don't need periodic backups. I'm interested in purely a system image as a baseline for any possible recovery. Using other tools, I can get updated user files using drag-n-drop (which btw was effective this time too).

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