I read Windows Secrets regularly (a newsletter from Brian Livingston, Woody Leonhard, and a whole crew of other Windows stalwarts and experts). As I skimmed over the last issue, I chortled at the sight of an advertisement that promised to “…simply fix… Windows PC’s. Once only available to technicians, now available to home users. It will scan and diagnose all of your PC’s problems, then automatically fix them” [I've requested permission to reproduce the actual ad from Windows Secrets but because they haven't yet gotten back to me with a yea or a nay, I can only paraphrase and describe things for now.]
“Ha!” I thought to myself “Another attempt to take advantage of those who don’t know enough about Windows to fix it for themselves.” Nevertheless, I was curious enough about the program that I started Googling (or was it Binging? I can’t really remember…) around to see what kinds of responses the program had picked up from the trade press. PC World said it was OK, but needed more work back in 2008, and more recent reviews in 2009 seemed to indicate the developers had made good progress in turning this tool into something production-worthy.
Then at day’s end yesterday, by an amazing coincidence, one of my test machines (an HP HDX 9203W notebook PC aka “The Dragon” because of its size and cool external embellishments) started to develop severe stability problems. IE kept bogging down horribly, the unit ran waaaaaaay more slowly than usual, and, worst of all, when I attempted to restart or shut down, the machine would hang interminably at the “Shutting down…” screen and that process would never complete, forcing me to impose what Windows designates a “disruptive shutdown” to reboot the system (hold the power button down until the unit turns itself off).
When this kept happening this morning, I ran the Windows integrity check
sfc /scannow at the command line, only to have Windows tell me it found no integrity issues in need of repair. I run Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus on that machine, and it found no telltale signs of malware of any kind, either. Something was obviously kerfluffed somewhere in the software, and it dawned on me that it might be worth plunking down the bucks necessary to see if Reimage could live up to its claims to restore stability on increasingly unstable systems.
So, off I went to download the program onto the ailing Dragon, buy a key (one costs $60 retail, but you can buy three for $90 so that’s what I did, so as to be able to test the program on other machines as problems come up in the future, as they occasionally but invariably will on Windows machines), and run the analysis and repair utility. Sure enough, the tool liked my hardware and also found my security flawless but indicated I had stability problems it could repair. So I fired off the repair, and I’m very happy to report that my Dragon is once again hale and healthy, and running as fast and capably as it usually does.
Other reports I’ve read about Reimage say it’s equally good at cleaning up after malware and spyware, but I wasn’t willing to deliberately infect a machine at this moment to try that side of the program out. But from what I can see for PCs that can’t be restored to a standard image, or for which a recent stable backup or image isn’t readily available, Reimage is worth a try as a second-line-of-defense repair and restoration tool. (I blush to confess I hadn’t backed the Dragon up for a couple of weeks, and because HP doesn’t support Windows 7 for this unit, I had to jump through enough hoops to find, test, and install working drivers that I didn’t relish the prospect of a “rebuild from scratch.”) It certainly did the trick for me in this case, anway.
[Note on 11/8/2010: After a couple of trouble-free restarts post-Reimage, my "hang on shutdown" issue returned to the Dragon. Turns out the temperature monitor utility that runs with the sidebar gadget All CPU Meter 3.3 — namely, Core Temp — was stopping the shutdown process from completing. As long as I remember to terminate the Core Temp process in Task Manager before restarting or shutting down my machine, everything works perfectly! Sigh. Windows. It's always something.]