Dial-a-fix utility repairs Windows by returning settings to defaults

When things break in Windows, the problem often stems from a set of small issues that aren't instantly obvious, but wreak the same kind of havoc each time.

For instance, if key .DLLs that control Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)

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or the cryptography subsystems become unregistered, all kinds of other things, such as Windows/Microsoft Update, will also break, and it can be difficult to trace the problem back to their sources. Sometimes the only solution is blind repairs, or, for the truly frustrated, a "nuke-and-pave" operation -- reinstalling the operating system from scratch.

I've never believed in the nuke-and-pave solution except in the worst circumstances. I subscribe to the thought that most things that can go wrong can be set right again. Evidently programmer "DjLizard" feels the same way—he's created a freeware utility for Windows called Dial-a-fix that's designed to fix many common Windows problems by simply setting things back to their factory-supplied defaults.

Currently in version 0.60, Dial-a-fix repairs problems with a number of services and system components by unregistering and re-registering their attendant .DLLs. The changes involved in this are designed to be minimally destructive. Applications are neither deleted nor uninstalled, and any changes made are simply meant to bring Windows back to its normal state. On the DjLizard site, the authors have compiled a list of common problems in Windows that Dial-a-fix can repair.

Here's a quick rundown of the things Dial-a-fix attempts to do when invoked:

  • Erases the user's temp folders (a common source of application failures, since there may be collisions with existing files).
  • Re-registers the Windows Installer Service, which manages MSI software packages.
  • Re-registers all components needed for Windows Update.
  • Fixes problems with SSL, HTTPs and cryptography services (which tend to be heavily interrelated).
  • Repairs Explorer and IE shell registrations.
  • Repairs references to ActiveX objects.

The program uses officially sanctioned techniques; many (if not all) of the fixes applied by Dial-a-fix are either procedures listed in Microsoft's own Knowledge Base or those been recommended by Microsoft MVPs. This is not a guarantee that it can fix a given problem, only that the fixes in question are not unorthodox and are applied in ways consistent with Microsoft's own recommendations.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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