ABR (Vista Activation Backup & Restore) has finally reached 1.0!

It's been working great for a long beta period, except for one minor bug that was fixed with this release. I also added a silent restore option for anyone trying to integrate the activation into an auto-install DVD. With that, it was finally time to promote it to 1.0.

ABR allows the to backup and restore of Windows Vista activation that was pre-installed at the factory (OEM:SLP activation only).

Here's the main page for it.


One annoying thing about modern OEM systems is that they come with "recovery discs" instead of a regular Windows installation. On Vista recovery discs from HP (and probably others), those files are stored as .WIM files. I was initially under the assumption that these were somehow encrypted to protect them from tampering, as my initial attempts to open them had failed, but the reality is that they are spanned WIM volumes and can be reconstructed to a whole WIM image file, then mounted using imagex.exe.


To manually force Vista to defrag the boot files (for faster boot times), copy and paste this into a batch file.

  • MUST run as Administrator
  • Do not name the file "defrag.bat"
  • Wait for it to finish. It might take a while. Do not cancel this while it's running!!!

@echo off
:: Originally found here:
echo Optimize boot files for faster startup
echo MUST run as Administrator
echo Close ALL running programs before continuing!!!

echo Defragging boot files...

:: Tell Vista that all applications are idle and it can start a background task
echo Rundll32.exe advapi32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks


This is a utility that allows you to backup and restore Windows Vista activation for systems that are pre-installed from the factory by an OEM, allowing you to reinstall the system without having to call Microsoft. It saves the activation to a file and allows you to restore it once you've done a clean install. ABR works with Vista SP1, and on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista.

How to use it:

  1. Download and unzip
  2. Run "activation_backup.exe"
  3. Save the backup files somewhere safe
  4. Reinstall Vista
  5. Restore activation by running "activation_restore.exe"

ABR can only be used to install the same version of Vista you have the original OEM license for. For example, if your computer came pre-installed with Vista Home Premium, you can only reinstall with Home Premium. You can, however, switch between 32-bit and 64-bit.

For full instructions on the process, look at my full Clean Vista Install guide.


I've seen many questions, and even more incorrect or incomplete replies about missing disk space in Vista. You got a 160GB hard drive and you've only installed a few programs, but you're missing a LOT of disk space! Where did it go? There are numerous possible reasons why your disk is getting used up -- sometimes it's being used by useful services, and other times it's just being wasted.

So where does the space go?


Sometimes the battery, volume, and network icons disappear from the system tray and you can't re-enable them because they are grayed-out. This can be caused if Vista crashes while shutting down for a reboot, but also can be caused by other things (who knows?).

There are a bunch of ways you can fix this, you only need to pick one:

Manually editing the registry

  1. Open regedit as Administrator
  2. Search for all instances of "IconStreams"
  3. When found, delete "IconStreams" and "PastIconStreams"
  4. Keep searching until you reach the end of the registry
  5. Reboot
  6. Go into the Start Menu properties an re-enable the icons

Load the fix as a .reg file


Microsoft recently announced a schedule for Windows Vista Service Pack 1. They'll be launching a beta in a few weeks, and the final pack will be out at the beginning of next year. This is surprising because up until this point, Microsoft said they had no plans to release a service pack for Vista. What's really going on is that Vista sales have not been going well, and Microsoft is throwing a bone in hopes it will spur adoption.


The other day I noticed something about Vista which made me think, "Does Vista already know about its problems?" Here's what happened: I have an external firewire (1394) disk drive that I use for backups. I've been using this for years to backup my desktop computer without any problems. Lately I've been migrating to a new laptop, and during that process I wanted to get something off the backup. When I connected the drive to my laptop, Windows found the drive, but then froze up.


Copied from my guide available here

If you're looking for Activation Backup & Restore (ABR) it has moved to it's own page, which you can find HERE.

This guide is relatively VENDOR NEUTRAL. It should work on all Vista installations that were preinstalled at the factory, for both laptops and desktops.

NOTE: This procedure may look long, but I'm just really wordy at writing these things. You should get through each step pretty quickly.