A couple of weeks ago my notebook with Vista loaded crashed.  On booting it detected hard disk corruption, but even after hours of running Vista’s own checkdisk, it failed to fix the issues on the disk.

Fortunately someone in the office had created a Universal Boot CD (http://www.ubcd4win.com/) booted to it, used the check disk option — that check disk ran in about 2 minutes, and it fixed the problems.  My Vista machine would once again boot.  (By the way, if you want to make one of those CDs yourself, you’ll want to copy your entire Windows XP CD image (yes XP) to your hard disk and use that as the source for creating the boot CD).

But soon after I discovered that I couldn’t mount USB Flash Drives (or Mass Storage Devices).  The system would come up with an message that wanted to install drivers, it would even say searching Windows Update… for them but would ultimately not find a drive and would ask if I had the installation disk.

The cause ended up being that two USB driver files:
C:\Windows\Inf\usbstor.inf
AND
C:\Windows\Inf\usbstor.PNF
were completely missing from my machine.  I was able to copy those two files from a VPC image of Vista I had running on one of our virtual machines, rebooted and everything started to work once again.

Note: for one of my flash drives it didn’t work, but opening Device Manager, right-clicking the device (which did show up) then choosing update driver and pointing it at C:\Windows\Inf for the file location worked.  It successfully installed the driver, and my USB flash drives are once again working.

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