There are a few preventative steps you can
take before Windows Vista ever gets messed up and crashes. If taken, these
will make it potentially a lot easier to recover the operating system when it does (eventually) crash.
For starters, there's the system restore feature. Unlike Windows XP, Windows
Vista does not constantly create restore points. It only creates them
automatically in the case of major software installs or other significant system
events. You would be well-advised to manually create system restore points every
month or so, and whenever you are installing new software and drivers.
System restore in Vista will roll back drivers, system files and installed
programs to their earlier states, but will not touch your data, so there's
nothing to worry about on that front. To manually create a system restore point,
open the 'start' menu, right click on 'computer' and choose 'properties'. From
the menu on the left, choose the 'system protection' option.
Click 'create' and choose a name for the restore point. It's a good
idea to include some information here that will help you remember why you
created the restore point. Think of it as a save game... Click
'create' again, then wait for the process to finish.
Backup your data, regularly
This is a simple one, and something we've revisited again and again in our
guides. If you have essential data that you cannot work (or live) without,
back it up to external media like a DVD or removable hard disk drive. You
can also use flash memory devices like USB drives, but we would advise against
keeping essential data on this type of device for long.
Store your data in a separate partition or
physical hard disk
If all else fails and you cannot repair your Windows Vista install, you will
need to start from scratch. This is a lot less painful if your data and
personal documents are safe on a separate drive letter. This means that
you can remove and reinstall Windows without worrying about losing anything
except your installed programs. Consider adding a second hard disk drive
to your computer for this purpose.
Worst case scenario?
If, despite all your efforts you cannot get your Windows Vista
installation back on its feet, it's time to think data recovery. Assuming there is nothing wrong with
your hard disk drive(s), it's an easy matter for you (or your local
computer store if you are nervous) to remove them physically from your computer
and connect them to a cheaply available USB drive enclosure. Plug this into any Windows
Vista computer system to restore and back up your essential data before putting
the drive back and reinstalling Windows.
Alternately you can simply unplug your old hard drive(s) and add a new one,
install Vista on it, then replug the old ones in to access their data in a fresh
Note that you may have to change the order in which your computer wants to
boot hard disk drives if you choose this method. This can be accomplished by
going to the BIOS screen (press DEL or F2 repeatedly at your computer's boot
screen) and selecting the relevant option in either the 'advanced BIOS options'
or 'Boot' menu.
If you have any comments or questions, please post them in the PCSTATS Forums. Find out about this
and many other reviews by joining the Weekly PCSTATS.com Newsletter today!
Catch all of PCSTATS latest hardware reviews right here.