Surprisingly, Windows Vista's repair options are
actually more limited and automated than those of Windows XP. There are a number
of new options though. If you were used to the recovery tools available under
Windows XP, you will be annoyed to find that none of the old methods work in
Vista, especially the 'repair
install' that could generally
be relied upon to fix most XP issues.
New tactics are required for Vista, so let's help you learn them!
Vista's busted repair install: the 'upgrade
Windows Vista does have a version of the old
Windows 98/XP repair installation process, but as far as the scope of
this article goes, it's useless. Why? Because it requires you to
be able to boot into Windows Vista first. By booting into
Vista, inserting the Windows Vista CD/DVD and selecting the 'upgrade installation' option,
you can reinstall your system files without wiping your personal data.
Sadly, if you can't get into Vista in the first place, this is not much
Booting from the Windows Vista CD
All of the crash recovery options in this guide mentioned below require booting
from the Windows Vista CD/DVD to work. Generally speaking, you should be able to
insert your Vista CD into the CD drive and reboot the computer, then press any key
when the 'press any key to boot from CD' prompt appears. If you
do not get this prompt, you may need to change the computer's BIOS settings to
allow it to boot from the optical drive first.
To do that, restart the computer and press DEL or F2 at the first screen
- called POST screen. Once you are in the BIOS, look for either the 'advanced
BIOS options' menu or the 'boot' menu, then set the optical drive as the first boot
device and press 'F10' to save and exit.
Repairing Vista without a Windows Vista
It has become increasingly common for big-box manufacturers
like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Gatewate and Acer to package computer systems without a
physical operating system CD. In this case, an 'image' of the
operating system CD with software and drivers is generally loaded onto a hidden
partition of the computer's hard disk. This approach has several negative effects.
First of all, it's not obvious. As a computer technician, I can't count the
number of times I've had a customer return a system to me complaining that it
did not come with software. Since it's not obvious, owners are more likely to do
things like erase all the partitions on the hard drive, thus erasing Windows
Vista and removing any method of reinstalling it to factory spec.
Secondly, it takes up a lot of space on the disk. Imaging a Vista DVD and
drivers steals at least 4GB of your hard drive space. There is one major benefit
though. Manufacturers that use a Vista image generally include a version of the
Vista recovery environment also. This means that you can access all the tools
referenced in the article above without a CD or DVD.
If you need
to perform a recovery on a system that did not come with a Windows Vista
disk, you can generally use the F8 key during the boot process to
get to the Windows Vista advanced boot options menu. From here,
choose the 'repair computer' option to get to the Vista
This option is not available in user-installed versions of Windows Vista,
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will include a 'recovery disk'
creation utility which will allow you to create a bootable CD of the Vista
recovery environment. Until SP1 is released, you can (at your own
risk) make use of this version which some enterprising users have put
together. You will need to make a bootable CD out of the file, see PCSTATS' guide for advice on