Rebooting Windows: How To Recover From Vista Crashes
We've pulled together a passel of little-known software backup and repair techniques so you won't have to reinstall Vista from scratch, if it gets trashed or hits a fatal startup error.
You'll now be taken through the sequence I've captured in the accompanying image gallery. After a seemingly interminable delay for Vista to load up from the DVD, things will proceed fairly rapidly. Blow past the first dialog box, clicking "next" as if you planned to actually install Vista anew.
Be more deliberate with the second one, though. It posts up a big "Install now" in the center of the screen, and that's definitely not what you want to do. Instead, look toward the lower left, and click on "Repair your computer."
To cut to the Bootrec chase, click on "Command Prompt" in the "Choose a recovery tool" dialog box.
Next up will be a "System Recovery Options" box, which should identify your current Vista installation as the OS designated for repair. Click "next."
Finally, we cut to the chase with a dialog which asks us to "Choose a recovery tool." Here I should note that it's recommended that you try start-up repair, system restore, or the Complete PC refresh (discussed above), unless you've specifically received a Boot Configuration Data error message. To proceed with the Bootrec process, click on "command prompt."
At the prompt, enter "Bootrec /RebuildBcd" (without the quote marks). That should be sufficient in most situations. If the tool runs successfully, you'll be asked whether you want to add the entry it's created to the Boot Configuration Data store. Answer "Y" (yes), and then restart the computer.
If "Bootrec /RebuildBcd" gives you no joy, you'll have to proceed to a slightly beefier process involving the removal and subsequent recreation of the BCD store. The required command sequence is:
Bcdedit /export C:\BCD_Backup
ren c:\boot\bcd bcd.old
You'll get a prompt asking you whether you want to "Add installation to boot list?" Answer "Y" (yes), type exit, then hit shutdown or restart.
In the credit where credit is due department, I didn't come up with this rocket-science myself; it's all in a couple of Microsoft Knowledge Base notes, as was the earlier XP Bootcfg stuff. You should download the notes (here and here) and keep them handy so you've got a cookbook listing of the command sequence. (I should point out that Microsoft has omitted the "Add installation? Yes" part of the procedure, which I show above, from the rebuild explanation it provides in its "method 2" section of the more detailed note.)