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Windows Vista Tip: Using WinRE To Repair Damaged Systems

With Vista, Microsoft has made significant improvements in the way you can recover from and repair serious problems.
Although with Vista, Microsoft has made great strides in the stability of its Windows operating system, things can still go wrong. What happens when a key driver goes missing or a system disk fails? How would you go about recovering the system and, especially, all your precious data?

Problem: How do you recover a damaged Vista system?

There are basically two ways to recover a damaged Windows Vista system: the installation DVD or the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE).

Solution #1: Use your installation DVD to boot up your system.

This is the simplest method. All you have to do is locate your installation DVD and use it to boot up your damaged system. This launches the Windows Vista installation. (Don't worry, -- you're not going to reinstall Vista. All you want is to get to the "Install now" screen.) The process begins by launching the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE), a simplified version of Windows that runs in memory only and is designed to replace DOS. Then it presents a screen which asks for three things:

  • Language to install
  • Time and currency format
  • Keyboard or input method

Making a selection and clicking Next will bring you to the "Install now" screen. What you're looking for is the two options in the lower left corner of the screen:

  • What to know before installing Windows
  • Repair your computer

Clicking "Repair your computer" will move you to another screen that lets you choose your existing system partition. When you click Next, you'll get a series of choices for system repair. From there on, just follow the prompts.

Solution #2: Use the WinRE console to diagnose and repair the problem.

The problem with using the installation DVD is that you might not always have the disk on hand. If you want to make sure your system is always running, but don't want to depend on the installation media, then you can use WinRE. The WinRE console is new to Windows Vista and is specifically designed to support the recovery or repair of a system. It is based on WinPE which is? and offers features such as:

  • Automatic diagnosis and repair of boot problems with the Startup Repair tool
  • A centralized platform for advanced recovery tools

You can even use WinRE to reinstall Windows without damaging your data, since the image-based setup Vista uses protects data during an upgrade process.

The ideal way to install WinRE is to create two disk partitions as you install Vista on your system: one for Vista and one for WinRE. This way, WinRE will be accessible if you run into system disk problems and Vista won't start. The WinRE partition only requires 1GB of space, since WinRE is a very small system. Both partitions must be primary and active.

To install WinRE, you have to create a system image that you can install on your system. For this, you'll need the Windows Automated Installation Kit, which kit gives you the tools you need to customize a WinPE image and turn it into a WinRE image.

Once the image is ready, you simply apply it to your WinRE partition. Full instructions for this operation are located in this step by step. Once you're done, you'll never be caught off guard if things go wrong on your Vista PC.


More Windows Vista Tips


For more helpful tips on installing and using Microsoft Vista, try these: