Windows Vista – Repair Options

Windows Complete PC RESTORE

Lets talk a little bit about the Windows Complete PC Restore. As we know that there are many ways to backup your data , sometimes you can dump all the files using copy and paste operation from Hard Drive to Memory Sticks and External Hard Drives , at times you can use backup software like ACRONIS PC backup etc. However , the best way to backup your stuff is by converting those into one single IMAGE FILE. Now , on certain branded systems these Image files come as preinstalled
eg: On DELL systems they come as PCRESTORE , an image file stored in secondary partition. However you can also create your own IMAGE file to backup your stuff and use it whenever your system goes down on you.

Windows Vista Business , Ultimate and Enterprise editions come with this feature called Windows Backup Utility located in the control panel. Here is how you gotta do it:

To create a Complete PC Backup image for your computer you need to enter the Backup and Restore Center. To begin please follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the Start button to open your Start Menu. The Start button looks like this: Vista Start Button
  2. Click on the All Programs menu option.
  3. Click on the Maintenance folder.
  4. Click on the Backup and Restore Center icon.

When you click on that icon, the Backup and Restore Center will open as shown in Figure 1 below.

Vista Backup and Restore Center
Figure 1. Vista Backup and Restore Center

From this screen, you would be able to see the last time you performed a Complete PC Backup and where it was saved to under the Back up files or your entire computer category. As this is the first time you are making a Complete PC Backup, you will not see this information. To start the Complete PC Backup utility you need to click on the Back up computer button. When you press that button, if a User Account Control prompt may appear you should click on the Continue button. A new screen will appear asking where you would like to save the backup image.

Select the location to save the backup image
Figure 2. Select the location to save the backup image

You have two options as to where you can save the backup image; a hard drive formatted using NTFS or a writable DVD. I suggest when making backups that you save the image to a DVD or to an external backup hard drive. If you save the image on a system hard drive, and that drive fails, then you no longer have access to the image to restore it. On the other hand, if you save the image to a DVD or external hard drive, then you can store it in a safe place and use it to restore the computer when needed. For this example, I am selecting the On a hard disk as I have an external drive plugged into the computer. If you had selected the On one or more DVDs option you would be able to select the drive letter for your DVD writer. When ready, click on the Next button.

If the destination that you have chosen does not have enough free space to store the image, or if it requires multiple DVDs, then the Windows Complete PC Backup wizard will show you a screen where you can select the drives that you would like to backup. An example of this type of screen can be seen in Figure 3 below. Please note that the screenshot below was taken from a different computer, so does not reflect the actual back up we are doing. The screenshot is only shown so that you understand what this window is when it is shown.

Select disks to backup
Figure 3. Select disks to backup

For each disk that you would like to backup, put a checkmark next to it. Those disks that are considered system disks will automatically be checked and cannot be unchecked. It is important to note that you cannot backup a drive that is being used to save the image. When you have selected all the disks you want to backup click on the Next button. If your selected backup device has enough free space to store the image, or after you press Next in the disk selection screen, you will be presented with a summary screen for the backup you are about to perform.

Confirm your backup settings
Figure 4. Confirm your backup settings

To start the backup you should now click on the Start Backup button. When you press this button, Vista will start the backup and create an image on the media or hard drive that you specified. The status of the backup creation will be shown in a window similar to Figure 5 below.

Creating backup image
Figure 5. Creating backup image

When the backup is finished being created you will see a message stating so as shown in Figure 6 below.

Backup image successfully created
Figure 6. Backup image successfully created

Your computer has now been successfully backed up and you should store the media or external drive in a safe location in the event that you need it in the future. In the future when you make further Complete PC Backups to the same drive, it will only backup the differences between your last backup and the current state of your computer allowing the backups to complete much quicker.

How to Restore the Hard Drive using the Image

As we want to perform a Complete PC Restore, you would click on the Windows Complete PC Restore option. Once you click on the Windows Complete PC Restore option, Complete PC Restore will search your hard drives and DVD media for any saved backup images. If none are found, then a message will appear stating that no backups could be found. On the other hand, if a backup was found one of your drives or the inserted media you will see a screen, similar to Figure 6 below, with the latest backup selected.

Specify the backup to restore
Figure 6. Specify the backup to restore

By default, Complete PC Restore will select the latest backup to restore. If the selected backup is the one you wish to restore, then you can press the Next button to continue. If there is a different backup that you would like to use, then you should select the Restore a different backup option and press the Next button. This will bring up a screen displaying the list of backups you have created in the past.

List of backups
Figure 7. List of backups

You should look through the list of backups and select the one that you would like to restore. When you have finished selecting the backup, you should click on the Next button. Complete PC Restore will now examine your selected backup and see if there is more than one time you backed up your computer to this location. If you have backed up multiple times it will display an entry for each of them.

List of individual snapshots in an image
Figure 8. List of individual snapshots in an image

It is advised that you select the most recent snapshot and then press the Next button to move on to the next screen.

Figure 9. Confirm whether or not Complete PC Restore should format and repartition disks

This screen asks you whether or not you want to format and repartition the disks before you restore the data. If you select the Format and repartition disks option, Complete PC Restore will repartition and format the hard drive you are restoring to exactly as it was when you made the backup. If you do not choose this method, it will just erase the hard disk and restore the data to it. If you are using the same hard drive that you originally used to back up your computer then you may want to select the option to Format and repartition disks. On the other hand, if this is a new hard drive that you have partitioned in a different manner, then you should not select this option in order to keep your current disk configuration. It is important to note that with either option you select all the data on the disk you are restoring to will be erased. When you are ready to continue, you should click on the Finish button.

A new window will open stating that all of your data will be erased. If you want to continue with the restore then you need to put a checkmark in the checkbox labeled I confirm that I want to erase all existing data and restore the backup and then press the OK button. Complete PC Restore will now restore the backup on your computer.

Figure 10. Windows Complete PC is restoring the data

Other Repair Options

Boot the computer from the CD or DVD

Figure 1. Boot the computer from the CD or DVD

As you want to boot the computer from the Windows Vista DVD you need to press a key, and any key will do, on your keyboard when you see the above prompt. After you press the key, you should hear your DVD reader spinning up and then you will see a black screen with a white status bar at the bottom stating Windows is loading files…. After a while, the status bar will turn completely white and you will see a screen stating that Windows is loading. The Windows Setup environment will continue to load and when finished you will be presented with a screen similar to Figure 2 below.

Figure 2. Configure language and location options in Vista Setup

At this screen you should configure the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method options so that they are set correctly. When done, press the Next button. You will now be at the main Windows Vista setup screen where you would normally install Vista on to a computer.

Figure 3. Windows Vista Setup options

As we want to repair the computer, you should click on the Repair your computer option. This will bring you to a new screen where the repair process will look for all Windows Vista installations on your computer. When done you will be presented with the System Recovery Options dialog box as shown in Figure 4 below.

Figure 4. System Recovery Options

Select the Vista installation you would like to repair and if there are drivers you need to load in order for Vista to access any of your drives or other components , then you should click on the Load Drivers button to load them. When ready, press the Next button to continue.

If the repair process does not detect any problems starting Vista, it will display a list of recovery tools.  As we want to perform an automated repair, we would click on the Startup Repair option under this list of tools. It should also be noted that if the repair process detected that you previously had problems starting Vista, instead of displaying the list of recovery tools, it would have automatically started the Startup Repair tool for you. When the Startup Repair tool starts, it will scan your Vista installation for any problems. If problems are found it will attempt to fix these problems automatically. This automatic repair process can be seen in Figure 5 below.

Startup Repair window
Figure 5. Startup Repair window

The automatic repair process can take quite a while. So please be patient as Vista attempts to find and repair any problems on your computer. During this process your computer may reboot multiple times, which is normal and nothing to be worried about. During this process you may also be presented with a dialog box asking if you would like to restore your computer using System Restore.

Restore using System Restore
Figure 6. Restore using System Restore

You should click on the Cancel button at this prompt because there is a better System Restore option that can be used from the advanced tools list which we will cover later. For now, just click on the Cancel button and continue with the Startup Repair process. The repair process will now continue to scan your installation for errors to fix. Once the repair process has completed, if it could not find any problems, you will be given an option to send your information to Microsoft.

Could not repair automatically
Figure 7. Could not repair automatically

When sending this information, it is important to note that you will not receive a response back from Microsoft with a solution. Instead they use this information to determine if this is a bug that a lot of people are having and that they need to rectify or if they need to create a support article on how to fix it. If you wish to send the information, then click on the Send information about this problem (recommended) option. Otherwise, click on the Don’t send option. You will now be at a summary screen.

End of automatic repair
Figure 8. End of automatic repair

You can now click on the Finish button to reboot your computer to exit the repair process or if you would like to try some more advanced options then click on the View advanced options for system recovery and support. We recommend that you try the advanced tools if the Startup Repair tool could not fix your problems. You can also reach the advanced tools at any time during a Startup Repair scan by clicking on the Cancel button. An overview of the advanced tools can be found with links to their individual tutorials.

Advanced Tools Overview

Vista provides advanced repair tools that you can use to fix problems with your Windows Vista installation. To reach this list of tools you would start your computer using the above process and either press Cancel during the Startup Repair process, or if no problems were detected, the list will automatically be shown. The repair process will now display the System Recovery Options screen.

Vista System Recovery Options screen
Figure 9. Vista System Recovery Options screen

This screen provides access to five tools that can help you repair your Vista installation. These tools are:

Startup Repair
Startup Repair is an automated repair process that scans your Vista installation for problems and attempts to automatically fix them. When you select to repair Vista from the Vista setup screen, and Vista detects problems, this process will be started automatically. You can cancel this process at any time to access the other repair tools described below.
System Restore
System Restore allows you to restore your computer’s configuration, driver information, and programs to a previous state while leaving your existing data intact. Using this option can typically fix a installation’s problem if it is not associated with faulty hardware. In order to use this option, you must have had System Restore enabled in Vista so that there are restore points available to restore to.
Windows Complete PC Restore
Complete PC Restore is a feature that allows you to restore your entire computing environment from a backup image that you created previously. The ability to create backup images for Complete PC Restore is only available in Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise. If you have tried all possible steps to repair your computer, and have a Complete PC Restore backup image available from when your computer was operating properly, then you can use this repair option to restore that image.
Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool
Windows Vista comes with a diagnostic tool that allows you to check the memory installed in your computer for errors. This will allow you to determine if the actual memory (RAM) hardware installed in your computer is creating errors.
Command Prompt
The Command Prompt repair tool allows you to open a command prompt that you can use to access the files and registry information on your computer. This is an invaluable tool for removing security threats such as worms, rootkits, and other malware from your computer and to be able to access files when Vista fails to boot up.

Windows Vista – Custom Installation for data backup

Boot up the system with the Windows Vista DVD and select Install Now. Then click on Custom Installation option. Select the primary partition (Operating System ) and install Windows .  Please note that Windows Vista takes approx 15 GB of disc space.  You would be informed that the old windows files would be put under the folder called windows.old. Please be apprised that the data can only be backed up if they are under Documents , Pictures , Music.


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