A computer is a bit like a house, in that if the foundations are laid badly, or they fall into disrepair, overall stability can suffer. In a computer’s case, the foundations would be the Windows installation. In most instances, if Windows Vista has been installed by your manufacturer, you shouldn’t encounter any problems. But this is not always the case — unseen problems can creep in during the upgrade process or as a result of a later alteration to your setup. In some instances, this can cripple your Windows installation and prevent your PC from starting. In some serious cases, it might be necessary to reinstall Windows from scratch. But before you resort to such measures you can use the tools found on your Vista installation DVD to try repairing your installation yourself. Here are some tips on how to use Vista’s Recovery options.
Conflicts with other software or hardware can cause Windows problems. We’ll be looking at compatibility issues a little later. If you can’t even start your PC to uninstall or disable programs or components, you’ll need to turn to the Windows Recovery Environment (RE) on the Windows Vista DVD. Insert the DVD into the computer and restart it. Press the space bar when the message ‘Press any key to boot from CD or DVD’ appears (if you don’t see this message, you need to change your Bios boot options — press F2 or Del while your PC starts to access the Bios options). The Windows setup software will load. Set ‘Language to install’ to English and ‘Time and currency format’ to English (United Kingdom). This should also change the ‘Keyboard or inputmethod’ to United Kingdom; otherwise, set this as well. Click on Next and then ‘Repair your computer’ to see the different options.
The first trick to try is the Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool. If a computer is behaving erratically with unexplained crashes, the problem could be faulty memory. Windows can cope with many hardware problems, but a faulty memory chip will always cause a crash. Depending on where the problem is on the chip it may not cause problems during installation, only whenWindows is used with several applications running at once. In the RE screen, click on the blue Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool text. Select the top option ‘Restart now and check for problems’ and the computer will restart. The memory checking utility will launch automatically and work its way through all of the memory installed on the computer. The computer will restart again when it has finished and Windows will report any problems.
One aspect of Windows that can be fragile is the initial booting process. The file that controls booting can become damaged in a number of different ways. Thankfully, repairing the startup file is very simple. Boot to the Recovery Environment as described in Tip 1, then click on the blue ‘Startup Repair’ text. The Repair software will look for errors in the boot process and fix them automatically. If the boot problem was caused by installing Windows XP alongside Vista in a dual-boot configuration, the older operating system (OS) will be added to a new boot menu and you will be able to select which OS to start up.
If you can’t even boot to Windows to use Vista’s System Restore feature, don’t worry — System Restore is also available as an option from the RE and it’s definitely worth trying if you’re having Windows problems. Click on the blue ‘System Restore’ link and then on Next. A list of all the available System Restore points will be displayed, each with a date and short description. Click on the most recent Restore Point and then on next. Confirm the correct disk to restore, click on Next, then Finish and finally Yes. System Restore will run and then click on the Restart to try Windows again. If this does not solve the problem, try repeating with earlier Restore points.
Another feature of the RE is the Command Prompt. This is a window that allows you to enter commands with the keyboard. Boot to the Recovery Environment as described in Tip 1 and click on the blue text ‘Command Prompt’ to open the text window. The new version of the Command Prompt in Vista is much more capable than that found in previous versions of Windows. This is because it can be used to start programs such as anti-spyware or anti-virus software. For example, type ‘notepad’ and press Enter on your keyboard to edit text documents. A list of commands for repairing Windows is at http://blogs.msdn.com/winre.
If the repair options outlined aren’t working, use the Command Prompt to rescue your files and save them to a USB memory key. To copy your documents in this way via the Command Prompt, type the following commands, pressing Enter after each: F: (where F is the drive letter of your USB key) md vistadocuments c: (where C is the drive letter for your Vista installation) cd\users\[username]\Documents (where [username] refers to your User Account name) xcopy c:\users\[username]\Documents\*.* f:\vistadocuments\*.* /e This will copy all of the files in the Documents folder to the external hard disk, the /e includes all subfolders.