In this post, we describe how to use Startup Repair to repair a missing file that is preventing Windows Vista from booting. The goal is to familiarize yourself with Startup Repair so that you can use it when you or your customers need it. We really hope no one will need to use it :); but if you do, this knowledge might come handy.

Warning: Try this at your own risk. If things don't work as planned, you might not be able to boot into your Vista installation or might even loose your data.

Preparation: Before we try to make Vista unbootable, please make sure that your machine has a good restore point. The restore point is not needed for file repair, but would be useful if things go wrong. To create a restore point: search for System Restore in the search box from Vista's Start button --> click on "open system protection" --> click Create. And then follow the instructions to create a restore point.

Making Vista unbootable: To demonstrate how to use Startup Repair to repair a file we will move the %windir%\system32\winload.exe file, which is a must have for booting Vista. We cannot easily delete this file from Vista itself, so we'll use Windows RE to delete it, as follows:

  1. Boot into Vista installation DVD
  2. Choose your language settings and click Next
  3. Click Repair your computer
  4. Choose your operating system and click Next. This should bring up System Recovery Options
  5. Click on Command Prompt

Once on the command prompt move the winload.exe file from your Vista installation. For example, if Vista is installed on C: run, move C:\Windows\System32\winload.exe C:\Windows\System32\winload.exe.backup.

Now restart your computer using the Restart button on System Recovery Options.

Your Vista should now fail to boot! It should instruct you to use "Repair your computer" from the Vista installation disc.

Repairing your computer: To repair your computer using Startup Repair follow these steps:

  1. Boot into Vista installation DVD
  2. Choose your language settings and click Next
  3. Click Repair your computer
  4. Choose your operating system and click Next. This should bring up System Recovery Options.
  5. Click on Startup Repair

Startup Repair should now start diagnosing your system to identify the root cause of the failure. Once it has identified the root cause, it would automatically start repairing your computer. If you are curious to know what Startup Repair did, you can click on the details link and see which tests Startup Repair ran to diagnose the problem.

After Startup Repair has finished the repairs, click Finish to reboot your computer.

Your computer should now be able to boot normally into Vista!!

Note -- If your computer cannot boot into Vista even after repairs, then go back to System Recovery Options and run System Restore.

That's it! This is how you use Startup Repair for most unbootable situations.

-Parveen