The infamous windows 7 repair console!

Recently I wiped the Linux distribution I had installed in my tablet PC (Archos 9) and decided to transfer it in a USB stick. The transfer process is outside of the scope of this article, but what’s inside is this:

How on earth can I recover the original Windows 7 bootloader, or do some other repair tasks? What happens if your machine doesnt have a CD drive? Several netbooks and tablet PCs dont… Or… you just dont like to use the DVD. Can you do it from a USB stick? Yes, you can… and  I ‘ll explain bellow.

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Case #1 : When your computer has a DVD/CD drive, and you have the retail-like Windows 7 Installation Media):

By saying retail-like, I mean, you may have in fact a retail Windows 7 DVD, which gets you through the original installation process, or you may have an OEM DVD which has all the computer’s drivers to post-install them.

a. Just boot the DVD first (you may have to reconfigure your BIOS and fix the boot order in order to load the DVD instead of the hard disk)

b. When you see the screen bellow select Repair your computer

c. When Windows has finished loading (be patient a little bit) and detected any possible installations on your hard disk you can proceed by hitting Next

d. You may be prompted by the Windows Recovery Console that an error was found in the installation. Ignore it and hit Cancel or Abort, whatever option it has (we dont like to do things automatically, do we? And I am sorry, I dont remember what the actual option was)

e. In the System Recovery Options click on Command Prompt:

f. It gets a bit tougher now… type the following commands in this exact order:

bootrec /fixmbr

bootrec /fixboot

bootrec /rebuildbcd

To see all available options type the following:

bootrec /?

g. That’s it! Now type exit, remove the DVD from the drive and hit Restart.

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Case #2:  When you don’t have a retail-like installation DVD and you are stuck with the OEM restore disk)

Many of the OEM restore disks or some hidden partitions on your hard drive may actually restore your windows installation and lose all your settings and programs installed, sometimes it cannot restore the bootloader successfully. What if you dont, like me, wish to lose all the settings and programs installed. I ‘ve even trained very well the speach recognition software, I dont wanna lose it! In this case you have the following options:

  • Borrow a retail installation disk from a friend. You can even buy a new one or *cough* download it. And yet I think the download option is not desirable, because some warez downloads are stripped more or less in order to remove some “unnecessary” junk from the DVD to make it lighter, but in our case the Windows Recovery Console is definitively not junk. If you are lucky enough you may find one that has the Console intact.
  • Use the System Repair Disk. When you had your Windows working you had the option to create a system repair disk. Now that you didn’t, its time to download it from somewhere. And this somewhere is here.

I was quite lucky to find this one on the net, now it lies safely in my Public Dropbox folder. This is a rar archive containing both x86-32 & x86-64 (for 32-bit & 64-bit processors respectivelly). Uncompress it and burn the appropriate image. If you dont know which one of the two you have, chances are you have the 64-bit version. If its a netbook with an Atom Processor, you have to choose the 32-bit image.

When successfully burnt into a CD (can even use an 8cm small cd) boot it and repeat the steps from case #1, c to g.

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Case #3: That absense of a DVD/CD drive I was talking about? Oh yeah, USB tricks come into play.

Your computer has to have the capability to boot from USB drives and hard disks. All modern computer have it, from as far as 2000, perhaps earlier. So if your computer doesnt have a DVD drive, it is definitelly able to boot from USB. In fact it may already been pre-configured by the BIOS manufacturer to boot from USB, so all you have to do is plug your bootable USB in! How can you create such a bootable usb? Follow the instructions bellow:

a. First we have to prepare the USB stick and make it bootable. You can use a great partitioning tool which is free of charge for personal use. Download it from here. When you run this program, select your USB drive and format it as FAT32 or NTFS. Better use FAT32 for cross platform compatibility. Label your stick as you see fit or… leave it blank if you like, but as for FAT32 use only capitals and only as many as 12 characters (I think). When you finish formating it right click again, select modify and then set active. Your USB now is ready for use.

b. Download the zip archive from here. Extract the zip somewhere. Lets say C:\image\ for reference purposes you can extract wherever you like.

c. Open up a command prompt (type cmd in the windows search box and hit enter, or navigate to All Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt)

d.  Now in the command prompt window type the following (use TAB for autocompletion):

CD \

CD image

CD boot

bootrec.exe /nt60 D: (or whichever drive letter your USB is currently mounted on)

e. Copy all the contents in the C:\image folder to your USB stick.

Your stick is complete, now repeat all the steps from case #1, c to g.

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Case #3 can actually serve for something other as well, that is, creating a bootable USB contaning all the contents from the DVD installation media! Just insert your retail DVD disk and again in command prompt type the following:

D: (or wherever your drive is mounted on)

CD boot

bootrec.exe /nt60 E: (or whichever drive letter your USB is currently mounted on)

And last but not least copy all the DVD contents directly to your USB stick. Dont forget to grab one of at least 4 GB. As a matter of fact I think one with 8GBs capacity is better.

Good Luck!