A Windows 7 recovery disk has a better chance of fixing a corrupted file system than a Vista recovery disk.
You may be unlucky enough to have a computer where the file system of Windows Vista (and it always seem to be Vista…) is so badly corrupted that your only option seems to be to backup data and reinstall Windows from scratch – a ‘nuke and pave’ as it is called in the trade.
Before wiping out years of tweaked settings, configuration changes and getting Windows ‘just the way you like it’, make absolutely sure that you have no other options available.
For example, I recently came across a Vista PC that produced a variety of BSOD (blue screen of death) crashes at startup but, unhelpfully, never the same one twice…
Tests of the hardware showed no problems and the computer booted fine using a Linux CD, enabling me to access and backup all the user’s documents and pictures if required.
Corrupted Vista File System?
It certainly looked like it – the usual course of action would be to pop in a Vista recovery disk to access System Recovery Options (startup repair, system restore and command prompt – for Chkdsk, rebuild of boot files, system repair etc).
However, on this PC the recovery disk would not complete loading up – the PC restarted before I could access the ‘Repair’ section of the installation…
Vista Recovery Disk Failed to Load?
The disk itself was fine, and trying a new DVD drive brought no joy, so it appeared that the file system corruption was the culprit. It also prevented a full Vista installation DVD from loading up fully…
Which is even more of a problem – if even a Vista installation disk fails to load fully it would seem impossible to repair Vista or to even install a new version of Vista!
Of course there are other tools you could use to format the drive and delete the corrupted file system if you wanted to reinstall Vista but what about trying a repair?
Before giving up and going down the ‘nuke and pave’ route there is another option…
Try Using a Windows 7 Recovery Disk to Repair Vista
As Windows 7 was effectively designed ‘on top of’ Vista it did not reinvent the wheel – it uses the same file system and behind the scenes it is basically Vista, with bells on ;-)
However, Microsoft had ample opportunity to fix the broken bits and enhance the functionality of Windows 7 and my research of Microsoft’s Knowledge Base suggests that the Windows 7 Recovery Disk has a much better chance of accessing (and fixing) a corrupted Vista file system than the Vista Recovery Disk.
Did the Windows 7 Recovery Disk Fix Vista?
Yes. The W7 recovery disk loaded up fine and I was finally able to access the System Recovery Options.
From there I entered a Command Prompt and ran a full chkdsk /r repair on the corrupted file system. After chkdsk completed (repairing a number of index entries and orphaned files) I exited and tried the Vista recovery disk again.
Now that the file system was at least partially repaired, the Vista recovery disk loaded with no problems and I could proceed to troubleshoot and fix Vista – with both startup repair and system restore available if needed :-)
You can easily create a Windows 7 recovery disk from within Windows 7 (use a W7 PC or ask a friend to burn one for you) by following Microsoft’s instructions here.