How to repair Windows Vista when there is no Restore Point

Here is an interesting experience. I don't know how this happened, but either through my careless deletion of an errant Registry key, or some other demon in the OS, I lost the COM+ subsystem when I rebooted Vista. This means you get errors like "Not enough storage space" and so on. Windows Restore is grayed-out, and all kinds of other goodness.

Not only that, but the system won't recognize the Windows Vista DVD in the drive since it now thinks it's a blank CD. DOH!

Unlike with previous OS versions, you cannot repair Windows Vista from the Boot CD unless there is either a System Restore point or you've backed up the system to another drive or other acceptable media. Since I had no backup and could not see "System Restore" I was sunk, right? That would leave only the option of a fresh install which would rename my old Windows folder to windows.old or something like that.

Then, if I wanted my software, I'd have to boot into another OS (I've got Window Server 2003 dual - boot on the other drive), and then copy the saved Registry Hives (at least, the Software hive) back over the new in order to get back my "Stuff".

Fortunately, I had copied the entire Windows Vista DVD to a folder on the hard drive. From within my crippled Windows, I ran Setup off that, and did an UPGRADE. That is, I upgraded Windows Vista with Windows Vista! All is fine.

Some additional ideas

Once you get your machine up and running again, you may find that simple things like allowing Windows Update to run before you've ensured that critical developer items (like installing and enabling IIS 7.0) can mess up your day. Create a new System Restore Point at each juncture to ensure that you can always roll-back to a previously working system state before you go on with your adventures. This simple action, which only takes a couple minutes, can save you hours of pain.

And - another thing: Lars Hederer's ERUNT utility installs and runs fine on Vista - as long as you run it as Administrator and have UAC turned off. There is nothing like a fresh backup of the entire registry that can be easily replaced on-demand to solve problems! Moreover - unlike Windows Vista Restore, you can restore your full Registry from an ERDNT backup folder from a DOS box, with no OS booted! So even if all you've got is the Recovery Console or a Windows PE disk, you can still navigate to the folder and execute the ERUNT recovery executable.

I don't know about you, but I've got a real "Love / Hate" going with Windows Vista. I really like some of the new features, and others, like UAC (which I keep "off") just seem to be the biggest annoyances. There's no question in my mind that Vista is a real memory hog compared to say, Windows XP. And - I can't even get a DirectX 10 graphics card because my box doesn't have a PCI Express slot. Maybe when Longhorn Server comes out in RTM I'll try the 64-bit version.

Summary

1) Keep a full copy of the Windows Vista installation media on your hard drive.
2) Create incremental System Restore Points as you reach "working set" milestones.
3) use the free ERUNT utlity to make regular (or better yet - automated, on startup) restorable Registry backups.

Comments

  1. Anonymous1:50 PM

    Why do you keep UAC turned off. I have been using Vista full time since it's release and apart from the initial setup stage where I did see a number of UAC prompts I no longer get hardly any prompts in my regualr day to day activities.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very simple: I'm the only person who uses my computer, I am an administrator, and I DON'T NEED all this extra JUNK to "protect me -- from myself!". I really hope that makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous4:25 PM

    I dont think I will get brave enough to switch to vista for another year. I have heard too many nightmares, and history proves a new OS from Microsoft takes at least a year after it's initial release to be ready. Sigh, maybe they need more testers or something.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous5:13 AM

    Mmmmm.... this seems like a good advice, thanks !

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous7:41 PM

    UAC does not protect you from yourself it protects you from others. Turning it off allows applications to run in stealth without your permission, even someone who is careful can still potentially download something unexpectedly or be exposed to a hack on a bug in the OS / 3rd party apps. UAC is just another layer of protection that helps reduce this risk, after inital setup it is hardly visible, I would leave it on and I do and do not have a problem with it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yep,
    and Windows Defender does a great job of handling that and still does. The nice thing about UAC is that you can turn it off, IMHO.

    Thanks for the advice, though!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous5:46 PM

    quote from previous anonymous user:
    ---
    "UAC does not protect you from yourself it protects you from others. Turning it off allows applications to run in stealth without your permission, even someone who is careful can still potentially download something unexpectedly or be exposed to a hack on a bug in the OS / 3rd party apps. UAC is just another layer of protection that helps reduce this risk, after inital setup it is hardly visible, I would leave it on and I do and do not have a problem with it."
    ---

    But some programs out there, especially some old ones that aren't quite fully Vista compatible, FAIL to run or even refuse to install under Windows Vista BECAUSE of UAC enabled. Unlike the "other" anonymous user here I DO have a problem with UAC turned on. UAC may be great for many network administrators running Vista but UAC is a major pain for advanced Windows users. if a program does not work correctly with UAC enabled, shut it off & reboot Vista and run the program again. same thing for some old programs that can't even install because of UAC turned on. Disable UAC and run the installation program again to see if the installation works as expected. Take it from me, I have the experience to back my claim. I'm with Peter on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  8. There ya go, Bud. Q.E.D.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is all very well and good and I understand that Vista Windows Repair will corect most Vista boot up problems. But what happened to the equivalent of XP Repair where the XP OS was basically reinstalled (minus any XP updates) leaving all the other applications that you had installed intact. This was one of the most useful parts of thw Windows XP repair capability's. Why isn't this in Vista or is it in Vista and I haven't found it yet?

    Regards ............ Peter

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous4:16 AM

    Just wanted to say that there is a folder called regback in the system32 folder, which seems to contain pretty recent copies of the "normal" system files, like software, system, security, default and sam. I havent tried this yet, but i assume it's more or less like the "repair" folder we had in XP.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Martin:

    Just wanted to say you are a GENIUS! Thanks to your suggestion regarding the "SYSTEM32\CONFIG\REGBACK" folder in Vista and this article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307545/

    I was able to make my Vista 64 laptop boot again after Stop: c0000218 {Registry File Failure} would not even let me get in.

    I booted to a Vista64 cd, started a recovery console (prompt) and tried going through the Microsoft page instructions. Copying the current SOFTWARE folder failed (cyclic redundancy check - I HATE Western Digital Hard drives), so instead I renamed the original SOFTWARE folder to SOFTWARE.CORRUPTED (letting it still occupy the damaged area) and copied the SOFTWARE folder from SYSTEM32\CONFIG\REGBACK to SYSTEM32\CONFIG\. Rebooted after taking the CD out - and it worked!

    Just felt like I have to post this to help others in the same situation.

    To the reader - make sure you back up EVERYTHING immediately after booting (this may be the last time you may be able to for all you know) and order yourself a new hard drive (I am biased and like Seagate, but its up to you of course).

    Thanks again!

    Victor Brodsky

    ReplyDelete
  12. ok this post is 2 years old but I still have a question to ask.
    if the UAC is turned on and the checkbox in the control panel is unchecked (even it's turned on) how do I repair it? this happened when my UAC is turned off and I try to turn it on. but when rebooting the system got jammed and I had to force shutdown. after booting I got this problem. Do you have any idea?

    ReplyDelete
  13. How about restoring the registry with a backed-up copy? Or, have a look at this guy's post about how to modify the Registry:

    http://www.walkernews.net/2007/06/27/how-to-tweak-or-disable-uac-in-vista/

    ReplyDelete
  14. the system restore doesn't work. I have found the way to config UAC trough registry but the same problem occurs if I do it through the control panel. It's just that I am eager to fix it =) I might try repair using windows dvd. thanks though.

    ReplyDelete

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