Windows Recovery Environment for Windows Vista (Build 5384)

Having access to the Windows Vista Beta 2 bits, I decided to take a look at the system recovery options. This isn’t your Windows 2000/XP recovery console: it is a full blown version of WinPE or should I say WinRE. The list of options given are these:

Startup Repair – Automatically fix problems that prevent Windows from starting

System Restore: Restore Windows to an earlier point in time

CompletePC Restore – Restore your computer from a CompletePC backup. Although this sounds exciting, it really isn’t. CompletePC is an all or nothing proposition. You can backup your whole hard drive to another hard drive or burn it to DVD. However, you cannot restore individual files or folders.

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool – Check your computer for memory hardware errors

Command Prompt – Open a command prompt window

To get to WinRE, first pick System Recovery options when booting from the Vista DVD. You are then given an option to choose your keyboard:

Next, it looks for Windows Vista installations. You are given an option to load drivers for your hard drives if WinRE cannot find them:

I decided first to pick Startup Repair. It states “If problems are found, Startup Repair will fix them automatically. Your computer might restart several times during this process. No changes will be made to your personal files or information. This might take several minutes.”

At the end, it found no problems, so it asked me if I wanted to send more information to Microsoft so they can help create solutions. You can then pick “Send” or “Don’t Send”.

You can view a log at the very end of this procedure. It appears to run some file sanity checks, checks the boot manager, and the event log.


System Restore: Wow, I’ve been waiting for this feature for 4 years! The only way that you can run System Restore in XP if Safe Mode didn’t work was to get a copy of Winternals ERD Commander which runs about $1200. Microsoft now lets you run system restore from the CD. The really cool thing is the format of the list it gave me:

5/25/06 1:12 AM (Install) Device Driver Package Install: Linksys Network Drivers

5/25/06 1:25 AM (Install) Installed Wireless Network PC Card Configuration Utility

You can see, in real time, what action was done last and reverse that option.


Memory Check – Reboots the PC and provides a comprehensive memory check. Test results are given after you log into Windows Vista. You can pick from “Basic”, “Standard” or “Extended” testing by hitting F1 when booted into the testing process.

Command Prompt – There appears at the moment that there is no “help” command and when I attempted to run explorer.exe, I got an error that shdocvw.dll wasn’t found. Basic programs like notepad did work, however.

WinRE, however, leaves me rather disappointed. A GUI front end with registry editing and file copying features would make WinRE so powerful and useful, as would networking support (my guess is that it caches the error reporting data you submit in WinRE until you boot into Windows, then offers to send it later on when you have networking support). A crash dump analyzer and event log viewer would be really neat too. WinRE has so much potential, so hopefully Microsoft hasn’t finished WinRE for good.

– Soli Deo Gloria

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