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Windows 7 Error Recovery and Advanced Boot Options

If Windows 7 is unable to start normally, Windows will display the Windows Error Recovery dialog. On a system that does not have Startup Repair files installed, the Windows Error Recovery dialog looks like the one in Figure 8.16. You can use a Windows installation disc or a Windows repair disc to repair your computer.

Figure 8.16

Figure 8.16 Windows 7 displays this type of message if Startup Repair files are not available on a system that can’t start.

On a system that has Startup Repair files installed, the Windows Error Recovery dialog provides the options shown in Figure 8.17 when your system can’t start.

Figure 8.17

Figure 8.17 Windows 7 displays this type of message if Startup Repair files are available on a system that can’t start.

On a system that didn’t shut down properly the last time it was used (for example, if you used the power button because the system locked up), Windows Error Recovery offers Safe Mode options, Last Known Good Configuration (advanced), or Start Windows Normally.

If you suspect that Windows is not working as well as it could, but Windows 7 does not launch Windows Error Recovery, you can still choose from these and other options by pressing F8 repeatedly on startup until the Advanced Boot Options menu shown in Figure 8.18 appears.

Figure 8.18

Figure 8.18 Windows 7’s Advanced Boot Options menu.

Using Windows 7 Repair Tools

Windows 7’s repair tools can be accessed in a variety of ways. Table 8.3 provides a quick reference to these tools and how to access them.

Table 8.3 System Repair Tools for Windows 7

Repair Tool

How Used

How to Use

Automatic System Repair (Startup Repair)

Repairs system and startup files

Runs automatically as needed or can be launched from Recovery Environment (repair disc)

System Restore

Resets Windows hardware and software settings back to a specified date

Recovery Environment

Command Prompt

Uses commands to copy or delete files, changes Windows settings, and other command-line functions

Recovery Environment

Safe Mode

Loads essential Windows drivers and services only

Advanced Boot Options or Windows Error Recovery

Safe Mode with Networking

Loads essential drivers and Windows services plus basic network services only

Advanced Boot Options

Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Loads essential drivers and Windows services but boots to command prompt

Advanced Boot Options

Last Known Good Configuration

Loads Windows with the last known good configuration

Advanced Boot Options

Enable Boot Logging

Creates text log of all startup processes

Advanced Boot Options

Enable Low-Resolution Video

Starts Windows with basic VGA driver

Advanced Boot Options

Disable Automatic Restart After Failure

Keeps STOP (blue screen) error on-screen until you restart system manually

Advanced Boot Options

System Image Recovery

Restores a system image backup to the system drive (or an empty hard disk)

Recovery Environment

Windows Memory Diagnostic

Tests RAM memory modules for errors

Recovery Environment

Using Automatic Startup Repair

If Windows is unable to start because of damaged or missing system files, you should run Automatic Startup Repair. Automatic Startup Repair scans your system drive for problems and attempts to repair them.

If Startup Repair is successful, you have the option of seeing a report dialog (see Figure 8.19). A typical report dialog is shown in Figure 8.20.

Figure 8.19

Figure 8.19 Click the link to see the repairs performed on this system.

Figure 8.20

Figure 8.20 Scroll down through the report to see the tests performed and their results.

If repairs were not successful, you can choose from other repair tools (see Figure 8.21).

Figure 8.21

Figure 8.21 System Recovery Options in Windows 7’s Windows Recovery Environment.

Using System Restore

During Startup Repair, you might be prompted to use System Restore. If your system has stopped working after a recent hardware upgrade, driver update, or app (software) installation, use System Restore to restore your system configuration to what it was at a date before the change.

Periodically, Windows creates restore points, which save the state of Windows in case of future problems. When you run System Restore, choose a restore point that is just before the event that is causing problems for your system (see Figure 8.22).

Figure 8.22

Figure 8.22 Selecting a date with System Restore.

To see which programs or drivers will be affected, click the Scan for Affected Programs link. Programs and drivers that will be removed are listed on top, followed by programs and drivers that will be restored (see Figure 8.23).

Figure 8.23

Figure 8.23 When System Restore runs on this computer, two programs will be deleted, and one will be restored.

After you confirm the restore point to restore, Windows restores the settings as they were and restarts your computer.

Using Last Known Good Configuration

This Windows 7 feature enables you to restart the computer if it won’t start, but it started correctly the previous time. The settings used are the ones stored with the last successful boot.

Using Safe Mode Options

If Windows starts, but has problems shutting down or has video problems, it might be because of a malfunctioning video card or other driver or a malfunctioning startup program or service. To determine whether a driver is the problem, select Safe Mode. Safe Mode starts up the computer with a limited set of drivers and services. Selecting Safe Mode with Networking adds support for basic network and Internet services (use this option so you can research problems online and download replacement drivers). Choose Safe Mode with Command Prompt to boot Windows to the command prompt with limited drivers and services.

In Safe Mode, you can open Device Manager and disable or update device drivers (if you use Safe Mode with Networking, you can get updates from the Internet). You can also run MSConfig to selectively disable startup programs and services before you reboot, use Event Viewer to see problems with your computer, and use the Registry Editor to make manual changes to how Windows runs.

Using MSConfig

Some Windows and most third-party programs and services will not run in Safe Mode. Thus, if your computer works properly in Safe Mode, you need to determine which program or service is causing the problem. To do this, start your computer in Safe Mode and run MSConfig to disable all startup programs and services:

  1. Start MSConfig (use Search to locate it on your system).
  2. Click the Selective Startup button on the General tab.
  3. Clear the Load Startup Items check box (see Figure 8.24).

    Figure 8.24

    Figure 8.24 Disabling the Load Startup Items option with Microsoft System Configuration (MSConfig).

  4. Click the Services tab.
  5. Click the empty Hide all Microsoft Services check box.
  6. Click Disable All (see Figure 8.25).

    Figure 8.25

    Figure 8.25 The Services tab after hiding Microsoft services and disabling third-party services.

  7. Click Apply.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Restart your system.

What’s next? If your system starts normally, either a startup item or a non-Microsoft service is causing problems. To find out, enable one non-Microsoft service at a time until the system won’t start normally. Uninstall the app or program that uses the service.

If you are able to enable all non-Microsoft services and your system boots normally, restart MSConfig and select Normal Startup on the General tab. Click the Startup tab and disable startup items you’re not sure you need or that you don’t recognize. Restart your system. If it starts normally, one of the items you disabled is your problem.

Enable Low-Resolution Video

Use this startup option if you suspect that problems with your video card’s driver is causing system crashes, such as during 3D gaming. Your system will run normally, except for using a low screen resolution. You can adjust the resolution after the system starts, and you can adjust or replace your video card’s driver files before restarting.

Disable Automatic Restart on System Failure

Use this option to start your computer if a STOP (blue screen) error occurs during or after startup and the system reboots too quickly to see the full message. If a STOP error happens after you use this option, Windows will leave the error message onscreen until you restart your computer.

System Image Recovery

You can create a system image backup with the Backup and Restore utility in Windows 7. A system image is a backup of the system drive (typically C: drive) that includes Windows and system files.

If you have replaced a hard disk or have a badly corrupted system that can’t be fixed, you can restore a system image with this utility.

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