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Windows Vista

Troubleshooting and Recovering from Problems : Recovering from a Problem

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10/21/2012 5:22:24 PM
Ideally, solving a problem will require a specific tweak to the system: a Registry setting change, a driver upgrade, a program uninstall. But sometimes you need to take more of a “big picture” approach to revert your system to some previous state in the hope that you’ll leap past the problem and get your system working again. Windows Vista offers three ways to try such an approach—last known good configuration, System Restore, and System Recovery Options—which you should use in that order. The next three sections discuss these tools.

Booting Using the Last Known Good Configuration

Each time Windows Vista starts successfully in Normal mode, the system makes a note of which control set—the system’s drivers and hardware configuration—was used. Specifically, it enters a value in the following Registry key:

HKLM\SYSTEM\Select\LastKnownGood

For example, if this value is 1, it means that control set 1 was used to start Windows Vista successfully:

HKLM\SYSTEM\ControlSet001

If you make driver or hardware changes and then find that the system won’t start, you can tell Windows Vista to load using the control set that worked the last time. (That is, the control set that doesn’t include your most recent hardware changes.) This is the last known good configuration, and the theory is that by using the previous working configuration, your system should start because it’s bypassing the changes that caused the problem. Here’s how to start Windows Vista using the last known good configuration:

1.
Restart your computer.

2.
At the Windows Boot Manager menu , press F8 to display the Advanced Boot Options menu.

3.
Select the Last Known Good Configuration option.

Recovering Using System Restore

The Last Known Good Configuration option is most useful when your computer won’t start and you suspect that a hardware change is causing the problem. You might think that you can also use the last known good configuration if Windows Vista starts but is unstable, and you suspect a hardware change is causing the glitch. Unfortunately, that won’t work because when you start Windows Vista successfully in Normal mode, the hardware change is added to the last known good configuration. To revert the system to a previous configuration when you can start Windows Vista successfully, you need to use the System Restore feature.

Windows Vista creates automatic restore points each day and when you perform certain actions (such as installing an uncertified device driver). To revert your system to a restore point, follow these steps:

1.
Select Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore and then enter your UAC credentials to display the System Restore dialog box.

2.
The first System Restore dialog box offers two options:

Recommended Restore— Activate this option to restore Windows Vista to the restore point shown (which is usually the most recent restore point). Skip to Step 4.

Choose a Different Restore Point— Activate this option to select from a list of restore points. Click Next to display the Chose a Restore Point dialog box, shown in Figure 1, and continue with step 3.

Figure 1. Use the Choose a Restore Point window to choose the restore point you want to revert to.


3.
Click the restore point you want to use. There are five common types of restore points:

System— A restore point that Windows Vista creates automatically. For example, the System Checkpoint is the restore point that Vista creates each day or when you boot your computer.

Install— A restore point set prior to installing a program or update.

Manual— A restore point you create yourself.

Undo— A restore point set prior to a previous use of System Restore to revert the system to an earlier state.

Unknown— Any restore point that doesn’t fit in the above categories.

Note

By default, Windows Vista displays only the restore points from the previous five days. If you need to restore to an earlier date, activate the Show Restore Points Older Than 5 Days check box. Note that this check box only appears if you have at least one restore point that is more than five days old.

4.
Click Next. If other hard disks are available in the restore point, Vista displays a list of the disks. Activate the check box beside each disk you want to include in the restore, and then click Next.

5.
Click Finish. Vista asks you to confirm that you want your system restored.

6.
Click Yes. System Restore begins reverting to the restore point. When it’s done, it restarts your computer and displays a message telling you the results of the restore.

7.
Click Close.

Tip

System Restore is available in Safe mode. So, if Windows Vista won’t start properly, and if using the last known good configuration doesn’t work, perform a Safe mode startup and run System Restore from there. If you can’t start Vista at all, you can also run System Restore using the System Recovery Options, discussed in the next section.


Recovering Using the System Recovery Options

If Windows Vista won’t start normally, your first troubleshooting step is almost always to start the system in Safe mode. When you make it to Windows Vista, you can investigate the problem and make the necessary changes (such as disabling or rolling back a device driver). But what if your system won’t even start in Safe mode?

Your next step should be booting with the last known good configuration. And if that doesn’t work either? Don’t worry, there’s still hope in the form of the System Recovery Options, a utility that enables you to launch recovery tools or access the command line. Here’s how to use it:

1.
Insert the Windows Vista DVD.

2.
Restart your computer. If your system prompts you to boot from the DVD, press the required key or key combination.

Tip

If your system won’t boot from the Windows Vista DVD, you need to adjust the system’s BIOS settings to allow this. Restart the computer and look for a startup message that prompts you to press a key or key combination to modify the BIOS settings (which might be called Setup or something similar). Find the boot options and either enable a DVD drive-based boot or make sure that the option to boot from the DVD drive comes before the option to boot from the hard disk. If you use a USB keyboard, you may also need to enable an option that lets the BIOS recognize keystrokes after the POST but before the OS starts.

3.
In the initial Install Windows screen, click Next.

4.
Click Repair Your Computer. If your system has multiple Vista partitions, you see a list of them.

5.
Click the Vista partition you want to repair and click Next. The System Recovery Options window appears, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The System Recovery Options window offers several tools to help you get your system back on its feet.


The System Recovery Options window offers you the following five tools to help get your system back up and running:

Startup Repair— This tool checks your system for problems that might be preventing it from starting. If it finds any, it attempts to fix them automatically.

System Restore— This tool runs System Restore so that you can revert your system to a protection point .

Windows Complete PC Restore— This tool restores your system using a system image backup.

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool— This tool checks your computer’s memory chips for faults, as described earlier (see “Running the Memory Diagnostics Tool”).

Command Prompt— This tool takes you to the Windows Vista command prompt, where you can run commands such as CHKDSK.

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