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Restoring Windows MBR – fixmbr is your friend April 5, 2007

Posted by amazingrando in Windows-Linux Transition.
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(pic thanks to articnomad)
(pic thanks to articnomad)

Update: These are instructions if you’re restoring under Windows XP.  If you want to restore with Windows Vista, then see my new post.

I’m going to be setting up a new computer with Ubuntu on it, so I want to take Ubuntu off a machine that’s dual boot with Windows and leave that system to just run Windows. Removing Ubuntu is as easy as deleting its partitions (/, swap, etc.). But then you’re left with GRUB. If you want to uninstall GRUB and have it boot into Windows normally, then you need to do the following:

  1. Boot from the Windows CD
  2. Select R for Recovery Console
  3. Type the number of your Windows install (usually 1) and hit enter
  4. Type in the administrator password
  5. Type fixmbr and hit enter
  6. Answer yes when it asks you to overwrite the MBR
  7. Type exit, which will then reboot the system and everything should work
  8. Enjoy!

Just a reminder of the obvious in light of cronek’s experience – make sure you backup before you do this!  Also, if you have anything more complicated than a dual-boot (XP/Linux) setup, you may want to consider something like Acronis Disk Director.

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Comments»

1. cronek - May 1, 2007

thank you very much. It erased my mbr AND my partition table. The amount and value of all the data I just los is enormous.

2. amazingrando - May 2, 2007

FixMBR overwrites the MBR that Grub had modified. This is the traditional technique for restoring the MBR back to its original state and has worked for me flawlessly at least a half-dozen times. You can find the same advice here: http://pcsupport.about.com/od/fixtheproblem/ht/repairmbr.htm and http://askbobrankin.com/fix_mbr.html and other places. I can’t speak to why it didn’t work as planned for you. However, you probably can restore your partitions with a tool like Acronis Disk Director. It seems unlikely that the data is gone – rather that the boot record is corrupt. Of course, all of this goes without saying that you should always backup! Good luck!

3. Steve - November 26, 2007

Pardon the language, but fuck that guy. You saved my sanity this evening.

4. pyrho - June 24, 2008

After failing an install of Archlinux which f****d up my Grub install, just doing this repaired everything, thanks a lot m8 🙂

5. gdmix - July 6, 2008

This is one correct method for restoring the MBR. Cronek probably should let someone else work on his PC for such tasks. Neither FIXBOOT, FIXMBR, bootsect.exe, nor fdisk /mbr will remove your partition table. Also, losing your partition table rarely means all data is lost. Many tools will recover it.

6. toby - July 11, 2008

that saved me so much time. thanks!

7. edwin - July 25, 2008

how would you recommend removing grub and returning to the Win XP MBR when my Winxp cd wont boot. I get the “windows is checking your system configuration” line, and then the screen goes black. Ive tried it with 3 different XP cd’s and same thing every time.

I have GRUB from an Ubuntu install that I want to delete for hard drive space, and this is killing me why i cant boot from my xp cd. I can boot from a host of other bootable cds, just not an xp cd for some reason.

Is there a way to restore the MBR without an xp cd?

8. marc-andre - July 27, 2008

You save me in only 2 minutes. Thanks a lot.

9. Restoring Windows MBR (Vista) - bootrec is your friend now « The Penguin Trail - August 22, 2008

[…] 22, 2008 Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Vista. trackback A lot of people have found my previous blog post about restoring your master boot record (MBR) helpful.  I did assume, however, that you were using […]

10. Bojames - September 6, 2008

You failed to mention that if you have a FAT32 partition holding the MBR, that running fixmbr will convert it to FAT16 (FAT) thereby loosing the partition.

I was in the last 1% of a reconstruction phase of this drive where I was trying to get rid of a “phantom” Windows XP Pro installation showing up on my boot screen. I used bootcfg /rebuild (after making sure that c:/boot.ini was first deleted) followed by fixboot, but to no avail. Then reading this column I felt reassured that fixmbr would do the trick, and it probably would have had it not been for the FAT16 vs FAT32 issue.

In-depth detail can help reduce risk, and avoid a catastrophe like loosing a critical drive for which there is no backup. I failed to scrutinize your simple instructions deep enough to see there was missing information. I don’t pass blame — I learn from it. Fortunately, I am building this drive from another drive source, so I have the data secure. But my previous attempt was almost a disaster when during the ghosting process, I rebooted and windows decided to do a chkdsk before I could stop it and I “thought” it was wiping out cross-links on my original data! Talk about panic!!! 50% of the way through the messages streaming across the screen I shut off power and cried (well almost). But g-d smiled on me. And laughed. And gave me another chance and to try again… I had to believe that a second attempt would go more smoothly – until I tried get rid of the phantom.

Well, I am thrilled to report some good news to anyone falling into this frantic situation. Even though I totally freaked after I ran fixmbr and saw that my partition was changed to FAT16. And even though I was convinced I had to start over for a third attempt at reconstructing this drive. And even when I examined it with Norton Partition Magic 8.0 and saw garbage for the partition label. I decided this was a time to fold and go home to watch a hero – John McCain, give an acceptance speech and possibly learn something. So he did, and so I did. And so I was motivated to “stand up”, even though I was exhausted from doing an all-nighter on this “project” one day earlier; and was preparing to leave town for a trade show to exhibit my company’s latest software; and trying to get some critical software changes done.

So I returned to my office (1 mile away) and instead of repeating the process for a third time, I researched some more and found a miracle cure. $49.95 later I had a little program in hand that claimed to fix my partition. When I finally ran it and did two little functions — it actually worked, All I could do is look up and thank g-d. Then, I went home and slept.

The tool? Partition Table Doctor by EASEUS http://www.easeus.com (I have no vested interest in this product or company.)

I do not make a habit of expressing myself on the Internet, but due to the extreme risk associated with this technical procedure, I felt compelled to write my experience. Especially when it had such extreme swings from total annihilation of my source data, to coming all the way back to 100% success of data recovery. Kind of feels like the upcoming election…

Happy partitioning…

Bo


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