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Restoring Windows MBR (Vista) – bootrec is also your friend August 22, 2008

Posted by amazingrando in Linux Tips, Vista.

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 Windows XP.  But, what if you (gasp), have a dual boot configuration with Windows Vista?  Vista has a different boot loader that can be quite annoying, and the tools to restore your MBR have also changed, but not a lot.  So, here are the steps.

Step 1

The first step is to pop in your Vista installation disc and boot from it.  This will bring you (slowly) to the first screen of the installer.

Step 2

When you see this screen, change the language or keyboard if you need to, and then click “Next”

Step 3

When you get to this screen do not click “Install.”  Instead, click on “Repair your computer” in the bottom left.  This will take you to the Recovery Environment (WinRE)

Step 4

The recovery environment will search your hard drives for Vista installations.  If you need a RAID driver or something unique, there is a button to load that driver (uncommon).  You should see your Vista installation on your boot drive.   Click “Next” to go to the next step

Step 5

There are two options here, fix it automatically or fix it manually by the command line.

Option A – Auto fix

With this option you just click on “Startup Repair” and let Windows check and repair the MBR.  This worked for me once, but it may not work for you.  I also think that it might reinstall the boot loader.  If you want only the MBR fixed but not the crappy Vista bootloader then you don’t want this option.  Once you run the fix, you can click “Restart” and let the system boot off your newly fixed hard drive.

Option B – Manual fix

For the aforementioned reasons I think this is a better way to go.  With this way you know exactly what you’re fixing (hopefully).  This is very similar to the FixMBR command that Windows XP has, which I talked about in my previous post. Here, rather than clicking on “Startup Repair” you instead click on “Command Prompt.”

Once it comes up, you type:

bootrec /FixMbr

With a bit of luck it will say that the operation completed successfully.  You can then close the command prompt window and click on the “Restart” button.

More details of the bootrec.exe commands can be found in this Microsoft KB article.

Hopefully this will work well for you, as it did for me.  If you encounter any problems or have more insights, be sure to add a comment below and I’ll try to incorporate them into this tutoiral.