Monday, April 14, 2008

Vista Boot Repair for Dummies ;)

"The afternoon sun poured brightly into the office of the manager of Guiderstern's Stores, Madison Avenue, New York, but there was no corresponding sunshine in the heart of Homer Pyle, the eminent corporation lawyer, as he sat there."

An excerpt from Wodehouse's master-stroke "Girl in The Blue". But why I quote it here is because, all you need to do is substitute me for "Homer Pyle" and my home in Bhopal for "Guilderstern's Stores, Madison Avenue, New York" and you've got the complete picture ! "Why?" you ask ? Well.. that's the most reasonable stance (of lacking corresponding sunshine in the heart) you can adopt when Windows Vista simply denies to boot on your laptop. Yes.. mysteriously, miraculously and to my great annoyance, without bothering to throw up a boot time error.

Well.. I eventually got it working, so I'll put this post in flashback and detail the steps for recovering your corrupted vista boot sector. While I was attempting to fix my own installation, I googled voraciously and found several bits of scattered information which I'll attempt to collate here.

To start with, my system configuration:

Toshiba Satellite Pro
Intel Dual Core (2.xx Mhz)
Windows Vista Business Service Pack 1 (32 bit)

When your vista installation fails to boot and all you get is a flickering cursor on the upper left corner of your screen on switching on your laptop, you KNOW that it's a boot sector error. There are 2 broad options to fix this:

  1. Use the recovery disk utility that comes with your laptop. Most manufacturers like Dell, Toshiba etc create a recovery partition on your HDD and provide you with a utility to create a recovery disk (CD/DVD) from that partition. Of course, they expect you to be far-sighted and keep such a disk handy in case of any such eventuality as a corrupt boot sector. My Toshiba laptop also came with such an option but the disadvantage of using the utility is that it needs to format your entire drive (at least your primary partition - C:) which'll cause you to lose all data.

  2. Another option is the Windows Vista Recovery Disk that is an added feature of Vista SP1. This recovery environment lets you fix your startup errors (boot errors) after you boot in with your recovery disk.
Second option is the one that I attempted first and it worked for me. Here's how :

  1. Those of you who have Vista SP1 installed, may follow the steps given in this article to create your recovery disk :

  2. In case you do not have SP1 installed or you cannot find the recovery disk creator for some reason, follow these steps:
    • Download the image file for the recovery disk (120 MB) from this torrent (you'll need a torrent downloader like u-Torrent or BitTorrent(, which I'm sure most people have these days ;) ) :

    • Once you have the ISO file, you need to burn it onto a CD/DVD (I recommend a CD since it's only 120MB). I was stuck here for quite some time since several burning programs gave me improper results and the CD wouldn't boot my laptop. Please use Img Burn ( only. It's a small (around 3MB) freeware utility for burning ISO files and fits the bill perfectly.
Once the Recovery disk is ready, you need to boot using that disk. Instructions henceforth are specific for the Toshiba Satellite Pro Laptop and the Phoenix BIOS. Read through and judge if it can apply to your system model also:

  1. Press F2 at boot time to enter "System Utilities" (BIOS setup)

  2. Goto "Advanced" tab

  3. Change the value of the "Execute-Disable bit" to "Not Available" (The default value is "Available"). This option apparently prevents the execution of malicious code at startup and in this case, even prevented my recovery disk from booting.

  4. Save and exit using F10

  5. Your system will restart. At the next boot screen, press F12 to select the boot device. Select the CD/DVD drive as your boot device.

  6. The next screen will show you a message "Loading Windows Files" after which you get a slick (typical Microsoft style ;)) GUI. Among several options, "Startup Repair" is one. This should take a few minutes to run and at the end of which it'll ask you to reboot your system. I got my windows booting after just one run of the "Startup Repair" utility but in some cases you might require you to boot with your CD/DVD run the utility again.

  7. Once you're convinced that your system is booting properly, do remember to change the status of the "Execute-Disable bit" back to "Available"
I'd strongly recommend that even those of you who are not facing this problem currently, keep a copy of the Windows Vista Recovery Disk and your manufacturer's Recovery Disk ready.

Till next time...


P.S : The title is dedicated to one of my friends who's constantly been pushing me to write a book titled "PPT for Dummies" ;)

Do leave a comment to let me and other visitors know if this worked (or didn't work) for you !


Mentor Matt said...

Thanks for this explanation especially regarding the nasty "bit" preventing the boot from the CD.

Be glad Startup Repair fixed the job for you.

I found some interesting possibilities in case that your startup repair actually doesn't do the job.

Not all is lost, check it out here:
startup repair

Erno said...

I was very glad to find this entry. Working on a Mac, as I do usual, I don't have much experience on Vista so I did not know which keys to press at startup to get to menu where alternative boot media can be chosen.

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