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Windows - System Maintenance & Disaster Recovery

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Good info and very good writeup. I however also have to second Bart's PE. There are times that you can't get into recovery console but you can get Bart's PE to run. There is an add-on to Bart's PE that also will allow you to restore a registry backup in the event that you can't boot XP at all (normal or safe mode). Once you get XP to load, then you can run a system restore.

If you can find a friend who really likes you, borrow a copy of Wininternals ERD Commander 2005. It has a number of advanced features that allow for troubleshooting a dead OS, and it will allow to you run a system restore even if Windows won't boot. I just did this for a client's system and it saved me tons of work. You don't want to do a Windows repair install if you can help it as it doesn't always work as advertised, and even if it does, it can take quite a bit of time to repatch and get things working properly again. Microsoft bought Wininternals in 2006, so I'm not sure about Vista compatibility. Also, you may have to do some hunting as the software is no longer available for purchase.

Vista however, unlike XP does add system restore access via booting to the OS CD as a System Recovery option. This way with Vista, if you can't get the OS to boot, you can run a restore by booting to the OS CD.