Restore Windows 7,8,10 if your PC stops booting

Live USB stick – If you don’t have such an installation DVD – or you don’t have a DVD drive – then you don’t have to despair. You can also create a live recovery medium on a USB stick from (another, well-functioning) Windows 10. Press the magnifying glass in the Windows status bar and search for a recovery drive. Choose to Create a recovery drive. If you think that you might be reinstalling Windows from this medium, place a checkmark at Back up the system files to the recovery drive. In the other case, you omit this checkmark. With a checkmark you have to keep a USB stick of at least 8 GB ready (and the process also takes longer); in the other case, a 2 GB stick is more than sufficient. Confirm with next. Select your USB stick, press Next and Create again. Complete with Finish. Keep in mind that all data on the stick will be overwritten. Then you start your unruly system with this stick. Click Show More Keyboard Layouts until you can select the desired keyboard. Then follow the path to the recovery environment via Troubleshooting. If you are unable to boot your system with this stick (or you prefer a DVD), you can in principle create a recovery DVD as follows. Open the Windows start menu and choose Settings / Update and security / Backup / Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) / Create a system recovery disc. Select your DVD drive and start the process with Create Disc. In principle, therefore, because in practice it appears that this does not always work well: testing is the message. In any case, it would be a good idea to make a recovery station as quickly as possible – and to test that too! In times of need, a ‘recovery station’ can come in handy!

Windows download

There is another possibility to get a bootable medium from which you can then call up the Windows recovery environment. Surf (Windows 10) here and click on Tools download now. Start the downloaded.exe file and choose to Create installation media for another PC. Set the language, Windows version, and architecture (64-bit or 32-bit) and press Next. Choose USB flash drive (provide a stick of at least 4 GB) or ISO file. You can then open/burn this file via DVD Burnerconvert to a bootable DVD. At the end of the ride, you will have a Windows installation medium and you can follow the explanation of Step 03 to get to the recovery environment. If necessary, you can download Windows and make an installation medium out of it.

System recovery

In the first part of this article we have seen how you can start the WinPE-WinRE tandem in various ways. We are now looking at the recovery options that arise from this environment. The System Restore option makes it possible to restore (a non-bootable) Windows, at least if you have a restore point. If it is a corrupt registry, for example after a failed installation of hardware or software, you have a good chance of recovery. If this system restore function was enabled, there is a good chance that you have a recent restore point. This is created, for example, when you install new software or hardware. You check that as follows. Right-click on the Windows start button and choose System. Choose Advanced System Settings and open the System Security tab. Go to Security SettingsCheck if there is Enabled for the desired disk (partition). If not, select the disk (partition), then click Configure, click System protection switching and confirm with Apply. Incidentally, it is always possible to create such a restore point yourself: in this case, press the Create button and follow the instructions.

  • Check the system recovery for your disk partition (s) once in a while.

Installation image

If the creation of restore points for the System Restore option is still largely automatic, then you must have already consciously made a system image for the Restore with installation image option. You can then use that to restore your Windows and system partition with the previously made copy. We’ll show you how to do that in Windows 10 (but actually you can better create such an image with an external tool like Macrium Reflect: see also text frame). Open the Windows start menu and choose Settings / Update and security / Backup. Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) and then Create a system image. Select a suitable backup medium, press Next and Start backup. If you ever want to return to this copy, you can do so via the option Repair with installation image. Make sure the backup medium is connected. If all goes well, the wizard finds it automatically and you can select the desired and perhaps most recent copy.

  • Windows 10 still contains the possibility to make a complete installation image.

Start-up recovery

Another option from the Windows recovery environment is Startup Recovery. That is actually the wizard that Windows normally runs automatically when it appears that the system can no longer start normally. If that wizard was not executed automatically and you still cannot start from Windows, you can still start this wizard manually this way. You can then do little more than wait and see what the wizard’s attempts have yielded.

  • Start-up recovery: for when that does not happen automatically. The (automatic) boot recovery: great tool, but you can only wait.


If Windows fails to get the Startup Repair Wizard working again, you can still try to resolve the boot problems yourself. Windows provides some powerful command-line commands. To do this, click Command Prompt in the Windows recovery environment and, if prompted, select the administrator account. At the command prompt, you then execute the desired command, which you always confirm with the Enter key. With the exit command, you can leave the command prompt again.

In Windows 7 you can already use the bootrec command. To know the possible parameters you enter the command bootrec /? from:

bootrec / fixmbr: restores the master boot record (the first physical sector of your disk);

bootrec / fixboot: restores the boot record of your Windows partition;

bootrec / scanos: searches for possible Windows installations on your disk;

bootrec / rebuildbcd : attempts to add any Windows installation that can no longer be found due to some corruption to the boot configuration. However, this bootrec command does not always work (properly) anymore in Windows 8 and 10.

  • After Windows 7, the bootrec command seems somewhat disgraced.


Fortunately, there is an alternative command with which you can normally reconstruct the entire boot manager in one move, also in Windows 8 and 10. This command ensures that all necessary boot files are copied to the system partition. The condition is, however, that you know the correct drive letter of your – corrupt – Windows partition. Please note, that is usually not (!) The c partition, even though that is the drive letter with a normal boot. To get to the correct station letter from the recovery environment, you can do a trick. Run the notepad command at the command prompt: the Notepad starts. Open the File menu and choose Save (as). Click on This PC and open one of the available (local) disks. When you recognize typical Windows folders such as Users, Program Files and Windows then you have the right drive. Close your Notepad and execute the following command, replacing x with the correct drive letter: bcdboot x: \ windows / l nl-nl. The / l parameter (stands for local) refers here to Dutch-Netherlands but can be changed to nl-be, which stands for Dutch-Belgium. If all goes well, the message ‘Boot files successfully created’ will now appear and Windows will restart.

  • ‘Bcdboot’: a powerful command, at least with the correct station letter.

Command prompt: SFC

It can of course also happen that Windows does not want to restart because some system file has become corrupted, so outside the actual boot record. It won’t hurt to have it checked from the recovery environment. The following command takes care of this: SFC / scannow / offbootdir = x: \ / offender = y: \ windows. Note that you must replace both x: and y: with the correct respective drive letters. The letter x: replace the station letter of the boot partition. Usually, it is c: but you can check that by applying the Notepad trick (see the previous Step): usually, this partition has been given the description ‘Reserved by system’. The letter y: replace the partition on which you have installed Windows (see the previous Step). The entire scanning process can take a while, but hopefully, Windows will work again afterward. The (start-up) problem can also be due to a corrupt system file.

Previous version

You may also have noticed the option Return to the previous version in your recovery environment. This literally returns you to the Windows version that was installed on your PC before the update to your current Windows version. This option is normally only available for 10 days after you update to Windows 10. However, keep in mind that this rollback will cause you to lose applications that you installed after the upgrade, as well as changes to your personal settings. Even if you log on to Windows with a local account (instead of a Microsoft account), you will have to log on to Windows again with your old password after the rollback.

  • This option can also be found via Settings / Update and Security / System Restore / Return to an earlier version. Waited too long: no ‘earlier version’ of Windows available anymore.


In the last step, we had actually given up the courage to restore our current Windows installation. Since Windows 8.1, a feature has been added that fits perfectly into that flight scenario. Open Settings and choose Update and Security / System Restore. You will find the Reset this PC option here. It attempts to return your system to the factory settings, where you can choose between Keep my files (only apps and settings are deleted) and Delete all. Another new tool was introduced in the anniversary edition of Windows 10. Choose Settings / Update and Security / System Restore, scroll down and click Restart with a clean installation of Windows. This takes you to a website where you can download a ‘refresh tool’. That, in turn, downloads a Windows installation image (approximately 3 GB) and will restore your Windows. Here too you can choose between Keep only personal files (settings and apps are deleted) and Nothing (keep). Unlike the Reset this PC function it is a ‘clean’ installation and any crapware and related files from the system supplier is not reactivated.

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