Windows

Creating a Windows Vista Recovery CD

While a Recovery Disk or a Recovery Partition will allow you to restore your computer to the original settings from the manufacturer, chances are you will not be able to use it to repair your Windows Vista installation. Greg Shultz shows how you can create a Vista Recovery CD.

If you purchased a new computer with Windows Vista preinstalled on it, you may have received an actual Windows Vista DVD with your purchase or a Recovery Disk created by the computer's manufacturer, or maybe your new computer came with a Recovery Partition on the hard disk in lieu of a Recovery Disk. While a Recovery Disk or a Recovery Partition will allow you to restore your computer to the original settings from the manufacturer, chances are you will not be able to use it to repair your Windows Vista installation. For that, you will need an actual Windows Vista DVD that contains the Windows Recovery Environment; without the tools contained in the Windows Recovery Environment, you cannot repair your current installation.

Fortunately, Microsoft is adding the ability to create a Windows Recovery CD to Vista SP1. However, if you want to create a Windows Recovery CD before SP1 arrives, the folks over at NeoSmart Technologies have made available a copy of the Windows Recovery CD ISO image that Microsoft created for the SP1 Beta test. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how you can get this ISO image and create your own Windows Recovery CD.

Getting the ISO

Due to the popularity of NeoSmart Technologies' Windows Recovery CD ISO image -- a 120MB download available from their site -- NeoSmart has made the image available as a torrent file as well as a download version, although in order to get the ISO file you'll need to download the torrent version.

Using ISO Recorder

Once you get the ISO file, you will need a way to burn it to a CD. You may already have a CD burning application such as Nero, but if you'd like to add the ability to burn ISO files directly from within Vista, download the Vista version of ISO Recorder from Alex Fienman's site.

Once you download the ZIP file, installing ISO Recorder is a snap. Double-click Setup, and click through the Open File Security Warning and User Account Control dialog boxes. When you see the ISO Recorder Setup Wizard (Figure A), simply follow the onscreen instructions and you'll have ISO Recorder installed in a matter of moments.

Figure A

Figure A

Installing ISO Recorder is a snap.

At this point, insert a blank CD into your CD burner. When you see the AutoPlay dialog box, just close it.

ISO Recorder, originally written as a Shell extension, integrates itself right into Windows Explorer. To launch it, locate the ISO file, right-click, and select the Copy Image To CD command (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

ISO Recorder is a Shell extension integrated into Windows Explorer.
When you see the CD Recording Wizard (Figure C), click Next. The program will burn the ISO image to your CD and in a few minutes the CD will eject. You may then close the CD Recording Wizard.

Figure C

Figure C

ISO Recorder's user interface is very straightforward.

Booting from the Windows Recovery CD

Now that you've created your Windows Recovery CD, test it to make sure that it will work in the event you need it one day. To do so, restart your computer with the CD in the drive. As the system reboots, follow the instructions on the screen to make your computer boot from the CD. Be patient as the Windows Recovery Environment, which actually uses Windows PE (Preinstallation Environment) to boot up, will take some time.

Once the system begins to boot from the CD, a black screen with a light gray progress bar will appear (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

As Windows PE loads files into memory, a light gray progress bar keep you apprised of the process.
As soon as all the files are loaded into memory, the blue and green Vista background (Figure E) will display on the screen for what may seem like an eternity. Again, this may require some patience.

Figure E

Figure E

This background will appear on the screen for what may feel like an eternity.
Finally, the Install Windows dialog box, which prompts you to select Language, Time and Currency format, and Keyboard preferences, will appear on the screen (Figure F). Since you are not really installing Windows, you may bypass this dialog box by clicking Next.

Figure F

Figure F

When you see the Install Windows dialog box, you can just click Next.
When you see the second Install Windows dialog box (Figure G), click the Repair Your Computer option. Do not click the Install Now button.

Figure G

Figure G

To get to the System Recovery Options, click the Repair Your Computer option.
The first System Recovery Options dialog box will appear (Figure H). When prompted, select your operating system and click Next.

Figure H

Figure H

At the System Recovery Options dialog box, select your operating system and click Next.
The main System Recovery Options dialog box will appear (Figure I). If this were a real system failure, you would choose one of the appropriate recovery tools from the list. However, since this is only a test, you can simply click the Restart button.

Figure I

Figure I

In the event of a real system failure, you would choose one of the appropriate recovery tools.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

101 comments
kify
kify

Thank you very much - I'm a totally noob on here, I'm gratefull for any advise. (Oops, forgot to press 'Reply')

kify
kify

Creating a Windows Vista recovery CD - doesn't work. No offence.. This suck! I've paid for the ISO, downloaded it, installed ISO Recorder, copied to the CD as tutorial says, and re-boot with boot from CD, but all I get is a black screen. "Be patient" it says in this tutorial - well I've been waiting for two hours now, for the black screen to go away, and for the boot to start up from the CD.. Nothing happenes, nothing whatsoever. Totally waste of money :-(

Sumyungai
Sumyungai

would this work with fixing/replacing the \boot\BCD file? I have a another laptop that randomly fried that file and I have no idea if it had a recovery CD or hidden partition. I got it from a friend and they don't know where any CDs they had are. I downloaded a couple of recovery items; one from microsoft which when I ran the EXE it asked which drive to put the recovery on which would be G: (flash drive) but it did not support the 1.44 MB disks, i guess it only works for floppy and that is out of the question. The other is a third party tool knows as EASEUS-Todo Backup. it seems alright but it looks like the recovery files are for Linux and I don't want to try and recover Vista with such files as i am afraid it would further corrupt things. any suggestions?

krisceebwaybee
krisceebwaybee

my friend has a windows vista and windows xp so if she makes a vista recovery disk can she upload the files on the xp to turn it in to a vista

buresstmary
buresstmary

I have downloaded the Recovery Disk and burnt to a CD. My laptop boots from the CD OK, I then get the white bar loading across the bottom of the screen OK. I then finish up with a black screen and nothing else happens. No mouse, keys or anything will shift it. The only way out is to press the power key. Any ideas of a solution ?

zhr67
zhr67

Excellent - this in the only page I found easiest to make a Restore CD. Thanks alot

HomeschoolNut
HomeschoolNut

This brought an infected computer which had come to the point of refusing to boot back from the dead! It took two passes, but it worked!

rhiwi
rhiwi

I was able to download the window vista recovery cd file"vista_recovery_Disc.iso", and burned it on a cd using CDBurnerXP, because I'm doing this on a different pc running on XP. but when I try to reboot my vista pc with the problem, nothing happens.I still get the black screen asking me to reboot with the window vista cd and fix the windows. anyone ??

pstilling
pstilling

Worked on a long dead VISTA machine with SP1. Files also loaded when booting an XP SP2. Diagnostic and recovery options do not work on XP, the the handy and scrollable command line option gives you full access to your hard drives.

phubbard
phubbard

I cannot download the torrent for the ISO from NeoSmart's website. Can anyone tell me if there is an alternate download site.

paul_nowsafe
paul_nowsafe

I NEVER POST ANY COMMENT BUT I HAD TO COME HERE AND SAY THIS: I HAD A BIG PROBLEM ON MY NEW COMPUTER. I WAS WORKING ON IT AND SUDDENLY A MAJOR ELECTRIC FAILURE IN ALL THE TOWN. EVERYTHING WAS BLACK. WHEN ELECTRICITY CAME BACK AGAIN I TRIED TO START MY COMPUTER. NOTHING HAPPENED. IT JUST STOPED EACH TIME I TRIED AND WENT PITCH BLACK. ~SO I WENT TO THE INTERNET ON MY OTHER COMPUTER TRYING TO FIND A SOLUTION, I CAME ACROSS THIS SITE. MADE THE CD AS IT WAS ASKED AND BOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM THE PROBLEM WAS FIXED. IT WAS THE STARTING PROCESS WHICH WAS CAUSING ALL THE PROBLEMS. SO I HAVE TO SAY TAHNK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS AMAZING SITE AND HIS AUTHOR. NOW I HAVE A RECOVERY CD FOR MY WINDOWS VISTA PREMIUM AND MY NEW LAPTOP IS WORKING 100% AGAIN THANK YOU PAUL

mopas001
mopas001

I've done everything as in instruction but bootable cd doesn't see any of my drives so i can't create a recovery cd, HELP

sanders_ryan2004
sanders_ryan2004

Trying to restore my Vista PC to Original Factory Cond. Is there anyway I could do that using this? I Have already made the Recovery CD using Alcohol120..

Oglesby1205
Oglesby1205

How about making this available as an Adobe (.pdf) file for me to share with others? David L. Smith MD

RTHJr
RTHJr

I was hoping the WinRE had a nice intermediate Windows Repair option like 2000/XP. That would lay down core system files without doing a complete reinstall; not just a "Startup Repair". Is such a repair feature available? This can be handy when, say, your IE 7 built out of the box gets pooched or an antivirus installation fails and corrupts the system BEFORE you did a CompletePC Backup.

ferraridpw
ferraridpw

My computer gets stuck on Figure E and will not move on. Please can someone help me please ??? Thanks Daniel White

mwalkeden
mwalkeden

I've checked this feature in the official SP1 release I'm testing on Vista Business, and it is not present. They must have decided not to include it in the official release. No word on it in the official release notes either...

thorsten.claus
thorsten.claus

When starting the backup wizard from the Recovery CD I cannot select my external USB HD - is there a trick? TC

marines_hg
marines_hg

hey i don't get my operating system to show like on figure H

codonnyc
codonnyc

I haven't tryed any of the above as of yet but I have saved the instructions and when time permits, will definiately try it. It sounds like a WONDERFULL idea. codonnyc@verizon.net

Hardware_Jinx
Hardware_Jinx

Well, I've just installed Vista Ultimate with SP_1. Where can I find this added feature and how to use it?

dbm1rxb
dbm1rxb

Thank you for information that's not easy to come by. My Vista computer is somewhere in FED-X and I'll follow these instructions after I familiarize myself with Vista.

mjcoughlan
mjcoughlan

After a Recovery CD is created, can you then delete/re-use the backup partition for something else?

cartergj
cartergj

I've got a Dell laptop with Vista - no Vista CD. I need to increase the size of the C: drive (a larger external USB drive will solve my problem). Will this process allow me to buy and install a new disk and then install/re-install Vista ? Cheers

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's common for a large ISO to get corrupted during a long download. Try reposting this in the 'Q&A' forum. The 'Discussion' forum is for matters of general discussion, not specific problems in search of a solution. The 'Water Cooler' is for non-technical discussions. You can submit a question to 'Q&A' here: http://www.techrepublic.com/forum/questions/post?tag=mantle_skin;content There are TR members who specifically seek out problems in need of a solution. Although there is some overlap between the forums, you'll find more of those members in 'Q&A' than in 'Discussions' or 'Water Cooler'. Be sure to use the voting buttons to provide your feedback. Voting a '+' does not necessarily mean that a given response contained the complete solution to your problem, but that it served to guide you toward it. This is intended to serve as an aid to those who may in the future have a problem similar to yours. If they have a ready source of reference available, perhaps won't need to repeat questions previously asked and answered. If a post did contain the solution to your problem, you can also close the question by marking the helpful post as "The Answer".

pstilling
pstilling

I could not download from Neosmart websiet either, could not open port. But downloaded o.k. from the link in this article.

JCitizen
JCitizen

Paul, did that power outtage knock out the Caps lock function too? Just curious? ?:|

seanferd
seanferd

TR is full of good stuff. :)

roy.evison
roy.evison

Often you cannot access an external media with the same commands you use for internal ones, eg 'save as'. One way round this is to copy it to clipboard (if big enough) and paste it to an open media device. Alternatively edit the inni file in notepad so that it recognises the external drive as bootable.

Data Ninja
Data Ninja

The boot CD they are talking about is NOT the recovery data that includes all the OEM drivers/etc for your brand computer. If you have a recovery CD/DVD from the manufacter, then you can delete that partition. If not, I'd advise backing that data/partition up somewhere for restoration later, perhaps even using something like Acronis True Image to create a full backup of the entire HDD to keep, just in case.

Data Ninja
Data Ninja

Not really, your best bet is to get Acronis True Image (version 9/9.1 is best) from eBay ($15.95 USD) and burn a Acronis boot CD with it, backup your system to an external drive, replace the main drive with the larger one and boot with the Acronis recovery disk then restore the image. It will automatically resize the partition to fit the new HDD!

kify
kify

Thanks for your reply. I tried downloading the ISO three times, and burnt three times on two dvd's and one cd. Didn't help. I will follow your advise, hoping for support to sort this out on the 'Q&A' forum. Not sure I'm supposed to give your reply a '+' but I'll do so, to make sure I don't do anything wrong. Thanks.

seanferd
seanferd

That was really funny to me. Poor Paul. :D

sanders_ryan2004
sanders_ryan2004

i used the recovery cd to try and reformat my computer.. and i clicked on install now on the beginning page. and it asked me for my product number and i typed it in.. which was located on the bottom of my laptop. and i got an error message "Windows cannot open the required file E:\Sources\install.wim. The file does not exist. Make sure all files required for installation are available and restart the installation Error code 0x80070002" I was wondering if you could please help me out.. Maybe post a link for a walk through or just a little insite... Thanks

Rob C
Rob C

I have a friend who has just bought a laptop with Vista Business. And it has Toshiba's Downgrade XP Pro CD (which is why we got this model). We have not opened the box yet. I suspect that Vista is the original (SP1 not in it yet). I have downloaded (on to my XP pc), the Vista SP1. I believe you have to have SP1 installed if you want to make a Vista Instal CD(DVD). What do you call that cd(DVD) ? Any words of advice, before we go boldy where no one has gone before, from anyone who has gone there before ? I believe that you get one shot at creating that DVD ?. Bad luck if you stuff it. I have never used Vista. He does not have an internet provider yet. When I open the box and fire up the laptop for the first time, will I be confronted with things like "You must activate this immediately" etc ? This is our intention - - Instal SP1 by running the exe I downloaded. - Create the Vista Instal DVD. - Turn off, and then start up with the XP Pro downgrade CD. - Choose an option to get rid of Vista. (Does that remove the Vista recovery partition ?) - Instal XP Pro Do I know what I am talking about ? Any words of advice, would be appreciated. Rob

LeonaOJ
LeonaOJ

Simplify my life...Sounds like a winner to me! I love the external backup plan. Saves me grief! :) Yah, go for it! Do what works! LOL; Regards Leona

u0438
u0438

Many thanks Data Ninja. That worked well. Saved my weeks of working reseting everything up and getting new install keys for some programs. They have a trial download version and it worked well. My original partition was 64gig and when I restored to my new 250gig drive it created ony a 64 gig partition with a small 2 gig partition and then 163gig of unallocate space. Took me a will in Vista Disk Management to delete the volumes and expand the c drive to use the full amount. What a great disk photocopier !! Cheers

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They don't matter much here in the Discussions forum, but please use them if you get a useful response in the Q&A forum. Welcome to TR, by the way. You'll usually get better responses by starting a new discussion instead of 'digging up a zombie' (reviving a discussion several months or years old).

JCitizen
JCitizen

Decapinatied! ROTFLMAO!... :^0

Jacky Howe
Jacky Howe

the Vista Recovery CD has been handy for me a few times especially with NoteBooks. You can also run a few commands on XP Systems. :D

seanferd
seanferd

Is that a recovery partition on the hard drive, or an optical drive? You didn't delete a recovery partition and format it, did you? (There is still hope if you did.) Is it looking for the correct drive? Also, see this article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/910336 which would mostly apply for Windows update throwing this error. If you have a diagnostic CD that came with the system, try running the tests available on that. If the recovery CD actually has all the installation files on it, it might be a bad CD. Contact the vendor about this. You could also contact them if the installation files were on a recovery partition on the HDD that got deleted. If you can't unformat it, they will sell you a full recovery CD fairly cheap. ($20 or so). If you have any OS you can install on the machine, and you have a full-installation recovery CD, you could copy the installation files to the HDD and install from there.

Rob C
Rob C

My immediate emergency has gone away, as I have discovered that Toshiba provides their own program(utility) to create the Vista Recovery CD. There is an icon to create two DVD's. The comments that I read related to Vista's Recovery CD, which only creates a repair CD. Thus my need to get Acronis to do it has gone. However my main pc (built in 1999) has been near death so many times, it is frightening. It will soon need the ability to be cloned to another pc. So I will be checking out your link. First I have to get USB2 working on it (to save the Acronis image to an external USB drive). The Ritmo card I just purchased (which uses VIA chipset), got Plug and Played ok, and has no warnings in Device Manager. However, when I click on it in Windows Explorer it gives an I/O error. I suspect that my pc needs SP2, and it is too old for me to risk installing SP2. Ah, such is life. Thanks for your efforts, Rob

JCitizen
JCitizen

I'm sorry I can't be sure what happens for sure when you do a downgrade; but I would guess that the install file is not capable of destroying the recovery partician without warning you first. It has to destroy the partician or overwrite within it, no two ways about it. If it puts you in the Windows environment I should think you would see the choices to do as you please, but I understand Microsoft has been extending free support to users who are doing this, so you should be able to call Microsoft and get telephone support. Be sure and have your Vista key and version number ready when you do this. When you enter it at the support page it should give you the free support option at that time. Either chat or phone. Don't let the operator think you owe them money cause you don't! (edited)Passwords- I would simply take all password protection off the computer before initiating the operation, I always keep a Knoppix CD around to reset a system I've locked myself out of.

Rob C
Rob C

Thanks for the reply. Our objective is to get rid of vista, and put XP in. I had read that the XP install will format the whole drive including the vista recovery partition. And not offer a choice. Thus our desire to create a DVD that can be used to re-install Vista. (In case XP has driver problems, and we decide to give up on XP.) The shop (Harvey Norman), told us to get Vista to create a recovery CD (DVD). That has two problems - a) It needs SP1 (which I have downloaded to install, if not already present). Some web posts say that even with SP1, the Recovery option may not be present. b) From all my Googling, I believe that it is not going to be a full install DVD. Instead it only creates a 'repair' CD, not unlike the XP Recovery Console. If I attempt to use Acronis True Image 11 Home, to create a snapshot of the hard drive, I have read that some people found the software does not handle Vista very well. My other question was what will I be confronted with, when I first run my friends laptop. (IDs, passwords, etc.) Thanks, Rob

JCitizen
JCitizen

You have a new computer with no recovery disk and you want to make it before downgrading. If I am correct that this is what you are doing your plan sounds like it should work. I would just watch carefully what happens when you go through the downgrade install dialogue. Don't let it go to the root partition, as this is where the Vista backup is. You might want to make sure the computer actually runs on XP the way you want it to, before destroying that original partition! On your nomenclature questions it sounds like your referring to a "slip streamed" DVD. This is an installation DVD that has the service package integrated with the install.. Some people use Vlite for doing this task. In your case I don't know if the recovery disk creation method uses only the recovery partician files or borrows from the installation. Perhaps some heavy Googling would answer you question. Sorry if I wasted you time, but I really don't know all the facts. If it were me I would do a quick chat session with the folks at Toshiba and see if they have this tech/info.

Data Ninja
Data Ninja

When you use the Acronis boot CD to 'restore' your image, there's a 'custom' option which will allow you to change the partitioning information such that it can fill the entire drive rather than just restore to the original size. Earlier versions automatically chose to do so. I wasn't aware that your version didn't, but I'll keep that in mind.

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