We’ve all encountered startup problems with previous version of the Windows operating system, and Microsoft has always provided us with lots of tools for fixing those problems. For example, in Windows NT we had the Emergency Recovery Utility, in Windows 2000 we had the Recovery Console, and in Windows XP we had System Restore, just to mention a few. Of course there were many other operating system native tools, but they all involved a manual, user-initiated operation. Not so with Windows 7’s Startup Repair Tool!

One of the many troubleshooting features in Windows 7 is a utility called the Startup Repair Tool. What makes this tool stand out among its brethren is that it is designed to intercede at the first hint of an operating system startup problem. When a startup problem is detected, the Startup Repair Tool will launch an automated, diagnostics-based troubleshooter that requires little, if any, user intervention, and in many cases it will resuscitate an unbootable system.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I’ll take a look at the Startup Repair Tool. As I do, I’ll explain how it works.

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What types of problems does it repair?

As you probably know from firsthand experience with previous versions of Windows, startup problems are some of the most difficult to troubleshoot, and sometimes it seems that the best way to fix the problem is to just reinstall the operating system. While the reinstall method offers a surefire resolution, it is time-consuming and could be avoided more often than you might think. In some situations, the solution is as simple as replacing a single file or altering a single setting. This is the type of problem that the Startup Repair Tool will automatically take care of for you.

For example, the Startup Repair Tool can automatically repair the following problems:

  • Missing/corrupt/incompatible drivers
  • Missing/corrupt system files
  • Missing/corrupt boot configuration settings
  • Corrupt registry settings
  • Corrupt disk metadata (master boot record, partition table, or boot sector)
  • Problematic update installation

How does it work?

When Windows 7’s initial loading sequence detects a startup failure, it automatically fails over to the Startup Repair Tool. Once the Startup Repair Tool takes control, it begins analyzing startup log files for clues as to the source of the problem and then launches a series of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the startup failure. Once the Startup Repair Tool determines the cause of the failure, it attempts to fix the problem automatically.

If the Startup Repair Tool successfully can repair the problem, it does so and then reboots the system. It then notifies you of the repairs and files a detailed report in the event log that clearly identifies the cause of the problem as well as the solution.

If the Startup Repair Tool can identify the cause of the problem but can’t repair the problem by itself, it will display a menu titled the System Recovery Options that provides access to a set of tools that you can use to manually troubleshoot the problem further. (I’ll cover the tools on the System Recovery Options menu in more detail in a later edition.)

If the Startup Repair Tool is unsuccessful in its attempt to identify or repair the problem, it will roll back the system to the last configuration that was known to work. The Startup Repair Tool will then add detailed information about the problem to the Windows 7 event log.

Saving time and money

As you can imagine, the automated system provided by the Startup Repair Tool will save administrators and help desk personnel from expending valuable time fixing simple problems. In addition, the event log reporting feature will help administrators and help desk personnel to quickly understand the problem for further troubleshooting as well as enacting preventative measures.

Additional options

Another way that the Startup Repair Tool is a boon to administrators and help desk personnel is via Group Policy. In Windows 7, Group Policy settings provide full control over built-in diagnostics, such as the Startup Repair Tool. These Group Policy settings will allow administrators to disable portions of the default resolutions, provide an enterprise-specific resolution, and even customize the tool to prompt the user to seek assistance and display enterprise-specific contact information.

What’s your take?

Have you encountered a startup issue that automatically launched the Windows 7’s Startup Repair Tool? If so, what was your experience? Did it fix it without intervention? What was the cause of the problem? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.