The built-in rescue system and its limitations

You might have installed Vista for a lot of times, but never found the rescue system?

The reason for this is that the rescue system is a bit hidden in the setup to avoid newbies to get confused by it, I guess.

When you boot up your Vista setup, The pre-setup wizard will ask you to select language and keyboard settings. After clicking “Next” and “Install” you will notice that the screen background changes color slightly and soon the screen to enter the product key will appear. At that point (somewhen after the screen background changes and before you entered your product key) you will have to press Shift+F10 to open a command shell.

Now you can exit the setup (which will give you some more free RAM), but you may not exit the pre-setup wizard; as soon as you exit that one, your Windows will reboot.

From there you can start several utilities that are included in the setup, but unfortunately you can neither start an explorer nor extract files from install.wim.

For the explorer problem: You can load notepad (the Windows Editor) and abuse its Open dialog as some kind of notepad. But that does not help you: if you want to start applications from there, you will have to use the command shell for that (which is hard if you do not use that very often).

The larger problem (from my point of view): if you hosed your Windows installation and maybe even know which file got destroyed, you cannot restore just that file manually. This also means that you cannot extract files from install.wim into the ramdisk and run them from there out of the box.

Of course, there are solutions for both of these problems and I will post them soon. If you know better ways (or other problems) feel free to write a comment.

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