Is there anything after the Nuclear Holocaust? :D

Trying to repair a Vista installation that won't boot:

I inherited this PC which used to run Vista, but now only goes to the black "Windows Error Recovery" screen.
Won't start Windows in any mode, and certainly not normally - it loops continually back to WER screen.

Bought Vista 32-bit recovery CD .iso download - (special version for my mobo/graphics) - which boots into Recovery Essentials OK.

Tried Option 1 - Automated Repair - 3+ times - appears to complete OK, but doesn't fix it.
Tried Option 2 - Manually Repairing the Windows Bootloader - appears to complete OK, but doesn't fix it.
Tired Option 3 - Nuclear Holocaust option - - appears to complete OK (no complaints from the Command Prompt) but doesn't fix it.

No OEM discs came with this PC, so I don't have any original Vista installation disks. I don't care about the user files, but I'd like to get (virgin?) Vista going?

Do I have any other options left to try? (Thanks in advance.)


Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
It can only fix problems in the boot chain.
If the underlying OS is corrupt, it can't help you there. Only a reinstall can fix some problems.
If the PC came without Vista discs, it should still have a hidden OEM recovery partition which should give you a "factory reset" capability.
What make is it ?
(If you're looping constantly trying to boot, hit F8 at startup and if you can reach the extended boot menu, choose "no automatic restart". That should halt the boot at an error screen and give you a clue where the problem lies)
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Thanks for the reply, Terry.
The computer is a no-brand, shop-assembled Vista PC of a few years ago with (I believe) a legitimate OEM Vista copy - yet no recovery disks with it, of course.

F8 gives me the Advanced Boot Options, thus:

Advanced Boot Options.jpg

I've done "Disable auto restart on system failure" and behaviour seems to be unchanged, at:

Currently, startup goes through:
(a) hardware identification, then reaches
(b) the "Windows Error Recovery" screen (similar, but different to the one above), and
(c) choosing "Start Windows Normally" takes it through the same process (a) again, ending at (b) the same "Windows Error Recovery" screen again.....

Tried all (?) the other modes offered on that screen - same behaviour.
but not sure what to try next, to minimize further damage/maximize chances of recovery?
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Knows where his towel is.
Staff member
If you can borrow a Vista DVD, a reinstall (quoting your own OEM key, not the one on the DVD) is probably your only option.
I built this PC with an OEM system-builder's copy of Vista nearly 5 years ago, then immediately dual-booted it with XP to get back support for my printer, scanner and TV card, which Vista declined to do.
When W7 was in Beta, I tried that as a quad-boot with the others and Ubuntu, and soon switched permanently to W7 as my production OS. Ubuntu got swapped-out for W8 preview (useless on a desktop PC - great on a phone), and the original Vista still sits occupying space but basically only ever booted to apply Windows Updates.
Despite not being used, and sitting on a 100% fault-free HDD, it still managed to fail on me whilst not even running. When I came to apply updates some weeks or months after last booting it, it refused to boot with all the symptoms of a major disk failure on (as I said) a perfectly healthy disk.
I spent several weeks, on and off, trying to fix it as an intellectual exercise (not important whether it actually worked or not), using every (free) tool available online, gradually getting it further and further to the next point of failure, until eventually giving in and reinstalling it. The reinstalled copy (in exactly the same partition) has worked perfectly ever since and I still have no idea what could possibly have happened that could have killed it in its sleep, but no amount of effort could persuade it to run properly, and only going back to square one had any useful effect.
I've never experienced anything remotely similar with XP or W7 (which is far superior if you are forced to resort to buying a new OS)
You could always switch to Linux as an OS if you're not dependent on any Windows-specific apps.
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I don't have an OEM key, and now, I have no means of finding the key originally used when this Vista was installed.
I guess I'm going to have to abandon this nearly-there copy of Vista.
I'm also guessing the HD is fine, and will be usable after a re-format.
I might just use the PC as a FreeNAS/NAS4Free box....

Regards and thanks again, Terry.