If, prior to the current emergency, you have used the Windows Complete PC Backup program to create an image backup of your system disk, you can use the Windows Complete PC Restore command in the Windows Recovery Environment to restore that image. Restoring an image backup of a disk completely replaces the current contents of the disk. The restore program, in fact, will format the disk to which it is restoring before it begins the restore process—and it will require your acknowledgement and explicit consent before it begins. This might sound like a drastic step, but it can be a quick and effective way to get Windows running again in circumstances that Startup Repair is unable to address.
For more information about the Windows Complete PC Backup program, see Back up your programs, system settings, and files.
The important thing to recognize about using the Windows Complete PC Restore command is that it will replace the current contents of the disks that it is restoring with the exact contents as they existed at the time of your most recent Complete PC Backup. That means that your Windows system files and registry will be returned to health (provided the system was in good shape when you performed your most recent backup). Whatever programs were installed when you backed up will be restored entirely. All other files on the restored disk, including your documents, will also be returned to their prior states, and any changes made subsequent to your most recent backup will be lost.
Your recent work will not be lost if you have an up-to-date file backup, or if you have the good fortune to have made an image backup almost immediately before your current troubles began. The same is true if you save documents on a volume separate from your system files, but you have included that data volume in your Complete PC Backup. If you have documents that have not been backed up, you can avoid losing recent work by copying them to a disk that will not be affected by the restore process—a USB flash drive, for example, or some other form of removable media. You can use the Command Prompt option in the Windows Recovery Environment to copy these documents. (For information about using the Command Prompt option, see Working at the command prompt at the end of this article.) If you do have a recent file backup, you will be able to restore files after you have used Windows Complete PC Restore to get your system running again.
You can use Windows Complete PC Restore to restore image backups stored on any local hard drive or on a set of CDs or DVDs. If you are planning to restore from optical media, insert the last disc in the backup set before you click Windows Complete PC Restore. The program will then find your backup and propose to restore it. If you insert the first (or any other) in a set of CDs or DVDs, the program will not find it.
When you click Windows Complete PC Restore on the System Recovery Options menu, the restore program will search for a backup that it can restore. If it finds one, it will identify it by date and time, computer, and location—that is, the drive on which it found the backup. The restore program will then propose to restore that backup. If you have more than one backup available, and the program has not proposed the one you want to restore, select the Restore a different backup option, and then click Next. On the ensuing screen, you’ll see all available backups, and you can choose the one you want to use.
When you have selected the appropriate backup (or confirmed the program’s suggested backup), click Next to proceed. On the screen that follows, you will find a check box labeled Format and repartition disks. If you are restoring to the same hard drive from which you created the image backup, and if you have not changed the partition (volume) structure of that disk since the time you made your most recent backup, you do not need to select this check box. The restore program will format the drive whether you select the check box or not. But, if you leave the check box unselected, the program will not concern itself with the disk’s volume structure.
If, on the other hand, you are restoring an image backup to a new hard disk because the original disk crashed, you should select the Format and repartition disks check box.
When you are ready to go on, click Next again. This time, you will see the restore program equivalent of an informed consent statement. You don’t have to sign anything, but you do have to select the check box labeled I confirm that I want to erase all existing data and restore the backup. After you’ve done that, the OK button will become available.
Using Windows Complete PC Restore with two or more unformatted hard disks
If you are using Windows Complete PC Restore to restore disk images to two or more clean hard disks—that is, disks with no disk signatures and no volumes—the program will fail with a cryptic error message. To work around the problem, go to the Windows Recovery Environment command prompt. Then use the DiskPart command to create and format volumes on the new disks. This workaround is required only when your computer has two or more fixed disks, and all of the disks are clean.