If your PC with Windows 10 no longer starts up, this can have various causes. There may be a defect in the equipment itself, such as a hard disk that has given up the ghost or a video card that no longer transmits a signal to the monitor. In those cases, the recovery environment of Windows is of little use to you. This is more useful when things go wrong in another way: Windows no longer starts due to malware infection or corrupt files or the system has become unstable. In that case, we can restore Windows in different ways. If your PC regularly shuts down with a ‘blue screen of death’, system recovery can be a good idea.
Step 01: Fully automatic Windows 10 Restore
When you install Windows on your PC, a number of files are also automatically placed on your disk that is needed to start Windows in a special recovery mode. This is also called WinRE (Windows Recovery Environment) and is based on a strongly stripped-down Windows version, called WinPE, which stands for Windows Preinstallation Environment (see also box “Thanks to WinPE”). For example, if important boot data from the Windows boot menu gets corrupted, this system environment is automatically called up when your system starts up and a wizard will attempt to repair something from here. Whether this will succeed in this depends on the nature of the severity of the damage.
Step 02: From Windows
It is possible that Windows will still restart, but that something is not right: certain (system) components, for example, do not function properly. In that case, you can still call up the recovery environment from within Windows to perform repairs that way. To do this, open the Windows start menu and choose Settings / Update and security / System recovery. In the right panel, then press the Restart Now button, in the Advanced Boot Options section. Your system restarts and you select Troubleshooting / Advanced options. Various options now appear, such as System recovery, Start-up recovery and Command Prompt. We will come back to this extensively later in this article. Incidentally, there is another way to get into the recovery environment from Windows, click the Power button in the Windows Start menu and then choose Restart startup while the shift hold button pressed.
Step 02: You can also call the recovery environment with ‘advanced options’ directly from Windows.
WinPE, a highly stripped-down Windows version, is not only the basis of the Windows recovery environment (WinRE) but is also eagerly used by manufacturers of all kinds of Windows tools. In particular, programs that you should also be able to assist outside of a (working) Windows installation can benefit from WinPE. This includes partition managers, antivirus tools and backup & recovery programs. Let’s take the latter as an example, using the free Macrium Reflect Free. Install the tool (via Options you can adjust the installation; make sure you select Reflect Installer and PE components here – a hefty download of about 575 MB). Start the program and choose Other Tasks / Create Rescue Media. Confirm with Next (3x) and then choose the desired boot medium: CD / DVD Burner or USB Device. Moments later you have a bootable medium with Macrium Reflect, based on WinPE. You can (also) compile the Partition Wizard boot medium based on WinPE.
Step 03: Installation DVD
It can, of course, happen that Windows no longer starts up and that it is also no longer possible to start (automatically) from the installed recovery environment. In that case you still have several options. One is booting from the Windows installation DVD. Startup your fussy system from this DVD. Select the desired language, country and keyboard, and press Next. This time do not choose Install now, but click Repair your computer at the bottom left. Then click on Troubleshooting / Advanced options: the recovery environment is now ready for you.
Step 03 Windows installation DVD: install, but also repair!