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Windows 7 has no explicit repair option when installing, but if a few criteria are met, there is a way to repair Windows 7.

You told me that one of the ways to recover from my current situation may be to perform a "repair" reinstall of Windows. Great. How do I do that? Windows 7, by the way.

Windows 7 made this interesting.

In previous versions of Windows, such as XP, "Repair your current installation" was one of the options at setup time.

Not so with Windows 7 setup. At least, not explicitly.

However, if you meet a few criteria, you can in fact perform a repair install that's very similar to the older Windows XP repair.

Repair pre-requisites

There are a few things that have to line up properly in order for this technique to work:

  • The machine has to be booted and running your existing Windows installation. You cannot boot from the installation media for this to work. (The reason why? I have no idea.)

  • You need to have your installation media. For Windows 7, that means you have your original installation DVD or a copy of it somewhere.

  • The Windows version that you're running needs to be no newer than that on the installation media. If you installed Windows 7 SP1, then you'll need installation media with SP1 already in place. Sorry.

If your machine meets all those criteria, you're good to go.

First: back up

Running setup is a pretty invasive operation - it touches and changes a lot of things.

In other words, a lot of things could go wrong.

“A ‘repair’ is nothing more than an upgrade of the current version to the same version.“

I strongly suggest before beginning this process that you take an image backup of your machine.

In case something does go wrong, you'll always have that to revert to.

Run Setup

If you insert the installation DVD, the setup program may run automatically. If not, look for setup.exe in the root folder of the media or wherever you have a copy of that.

Windows 7 Setup

Click Install now and you'll be provided with your first choice:

Installer Updates

If you are connected to the internet, choose the first "go online" option to update the installer. Note that this isn't updating Windows itself, just the setup program should there have been any updates to it since your installation media was created. If updates are taken, the setup program will restart and resume at the license agreement and after which, you'll be given your next choice:

Windows 7 Setup: Upgrade or Full?

This is the trick to our repair reinstall.

A 'repair' is nothing more than an upgrade of the current version to the same version. Windows Setup goes through all of the same motions as any other upgrade, installing Windows, even though it's the same version.

In other words: to repair, choose Upgrade.

Windows 7 Upgrading

Setup will proceed with its normal processes and could potentially take a while.

Hopefully, the net result when it's all done is a repaired system.

Will it be identical?

Because this is Windows Setup that we're talking about, it's important to note that, in the process, there's no guarantee that some of your customizations or other changes to Windows made prior to the repair will still be there after.

Part of "repairing" is, in fact, resetting and restoring many of Windows internal settings to their defaults. If that impacts some of the changes that you've made, you'll need to re-make those changes or elect to live without them.

Article C5012 - December 15, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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8 Comments
Ken B
December 16, 2011 12:25 PM

Of course, one of the reasons to run the repair install is to fix a non-booting system.

Windows 7 install media does have a "fix startup problems" choice (you might have to press F8 during startup to get to that menu), which might help in those cases. Unfortunately, I've often seen non-booting systems say "no startup issues found" when using this option.

What's most frustrating is that repair path on the installation media that includes a couple of nice repair tools like "fix startup problems" (another article for another day), doesn't let you simply do the repair install that XP used to. It'd be so valuable if they did.
Leo
16-Dec-2011
Peter B
December 20, 2011 12:55 PM

Leo, with Windows 7, it encourages you to create a 'repair disk' (which I have done), though I don't have any original media. Are you able (another article maybe?) to comment on the value of this in these circumstances? Thanks.

James Hillier
December 20, 2011 1:10 PM

Yes, a repair install option via bootable media would be ideal but don't forget - Windows 7 does include a native feature for creating images, which are then restorable via bootable disc. If it came to a choice, I'd opt for the the image feature all day.

Start creating images at regular intervals people and you won't need the repair installation option.

Cheers...Jim

Schnazola
December 20, 2011 1:27 PM

@Peter B: This article may be helpful: http://ask-leo.com/C2726

Tom S
December 20, 2011 1:47 PM

I agree with Jim. More than once I've solved Windows system problems in 10 minutes by restoring my last image known to be good.

Gary RF
December 20, 2011 5:10 PM

I agree with Jim. Restoring backed up images (.iso) have saved me several time, the last being one month ago. I create and save iso images monthly to alternating hard drives.

Steve L
February 8, 2012 12:35 PM

Hi,

I've tried to repair my windows 7 using my install disc but it tells me the version on my machine is newer than the version on the disc, I cant find SP1 in uninstall programmes so assume that this is on the disc, delete all the installed updates perhaps??

Gary S
October 20, 2012 5:42 AM

I read this and tried to do a reinstall. It did not work. I have Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit. I have the original disk that I installed Windows 7 with. The disk only has 64-bit software. I did apply a lot of windows updates. The reinstall ended with
The following issues are preventing Windows from upgrading. Cancel the upgrade, complete each task, and then restart the upgrade to continue.


You can’t upgrade 64-bit Windows to a 32-bit version of Windows. To upgrade, obtain a 64-bit version of the installation disc, or go online to see how to install Windows 7 and keep your files and settings.


32-bit Windows cannot be upgraded to a 64-bit version of Windows. To upgrade, obtain a 32-bit version of the Windows installation disc.

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