How to fix MBR for Vista


Robert Janik

I'm trying to fix Vista boot sector by "Repair" from original DVD, but
bootsect and bootrec doesn't seem to resolve the problem.

Vista Ultimate x64 SP2 installed on C: drive (partition 1)

1. Backup and delete C:\boot\bcd file
2. diskpart - select partition 1 and make active
3. bootrec /fixmbr
4. bootrec /fixboot
5. bootrec /rebuildbcd

When I start the computer it shows BIOS screen and then black screen with
cursor blinking on the 3rd row.

I also tried bootsect /nt60 C: but this didn't help either.

Is it possible that bootmgr file is corrupted? It is interesting that it's
size is around 330kb, while the one on original Vista DVD has more than
400kb. Is there difference between original Vista and SP2? Is bootmgr on a
system with SP2 compatible with boot sector created by the DVD which has
first version of Vista?

I ran the checkdsk, but no errors were found.
If I select "Repair OS startup" (first option on the DVD) it checks the the
system and says that everything is fine.

I'm able to update boot sector by GRUB boot loader and start Linux, but I
cannot fix boot sector for Vista. Is there another way to fix MBR and boot
sector of the partition?




Robert Janik

I tried renaming winload.exe, but I saw no error message. Renaming bootmgr
did not help to find problem either. I see only black screen.
MBR doesn't seem to be transferring control to boot loader on partition 1. I
tired bootrec /fixmbr and also easybcd to fix MBR with no luck.
It is interesting that bootmgr and other files are from 04/09/2009 (perhaps
release of SP2?) and my original Vista DVD is from 2/12/2007.
Maybe SP2 updated MBR and bootmgr and the old DVD simply cannot create
correct MBR to transfer control. I started examining MBR and partition 1 (my
C: drive) starts at offset 1048576 as it should.
Is there a way to debug MBR loading and executing (like when you do kernel
debugging on OS)?

Robert Janik

I did try several Linux distributions and did this process at least 10 times
and I never lost my Vista partition. I always partition unused space and
install Linux, then verify that everything is working and as a last step
update boot sector on the partition for Linux. Then I dump boot information
(512 bytes) and copy it to C: drive as linux.bin. Then I add bcd record so
that I could use original Vista boot loader and it's menu to start by
default Vista or select Linux. This time however as an "expert" I was a
little bit quick in setting this up and mistyped partition number. I thought
I can quickly fix it by Vista DVD and running bootsect or bootrec, but I
ended up in this situation.

Hard disk works perfectly no errors, memory test does not detect anything.
C: drive with Vista seems to be untouched. When I was running from Vista DVD
I ran checkdisk and there was no error. "Startup repair" detected that I
have C: volume with Vista. I went as far as checking MBR for disk signature,
I checked if partition 1 has correct offsets (1MB) and everything looks

I was able to copy all my data to USB portable drive. The only problem is
that some files and folders are not accessible this way. Many applications
store their data in \Users\<user>\... There are configurations I need as
well as all sorts of junk and temporary files. Many things are also stored
in registry so if you reinstall, you have to reinstall each application to
update registry. This is really a bad design. I don't know who came up with
the idea of Temp files, Temporary Internet files, Thumbnails and other work
data merged with configurations and saved projects in one place. You cannot
simply backup one folder. Backing up the whole hard drive takes several
hours and cannot be done on daily basis. I myself use external USB drive for
all multimedia content, like DVDs because this way I don't lose it, if I
need to reinstall OS and repartition hard drive. For all other stuff I have
C:\Projects and C:\Temp. I need only to copy Projects folder to my USB drive
and backup is done in a few minutes. But I'm not sure if I can simply copy
Windows Live Mail database and then restore it on a clean system if I didn't
export it as one file. The same problem is with IE configuration as I use
very tight security settings, Skype settings etc. I cannot export these and
extract configurations one by one or backup the whole hard drive every time
I do something with my computer (and that is almost every day). How nice
would it be if for example Visual Studio didn't update any registry settings
and any plugins and SDKs were simply in one subfolder. IE could have all
plugins/activex in a subfolder etc.

It would be nice to have
C:\Temp - used by default by all applications
C:\Configuration\<username> - used by default by all apps for user specific
C:\Configuration\system - for storing user accounts and security settings so
that I could tell new OS could easily restore
C:\UserData\<username> - for documents and other data created by user
C:\Media - for pictures, videos, music (these are usually large files, we
don't need to backup these regularly or not at all)

This way I could simply reinstall OS into Windows folder, update boot sector
and that's all. Registry would be used only for OS settings, to setup
debugging, appverifier etc. The worst case scenario would be repartitioning
hard drive, installing OS and applications and simply copy Configuration and
UserData folders. No manual setup of applications would be necessary.
Now I will have to start from scratch. Installing OS and apps isn't so bad.
Setting up apps is what makes it so tedious. ALl these usernames, passwords,
ftp settings, bookmarks, mail accounts .....

I wanted to try Ubuntu Studio 9.10 because it is supposed to have real time
kernel. So far it works nicely and is really really fast. My machine is a
tablet with Core2Duo 2.4GHz, 4 GB RAM and Vista Ultimate x64. Vista is a
little bit slower, for example it boots up in 8 minutes with many services
disabled (used to be up to 15 minutes before I could start using the
machine), while Ubuntu takes 40 to 50 seconds (almost faster than waking up
Vista from sleep mode :) . Playing content on Hulu is somehow smoother and
even scripts in msnbc player are much faster than on Vista in Chrome (IE is
even slower). I installed Java Runtime and websites which use it to create
UI are much much much faster. On Vista you see data grid redrawing each cell
and refreshing, but on Ubuntu it show up quickly as if it was one bitmap. On
the other hand setting up bluetooth mouse and WiFi is too much pain. Also
tablet feature doesn't quite work on extended desktop. Moving pen over
tablet's screen causes cursor to move all the way to the external monitor
and that's pretty useless. I use pen with graphics editor, so that's
something I'd like to have.

If I could only save Vista. I still cannot live without it. I'm thinking if
upgrade to Windows 7 would help. Maybe it would fix boot records.


Dual booting Linux and Vista is not for the faint of heart and is not as
foolproof as Linux advocates would have you believe. Linux coexists with XP
more easily because of the different nature of the XP and Vista
bootloaders--such is my experience.
It is not clear if your Vista/Linux dual boot ever worked or you ran into
this problem after installing the second OS. If you had a working copy of
Vista and then installed Linux but it did not configure the linux boot
loader properly (imagine!) you should be able to repair/replace the Vista
boot loader with the Vista install DVD as you have tried. This will wipe out
the linux boot loader.
The Vista install DVD is usually able to automatically restore the MBR
although it may take a few tries.
That you do not seem able to do this may be bad news. Not cancer but painful
If you can boot into Linux you should be able to read your Vista partition
and see if the files are intact. I hope you did not wipe Vista out but you
may have.
If you can boot into Linux on the hard drive or a live CD then COPY your
vital data from the Vista and Linux partitions to a CD/DVD or another hard
drive before you do anything else. That is the single most important thing
you can do.
If a computer stops after the BIOS splash screen that often means a hardware
problem, most commonly the hard drive or the power supply, probably the
latter based on the info you provide-there may not be a good power signal.
If you do not know how to troubleshoot these issues the simplest trial and
error technique is, AFTER COPYING YOUR DATA, reformat the hard drive and
install your OS of choice, presumably Vista. Then run hard drive and RAM
software tests; these are usually more reliable than SMART monitoring.
A failing power supply will often boot after a few tries but eventually
nada. This seems to be what you are describing.
A failing hard drive usually begins to produce random BSODs and eventually
will not boot at all.



Robert Janik

When I reboot with GRUB boot loader in MBR and select Vista it displays a


It looks like part of the message "BOOTMGR IS COMPRESSED press ctrl + alt +
del to restart", however in my case there is only the word "compressed".
I opened properties for drive C: and Compressed is unchecked, so this volume
definitely is not compressed. A long time ago I was doing disk cleanup and
there was option "Compress unused files" checked when it started I aborted
the process, because I didn't want any files to be compressed.

Is it possible that my issue is caused by the fact that some files were
indeed compressed before I aborted the process and now I'm getting this
Is there a way to find compressed files and decompress them when running
"repair" from Vista DVD?

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