Repair Install For Vista

Repair Install For Vista
This tutorial will show you how to repair your Vista installation and keep all of your personal user account files, settings, and programs. You will be performing a Upgrade Install from within your currently running Vista.
How To Perform a Repair Installation For Vista

information   Information
This will allow you to repair your Vista installation and keep all of your personal user account files, settings, and programs. You will be performing a Upgrade Install from within your currently running Vista.

You will have to use the exact same Vista installation media type that you currently have installed.

Note   Note

  • You will not be able to do a upgrade install in Safe Mode.
  • You must have Retail Full or Upgrade Vista installation DVD to do this. Some people have had problems with a Full version letting them do a upgrade install though.
  • A OEM (retail version) Vista installation DVD that you buy at a store and does not come with the computer are usually the same as a regular retail (full or upgrade) Vista installation DVD, but have a OEM license (product key number) instead of a retail license (product key number).
  • If you have a OEM Recovery Vista installation DVD that came preinstalled with your OEM brand computer instead, then it will most likely only be a clone of the hard drive with Vista allowing you to only do a clean install with it instead. These OEM computers often have a Recovery D:\ partition that does the same thing as the OEM Recovery Vista installation DVD.
  • If you have a Anytime Upgrade Vista installation DVD, then you will not be able to do this.
  • The Vista installation DVD that you use to do the repair (upgrade) install must be the same or newer version of Vista with the Windows Updates and SP level than what you currently have installed. If the DVD is a older version, then you cannot do a repair (upgrade) install with it.
    • This will not work if you have SP1 installed unless your Vista installation DVD includes the SP1, or you create a Vista SP1 slipstream installation DVD (See below). When the SP1 is installed, it will give Vista a newer version number than what is on the original Vista installation DVD.
    • You can only do a Upgrade install if the currently installed Vista is the same or older version than what is on the Vista installation DVD.
    • To create a Vista SP1 slipstream installation DVD to use to do a Repair (upgrade) install, see: How to Create a Vista SP1 Slipstream Installation DVD. Note that this does not always work to use for a Repair install.
    • Another option is to uninstall the Vista SP1, then run the Repair install and install the SP1 again afterwards. To uninstall the SP1, see: Microsoft Help and Support: How to uninstall Windows Vista SP1 as a troubleshooting step
    • This will not work if you have SP1 and SP2 installed unless your Vista installation DVD includes SP2.
    • To create a Vista SP2 slipstream installation DVD to use to do a Repair (upgrade) install, see: How to Slipstream Vista SP2. Note that this does not always work to use for a Repair install.
  • Be sure to backup any important data you have, just in case something goes wrong during installation. You may need to reinstall some of your drivers. You do not want to do this if you are dual booting with XP and Vista was not installed as the primary boot drive. It can cause XP to not startup anymore.
Tip   Tip
If you are have installation error problems, then see:
warning   Warning
If you changed the default location of the Program Files or Programs Files (x86) folder, then you will need to change it back to the C: drive, and change any shortcuts that pointed to the other location to also point to the C: drive before doing a repair install.


Here's How:

Note   Note

  • If Vista is still not working properly afterwards, then a Clean Install would be recommended.
  • You may need to reinstall some of your drivers after the Repair (upgrade) install.
  • You will not be able to do a upgrade install in Safe Mode.

1. While logged in Vista as an administrator, insert the Vista installation DVD into the DVD drive, or connect a Vista installation USB thumb/key drive.

WARNING: Do not boot the computer and run the Vista installation DVD from boot. A upgrade install will not work this way.

Note   Note
If you do not have a Vista with SP1 installation DVD/USB, then you can download an official Vista with SP1 ISO file here: Microsoft: Vista Direct Download Links, and use Windows 7 USB-DVD Download Tool to create a bootable DVD or USB flash drive with the ISO to do the repair install.

2. Click on Install Now to start the upgrade. (See screenshot below)

NOTE: If AutoPlay does not load the Vista setup screen, then open your DVD drive in Computer and click on the Setup file.
3. If you want Vista to check for updates during the installation, then click on that to select it. (See screenshot below)

NOTE: It will install faster if you select Do not get the latest updates for installation. You can install them later through Windows Update.
4. Do not type in a product key. (See screenshot below)

WARNING: If you do type in the same activated product key that you already have installed, then you can end up in Reduced Functionality Mode.

5. Leave the Automatically activate Windows when I'm online box unchecked.

6. Click on Next.
7. Click on the No button for the Do you want to enter your product key now? prompt. (See screenshot below)
8. Select which edition of Vista you have. (See screenshot below)

9. Check the I have selected the edition of Windows that I purchased box and click on Next. (See screenshot below)
10. Click on the Upgrade option. (See screenshot below)
11. Follow any instructions left until Vista is through installing and has rebooted to the final welcome screen on the Vista desktop.

12. Remove the Vista installation DVD.

13. Check to see if any files are missing. If so look in the bolded files shown in step 14 below to see if they are in there. You can then just copy them back.

14. Run Disk Cleanup.
A) If listed, check Files discarded by Windows upgrade. (See screenshot below)​
NOTE: These will be the leftover upgrade files, C:\Windows.old, C:\$INPLACE.~TR and C:\$WINDOWS.~Q, that did not get copied over. If any personal username files are missing, it would be in these folders.​
B) Click on OK to delete it.​

15. Now all you need to do is to activate Vista.
A) Right click on Computer (Start Menu) and click on Properties, or open the Control Panel (Classic View) and click on the System icon.​
B) Scroll down a bit and click on: Activate Windows Now. (See screenshot below)​

That's it,

Related Tutorials

Shawn Brink


Hi all,
Great site, mucho info.
I just took the Vista 64 (SP1) Ultimate plunge on a Dell T7400. Finally got all the apps and hardware to work along with wireless and bluetooth networks. Many installs and backouts of drivers, apps, hardware etc. Event viewer not bad, ran sfc and there were errors, so I decided to run a repair install. I purchased a retail copy (SP1) and started the procedures you outlined. I got to through most dialogs, but just before install start, a compatibility warning popped that said to uninstall powershell (another wonderful tip from this site). Well, I tried. I could not delete all the registry keys. I don't have permissions in the root folder, nor can I alter them. It does not appear in the CP, and I used the appix.cpl app as outlined in MS site with no luck. I must admit I am a confused newbie. I am admin and ran pgms as admin.
I was used to xp install sp2 and then sp3 once in a while as a refresh (I do try lots of apps and hardware).
Any thoughts. I could go thru the sfc log, but that is last resort. If I do go that way, can the bad files be picked off the retail dvd, or is there another step involved? ( I know this depends on the file, so generally speaking is fine).
Thanks for the great forum. Learned a lot so far.
Hi JoeJoe2,

Usually with that kind of a problem it's easier to do a clean install again. :(

Well, I chickened out of the repair install in terms of moving everything to a new motherboard and processor. Instead, I decided to do a clean install following the procedure for doing so with an upgrade CD and then moving files and programs over via laplink's PCmover. Since my Vista CD was pre-SP1, I created a CD with SP1 slipstreamed in, following your wonderful directions. I then performed a clean install (without entering a product key, etc.). But when I went to do an upgrade install from within Vista, I had the same problem as bngranse: Namely, it wouldn't let me do an upgrade, telling me that the current version (SP1) was more recent than the Vista CDE (the slipstreamed SP1). Very strange, since they were the same version--indeed, I was using the same disc to do the second-stage upgrade as the first stage clean install.

Anyway, I went ahead and finished the transfer, using PCmover. 99% went smoothly, and I was able to take care of a couple small problems without much time or trouble.

Activation, however, was a different matter (since I hadn't completed the upgrade from within Vista and had done a clean install using the upgrade slipstreamed CD). The phone activation people sent me to Microsoft customer service who were finally able to get me activated (through a code they gave me that I entered into Microsoft Diagnostic Tool) and then back to phone activation (with the customer service person staying on the line). Just a head's up, in case others aren't able to do the second (upgrade) install using the slipstream SP! CD....

Anyway, your tutorials are great! Many thanks.
Thank you URTHJ for the feedback on your experience. I'm happy to hear that you got it sorted out and installed and activated now.

My system is very messed up, I was unable to repair the files with the SFC command, and the SFC log file is almost 50MB. I'm using a slipstreamed SP1 Vista OEM disc, but it always disables the upgrade option, so I can't repair the installation. I have remade the disc 3 times and the results are always the same. When I try to uninstall SP1, it fails. Is it time to do a clean install?
I have tried all repair / restore options with no success. Can I repair install from the "upgrade" cd or "restore" cds I was given from HP ? I'm trying not to lose my files, but I don't have a retail version of Vista, only what HP has given me.

As a last resort I will try and save files from HD and do a clean install. Any help is appreciated. By the way, my computer was fine until I did the SP1 update. ??? I'm thinking Bill Gates retired at a good time, much like Alan Greenspan.
Hi MWdream,

Welcome to Vista Forums.

If the CDs from HP are not a Recovery Disk (clean install only), then you may be able to.

Thanks for the reply. Yes they are Recovery disks. So that option is out. I also have a "windows anytime upgrade" dvd for vista. Can I repair install from this, or will I need to purchase a Vista Ultimate retail version to try to repair upgrade so that I don't lose files? I have Vista Home Premium currently.

I am amazed at how the Service Pack Upgrade could destroy my OS beyond any repair. I know I'm not alone on this either. You would think Microsoft would send me the Ultimate upgrade free of charge.
Sorry, You will not be able to use the Anytime Upgrade DVD for a repair install either. :(

I believe you can use a Retail Vista Installation DVD to do the repair if you used the HP install CD/DVDs to install your current Vista, but not if installed with the Anytime Upgrade DVD.
That is what I figured... you know my Vista came preinstalled on the HP computer. Of course they don't include a full version. HP only sent me the "recovery" disks. Looks like I have been screwed on both ends... unless Microsoft will send me the full version. It was SP1 that screwed me so you would think they would want to help?? Good one right.

When I get to step 10 in the tutorial, the "Upgrade" option is grayed out. I have Vista Ultimate 32bit SP1 installed, and I am using the SP1 Slipstream installation DVD I created, also using these tutorials. Windows tells me that the upgrade options is disabled because I have to select a version of Windows that is newer than the one I am already using. Shouldn't my using the SP1 Slipstream DVD have prevented this? How else can I repair (not re-install) my SP1 installation? Thanks for the advice.
Hello Ian, and welcome to Vista Forums.

The SP1 slipstream does not always work in some cases. What type of Vista do you have install? (Ex: OEM, Anytime Upgrade, Retail Full or Upgrade, etc...)

Did you run the DVD from within your current Vista and not from boot?

Hi Shawn,

Thanks for the quick reply! I have the full retail version of Vista (the initial release, not SP1). I upgraded to SP1 when it was first released. After creating the Slipstream SP1 DVD, I ran setup.exe from within Vista, not from boot.
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That's what I was afraid of. I have been noticing that the Full versions have not been allowing the Upgrade option. Only the Upgrade versions are allowing you the choice of both options.

Go figure. You think that it would be the other way around. :confused:

It looks like you may have to do a clean install instead. :(

Aargh! Ah well, thanks anyway. I'll see if I can't limp along a while longer before doing the clean install. I'll search the forums for the other symptoms my system is having, which are shutdown/logoff/restart problems. Thanks again.
I have the upgrade version of Vista Home Premium 32bit and it did not work for me either. The upgrade option was grayed out just like in ianpro99's case. I was hoping that this would work.
Hi Andrews, and welcome to Vista Forums.

Interesting. Did you run it from within your current Vista and not at boot?

Is yours a Retail Upgrade, OEM, Anytime Upgrade, etc.... ?