A quick and judicious combination of the right tools can make it easy to add to your Windows 7 (or Vista) toolkit. The Windows 7 Recovery Environment (aka WinRE) is included on the operating system install media — it’s what comes up when you elect to “Repair your computer” early on in the Windows 7 (or Vista) install dialogs — and it’s what the Backup and Restore utility writes to optical media when you select the “Create a system repair disc” option inside that tool. Why carry around a CD or DVD when you don’t need to?
Create a bootable UFD, then copy the files that Windows 7 writes to the optical disc, and you can boot from that UFD and run the repair console from there instead. It’s a nice way to speed up the repair process, too, because accessing information from a flash memory device (your UFD) is usually much faster than accessing an optical disk (either CD or DVD).
To start this process along, grab the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool v2.18 (it’s available in many places on the Web, but I include a link to PCWorld here). You need to use the “Run as administrator” right-click option to run this tool in Win7 (or Vista), after you’ve installed this, so don’t forget. Use the tool to format a UFD of your liking: the faster, the better, but it will only accommodate 148 MB of files and information, so it doesn’t have to be very big. Once you’ve used this tool to format your drive, you can make it bootable simply by copying the Win7 (or Vista) repair disk files onto the device.
That’s your next step: type Backup into the Start menu search box, then enter the Backup and Restore utility. Click the left-hand column option that reads “Create a system repair disc” after inserting a blank writable CD or DVD into your optical drive. Once that disk is burned, use Explorer to copy all of its files to your freshly-formatted UFD (I simply opened two such windows then clicked and dragged from the optical disk window to the empty UFD window to make this happen).
If you tweak your PC’s BIOS to let you boot from that UFD, you’ll be able to launch the recovery environment from that UFD the next time your system starts up. The whole process takes less than 15 minutes to complete and adds a useful tool to your repair kit collection. Give it a try!
Note to Vista users: you’ll have to download and install a tool to create recovery disks for your PC. Check out the recovery disk instructions at either NeoSmart or I Started Something for details and step-by-step instructions (or use any good 3rd-party backup tool like Acronis TrueImage Home, Norton Ghost, and so forth).