Linux to the Rescue of Windows Vista

This weekend my parents bought a new Acer desktop that comes preloaded with Windows Vista. Upon first boot you have to choose the OS language. Usually from then on the setup works flawlessly. This time it didn't.

Some Vista users are caught forever in a reboot lock after undoing an OS update. In this case you can either be happy to have a Vista recovery DVDs at hand (which we obviously didn't have), or the only remaining option is a partition editor.

Do not even bother downloading the Vista recovery disk (100MB download) as it does not always find your hard disk, and is apparently bound to the language of your Windows Vista copy.

After some research I found lots of similar user reports and a link to the Open Source GPartEd tool. This tool even comes as a bootable ISO Linux image (GPartEd Live), which was precisely what I needed.

So off I went downloading the Live ISO image, rebooting the hanging desktop, hitting <F12> to open the system boot menu, loading the still warm CD-ROM in the CD tray, and booting the desktop from the CD/DVD drive.

Apparently the Acer desktop (Aspire M1641) has a problem with a timer not connected to an IRQ handler, as can be seen from a Linux error with a Kernel panic (APIC not syncing: IO-APIC + timer doesn't work). Use the <TAB> key to edit the boot command sequence and add the ‘noapic’ option to circumvent this error (mind the keyboard layout for typing this option: the ‘a’ is the 1st letter on the 2nd row of letters on a US QWERTY keyboard).

Now a graphical environment (X) should start, along with GPartEd. Select the hard disk and you'll see it features 3 partitions, with the middle one bearing the ‘boot’ flag. The first partition is the smallest one, and this is the one you want to set bootable again as it contains the Windows Vista recovery image. Click on this small partition, edit the flags to set the ‘boot’ flag. You'll notice that now the ‘boot’ flag moved from the first big partition to the small partition. Exit GPartEd now.

You can now reboot yur computer by clicking on the power button at the top left of the X desktop. Upon shutting down the computer the GPartEd Live CD will be ejected from the drive. Remove it and the computer will be able to boot from harddisk again.

Please note:

  • In following the procedure described in this post you will lose all data saved on the Windows partition (usually C:) which in my case was not a problem since there was none.
  • It is not recommended to plug your computer on the network before all preloaded Windows patches are applied.
  • Acer will install a couple updates on the fresh Windows Vista installation. These updates can take ages to complete so you better refrain from thinking “wow, my PC hangs, so let's reboot”. Also, do not reboot when prompted by Vista, unless you see that all Acer patches have been applied.

Hope this trick will be useful to others.

Carlo's picture

Acer problem booting

 Hi,

I had more or less the same problem with my Acer.  When I restored my Acer using Acronis True Image my machine would no longer boot. (error 0xc0000225).  I downloaded the Vista recovery disk but this did not work and Acer does not supply a recovery DVD.  After a long search I decided to use the Windows 7 RC 64bit cd.  On booting it showed an option to repair the OS.  I tried it and it took less than a minute and the machine booted without any trouble.  All my data in my other partitions were intact and the initial restore of my image was ok.  I do not know why Acronis caused this trouble.

 

Olivier Biot's picture

Glad to know it worked!

Hi Carlo,

I am very happy to know you were able to save your computer! I don't know why TrueImage did not manage to fix your puter. Maybe the problem you encountered was already encoded in your backup? Did it back up the entire disk or only one partition?

It still puzzles me that apparently it is barely known that you can restore many recent PCs by temporarily enabling the boot flag on a hidden "repair" partition.

Best regards,

Olivier

Olivier Biot's picture

Paragon Software - Rescue Kit

My recent PC Magazine issue arrived the day after my desktop PC failed to boot. In the wrapping I discovered a CD labeled "Rescue Kit 9.0 Express" from Paragon Software Group. Timing couldn't have been any better Laughing.

This bootable CD allows to inspect the partitions of your computer and provides a couple tools for repairing partitions as well as some tools for performing repairs in partitions. It is another alternative to GPartEd which I mentioned in my blog post. I am not affiliated to Paragon Software (nor am I with GPartEd) - I'm just sharing my findings.

And regarding the computer, it appears that I have to leave HyperThreading off in the system BIOS, otherwise the computer eventually crashes. Time to get another PC?

refurbished computers's picture

Linux to the Rescue of Windows Vista

it does not always find your hard disk, and is apparently bound to the language of your Windows Vista copy.

Olivier Biot's picture

Re: Windows language dependency

It is possible; I have not tested this on a non English Windows installation. It makes sense, since the directories containing the user settings can bear another name in different languages. In addition, expert users can decide to move this directory elsewhere, which would require registry analysis to detect. I don't know if this tool will dig into the registry hives.

Dheeraj Suthar's picture

You saved my day... One of the best tips of my computing life

Hi Oliver,
Thanks a lot for that awesome article. Although my problem was different one but your solution worked great. I had slacware dual boot with Vista. Due to some reason I needed to uninstall slack. However even though I carefully removed LILO first and then slack partition, the Vista became un-bootable. Even system restoration disk failed(all that Bootrec. crap et all). But your way worked wonders with my Ubuntu live CD. Checked booted it, ran Gpartred, selected /dev/sda1(having my Vista, I didn't had any rescue partition :-( for some reasons unknown to me), and changed its flag to boot. After reboot Vista was back.
Thanks a lot again.

Olivier Biot's picture

Glad to know it helped!

I am always happy to see that one of my articles provided to be helpful Smile.
Thank you for your reply!
Olivier

Menoglad's picture

Those notes at the end were

Those notes at the end were really helpful in understanding it better. I was indeed unaware of the fact that the procedure described in this post may lead to loss of all data saved on the Windows partition. Anyways thanks a lot for the information.

Kiwi Pokies's picture

Hmm right i got a acer laptop

Hmm right i got a acer laptop with the same issue my main setup is locked. I was not able to unlock it and start it from boot setings. We can find find the solution online or there is always manual come with these type of machines. We can find each and every from solution from this manual. 

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