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Repairing Windows 7 from the recovery console

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I'm trying to fix a laptop running Windows 7 for a friend. A few months ago she apparently got a job doing customer service work from home for a cruise line. They provided her with what sounds like some type of VM software to put on her computer. Before you ask I can't find where I wrote the company down so I'm waiting to hear back on that.

From that point on she couldn't get Windows to finish loading - at least that's her interpretation. In fact Windows itself does start but the only GUI element available is the mouse pointer. There's not desktop and in fact the window manager isn't even running. Just a black screen.

There are no restore points on the drive so that's out. Booting into safe mode, even safe mode with command prompt, gives the same results as a normal boot. It boots into repair mode but I can't get sfc to run. If I use /runnow it tells me there's a repair operation pending. If I use offline mode it shows the help like I used the wrong syntax which afaict isn't the case. Here's what I am using (running the repair environment from the Win7 DVD):

--- Code: Text ---sfc /offbootdir=d:\ offwindir=d:\windows
I have, of course, verified that d: is the correct drive letter for the boot drive.

Short or reinstalling Windows, what other options do I have? It's been a long time since I had to try repairing a Windows install from the recovery console and I'm hoping there's something obvious I'm forgetting.

Oh yeah, I should probably mention this is Ultimate Edition so Win7 Pro features are available on the off chance that makes a difference.

Edit: I just heard back from the laptop's owner. The software was related to training to work as a sales agent for Royal Caribbean. We're communicating via sms so this is a little slow and painful. It sounds like it was probably some third party software and not Royal Caribbean's but I'm still waiting for clarification on that.

Edit 2: It seems I was nearly right in the beginning. The software came from what appears to be a semi-scam company called Arise Virtual Solutions. They run a virtual call center for Royal Caribbean using work from home employees. The software was for training, but like I said from her description it sounded like some sort of virtual machine. Of course it's entirely possibly either she misunderstood what it did or they misrepresented it and it may be just some sort of VPN client.

In either case there's a good possibility it's some sort of virtual device driver.

Ran into almost the exact same thing a few weeks ago with a client laptop. Turns out it was a rootkit (I forget which) that got installed.  After a couple of days screwing around looking for a ninja fix I finally said "sod it" pulled and did a prelim cleanup of the drive (which left it completely unbootable), booted from a Nix-based rescue CD, copied off and then rescanned the user's files with Kapersky, then reformatted the laptop and reinstalled Windows.

Life is too short to waste much time on this sort of thing.  8)

Stoic Joker:
While 40's scorched earth method - which I also use - works too, I already typed this so I'll post it anyway.


When you get to the mouse only GUI, can you get task manager to run by pushing Ctrl + Shift + Esc? If you can du run new task and try loading either Explorer or cmd to get a shell to work with. I found it rather amazing the number of things that will cause Windows to forget that last - rather critical - give the user an interface to work with step.

If no TM can be had, boot to a Win7 disk of the correct bitness (edition/license is irrelevant for this) look for the easy to miss (I think it says) repair windows link on the bottom left of the install windows window. and get to a command prompt.

(either way you get there) Then use bcdedit /enum to see what the currently configured boot targets are. That way at least you'll know if you're fighting with the correct native OS, or a .vhd virtual OS that is part of a borked dual boot configuration attempt.

Once you're sure you have the correct target the boot repair tools (part of the CD's recovery stuff) should be able to stop whatever update is preventing the shell from loading.


Note: Method above assumes of course that the machine in question has not been taken over by pure evil and turned into one of Satan's puppy eating zombie whores. :D

Actually I'm not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. It's not even getting to the login screen so obviously the task manager won't be available.  :redface:  I guess I'm just so used to working on people's old XP machines with auto-login I don't think about it.

That's a good point about the possibility of a weird/broken vhd configuration. I just booted with a UBCD to back it up to my server before doing anything else and Acronis listed an odd Fat16 partition at the end of the disk. I think maybe I'll cancel the backup for now and investigate a little further first.

It looks like the hidden partition is just Dell Recovery crap. The boot settings look fine. There's no virtual disk or anything else odd. Just the RE and system partitions.

I didn't notice the last bit of your post before. Are you talking about the Startup Repair option? If so I've already tried that and it couldn't find any problems.

From what she told me she's not even really concerned about anything but pulling her data off the computer so if I can't come up with anything else promising I may try to do a windows repair (upgrade) install after the backup finishes. Hopefully it works better in Win7 than the old repair windows option did back in the day.


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