How to repair a corrupt MBR in Windows Vista

I tinker with Linux a lot and in many cases, have computers that dual-boot with Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003, and Server 2008. What always happens is that sometimes I remove the hard drive containing the Linux partition and the GRUB boot loader. This inevitably leads to the error 5 message – “boot loader not found” when Windows starts back up. In Windows XP, it was a simple case of restarting the computer, booting from the CD and running the /fixmbr command. But, as with all things in Vista, there is a 10-point step in going about this relatively simple process:

  • Start your computer from the Windows Vista Installation DVD
  •  Press a key when prompted to continue
  •  Choose your language, time, keyboard and click Next
  • Next, click “Repair your Computer”
  •  Now, from the System Recovery Options dialog, select the
    “Operating System” you want to repair, then click Next
  • From the “Choose a Recovery Tool” dialog menu, select “Command
  • Type the following into the “Command Prompt Window”:
    bootrec.exe /fixmbr
  • Remove the Vista Installation DVD and restart your PC.

Now, this does not always work. Sometimes the computer goes into a loop and restarts over and over. When this happens, I usually just do a repair. With Vista of course, this process is done in the backgroung and you are not really sure if it’s working or not. At least, with Windows XP, you actually saw what was going on after you hit F8 and “R” like “deleting files”, “copying files” etc. Windows Vista does not really give us the F8 option and only tells us that it is “repairing disk errors” which “might take over an hour to complete.”

If all else fail, you may have to re-install and re-activate. I have had to do so a couple of times simply because it was a lot faster than trying to mess with it.