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A friend’s computer, which runs Windows Vista, appears to have become somewhat borked — Internet Explorer doesn’t display some images, and Vista Service Pack 1 fails to install via Windows Update (with “unknown” error code 800706BE).

I figured I should advise them to reinstall Vista from the disc to see if this fixes Internet Explorer, and allows them to apply all updates. I was looking for civilian-friendly instructions, and found this:

However, it doesn’t mention how to reinstall Vista without wiping the machine. I was hoping for a repair install rather than a clean install.

Is there a reinstall option that doesn’t wipe the computer? If so, do you know of any civilian-friendly instructions on how to do this?

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I remember doing this once with Windows XP and it asked if I wanted to format the installation drive. What basically happen was I had an old system windows directory and the new system windows directory. Of course all my programs could not be used. My user files were moved it literally was a pain. Just have your friend backup their files and simply reinstall Windows. – Ramhound Jul 15 '11 at 16:06
I believe it is possible but you have to launch the installer from within windows.... It's been a while since I did it and I can't specifically remember the steps involved to repair after launching the installer. – Not Kyle stop stalking me Jul 15 '11 at 16:07
@Ramhound: I think you’re stretching the meaning of the words “just” and “simply” there. For regular users, that’s a massive pain. – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 16:44
@ramhound: with XP, there are/were several ways to reinstall. I call it "the second 'r' option": where it will reinstall windows in-place and all your stuff just works. – horatio Jul 15 '11 at 16:48
@horatio: is the “second 'r' option” available on Vista? – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 17:01

Before you do this, run the System Update Readiness Tool for Windows Vista. I was unable to install that same update, but this fixed it for me, and I since answered another different question, where it also fixed his problem. It can take anywhere from 15 minutes to over 2 hours to run.

You should also do sfc /scannow at a command line and a chkdsk /f.

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+1 for actually fixing a problem with update readiness tool... – Not Kyle stop stalking me Jul 15 '11 at 16:17
@Kyle I found that while fixing my friend's computer, and it has quickly become a favorite of mine. Thanks for the +1. – KCotreau Jul 15 '11 at 16:26
@KCotreau: fair play, that sounds worth trying. I did sfc /scannow with no results, but I’ll try the other two. – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 16:45

Unlike XP, when you 'install' Vista is does it by imaging to the hard drive instead of copying. This why most instructions to reinstall Vista warn you it will wipe the disk.

If you are using a Retail copy of Windows Vista (and not OEM) you may be able to get away with performing an "Upgrade" install using your original Windows Vista disk. More info on this can be found here. Make sure you have a backup first. :)

Be aware that either the install DVD needs to have or be updated to have the same Service Pack as your installed version, or (if it will let you) you need to uninstall your Service Pack(s) to bring the installed version down to match the one on your disk.

Before trying that though, perhaps try using System Restore to go back to a time before the problem(s) started showing?

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re System Restore, yeah, Microsoft say that a lot too. If the end users had any idea when the problem started occurring, that’d be grand, but unfortunately they don’t. Great info though, much appreciated. They haven’t installed Service Pack 1, so the versions should match, but I fear they’re just on an OEM disk. – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 16:46
@Paul D. Waite - I get what you're saying, but since reinstalling is like going to day-0, just use System Restore to back to the furthest-back point offered. Or try one, and if it's not fixing the trouble try an earlier one. :) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Jul 15 '11 at 16:53
ah sure. Does System Restore just muck around with OS files, as opposed to user-installed programs and user files? – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 17:00
@Paul D. Waite - "...the only files affected are the Windows Registry, programs, and system files. Your data such as spreadsheets, documents, images, and music remain untouched between restores." So it will affect Installed programs as they may be causing the 'problem' a user sis trying to correct (i.e.: Malware) – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Jul 15 '11 at 17:03
sure, that makes sense. Excellent, cheers. – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '11 at 17:17

It can be done but is a real pain if service packs have been installed.

  1. You have to have the proper Vista Install disc with the "upgrade" option

  2. The disc must be the same service pack level as the installation you are going to repair.

  3. Not sure if there is an easy way to slipstream service packs into Vista install dvd, if there is its complicated and time consuming.

Repair a Vista Installation

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Surprised no one mentions the good ol sfc /scannow from XP. It also exists in Windows Vista and 7. Have your setup DVD handy because you could be expanding a lot of files. . .

I'd try Moab's solution first though. This one is a bit more tedious.

Worst comes to worse you can do a Custom install without reformatting. Setup will just move your old files to a folder names Windows.old and install Vista as usual. While this preserves all your old data, you'll have to reinstall your programs.

It's stories like these that help me advocate people devote more space to System Restore. . .

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