My understanding is that the only way to perform a "repair install" in Windows 7 is to run the install setup.exe within the Windows 7 installation you want to repair.

This seems a little brain dead to me since usually the reason I wanted to perform the repair install was because the existing installation was so broken that I could no longer boot and use it. It seems Microsoft is saying my only option in that case is to do a clean install and then reinstall all my apps.

So I'm wondering if anyone knows of a way to perform a Windows 7 repair install ... one that preserves your existing OS settings and application installs ... on a Windows 7 partition which cannot be booted.


It's been a while and no one has offered an answer to this question other than to suggest performing an "upgrade install". I recently tried booting my Windows 7 (32 bit) install DVD and attempted to perform an "upgrade install" to a test installation of Windows 7 I had created on a another drive attached via eSATA.

When I tried to do this, the install process posted the message below.

The computer started using the Windows installation disc. Remove the Windows installation disc and restart your computer so that Windows starts normally. Then insert the Windows installation disc and restart the upgrade. (Do not select "Custom (advanced)" to perform an upgrade. "Custom (advanced)" installs a new copy of Windows and deletes your programs and settings.)

In other words, the Windows 7 install disc prevents performing an upgrade install if you booted from the install disc. It appears that the only way to perform an upgrade install is if you can start the install process from within the Windows 7 install which you wish to upgrade.

My question was whether it is possible to do a repair install ... not just a fix or tweak but an actual install ... of an existing Windows 7 installation which will not boot. It certainly appears to me that this is impossible.

Unless someone has something else to add I will probably accept this as the answer for this question in a day or two.

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As far as I rmember, you insert the windows install CD and select the "repair" option. Since the repair option is run from the CD, the install on the computer doesn't need to work.

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    Yes, you could initiate the repair option from either a recovery CD or from the install media. However, that is NOT (as I understand it) the same as a repair install. The repair process just tries to tweak a few things such as the boot configuration. A repair install goes through the actual install process again. I don't know any way to do this with a severely crippled Windows 7 partition. – irrational John Jun 1 '10 at 4:34
  • Have you tried running an upgrade install, targeted at the damanged partition? – nhinkle Jun 1 '10 at 5:49
  • No, I haven't tried the reinstall path. Or at least not recently. I think did try it when I was using the Win 7 RC and it refused to do it. What would happen now with the RTM version I have no idea. Has anyone else out there tested this? – irrational John Jun 1 '10 at 17:29

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