Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Recovering from the Windows 7 Red Screen of Death

OK, this isn't really how my Windows 7 Professional screen looked last Sunday evening after "the disaster", but I'm not really an artist. The screen looked more or less like the usual desktop except everything had a reddish cast and it resembled an out-of-tune TV image from the 1960s (back in the day when you had to manually fine tune your TV to better pick up a local station).

Here's the background.

I was doing some work in my home office under my desk in the nest of power and network cables when I accidentally hit the power switch to one of the surge protectors. Among other devices, my Windows 7 machine was connected to this unit. No big deal. I've done this a thousand times. I turned the surge protector back on, hit the power button on my Windows 7 machine, and figured all was well.


I got an message saying a serious error had occurred and that I should boot into system recovery using the Windows 7 install disc to repair the damage. Fool that I am, I just rebooted to see if that would fix the problem. It didn't. Since I could still get to the desktop, I accessed System Restore and rebooted back in time a couple of days figuring that would do it.


I broke down and got the repair disc and used it to reboot the machine.

When I got to the System Recovery Options screen, I clicked Startup Repair as the most logical option. It went through its routine saying that it might fix the problem and reboot once or need to reboot several times before the error was fixed. After the first reboot, the problem was still with me. I tried again, but had no better luck. I was cursing the fact that I had no backups of my machine to restore it in case it was completely hosed.

I powered the unit down and opened up the box. I made sure the SATA drive connections were solid and that all of the RAM sticks were firmly in place. This proved to be a vain effort, but it was worth a shot.

Rebooted using the disc and ran Startup Repair again, looking for the "Startup Repair could not detect a problem" message, but no such luck. Finally, at the end of the routine, I clicked the "View diagnostic and repair details link". All of the tests were OK except one. The machine couldn't find a valid boot partition.


I copied the exact error message down and Googled it, which lead me to

Basically, forum user SIW2 saved my ass with this:
Boot 7 dvd to system recovery options command prompt. Type:


lis vol

( find the vol letter e.g C or partition number e.g. 1 for the system partition )

sel vol C ( or sel vol 1 , obviously use the correct letter or number)


I followed his advice step-by-step praying all the time that God would be merciful. After I was finished and closed the command prompt, I removed the disc and rebooted the machine.


It's alive!

Moral of the story is that bad things can happen under mundane circumstances and back up your frigging computer! The other moral of the story is never, ever throw away, lose, or misplace all of the discs that come with your computer. You never know when you'll need to lay your hands on them quickly.

Oh, there really is a Windows 7 Red Screen of Death, but it's not exactly what I experienced.

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