What is the System Recovery Options Menu?
The System Recovery Options menu is a group of Windows repair, restore, and diagnostic tools.
System Recovery Options is also referred to as Windows Recovery Environment, or WinRE for short.
Beginning in Windows 8, System Recovery Options was replaced by Advanced Startup Options.
What is the System Recovery Options Menu Used For?
The tools available on the System Recovery Options menu can be used to repair Windows files, restore important settings to previous values, test your computer's memory, and much more.
How To Access the System Recovery Options Menu
The System Recovery Options menu can be accessed three different ways:
The easiest way to access System Recovery Options is via the Repair Your Computer option on the Advanced Boot Options menu.
If for some reason you can't access the Advanced Boot Options menu, or the Repair Your Computer option isn't available (as in some Windows Vista installations), you can also access System Recovery Options from a Windows Setup disc.
Finally, if neither above method works, you can create a system repair disc on a friend's computer and then start System Recovery Options using that system repair disc on your computer. Unfortunately, this only works if both computers are running Windows 7.
How To Use the System Recovery Options Menu
The System Recovery Options menu is just a menu so it doesn't actually do anything itself. Clicking on one of the available tools on the System Recovery Options menu will start that tool.
In other words, using System Recovery Options means using one of the recovery tools available on the menu.
System Recovery Options
Below are descriptions and links to more detailed information on the five recovery tools you'll find on the System Recovery Options menu in Windows 7 and Windows Vista:
Startup Repair starts, you guessed it, the Startup Repair tool which can automatically solve many issues that prevent Windows from starting correctly.
See How Do I Perform a Startup Repair? for a full tutorial.
Startup Repair is one of the most valuable system recovery tools available on the System Recovery Options menu
The System Restore option starts System Restore, the same tool you might have used before from within Windows.
Of course the advantage of having System Restore available from the System Recovery Options menu is that you can run it from outside of Windows, a handy feat if you can't get Windows to start.
System Image Recovery
System Image Recovery is a tool you can use to restore to your computer a previously created complete backup of your hard drive.
Using System Image Recovery is a good if-all-else-fails recovery option, assuming of course you were proactive and created a system image at some point when your computer was working properly.
In Windows Vista, this System Recovery Options tool is referred to as Windows Complete PC Restore.
Windows Memory Diagnostic (WMD) is a memory test program created by Microsoft. Since problems with your memory hardware can cause all sorts of Windows issues, having a means to test RAM from the System Recovery Options menu is incredibly useful.
Windows Memory Diagnostic can not be run directly from the System Recovery Options menu. When you select Windows Memory Diagnostic, you're given the choice to either restart the computer immediately and then have the memory test run automatically, or have the test run automatically whenever you next restart your computer.
The Command Prompt available from the System Recovery Options menu is essentially the same Command Prompt you may have used while in Windows.
Most of the commands available from within Windows are also available from this Command Prompt.
System Recovery Options & Drive Letters
The drive letter that Windows appears to be installed on while in System Recovery Options may not always be the one you're familiar with.
For example, the drive that Windows is installed on might be identified as C: when in Windows, but D: when using the recovery tools in System Recovery Options. This is especially valuable information if you're working in the Command Prompt.
System Recovery Options will report the drive that Windows is installed on under the Choose a recovery tool subheading on the main System Recovery Options menu. It might say, for example, Operating system: Windows 7 on (D:) Local Disk.
System Recovery Options Menu Availability
Beginning in Windows 8, the System Recovery Options was replaced with a more centralized menu called Advanced Startup Options.
While Windows XP has no System Recovery Options menu, a Repair Install and the Recovery Console, both available when booting from the Windows XP Setup CD, are similar to a Startup Repair and the Command Prompt, respectively. Also, Windows Memory Diagnostic can be downloaded and used independently on a PC running any operating system.