A nice feature in Windows Vista’s installation CD-ROM is the addition of many drivers for Serial ATA (SATA) controllers. These drivers can be very useful when you want to repair a Windows 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000 installation that exists on a SATA disk. For example, imagine that such an installation stops working and you can’t boot. To solve this problem, you’d typically boot from an emergency CD-ROM, DVD, or flash disk containing a program such as ERD Commander or Bart’s Preinstalled Environment (BartPE—www.nu2.nu/pebuilder), then press F6 to provide the necessary SATA driver in order to continue. However, finding and loading the right driver can be time-consuming, especially on notebook computers that don’t have a floppy disk drive installed.

If you use Vista’s installation CD-ROM to boot, there’s a good chance that you won’t need an additional SATA driver. Vista automatically detects and installs the right one. You can then use Vista’s Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) to open a Command Prompt window and take the necessary steps to repair the installation problem.

This technique works only when the repair procedure doesn’t need direct contact with the OS (e.g., doesn’t need to read the registry). Examples of when this technique works effectively is when the repair procedure involves running chkdsk.exe, replacing corrupted DLLs, or fixing registry hives.

—Apostolos Fotakelis, systems administrator,
NATO, and freelance IT consultant