Windows Recovery Environment

Windows Recovery Environment
Component of Microsoft Windows
RecEnv logo.png
Windows Recovery Environment in Windows 10
TypeRecovery tool
Introduced inWindows Vista
Last included in
ReplacesRecovery Console
Replaced by

Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is a diagnostic tool based on Windows PE used for troubleshooting serious system errors that prevent booting into a proper Microsoft Windows environment.

It was introduced with Windows Vista as a tool available on the setup disc, however, since Windows 7 it is installed by default with the rest of the operating system to a hidden partition. This allows the boot loader to automatically start the recovery environment whenever it deems it necessary.

History[edit | edit source]

Windows 7 and Vista[edit | edit source]

In Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, the Recovery Environment is only available as an option on the installation disk. It included options such as Windows Complete PC Restore, Windows Memory Diagnostic and Command Prompt. The client version further adds Startup Repair and System Restore.

Windows 7, and by extension, Windows Server 2008 R2, was the first version to install the Recovery Environment tools into the hard disk, whose tools are present inside the System Reserved partition, and build 6519 is the earliest leaked build with this capability. This version replaced Windows Complete PC Restore with System Image Recovery.

Recovery Environment in these versions features a screen with the setup background and a window that uses the Windows Classic theme. It has buttons to shut down or restart the computer on the bottom right and displays links to recovery tools that run as separate windows (like Command Prompt) or on separate screens (like System Restore). When accessed from an installation media, a list with available installations to recover appears, where the user can select one and view its options, but when accessed from the OS, Startup Repair is automatically triggered in an attempt to fix issues without using advanced tools, although the user can skip this through a Cancel button to see the rest of the tools.

Windows Vista and Server 2008 used the classic mouse cursor alongside the theme. However, Windows 7 updated the cursor to be now Windows Aero alongside Setup.

System Restore when executed in Windows 10's Recovery Environment, showing the Windows Basic theme

Windows 8 and onwards[edit | edit source]

Windows 8 introduced a redesigned Recovery Environment based on the Metro interface. Recovery tools now include Refresh your PC and quick access to the Advanced Boot Options (known as Startup Settings) and UEFI settings. It refreshed the interface by featuring a new full screen that follows the Metro design lines, and divided the environment into several pages. The home or start page features four links: one to restart the computer into the OS, another to see troubleshooting options, another to shut down the computer, and another to boot to another operating system, which only shows if there are multiple installed. Another link was also added in Windows 10, which is present only when entering from the OS and allows the user to boot into any detected external media with additional options without modifying the BIOS boot order. The Troubleshooting page has two elements: a link to Refresh this PC (Windows 8 and 8.1 only), another to Reset this PC, and another to the Advanced options page, which contains the rest of the tools.

Since pages now are full-screen, they don't use a theme. However, tools that open in extra windows now use the Windows Basic theme instead of Classic, being one of the few times it can be spotted in this OS family due to its removal for desktop use. The mouse cursor was reverted to Windows Classic.

This design also removed the automatic Startup Repair trigger from the OS and the installations list from the installation media. It also updated Startup Repair to no longer work in a window. Instead, it was modified to work on a boot-like sequence while diagnosing the computer and performing repairs.

Windows 10 added an option on the main page to boot to a CD, DVD or flash drive. The Refresh your PC tool was replaced by Reset your PC keeping personal files and there is now an option to roll back to the previous version or Insider build. Since Manganese build 19536, the user no longer needs to enter the credentials of an administrator account if entering through OS-related methods.

The Windows Server family from Server 2012 onwards uses the Metro interface for the Recovery Environment, like their client counterparts. However, the Troubleshoot option sends the user directly to what the Advanced Options are in the client versions. Reset your PC, Startup Repair and System Restore are not available. UEFI settings are not available in the Server 2012 family.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Windows Vista[edit | edit source]

Windows 7[edit | edit source]