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How to Access the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE)

This article applies to Windows Vista and Windows 7/8.x/10.

The Windows Recovery Environment (typically referred to as Windows RE or WinRE) is partially analogous to the Windows Recovery Console of Windows 2000/XP.  Most computer manufacturers or administrators configure Windows systems with Windows RE installed to a local hard drive. In addition, current versions of Windows will automatically install and enable Windows RE when Windows is installed or upgraded. If Windows RE is functional, Windows will automatically run it if a boot failure is detected.

Windows RE may also be accessed manually if it's installed to a local hard disk and is enabled. The method used depends on the version of Windows:

Windows Vista / Windows 7
Press and hold the F8 key early in the system boot process. Then select the Repair your computer option from the boot menu that appears. 

If your computer uses the F8 key for the BIOS Boot Menu (ASUS boards, for example), make sure to start pressing the F8 key after the BIOS screen has passed and before Windows has started to boot. In some cases, it may be easier to press F8 early to open the BIOS Boot Menu and then select the Windows drive to boot and immediately press F8 again.

Windows 8.x
Press WinKey+I and click the Power icon. Hold down Shift and click Restart. Click Troubleshooting and then Advanced options to bring up the repair options.

Windows 8.1/10
Press WinKey+X to open the Quick Link menu. Click Shut down or sign out, then hold down Shift and click Restart. (In Windows 10 you can also open the Start menu, click on Power and then Shift-click Restart.) Click Troubleshooting and then Advanced options to bring up the repair options.

Note: If you would like to enable using F8 to access the Windows 8.1/10 legacy Safe Mode menu (as with Windows 7) please refer to the instructions at the end of this article.

If Windows RE is not installed or is unable to boot from the internal drive, access it as detailed below. Please note that the prompts and screens shown vary depending on the version and type of Windows boot media used, but the basics are the same.

  1. Insert the Windows installation disc/UFD, Repair Disc, or Recovery Drive and restart the computer.

    Note: If you are running Windows 7 and don't have a Windows 7 DVD, you can create a System Repair Disc by running Start >> All Programs >> Maintenance >> Create a System Repair Disc. If you are running Windows 8.x/10 you can create a Recovery Drive or Repair Disc by opening the Control Panel and running the Recovery program.

  2. Press a key when the Press any key to boot from CD or DVD message appears (this prompt is not shown on some types of Windows boot media). If you don't press a key quickly enough, you will need to wait until the computer has finished booting and then reboot the computer and try again.

  3. After the initialization process completes, you may be prompted to select a Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method.  Configure each of these settings and then click Next.

  4. If shown, click the Repair your computer option that appears near the bottom of the window to access Windows RE.

  5. If Windows RE scans for existing Windows installations, let it finish. If using the Windows 7 RE, make sure the Use recovery tools that can help fix problems starting Windows option is selected.

  6. In Windows Vista RE and Windows 7 RE click Next. In the Windows 8.x/10 RE click on Troubleshooting and then Advanced options to access the repair options.

  7. Important: At any point during these procedures, if you are following manual repair instructions, please cancel any automatic repair options offered by Windows RE and instead select the option to run the Command Prompt. 

Enable using F8 to access the Windows 8.1/10 legacy Safe Mode menu

Windows 8.1/10 can be configured to enable pressing the F8 key on boot-up to access the legacy Safe Mode menu used by Windows 7. This is supported on both MBR and GPT Windows installations.


  1. Boot into Windows. If you are booting multiple Windows operating systems using the Windows boot manager, boot into the newest version.

  2. Open an Administrator Command Prompt.

  3. The command to run depends on the type of legacy boot-up menu you want:

    1. If you have a single Windows operating system and want to enable pressing F8 at boot-up to access the Safe Mode menu, run the following command:

      bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

      When booted to the legacy menu, select the Repair Your Computer option to boot to Windows RE. Once it has loaded, click Troubleshooting and then Advanced options to bring up the repair options.

    2. If you have multiple Windows operating systems installed or want the legacy boot menu to display on boot-up, run the following command:

      bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes

      This will make the legacy boot menu display on each boot-up without needing to press a key. The default OS will boot after the timeout period has expired. To access Windows RE you will need to highlight the desired Windows installation and then press F8. On the Startup Settings menu press F10 for more options and then press 1 (or F1) to launch the recovery environment. Next, click Troubleshooting and then Advanced options to bring up the repair options.

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