Since I just had to repair a Windows 7 Ultimate installation that was about 2 years old and had various problems, such as permissions, Diagnostic Policy service problems, and drivers that would not be installed from windows update, I figured I would document what I did in the end to repair all of these problems that were really annoying. For example, the main problem that was completely driving us nuts was that we were trying to install a usb webcam and an external hard drive to this older laptop and no matter what troubleshooting method we used, Windows Update would not install the plug-n-play drivers. We tried deleting the Inf cache, changing various group policies to ensure that windows update was being searched for updates, and anything else that google searches would come up with as solutions.
In the end, it only made sense to either wipe the drive and reinstall Windows 7, or to attempt a complete Repair install, by performing an in-place upgrade installation to Windows 7 Ultimate.
(Important Note:) Now this machine originally was an OEM HP laptop, a G62-435DX from about 2-3 years ago, so HP has not tested or certified it capable to run Windows 8, and we could not take the chance of things not working from upgrading to Windows 8 on this laptop yet, so we will soon. This laptop also was upgraded with a Windows 7 Anytime Upgrade over a year ago to Windows Ultimate, and we took the product key off of it and saved it. Now it is important to note here that this method, although it worked and repaired the OS and kept most of the files and data and programs installed, the product key would not work after performing the upgrade. Most likely this is because the product key was used for an anytime upgrade, and we decided to do an in-place upgrade to the same Operating System Version which for some reason left us with an unactivated Windows 7 Ultimate Laptop. Very annoying, but we will worry about this issue later on after we find time to call Microsoft’s phone activation hotline.
Now, the complications that I noticed immediately upon logging into the newly recovered system all the VMWare workstation network adapters are gone, Bridged networking no longer works, and VMWare workstation looks like it needs to be repaired, and upon attempting one through programs and features, it actually is asking for the original VMWare Workstation installation “disk”. Also, there were 3 user profiles on this computer and it looks like one of the user profiles actually lost some data, (or had it moved), since many folders are now empty. Windows Updates were of course rolled all the way back to Service Pack 1, so 99 updates were required to be immediately installed. This is to be expected. As of right now I am in the process of comparing an earlier image to the new one to find out why there is now 40gb empty and there was only 20 when the upgrade was completed. Most likely this is due to all the Windows folder gunk that had built up over time, but it is frustrating to have to go back and perform some of the many customizations that were done on this machine over the last 2 years. So far Group Policy seems to be working fine, but there were many other registry edits and adjustments performed that were not documented so it will take time to get this machine back to the state that is desired.
All in all, it was a successful repair, however it did take over 4 hours for the operation to complete, so if you decide to do the same thing, do it overnight, do not stop it in between because you think it may be stuck, I thought it was stuck at 72%, but I left it alone and eventually it finished. Also, remember the product key problem, many people think that just because they manage to recover the product key from an installation (using a program like Nirsoft’s produkey) that Microsoft will accept it after the repair is performed. I could not get the system to accept any of my product keys from my personal stash. I assume it has to do with the fact that this is an OEM HP machine and the installation ISO was a retail version of Windows 7 Ultimate, which is most likely always a potentially troubling factor. So, if you know what you are doing, and are at your wits’ end with a system, I would say this is an almost last resort way of recovering your system, before wiping the drive and installing fresh. Good luck.