How to Boot From a CD, DVD, or BD Disc

Boot from a disc to start diagnostic, setup, and other offline tools

What to Know

  • Set the optical drive as the first boot device in the BIOS.
  • Insert the disc and restart the computer.
  • If the disc won't boot, check the boot order, use another drive if you have one, clean the disc, or burn a new disc.

This article explains how to make your computer boot from a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc. The procedure is the same regardless of Windows version.

How to Boot From a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc

This process usually takes around five minutes:

  1. Change the boot order in BIOS so the CD, DVD, or Blu-ray drive is listed first. Some computers are already configured this way, but many are not.

    If the optical drive is not first in the boot order, your PC will start "normally" (i.e., it'll boot from your hard drive) without even looking at what might be in your disc drive.

    After setting your optical drive as the first boot device in BIOS, your computer will check that drive for a bootable disc each time your computer starts. Leaving your PC configured this way shouldn't cause problems unless you plan on leaving a disc in the drive all the time.

    See How to Boot From a USB Device instead of this tutorial if what you're really after is configuring your PC to boot from a flash drive or other USB storage device. The process is fairly similar to booting from a disc but there are a few extra things to consider.

  2. Insert the CD, DVD, or BD into your disc drive.

    Programs downloadable from the internet that are intended to be bootable discs are usually made available in the ISO format, but you can't just burn an ISO to the disc as you can other files. See How to Burn an ISO Image File for more on that.

  3. Restart your computer—either from within Windows or via your reset or power button if you're still in the BIOS menu.

  4. Watch for a Press any key to boot from CD or DVD message.

    When booting from a Windows setup disc, and occasionally other bootable discs as well, you may be prompted with a message to press a key to boot from the disc. For the disc boot to be successful, you'll need to do this during the few seconds that the message is on the screen.

    If you do nothing, your computer will check for boot information on the next boot device in the list in BIOS (see Step 1), which will probably be your hard drive.

    Most bootable discs don't prompt for a key press and will start immediately.

  5. Your computer should now boot from the CD, DVD, or BD disc and the software stored on it will begin.

    What happens now depends on what the bootable disc was for. If you're booting from a Windows 11 DVD, the Windows setup process will begin. If you're booting from a Slackware Live CD, the version of the Slackware Linux operating system you've included on the CD will run. A bootable AV program will start the virus scanning software. You get the idea.

Photo of a hand inserting a disc into a laptop computer
LdF / E+ / Getty Images

What to Do if the Disc Won't Boot

If you tried the above steps but your computer still isn't booting from the disc properly, check out some of the tips below.

  1. Recheck the boot order in BIOS (Step 1). Without a doubt, the number one reason a bootable disc won't boot is because BIOS isn't configured to check the CD/DVD/BD drive first. It can be easy to exit BIOS without saving the changes, so be sure to watch for any confirmation prompts before exiting.

  2. Do you have more than one optical drive? Your computer probably only allows for one of your disc drives to be booted from. Insert the disc into the other drive, restart your computer, and see what happens then.

  3. Clean the disc. If the disc is old or dirty, as many Windows Setup CDs and DVDs are by the time they're needed, clean it. A clean disc could make all the difference.

  4. Burn a new CD/DVD/BD. If the disc is one you created yourself, like from an ISO file, then burn it again. The disc may have errors on it that re-burning could correct. We've seen this happen more than once.

About Booting From a CD, DVD, or BD

When you boot from a disc, you're actually running your computer with whatever operating system is installed on the disc. When you start your computer normally, you're running with the operating system (Windows, Linux, etc.) installed on your hard drive, Certain kinds of testing and diagnostic tools, like memory testing programs and bootable antivirus software, can require booting this way. Another reason is if you must reinstall Windows or run automatic Windows repair tools.

The easiest way to know if a disc is bootable is to insert it into your drive and follow the instructions above. Most operating system setup CDs and DVDs are bootable, as are many advanced diagnostic tools.

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