Windows Error Recovery: How to Fix It When Windows Failed to Start

How to restart, troubleshoot, repair, refresh, and reinstall Windows

Windows failed to start could appear as a blue screen with an error, a continual reboot loop, or nothing showing on the screen at all. A computer might fail to start after being shut down or following a restart.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

Cause of Windows Failing to Start

When a Windows laptop or desktop computer fails to start, the cause may be a disconnected device, a missing file, an unsuccessful update, or failing hardware.

How to Fix Windows Failing to Start

Follow the steps below in sequence to identify and fix the problem. In most cases, a bit of troubleshooting can get your computer working again. Still, some issues may require you to replace failed hardware.

  1. Restart the computer. Restarting restores access if the problem was simply an unusual glitch during the startup process.

  2. On a desktop system, check the connections. If you use a keyboard or mouse with a cable, unplug and then re-plug each to confirm that the devices are connected. A disconnected keyboard, for example, can cause a computer to halt during the startup process. Similarly, make sure the cable from the computer to the display is connected.

  3. On a desktop system, make sure the power indicator light is on. If you can't see the light, the power supply may have failed. If nothing happens when you press the power button, you may need to replace the power supply.

  4. Remove the battery. On a laptop system with an easy-to-remove battery, unplug all power cables and remove the battery. Then, with the battery out of the system, plug in the AC power cable and connect it to the laptop. Start up the computer. If it starts successfully, the problem is the laptop battery.

  5. Let updates complete. If you see any display on the screen, wait a bit longer. Windows often attempts to install system, application, and driver updates during the startup process. If you have an older or slower computer, these updates may take a significant amount of time to install. In some problematic cases, leave the computer on overnight, then check it the next morning.

  6. Start Windows with the last known good configuration. This option attempts to start the computer with the recent device, registry, and operating system changes reverted to settings that worked. This allows the computer to recover from a failed system or device driver update or a misconfigured registry entry. (When Windows fails to start twice in a row, you should have access to the Advanced Boot Options menu.)

    If the computer successfully boots with this method, don't re-apply system or device driver updates, since these updates may be the source of the problem. Check with Microsoft Support or the device manufacturer's site for recent news or information.

  7. Run Startup Repair (also known as Automatic Repair in older versions of Windows). Startup Repair scans the computer and attempts to fix missing or damaged system files. It can take more than a few minutes to complete and may require that you restart the computer. In some cases, you might need to run Startup Repair up to three times to resolve startup issues.

  8. Perform a system restore. Use a recent restore point to recover your system. A system restore reverts the system, drivers, and registry to an earlier point in time.

  9. Scan the computer for malware. Some signs that the computer may have malware include virus warnings, notices, or other unusual messages displayed as the computer starts.

  10. Reset the PC. A reset leaves you with Windows and the apps originally installed on the computer. People often initiate a Windows Reset when they're ready to give the computer to someone else. A reset erases system customizations and changes, removes installed applications, and deletes data. It can be an effective way to return a problematic system into a usable computer.

    Back up your personal files elsewhere before you do a reset. A reset erases your files.

  11. Test a noisy hard drive. A failed or failing drive may prevent Windows from booting correctly. Hard drives with spinning parts often emit grinding or clanking sounds when they fail. Solid-state drives (SSDs) typically stop working with no audible indicators. If a drive fails, you may install Windows on a new drive. If your data isn't backed up elsewhere, use data recovery software to retrieve your files from the failed drive.

  12. Perform a clean install. If none of the above steps worked, perform a clean install of Windows. This process erases everything on the drive and replaces it with a new installation of Windows.

Was this page helpful?