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Windows 7: Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Boot

Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start

Published by gregrocker
15 Mar 2012
Published by

information   Information
These steps will attempt to repair the OS using repairs via System Recovery Options and then everything else possible to get it started. It does not cover hardware problems which might be indicated if these steps fail to run and can be tested using Memtest86+ to Test RAM for 5-6 passes, and HD Maker's HD Diagnostic Extended CD scan followed by Disk Check from System Recovery Options Command Line, after checking that HD is detected in BIOS setup.

warning   Warning
If you have files that need urgent rescue because they are not backed up then you may wish to start with Step 11 because in rare cases (e.g. on a failing hard drive) they may become inaccessible due to the strain of repairs

1. Boot into BIOS setup by tapping the key given for this on first boot screen, check that Win7 HD is detected under Storage or Boot Priority order (usually by its Serial which you can google to find maker) and set to boot first. If not check over all cables and connections, or for a laptop check that it is seated firmly in its bay. If you cannot get the hard drive to show up in BIOS setup, then replace its cable or the drive itself. For a UEFI install to GPT disk the first boot device will be Windows Boot Manager. If possible unplug all other except the System hard drive.

2. If you need a Win7 disk to boot you can burn a System Repair Disk on another Win7 PC as long as it has the same 32- or 64-bit version, use an enhanced Repair disk available for download at Easy Recovery Essentials, or refer to Step 1 in Clean Reinstall Windows 7 for installation media which contains repair System Recovery Options or if necessary can be used for reinstall.

A UEFI install (EFI System partition instead of System Reserved, no Active flag) must have its installation media or Repair CD booted as a UEFI device.

3. Boot into System Recovery Options via the F8 Advanced Boot Options menu or disk as shown in blue link tutorial, confirm the Partition Marked Active is the 100mb System Reserved (preferred if you have it) or C, run Startup Repair repeatedly up to 3 separate times with reboots in between each - no matter what it reports. If both the System Active and Win7 partitions are on the same hard drive then unplug all other drives to do these repairs.

On some PC's the Recovery partition or an earlier installed OS used in a Dual Boot will hold the Active flag. If another partition than System Reserved or C holds the Active flag and you know this is how it was set up, then go ahead with the repairs. If not skip to Step 9 to get more help since Win7 will not repair unless the correct partition is Set Active.

Make sure the Win7 HD is set first to boot in BIOS setup. Trigger the boot disk or stick using the one-time BIOS Boot Menu key given on first screen:
Asus - F8
HP/Compaq - Esc
Sony - F2
Acer - F12
Gateway - F10
eMachines - F10
Toshiba - F12
Dell - F12
IBM/Lenovo - the blue Thinkvantage button, or OneKey button next to Power button.

4. If these fail, try running System Restore from System Recovery Options list working chronologically backward to find a bootable configuration. If those fail, from Recovery Options open a Command Line to run SFC -SCANNOW Run in Command Prompt at Boot.

5. If no installation shows up to repair on an MBR (non-UEFI) install when booting into DVD System Recovery Options or Repair CD, or Startup Repair won't work after several tries, click through to System Recovery Options, open a Command Line to use the Bootrec.exe tool running each one of the commands as shown in tutorial. If ScanOS or RebuildBCD does not find an OS, be sure to do the final steps to export and delete the BCD store which often will find and correct it. Now try to reboot and if necessary run Startup Repair again.

6. If this isn't sufficient then try updating the volume boot code using the command bootsect /ntfs60 C: (replace drive letter with your System drive letter) as illustrated in this tutorial for How To Use Bootsect /nt60 To Update the Volume Boot Code to BOOTMGR

7. Try booting into Safe Mode with Networking to install, update and run a full malware scan with Malwarebytes followed by SFC /SCANNOW Command.

8. If running Malwarebytes in Safe Mode with Networking does not work to rule out malware as a cause for the computer not starting, the Recovery Environment (RE) is an available option in Windows 7. At this point the assistance of the System Security forum can be requested to provide guidance on a diagnostic tool to run a scan in the RE environment. Scan results will determine the next course of action.

9. As a last resort boot free Partition Wizard bootable CD to Explore C to see if your files are intact and post back a camera snap of drive map here for more help. Screenshots and Files - Upload and Post in Seven Forums - Windows 7 Forums

Make sure in an MBR install that C or the 100mb System Reserved partition (preferred) is marked Active: How to Set Active/Inactive partition -Partition Wizard Video Help. A UEFI install will have an EFI System partition on a GPT formatted disk and no Active flags.

Then click on HD to highlight it, from Disk tab select Rebuild MBR, Apply: Partition Wizard Rebuild MBR - Video Help.

If Windows 7 doesn't start and you restored Active flag, run Startup Repair 3 Separate Times. If marking 100mb Active fails to Repair x3, then mark Win7 partition itself Active and try above steps again.

For a bootable flash stick version of Partition Wizard write it's CD ISO to stick using Universal USB Installer. This is illustrated in How do I boot Partition Wizard bootable cd from my USB?

Without the Partition Wizard CD you would Mark Partition as Active (Method Two) from DVD/Repair CD System Recovery Options then run the 3 Startup Repairs.

Sometimes a deleted/missing partition can be restored by PW Partition Recovery Wizard.

10. At this point you may be wondering how far you want to go to try to rescue your install, especially since you can rescue your files anyway and your install may not be as good as the reinstall we can help you do. If you're ready to throw in the towel then skip to Step 11.

If not then for an MBR install you may want to try restoring the Registry backup which Win7 periodically stores at C:/Windows/System32/Config/RegBack. This can be done manually using the procedure in Startup Repair Infinite Loop Recovery - Windows 7 Forums; however this and other key repairs have now been automated by NeoSmart in Easy Recovery Essentials.

11. If these all fail you can copy out your data using your Windows 7 installation media or System Repair Disk using this method to Copy & Paste - in Windows Recovery Console, or Paragon rescue disk burned to CD with Windows Image Burner, or a Linux boot disk like Peppermint3 - Create Live CD/DVD/USB To Use For Emergency Backup - Windows 7 Forums.

12. Then run Factory Recovery from its partition following steps you can find by googling, in the Manual on your computer maker's Support Downloads webpage or in this list of Recovery Methods, disks you made or order from computer maker's Tech Support, or follow these steps to Clean Reinstall - Factory OEM Windows 7 or Clean Install Windows 7.

information   Information

If you can't boot disks or flash stick most of the time it's due to User failure. Set the Hard Drive as first device to boot in BIOS setup then trigger the disk or flash stick using the one-time BIOS Boot menu key given on first screen or in Step 9 above. If no such key or key doesn't work then set DVD drive first to boot in BIOS setup, Save changes, exit. How to Boot A Computer from CD or DVD - YouTube

Place DVD/CD in drive, reboot. Do you receive the prompt to "Press any key to boot disk?" If not the disk may not be burned correctly. Try ImgBurn at 4x speed.

Flash stick may be listed under USB, Removable or Hard Drives and often requires expanding + one of these to see all choices, is normally listed by brand name.

Reset the BIOS to defaults after taking note of SATA controller setting: Clear CMOS - 3 Ways to Clear the CMOS - Reset BIOS. Try disk again.

Try booting flash stick installer which should be listed in BIOS Boot order or Boot Menu under USB, Removable or HD's for: OS repairs or reinstall, WD disinfection, Partition Wizard repairs. If these fail try unplugging DVD drive.

As a last resort you can replace the DVD drive, or rescue your files with Paragon Rescue CD which will boot itself, then boot Partition Wizard bootable CD which will also boot itself to wipe the HD, which will in turn force the installer to boot itself for reinstall.

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15 Mar 2012   #1

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview 64-bit 9926 Multiprocessor Free

Thanks for it, Greg ! Now it will be easy to find out.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Mar 2012   #2
Microsoft MVP


Hi Archie, and thank you.

I'd kept these in a post I've linked countless times because I thought it more of a compendium of others' tutorials than one of my own. But Shawn gave the go-ahead so here it is.

Please feel free to add your own steps or suggest changes and I will try to work them in.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Apr 2012   #3

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1

Thanks, Greg. I've bookmarked it and printed it for future reference. Well done.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Jul 2012   #4

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Thank you, very useful to know, saved for future reference.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Jul 2012   #5

windows 7 professional 32-bit
No start

My problem is that the OS screen doesn't stay up long enough to F12 or F8. It takes me directly to Welcome then dies.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
09 Jul 2012   #6
Microsoft MVP


You do not want the OS if trying to access one-time BIOS Boot menu, Recovery or Advanced Boot options on F8. If OS starts it is too late. Start tapping the key vigorously when you see the first BIOS screen.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
25 Jul 2012   #7

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

Greg, this is great!


My System SpecsSystem Spec
07 Aug 2012   #8
Capt.Jack Sparrow

Windows 7 Ultimate - 64-bit | Windows 8 Pro - 64-bit

I didn't see this one till now. Great tutorial Greg!
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Aug 2012   #9

7 Pro x64 SP1, XP SP3 VM

Good stuff, Greg...bookmarked
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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