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Windows 7: Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Boot

Troubleshooting Windows 7 Failure to Start

Published by gregrocker
15 Mar 2012 - Views: 370397
Published by

information   Information
These steps will attempt to repair the OS by disinfecting and then using repairs via System Recovery Options. 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 10 because in rare cases (e.g. on a failing hard drive) they may become inaccessible due to the strain of repairs

1. If possible unplug all other HD's while checking all cable connections. Boot into BIOS setup by tapping the key given for this on first boot screen, check that Windows 7 HD is detected and set to boot first (after CD/DVD drive). For a UEFI install to GPT disk the first boot device will be Windows Boot Manager.

2. Try booting into Safe Mode with Networking to install, update and run a full scan with Malwarebytes.

3. If Safe Mode is not working, download, burn to CD or write to flash stick, boot the disk and run a full scan with Windows Defender Offline. If it fails try one of these FREE Bootable AntiVirus Rescue CDs burned to CD using Windows Image Burner or ImgBurn. You can also move the HD to another PC to scan it with Malwarebytes.

4. If infection cleans up enough that Windows 7 will start then run SFC -SCANNOW Command to check for damaged System files.

If not post back the virus scan results in our Security forum for expert help.

5. Once the System is clean if it won't start boot into System Recovery Options via the F8 menu or disk as shown in tutorial, run Startup Repair repeatedly up to 3 separate times with reboots in between each - no matter what it reports.

6. If you need an installer for your licensed version to boot to run Repairs or possible Clean Reinstall, download the latest official Win7 installer w/SP1 ISO, burn to DVD or write to flash stick using Windows 7 USB-DVD Download Tool or UEFI Bootable USB Flash Drive - Create in Windows. 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.

7. 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 shown. 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.

Failure to boot disk is almost always user error. Set disk drive first to boot in BIOS setup, look for prompt to "Press any key to boot disk." Its absence likely means the ISO or disk is bad. Alternatively tap the one-time BIOS Boot Menu key to trigger disk drive.

8. If these fail, try running System Restore from 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.

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 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.

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 Windows 7 partition itself Active and try above steps again.

Make sure the Windows 7 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.

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 Windows 7 periodically stores at C:/Windows/System32/Config/RegBack. Until recently this was 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

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.

Related Tutorials

15 Mar 2012   #1

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit SP 1

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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