What should I do if my computer does not boot into Windows?

Updated: 08/03/2018 by Computer Hope

When a computer starts or boots up, the Windows operating system will be loaded. There are many files that are executed and processes that are started for Windows to properly load.

If a computer is unable to load the Windows operating system, the problem can be due to several possible causes. Review the possible causes and resolution options below to try and resolve the problem on your computer.

Newly installed hardware

New hardware in a computer can sometimes cause problems with the computer being able to boot into Windows properly or at all. If you recently installed new hardware in your computer, turn off the computer, remove the new hardware, and start up the computer again.

If the computer can boot into Windows successfully after removing the new hardware, try connecting it again, if the problem persists the hardware may be incompatible or defective. If there is no new hardware or new hardware has been removed, and the computer is not able to boot into Windows, continue to the next section below.

Out of date or corrupt hardware drivers

The Windows operating system relies on drivers to understand how to communicate and work with hardware in the computer. If a driver is outdated or becomes corrupt, it can cause Windows to become unstable and sometimes cause the computer to not boot into Windows.

An option for trying to update or reinstall a driver is to boot the computer into Safe Mode (select the Safe Mode with Networking option). Once in Safe Mode, access the Windows Device Manager and check for any devices with a yellow exclamation point or red X next to them.

If any devices have an exclamation point or red X, right-click on that device and select Update driver to look for an updated driver on the Internet. If you cannot find an updated driver, try right-clicking on the device, select Uninstall device, and restart the computer. By uninstalling the device and restarting the computer, it will force Windows to try and re-install the device automatically, which can sometimes fix the issue.

If updating the drivers or uninstalling and re-installing the device do not fix the Windows boot issue, proceed to the next section.

Corrupt system files

When Windows is loading, many system files that are being executed. If one or more of those system files are corrupt, it can cause Windows not to load properly or at all.

You can fix corrupt system files by either activating a Windows restore point or running the Windows repair process.

Activate restore point

If Windows restore points have been created, you can try to activate a restore point before the Windows boot issue started to occur. Since Windows is not booting normally, you can try accessing Safe Mode to activate a restore point.

  1. Turn on or restart the computer and access the Safe Mode menu.
  2. Select the Safe Mode with Command Prompt option in the menu.
  3. At the command prompt, type rstrui.exe and press Enter.
  4. Follow the instructions and prompts provided to find and an activate a restore point before Windows started having issues booting into Windows normally.

If activating a restore point does not work to fix the Windows boot problem, or there were no restore points available, you will need to try the Windows Repair process.

Windows repair process

Some computers provide the repair feature through the recovery console or system recovery environment, which can be accessed when the computer is first booting up. Most often, one of the function keys, like F1, F2, F10, or F12, or possibly the R key will get you into the recovery console. Once in the recovery console, check for a Repair or Fix Windows option. The repair process should only replace the Windows operating system files and not delete any of your files.

If you cannot access the recovery console or system recovery, or a Repair or Fix option is not available, use a Windows installation disc or USB drive to access the Windows Repair feature. Start the computer and boot to the Windows installation disc. When the installation menu is displayed, check for a Windows Repair option and select that option. Follow the prompts to run the repair process. Again, only the Windows operating system files should be installed, and your files should remain intact.

If running the Windows repair process does not fix the issue, continue to the next section below.

Bad sectors or other hard drive issues

Problems on a hard drive, like bad sectors, can cause Windows to not boot up successfully. Hard drive issues can occur without warning, but they can also be fixed in many cases.

You can test a hard drive for failures using different free utilities, some of that are already available on your computer. Hard drive manufacturers often provide scan and test utilities for their specific hard drives.

Test the hard drive for failures and if any are found, run the available fix process to try and repair the problem. If the hard drive has too many failures or the fix process does not work to repair the issue, you will likely need to replace the hard drive.

If the hard drive is working correctly or repairing any hard drive issues does not fix the Windows booting problem, continue to the next section below.

Other hardware failures

If you did not install any new hardware and the hard drive is working correctly, it is possible that another existing piece of hardware in the computer is causing the issue. A defective motherboard, or the video card, or piece of RAM could cause Windows not to be able to boot properly.

To test for hardware issues, you can create and use an Ultimate Boot CD, which contains a collection of troubleshooting utilities to try and identify, and sometimes fix, hardware problems. If a defective piece of hardware is found, you will need to replace that hardware and then test the computer to see if it can boot into Windows successfully.

Re-install Windows

If after trying all of the above troubleshooting options, the Windows boot issues still occurs, the best course of action is to re-install Windows. A full Windows re-install will erase all files on the computer and re-install the operating system.

If at all possible, remove the hard drive from the computer and connect it to another computer as a secondary hard drive or as an external hard drive using an enclosure kit. Then, back up your files so that you do not lose any of it.

After you have backed up your files, connect the hard drive to the computer again and install the Windows operating system again. When going through the installation process, make sure to select the option to erase all files on the hard drive first. Doing so can help ensure that Windows is fully and properly re-installed and works again after the install process is complete.