What is the worst-case scenario when it comes to your PC? Windows gives you the blue screen, a cryptic error message or a completely black screen during the boot-up process! Beginners don’t even know where to begin; it even baffles IT professionals. Luckily, there are some very effective ways to repair Windows using Microsoft’s own tools! Here are five methods for troubleshooting problems during start-up and getting your PC running again.
Before we actually dive into the different ways to troubleshoot Windows XP, Vista, and 7, we wanted to remind you about the importance of creating an image. Yes, this is the most effective way to troubleshoot Windows start-up and restore it in case anything does not work. This includes all of your data, files, programs, and settings—everything! If something goes wrong, you simply insert a rescue disc or the Windows DVD, and roll back the image. If you’re on Windows Vista (Business and Ultimate versions only) or Windows 7 (any version), creating an image is fairly simple. Follow these steps:
- On Windows 7, open up the “Control Panel”, click on “Back up your computer” found under “System and Security”, and choose “Create a system image” from the left-hand pane.
- On Windows Vista (Business and Ultimate versions), go to “Control Panel”, select “Back up your computer” found under “System and Security”, and then click on “Back up your computer”.
Users of either operating system can save the image on an external USB drive (which I would recommend), burn it onto multiple DVDs, or save it on storage device on your network.
Depending on which option you choose and how much data you have, this process can take between 20 minutes and several hours. But you’ll be on the safe side! Remember to create an image on a regular basis in order to prevent data loss in case you need to restore your entire system.
Repair Method #1 – Restore your system using the “Last Known Good Configuration” mode
(Windows XP, Vista, and 7)
If Windows doesn’t start, the first thing you should try is the good, old “Last Known Good Configuration” mode. It restores many changes you made during your last Windows session, including driver updates, system settings, and registry changes.
Under normal circumstances, Windows should automatically offer you the “Windows Advanced Options Menu” (on Windows XP) or the “Windows Error Recovery” screen after Windows has failed to load.
However, if that screen never comes up, press the F8 key repeatedly right before the Windows boot logo would normally appear. Select “Last Known Good Configuration”, and wait for Windows to boot up. This works in many cases. If it doesn’t, select the “Safe Mode” option, and try to manually undo all of the changes you made the last time Windows worked; for example, you may need to uninstall a program, a driver, or an update.
Repair Method #2 – Repair Windows
(Windows XP only)
The Windows XP CD offers a repair option that restores all of the operating system’s files, including those that are responsible for it to start.
To repair Windows XP, insert the installation CD, and hit a key when Windows asks you to “Press any key to boot from CD”. Wait a moment, and then hit “Enter” when it says “Welcome to Setup”. Hit “F8″ and then “R” to perform a repair installation.
This should get your Windows XP system up and running again! If the repair option is unavailable, then the CD you’re using isn’t recognizing the Windows XP installation; this could have happened for several reasons, for example when you’re using an older Windows XP CD with SP1 or SP2 and you’re already on Service Pack 3
However, you still have the option to manually repair the startup files. Repeat the steps above until you get to the “Welcome to Setup” screen. Instead, press “R” to enter the recovery console, select your Windows installation (usually 1 for drive C:), and log in to the administrator account. Now enter the command: Bootcfg /rebuild. This tool scans your hard disk for your Windows XP installation. It should come back with the result “: C:\Windows” (or something similar).
To add your installation to the boot list, hit “Y”, and press “Enter”. Next, enter the name of the operating system you want to appear in the boot menu; note: this is irrelevant on computers with only one operating system. But, you could type in “Windows XP Home Edition” or “Windows XP Professional Edition”, if you like. Next, the bootcfg tool asks you to “Enter OS Load Options”. Type in “/Fastdetect”. That’s it! Windows should load up as normal.
Repair Method #3 – Perform a Startup Repair
(Windows Vista and 7)
Both Windows Vista and 7 offer a neat feature called “Startup Repair”. This solves the most common startup issues (repairing common registry keys, system files, and drivers usually associated with a failed startup) and has proven to be very effective.
With Windows 7, “Startup Repair” is fully integrated. After an unsuccessful start-up, Windows Error Recovery comes up and allows you to launch it, to automatically detect and repair any problems. Keep in mind that this might take awhile!
If you’re using Windows Vista, or if your Windows 7 system never showed the screen above, launch the Windows Startup Repair by hand. To do so, start your computer with the Windows DVD inserted, and hit a key when Windows asks you to.
Wait for it to start, hit “Next” and select “Repair your computer” in the next step.
Confirm the Windows installation, and hit “Next”. You’ll see the following screen.
Now, you’re in Windows Recovery Environment. Just click on “Startup Repair”; if that fails, move on to “Repair Method #4″ below.
Repair Method #4 – Rebuild important startup files
(Windows Vista and 7)
If you’ve performed “Startup Repair” and are still stuck with a non-booting Windows, then you may need to get your hands dirty and rebuild the entire startup system! Boot into Windows Recovery Environment (see Repair Method #3 above), and instead of launching “Startup Repair”, select “Command Prompt”. Now, enter the following commands one by one, and confirm each with Enter:
bcdedit /export C:\Boot_Backup
attrib bcd -s -h -r
ren c:\boot\bcd bcd.old
This will back up your old start configuration data and create an entirely new startup system. Continue on by entering the following commands:
Done? Reboot your system!
Repair Method #5 – Roll back an image
(Windows Vista and 7)
If all of the other methods have failed, and you used Windows to create an image (see our “Prevention First” section above), then try this last option.
Plug in the external hard disks you used to save the system image, and turn on your PC or laptop. Now, repeat the steps from “Repair Method #3″ under the “Windows Vista and Windows 7″ section to enter the Windows Recovery Environment. Instead of using “Startup Repair”, click on “Windows Complete PC Restore” on Windows Vista or “System Image Recovery” on Windows 7.
Select the latest image you want to restore and get back a working operating system!
Hopefully, after trying out at least one of these five methods, you will have a working Windows system again. Did the steps work out for you? Or do you have another nice repair trick up your sleeve? Let us (and all of our other readers know) by leaving a comment!
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