Can you fix system boot failure?

A system boot failure can be a frustrating experience for any computer user. When you press the power button and expect your system to start up normally, but instead get an error message or blank screen, it’s alarming. Rest assured, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to get your system booting properly again.

What causes boot failure?

There are a number of potential causes for boot failure:

  • Corrupted system files – The system files containing information critical for start up could have become damaged from a power outage, virus, or failed upgrade.
  • Faulty hard drive – If your hard drive has bad sectors or mechanical problems, it may prevent your system from booting.
  • Incompatible hardware – Adding new hardware that’s not fully compatible with your other system components can cause conflicts.
  • Bad memory modules – Faulty RAM chips or configuration issues with memory can lead to boot problems.
  • Disabled boot device – If your BIOS doesn’t have your main hard drive designated as the first boot device, startup will fail.
  • Full hard drive – A hard drive at full capacity won’t allow the OS to write boot files, resulting in failure.

Steps to fix the problem

If you’re experiencing boot trouble, there are a number of troubleshooting steps you can take:

  1. Check BIOS settings – Enter your system BIOS and verify that your hard drive with the operating system is listed first in the boot order.
  2. Remove non-essential hardware – Disconnect any extra internal or external hardware that you recently added to see if it’s causing a conflict.
  3. Repair master boot record – Use the bootrec command in your recovery options to rebuild your MBR.
  4. Replace faulty hardware – If you find an issue with your hard drive or RAM, you may need to replace the component.
  5. Start in Safe Mode – Boot your system into Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking to see if it’s a driver or program causing issues.
  6. Restore from backup – Use a system image backup you created to restore your PC to a previous working state.
  7. Reset your PC – As a last resort, reset your PC to fully reinstall Windows and delete all your files and programs.

Using bootable media

If your computer is unable to boot at all to access recovery options, you can use bootable media. This allows you to boot from an external device to access system recovery tools:

  • Windows installer disk – You can boot from a DVD or USB Windows installer to access troubleshooting and repair tools.
  • Recovery drive – Creating a recovery drive using a USB stick allows you to boot and access system recovery options.
  • Hirens boot disk – This disk contains many diagnostics tools to identify and fix boot issues.

Booting from one of these devices will allow you to access the advanced startup options in Windows to diagnose and repair boot problems.

Fixing common boot problems

Here are some solutions for specific boot failures you may encounter:

BOOTMGR missing error

The BOOTMGR controls the boot process and starts up the Windows Boot Manager. If it becomes corrupted or deleted, BOOTMGR will be missing. To fix:

  1. Insert Windows installer disk and select ‘Repair your computer’.
  2. Choose Command Prompt when the recovery options appear.
  3. Run the command: bootrec /RebuildBcd

This will reconstruct the BCD store and restore BOOTMGR.


This blue screen error indicates that Windows cannot access your system’s boot device. Potential solutions include:

  • Check connections to your boot drive and make sure it’s getting power.
  • Boot to Safe Mode or use Last Known Good Configuration.
  • Disable Fast Startup which can cause issues booting.
  • Roll back device driver updates that may be causing conflict.


If Windows loads in Safe Mode but not normally, a driver conflict or startup program is likely the issue:

  • Boot in Safe Mode with Networking and run sfc /scannow to check system files.
  • Use msconfig to disable startup items causing conflict.
  • Check Event Viewer system logs for driver issues.
  • Update problematic drivers from device manager.


Recovering from boot failure can be accomplished by methodically isolating the issue, whether it stems from hardware, driver conflict, system files, or boot settings. Utilizing the various Windows recovery and repair tools provides the means to get your system booting properly again.

Common Boot Error Likely Cause Fixes to Try
BOOTMGR is missing Corrupted system files, Boot Configuration Data issue Rebuild BCD, Windows reinstall, Recovery drive
INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE Hardware issue with boot drive, driver conflict, Fast Startup Boot drive diagnostics, Safe Mode, disable Fast Startup
BOOTING IN SAFE MODE Driver conflict, startup programs Disable startup items in msconfig, update drivers

Fixing a failed boot can be time consuming, but methodically narrowing down the cause through elimination will eventually resolve it. Don’t hesitate to reinstall Windows or replace any boot drive hardware that has deteriorated if needed to get your system operational again.

Common causes of boot failure

When a PC fails to boot properly, there are several common culprits to investigate:

  • Faulty hardware – Hard drive, memory, CPU and other hardware issues can prevent successful boot.
  • Driver conflicts – Incompatible or outdated drivers can clash with other components, causing boot problems.
  • Corrupted Windows system files – Important files like bootmgr may become damaged, resulting in boot failure.
  • Virus infection – Viruses and other malware sometimes target and modify critical system files necessary for booting.
  • Boot sequence change – Altering the boot order without the proper OS drive first will lead to failure.

Pinpointing the specific hardware or software issue will bring you closer to resolving the core problem.

Advanced troubleshooting techniques

For difficult to diagnose boot problems, advanced troubleshooting methods may be required:

  • Boot to Safe Mode – Isolate issues by using Minimum or Selective Startup to load only essential drivers and services.
  • System Restore – Roll back to undo system changes that may have caused boot failure.
  • Startup Repair – Automatically find and troubleshoot boot issues using this recovery tool.
  • System File Checker – Scan system files for corruption and restore from cache.
  • Event Viewer – Check System, Application and Setup logs for detailed error data.
  • Boot logging – Enable boot logging to record failures and identify exactly where in the boot process errors occur.

Taken together, these methods can uncover even obscure startup failures.

Preventing boot problems

You can take proactive measures to avoid a system boot failure in the first place:

  • Keep Windows and drivers updated to prevent conflicts from outdated components.
  • Make periodic system image backups to easily restore in case of system file corruption.
  • Carefully vet hardware changes before installation to check compatibility.
  • Monitor hard drive health and immediately replace deteriorating drives.
  • Use a UPS to protect against sudden power interruptions corrupting data.
  • Practice safe computing habits to avoid malware infections damaging system files.

Making boot reliability a priority will reduce downtime and frustration when problems do arise. Being prepared with backup images and recovery media can make a world of difference.

Recovering data from a failing drive

If your boot drive is failing, you may be able to recover data before it becomes inaccessible:

  • Use a Linux live CD or USB drive to mount and copy data from the damaged drive.
  • Attach the drive to another system as a secondary drive and backup needed files.
  • Remove the drive and attach to a USB enclosure or dock to access as an external.
  • Use disk imaging software to make a full byte-by-byte copy of the failing drive.
  • Use a SMART utility to check drive health and mark bad sectors.

With some effort, you can usually recover data from the boot drive before it fully fails. Just don’t attempt to boot the operating system from the ailing drive.

Repairing or replacing the boot drive

If the boot drive itself is causing startup issues, it will need to be repaired or replaced:

  • Run CHKDSK to detect and repair file system errors.
  • Format the drive and perform a fresh OS installation.
  • Update the drive firmware from the manufacturer’s website.
  • Replace the SATA or power cables to rule out connection issues.
  • Swap in a new drive and clone the OS partition if the old drive has failed.

Determining if software errors or physical problems are making the boot drive unbootable will dictate whether repairing or replacing it is the solution.

Boot Drive Issue Repair Option Replacement Option
File system errors CHKDSK, Format New hard drive
Frequent bad sectors SMART tools, repair utilities SSD upgrade
Intermittent connection Cable replacement M.2 NVMe drive
Drive not detected Enclosure/adapter Clean OS install on new drive


Experiencing boot failure can be alarming, but is usually repairable with persistence. Isolating whether it’s a hardware, software, drive or Windows boot manager issue will set you on the path to resolving it. Utilizing the repair and recovery tools provided by Windows installation media allows access to troubleshooting options even when the system won’t start normally. With the proper backup practices and safe computing habits, many system boot problems can be preempted completely.