What can I do if my Windows 7 or Windows Vista laptop won't start?

Started ‎05-18-2012 by
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What can I do if my Windows 7 or Windows Vista laptop won't start?

Question

Note: If you're using Windows 8, please see this article.

 

My Windows 7 or Windows Vista computer is unable to boot. What can I do?

 

Symptoms could include one or more of the following:

  • Power button does nothing
  • Blinking cursor on a black screen
  • Message saying "Bootmgr is missing"
  • Message saying "No bootable device"
  • A Windows error message
  • Restart loop
  • Other problems relating to being unable to boot

Answer

 

Possible Causes

 

There are multiple problems that could cause a computer not to start:

 

  • There might be a problem with the power.
  • A recently installed or upgraded program or driver could be interacting incorrectly with the computer.
  • The Windows installation on the hard drive could be corrupted. This can occur if the computer was turned off incorrectly or had a virus.
  • There could be an actual hardware failure.

We'll help you figure out which was the cause, fix it if possible, and back up your data if needed.

 

Troubleshooting Overview

 

When the computer powers on, the hardware must know to look on the hard drive for Windows before Windows begins to load. Once we have checked the basic systems of the computer, we will consider the actual windows installation.

If none of this can fix the problem, Windows might be corrupted beyond repair or there could be a hardware failure. We’ll help you backup your data and perform a recovery, returning the computer to its out-of-box condition. Performing a recovery will fix most software-related problems, including corruption of Windows and viruses. You can also skip directly to a system recovery if, at any point, the steps above become too complicated.

The steps below correspond to the steps in the article.

 

  1. Check the socket
  2. Perform a power cycle
  3. Check battery and AC power
  4. Reset the system settings (BIOS) to ensure the hand-off to windows is correct
  5. Attempt to boot in safe mode, a special way to load windows in the event of a critical system problem
  6. In safe mode, undo any changes that might stop Windows from loading correctly, uninstall anything recently installed, undo any recently changed settings
  7. Perform a system restore, which restores the computer back to a certain point in time
  8. Attempt a “clean boot,” which boots Windows without any additional applications starting
  9. Back-up your data
  10. Perform a system recovery 

Before Windows

 

Before Windows loads, the computer must be receiving power and the various parts of the computer must be communicating. Sometimes there can be a problem with the power that stops the computer from giving control to Windows. First, we'll check that these pre-Windows systems are working correctly.

 

1. Check the socket

 

The first step is to ensure that the power outlet is working.

 

  • Check that the electrical socket works by plugging another device into it.
  • Confirm that your laptop receives power.

 

2. Perform a power cycle

 

Even when your laptop is off and unplugged, residual power can still be held in some components. While this is normal, clearing it can help with boot problems. Perform these steps to complete what’s called a power cycle.

 

  1. Ensure the laptop is turned off.
  2. Unplug the laptop's AC power cable.
  3. Remove the battery (if the model has a removable battery).
  4. Unplug all wires or peripherals. This includes CDs, DVDs, USB sticks, mice, printers, and any other accessories.
  5. Hold down the power button for thirty seconds.
  6. Reattach the battery.
  7. Connect the AC adaptor to the power socket that was confirmed to be working in the first step.
  8. Connect the other end of the AC adaptor to your computer.
  9. Try starting the computer.

If your laptop starts normally now, you're done!

 

3. Check the battery and AC adaptor

 

If the laptop still won't start, the AC adaptor or battery may have failed.

 

  1. Ensure the laptop is turned off.
  2. Remove the battery (if the model has a removable battery).
  3. Attempt to start the laptop.
  4. If that doesn't work, reattach the battery.
  5. Unplug the AC power from the laptop.
  6. Attempt to start the laptop.

If the laptop works without one of those two accessories (the AC adaptor or battery), it would seem that the accessory has failed. If your computer is under warranty, please contact customer support. If your computer is not under warranty, you can purchase a replacement AC adaptor or battery from Toshiba Direct.

 

4. Reset the BIOS

 

The BIOS, which stands for Basic Input-Output System, controls the computer before Windows does. It tests the primary hardware components and then loads Windows. Sometimes the settings in the BIOS change and cause errors. We'll reset the BIOS. If you are unable to enter the BIOS settings and perform these steps, you do not need to continue with this article. You may have a hardware failure that would require servicing.

 

  1. When the laptop first starts, a message should be displayed specifying a key to press to enter Setup.
  2. On most computers, this is the F2 button.
  3. Press this button when prompted.
  4. Alternatively, try tapping F2 every half-second or so or try holding F2 while starting the computer.
  5. Once you enter Setup, follow the instructions displayed to reset the BIOS to defaults (usually pressing F9).
  6. Follow the instructions displayed to save and exit (usually pressing F10).

 

Loading Windows

 

At this point, we've checked the basic systems of the computer and are done troubleshooting the hardware. If your computer could not perform the earlier steps and won't respond at all, you may have a hardware failure that requires servicing.

 

We're now going to consider the actual Windows installation. If at any time these steps seem too difficult, you may skip to the recovery step (step 10). Problems with the Windows installation can occur after a recently added or updated application, game, or driver doesn't interact correctly with the rest of the computer. This could even be due to incompatibility.

 

5. Enter Safe Mode

 

Windows has a special mode known as Safe Mode. It is not fully functional, but it allows you to make changes to the laptop to hopefully fix normal mode. We're going to attempt to boot into Safe Mode to use it fix the laptop.

 

  1. With the laptop off, press the power button.
  2. Begin to tap the F8 key.
  3. If you tap too rapidly or start too early, you may get an error or hear beeping.
  4. Wait for the "Advanced Boot Options" screen to be displayed.
  5. If it doesn't display, you may shut down the computer and try again.
  6. On the "Advanced Boot Options" screen, use the up and down arrow keys to select "Safe Mode."
  7. Press ENTER.

If you are unable to enter Safe Mode, please skip to the section titled "Backup and Recovery."

 

6. Use Safe Mode to undo recent changes

 

When a computer won't start Windows, it's usually due to a recent change. If you installed a new piece of software before your laptop began to have trouble booting, you may want to uninstall it. Similarly, if you recently made a change to any system settings, you may want to change it back. If you have antivirus software, you may want to perform a scan. If you're not sure what to do here, feel free to skip to the next step!

 

7. Use Safe Mode to perform a system restore

 

Windows includes a utility called System Restore that can help with many problems. While this won't alter or remove any of your personal files, it will roll back your system settings and files to an earlier date. We'll use this to attempt to fix Windows.

 

  1. Open the Start Menu.
  2. Type "System Restore" in the search field.
  3. Press ENTER.
  4. Press "Next" in System Restore.
  5. A list of restore points will be displayed along with the date and time they were created.
  6. Select the most recent restore point.
  7. Press Next to continue with the restore.

If you'd like further help using System Restore, click here to view a video explaining how to use this tool.

 

8. Use Safe Mode to initiate a clean boot

 

As Windows loads, it loads many additional components such as services and startup items. Some of these are not vital. For example, some tools start immediately with Windows, such as antivirus software. From Safe Mode, we can instruct Windows not to load many of these. This will help you determine if one is causing Windows not to load properly. Note that this step is more advanced than the previous steps. If it seems difficult for you, you may consider asking for help from someone who is more comfortable with computers.

 

  1. Open the Start Menu
  2. Type "msconfig" in the search field.
  3. Press ENTER.
  4. In the "System Configuration Utility" window, choose "Selective Startup" on the "General" tab.
  5. Uncheck "Load Startup Items."
  6. Click the "Services" tab.
  7. Check "Hide All Microsoft Services."
  8. Click "Disable All."
  9. Press "OK."
  10. Restart the computer and see if Windows loads normally.

If Windows loads normally, you'll know one of those startup items or services was causing the problem. If this is the case, you may want to return to the System Configuration Utility and re-enable some items and services to determine which specific one caused the problem.

 

For more information on performing a clean boot, please see Microsoft's article.

 

Backup and Recovery

 

If these steps haven't fixed the problem, the final step is to back up your data and perform a recovery. A recovery will return a laptop to its original, out-of-box state and eliminates software as a possible cause. If the hard drive has become corrupted or if you have a virus, this is a great fix. While you may be hesitant to perform a recovery, if you're considering having your laptop serviced, a recovery is a necessary step of the repair process. In addition, we'll discuss options of backing up your data.

 

9. Backing up your data

 

If you were able to enter Safe Mode in step 5, backing up your data should be easy. To use Safe Mode to back up your data, perform the following.

 

  • Enter Safe Mode as you did in step 5.
  • Connect a USB flash drive or external hard drive.
  • Copy your important files to the flash drive or external drive.

If you were not able to enter Safe Mode, you may want to try rescuing your files. This method is only for advanced users. If it's too difficult for you, you may consider asking someone to help or taking your laptop to a professional. 

 

10. Recovery

 

As a final step, try performing a recovery. As mentioned previously, recovering a laptop to its original, out-of-the-box state is a great way to eliminate software as a possible cause of the problem. Note that doing a system recovery will return the laptop to its default conditions, completely wiping all data, documents, settings, and applications. Remember to backup your data!

 

  1. With the computer turned off, press and hold the '0' (zero) key.
  2. Continuing to hold it, press the power button.
  3. Continue holding '0' until the recovery utility begins.

 

If you have trouble starting the recovery procedure, you may consider ordering recovery media. If the recovery does not fix the problem, your laptop may not be booting due to actual hardware failure. Please contact customer support to set up a repair.

 

The following links provide additional information about system recover media and system recovery options:

 

11. Contact support

 

If none of these steps helped you, please contact customer support.

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