What to Do When Windows Won’t Start Up Normally

By Faithe Wempen

When you power on your computer, Windows is supposed to load and the desktop or Start screen is supposed to appear. If the computer gets hung up sometime during that process, something may be wrong with Windows, or with one of the programs that is trying to load itself at startup.

First off, make a note of the error message that appears, and go look it up on the Internet (on a different computer, of course, because yours isn’t working). There are many good online reference sources that can interpret an error message for you.

With Windows 8, if your computer fails to start up, an Advanced Startup Options menu appears, offering you some choices. Depending on your computer, you may not have the UEFI Firmware Settings item.

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From this screen, you have the following choices:

  • System Restore: This is a good first start. If Windows isn’t starting right because of a recent change to system settings, System Restore can help you by going back to an earlier system state. You’d be amazed how often this fixes the problem.

  • System Image Recovery: This option enables you to return your computer to a previous state using a disk image file. (Unless you happen to have a backup that is stored as a disk image — and most people don’t — this option isn’t going to do you any good.)

  • Startup Repair: Here’s a good place to go if System Restore doesn’t solve the problem. You’ll be prompted to choose your user account and enter your password. Then Windows starts a diagnostic routine that examines your account, including the drivers and applications you have set to load at startup, and helps you fix the problem.

    This is a great option for someone without a lot of techie knowledge, as it doesn’t require many decisions on your part.

  • Command Prompt: If you’re a power-user with knowledge of command-line commands, you will appreciate this option, which lets you type commands directly to the computer. Most people don’t have the knowledge to do that, though.

  • Startup Settings: Choose this option to reboot to a Startup Settings menu, which is similar to the startup menu that you could access in previous Windows versions by pressing F8 as the computer was booting. From here you can start up in Safe Mode, which disables all non-essential drivers and services, so you can troubleshoot problems with devices or applications that may be preventing Windows from starting normally.

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