Use the F5 Menu to Troubleshoot Your PC - dummies

By Dan Gookin

As your PC boots up, you may encounter one of a multitude of start-up menus and options. Some are for troubleshooting purposes, and others may present options for starting the computer, selecting an operating system, or placing Windows into Safe mode.

The F5 key menu provides a way to manage multiple versions of Windows on one PC. It works the same way: You press the F5 key just as the computer starts, and hopefully before the Windows logo appears. What happens after pressing F5 depends on your version of Windows.

In Windows 7 and in Windows Vista, the F5 key summons the Windows Boot Manager, which displays a list of operating systems known to Windows. You can choose one from the list. Often, when no other version of Windows is installed you just choose to start Windows 7.


In Windows XP, the F5 menu looks similar, though it’s missing the Tools portion of the Windows 7/Windows Vista menu. When only one operating system is installed on the computer, what you see when you press the F5 key looks just like the F8 menu but with the addition of one menu item at the end: Return to OS Choices Menu.

You use the F5 menu to choose an operating system, though the menu itself isn’t a boot loader per se. It’s more of a way to manage multiple versions of Windows installed on the same PC.

Controlling the F5 menu is done by using the Startup and Recovery dialog box. Here’s how to venture to that dialog box:

  1. Press the Win+Break key combination to summon the System window.

    The Win key is the Windows key on your keyboard.

  2. Choose the link Advanced System Settings from the left side of the window.

  3. If prompted with a User Account Control warning, click Continue or type the administrator’s password to continue.

    The System Properties dialog box presents itself.

  4. Click the Advanced tab.

  5. In the Startup and Recovery area, click the Settings button.

    The Startup and Recovery dialog box appears.


    The list of operating systems at the top of the dialog box includes only those that Windows itself knows about — the same items that would appear on the F5 boot menu. Other options relate to that boot menu as well.

    The bottom section of the Startup and Recovery dialog box deals with how Windows handles a crash, including the infamous Automatically Restart option. You might consider deselecting that option at this point.

  6. Close the dialog box by clicking the OK button, and close any other open dialog boxes or windows.

If you installed Linux or another operating system on your PC, the computer uses a special boot loader as the computer’s start-up menu, not the Startup and Recovery options in Windows.