Windows 10 Won’t Boot? 12 Fixes to Get Your PC Running Again

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Windows 10 Won’t Boot? 12 Fixes to Get Your PC Running Again

Key Takeaways

  • Start with the most straightforward fixes and then move gradually to the more complex ones.
  • Try booting in Safe Mode, which can fix boot problems. Use Windows Recovery or create a Windows 10 recovery drive.
  • Check your battery and charger if your laptop won’t boot. Ensure you’re testing one element at a time and use the correct power adapter.



Windows 10 won’t boot? It’s scary, but don’t despair if your laptop or PC won’t start. There are many fixes out there. The trick is knowing which fix to use first. Our advice is to start with the most straightforward fixes and, in order, move to the harder ones.


1. Unplug All Your USB Devices

A serious issue with Windows 10 updates is that sometimes your computer won’t boot because of a conflict with a USB device. You can solve this problem by unplugging all USB devices (and other unneeded peripherals) and restarting the computer. In some cases, just unplugging the USB device can unstick a stuck load screen.

If it doesn’t work, plug your devices back in. If it does work, you can still re-plug your USB devices.

2. Try Windows Safe Mode

Another super easy fix for Windows 10 boot problems is Safe Mode.


Safe Mode is an alternative boot scheme that starts your computer with a minimum of software and drivers. The modified boot process can bypass driver and software problems. The weird thing is sometimes starting the computer in Safe Mode can fix boot problems. It’s unclear what processes run in Safe Mode, but experience has taught me it’s a practical and easy fix.

You might have problems entering Safe Mode if your computer doesn’t boot. There are two relatively easy ways to get into it.

Method 1: Enter Safe Mode From Windows Recovery

Some unbootable computers freeze on the Windows splash screen.

However, you can force the computer to enter Safe Mode by interrupting the boot process three times in a row by holding the power button down, automatically triggering Windows Recovery. Once the Windows Recovery menu appears, do the following:

From the Choose an option recovery window, choose Troubleshoot, Advanced options, and Startup Settings.

From Startup Settings, you can reboot the computer into Safe Mode, either with the internet-enabled or disabled. Either option should work.


FREE CHEAT SHEET: The Ultimate List of Helpful Windows Alt Codes

Method 2: Safe Mode With a Windows 10 Recovery Drive

If you cannot enter Safe Mode, you must create a Windows 10 USB recovery drive. The recovery drive contains the Windows 10 recovery environment—which used to be accessible by tapping F8 on boot. Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to eliminate this feature.

Creating a recovery drive requires another Windows 10 or 11 computer and a USB drive with at least 1GB of storage. If you want to create a system backup (you’ll see an option to back up system files to the recovery drive), you’ll need at least 16GB of storage.

Launch Control Panel > Create a recovery drive.

create_recovery_drive_windows_10

Then, follow the instructions.


After creating the recovery drive, you can boot your computer from it only if you’ve turned on USB drives as bootable from the POST environment, also known as UEFI or BIOS. After enabling USB drives as bootable, insert the drive into your computer and restart (this may require hitting the reset button or holding the power button down for a few seconds).

It’s also worth mentioning that a full installable copy of Windows 10 created with the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool offers the same features as a recovery drive.

3. Check Your Battery and Charger

If your laptop won’t boot, battery or power adapter issues can cause the issue. For example, if you aren’t using the correct power adapter, it might not possess enough wattage to complete a boot cycle. Furthermore, a failing power supply can output an inconsistent voltage, which leads to stability issues, particularly on boot. If an insufficient power supply or battery is the problem, you will experience a crash (rather than freezing) during the boot process.


Check that the cable works by trying it out on another laptop if both laptops use the same voltage. However, remember that using a higher voltage output power supply on a lower voltage system can damage your computer.

A second option is to remove your system’s battery (if it’s removable) and plug it into a power source.

The key here is to ensure you’re only testing one element at any given time. If power issues interfere with the startup, you must know whether the battery or power adapter is the reason. We’ve covered replacing a laptop battery or troubleshooting defective hardware.

4. Turn Off Fast Boot

A setting inside your BIOS or UEFI called Fast Boot allows Windows 10 to start faster by preloading drivers. Unfortunately, Windows Update can break Fast Boot compatibility. Fortunately, you can turn Fast Boot on and off through your BIOS rather than from inside Windows 10.

The method of entering the BIOS/UEFI screen differs between PC brands. For most people, tapping the Delete key while booting should enter the BIOS. The two other keys that might work are F2 and Escape.


After entering BIOS or UEFI, the Fast Boot option is usually part of the Advanced options, although it can be anywhere.

If you don’t see any Fast Boot entry, your computer was made before 2013, as they did not include a Fast Boot option.

5. Check Your Other BIOS/UEFI Settings

A misconfigured BIOS/UEFI can prevent your desktop computer from starting. Some laptops have an accessible BIOS/UEFI, but many do not.

BIOS/UEFI is a pre-boot environment containing the hardware settings for your computer. They’re helpful for recovery because they work even when Windows doesn’t. Accessing these settings requires launching your computer in BIOS mode. Once in BIOS mode, check the following settings:

Secure Boot

windows 10 secure boot mode can interfere with startup


Secure Boot on the wrong setting can cause your computer not to start. You can disable Secure Boot in the BIOS, but doing so may require resetting Windows 10 to factory settings and/or your BIOS. But, disabling Secure Boot may stop you from upgrading to Windows 11.

The reason Secure Boot causes problems is that it’s designed to protect computers against malware. Because it checks the drivers and hardware loaded by Windows at startup, any driver or hardware component not recognized by the system will generate an error at boot.

Secure Boot settings are located under Boot options. You can turn it on or off. It should be set to Windows UEFI mode instead of Other OS (usually Linux).

Compatibility Support Module (CSM)

windows 10 boot issue uefi bios utility

A boot drive formatted using a BIOS system requires an MBR partition table. A UEFI-formatted disk requires a GPT partition table. CSM allows for the UEFI system to function as the older MBR system.


Related

How to Convert MBR to GPT Without Losing Data in Windows

There are two easy ways to convert MBR to GPT without losing a scrap of data. In this tutorial, we cover both methods.

Reset Your BIOS Configuration

If your BIOS settings are incorrect, but you don’t know how to fix them, sometimes resetting the BIOS/UEFI to factory defaults fixes the issue.

6. Try a Malware Scan

Malware is a major cause of an unbootable computer. The best method for dealing with malware is a bootable anti-malware rescue disk. I prefer Kaspersky’s free disk as it only requires downloading the image and using Etcher to image a flash drive or other writable disk. Etcher works in Windows, macOS, and Linux.

You can then boot into the afflicted computer using the rescue disk and remove malware preventing the computer from booting.

Please note that Kasperkey’s disk image requires a UEFI system. See Step 5: Check Your Other BIOS/UEFI Settings for details.

Download:Kaspersky Rescue Disk (Free)

7. Boot to Command Prompt Interface

Even if your PC can’t boot into Windows, it might still be possible to boot into the Command Prompt. Using this interface, you can perform more troubleshooting procedures. You’ll need Windows 10 on a bootable disk or USB drive to perform the procedure, so use another computer to set that up before you start.


To boot to the Command prompt, start your computer. While it’s initializing, watch out for details of a combination of keys allowing you to enter the BIOS. This information is typically delivered alongside the vendor logo.

Navigate to the Boot tab and make the USB or DVD drive the first bootable device. Your choice here will depend on where your copy of Windows 10 is located. Again, the specifics of this process may vary from one system to another, so consult the on-screen instructions.

Next, insert the disk or drive containing Windows 10 into your system, save your configuration, and restart your PC.

When prompted, use your keyboard to specify that you want to boot using the disk or drive.

Enter the requested language, currency, and input preferences, then select Repair your computer on the next screen. Next, choose Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Command Prompt. You should then see a window to enter commands.

Related

What Is the Difference Between CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM in Windows?

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8. Use System Restore or Startup Repair

Windows 10 choose a recovery option

If you’re already booting Windows 10 from a disk or drive, it’s well worth using a couple of utilities that are available as part of the process. Once you’ve booted from the drive as detailed above, you’ll get access to options to get your PC back on track. Look for System Restore and Startup Repair on the Advanced Options screen.

System Restore is a utility that allows you to return to a previous Restore Point when your computer is working normally. It can remedy boot problems caused by a change you made rather than a hardware failure.

Startup Repair is a general-purpose troubleshooter for issues that prevent Windows from starting up. If you’re struggling to find the source of your boot issues, running the utility can find a solution.


9. Re-assign Your Drive Letter

A system with more than one drive installed can cause boot issues for Windows 10 users if their operating system (OS) volume has its drive letter unintentionally unassigned. However, you can fix this problem with minimal fuss by booting to the command prompt interface.

Boot to a command prompt window as explained above, then enter the following to run the disk partition utility:

diskpart 

Once this is done, input list volume to print the details of all the volumes currently on your system. If your boot volume doesn’t have a letter drive, you must assign one.

command promp diskpart list disk

To assign a letter to a drive, you can use the select and assign letter commands.

For instance, if I wanted to assign the letter E to the Audio CD volume in the above image, I would first input select volume 0 and then input assign letter=E to complete the process.


As always, be very careful when making changes in the command prompt. Making mistakes here can cause further problems with your PC.

10. Replace the Windows 10 Bootloader

If you run into problems while trying to reinstall Windows 10, you may encounter the new version of the bootloader utility. This can sometimes interfere with booting an existing copy of Windows.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively straightforward fix. Boot to the command prompt interface and enter the following:

bcdedit /set default bootmenupolicy legacy 

Restart your computer, and you should find that the legacy bootloader interface has replaced the Windows 10 iteration. You should have no further problems entering Windows 10 Safe Mode or accessing your existing OS installation.

11. Try a Third-Party Utility

Figuring out the cause of the problem is the most challenging part of remedying boot issues. When your system can’t even boot, diagnosing the problem is difficult. However, a third-party utility called Boot Repair Disk might have more success.


Boot Repair Disk is an open-source rescue disk that you can use to find and fix issues preventing your PC from booting automatically. You only have to select whether you’re using a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. Tests and any fixes are carried out automatically, although there are options that allow for tighter control.

It does not guarantee fixing your PC, but it may identify hidden problems.

12. Factory Reset

We’re getting into more difficult and destructive repair options. Aside from a factory reset, the more difficult options include restoring and refreshing your computer. Each has its advantages and weaknesses.

A factory reset destroys some apps and other data, but you can opt to keep some of your files. A Windows 10 factory reset (Microsoft refers to this process as just “reset”) restores the computer to its default operating state.

13. Repair Update (“In-Place Upgrade”)

The repair installation is similar to a factory reset, except in one big way: it completely reinstalls your operating system. Unfortunately, it requires downloading the entire Windows operating system, and you’ll need a functional Windows computer with an internet connection.


This method requires a functional computer, a DVD or USB drive, and an internet connection. More or less, you must download and run the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool and use it to create a bootable installer.

This method is fairly complex, but if you feel up to it, here’s how to use the in-place upgrade method for fixing Windows corruption issues.

Windows 10 PC Not Booting? You Can Fix It Yourself

We recommend starting with the easy repair methods and progressing to the more information-destructive options. The easiest fixes are often the most successful, such as removing USB devices, using recovery disks, and performing soft resets. The more complex options, such as the in-place repair install, and hard reset, will destroy your data and are less likely to succeed.

Remember that “booting” a computer differs from Power On Self Test (POST). A computer that doesn’t display a splash screen and can’t even enter its BIOS or UEFI mode needs its hardware diagnosed for problems.


Unfortunately, solving Windows 10 and 11 boot problems is more difficult than in previous Windows versions, thanks to removing an easy-to-access Safe Mode. Yes, you read me right. Microsoft removed the F8 option for booting in Safe Mode to give us a two-second faster boot. That’s why it’s extra essential that you use a 16GB flash drive to create a system recovery drive.