Home > Troubleshooting Fridays > Windows XP Will Not Boot – 10 Things

Windows XP Will Not Boot – 10 Things


notebook, and two persons on white background When your computer hardware appears to power up okay, but the Windows XP operating system won’t boot properly, you have to begin a troubleshooting expedition that includes getting into the operating system, determining the problem, and then fixing it. To help you get started on this expedition, here are 10 things you can do when Windows XP won’t boot:

  1. Use a Windows Startup Disk: This should be the first thing you reach for and try when your Windows XP workstation will not boot. This simple boot disk can overcome 30% of the fail to boot problems, which are often caused by corrupt boot files
  2. Use Last Known Good Configuration: This will boot your system with the configuration used the last time Windows Booted and Logged-On Successfully. However, if you’re having problems with a system which was able to logon successfully, this will not resolve your situation. This does, however, work well when you have a problem booting Windows after making a change to your system, such as installing or removing hardware.
  3. Use System Restore: If you can boot into Windows, try the Windows System Restore option to get you back to the last time a checkpoint was made. If you cannot boot into Windows, try pressing F8 to enter into Safe Mode and try System Restore from here.
  4. Use Recovery Console: Things are beginning to look serious, and more powerful tools are needed. Boot your system using the Windows XP CD and enter into the recovery console.
  5. Fix the Boot.ini file: check the Boot.ini file and repair as needed
  6. Fix the corrupt partition boot sector using the recovery console
  7. Fix the corrupt master boot record (MBR) using the recovery conole
  8. Disable automatic restart via Safe Mode – this may provide additional error codes, instead of simply rebooting the machine
  9. Restore your system from a known good backup
  10. Failing a restore from backup, try an in-place upgrade. This can be dangerous with unknown consequences. In general you should only perform upgrades on known working systems. However, this is a good last ditch effort before rebuilding the system.

This post was adapted and based off work by Greg Shultz.

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  1. debzopinion
    Feb 28, 2010 at 06:43

    I had a broken XP system and no startup disk. Without a recovery console, I could have tried your options 2,3,5,8 and 9. I did try them out then (of course I hadn’t come across your blog), but they were of no use. (I did not understand your point 10.) But the fact is that recovery software apart from that in the XP cd is difficult to find…and you get only floppy images for the XP OS for free on the net, not an iso image. So, recovery is easier said than done.

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