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Several things can interfere with Windows 7's boot process. However, Windows 7 now has a helpful repair utility for just such situations.

Windows 7 won't boot - something about the boot loader. How do I fix it without formatting the hard disk? I have important data in it.

Occasionally, the information on the hard disk that tells your computer how to boot into Windows can become damaged or even deleted.

In the past, that required some fairly arcane tools and incantations to handle the situation.

The good news is that Windows 7 includes a repair facility that may very well clear it right up.

Repair Windows 7 boot

Boot from your Windows 7 installation DVD. (If you don't have one, it's possible [although not guaranteed] that you can download Windows 7 legally, burn that to DVD, and use it for this purpose.)

Introductory screen to the Windows 7 setup program

Don't worry that it says "Install Windows." We're not going to do that.

Verify your Language and Keyboard and click Next.

Windows 7 setup program, Install Now page

Do not click Install now.

Instead, click the Repair your computer link near the lower left.

Windows 7 repair searching for Windows installations

The program will now examine your machine for installations of Windows.

Windows 7 repair selecting which install

Chances are that you only have one installation, so simply make sure that it's selected and click Next.

Windows 7 repair, choosing a tool

Click the Startup Repair link.

Windows 7 repair, checking for startup errors

This tool actually checks for several different types of errors that can prevent Windows from starting. After it's completed, it checks and performs any repairs. You'll be instructed to reboot your machine.

This time, the boot should just work.

Repair your computer

The repair option on the installation DVD is a good utility to know about.

If your machine boots (or boots far enough), in many cases, you can also just press F8 before Windows itself starts loading at boot time to access the System Recovery tools.

Windows 7 Advanced Boot Options

In this case, you don't need your installation media.

Obviously, certain boot-related issues may prevent you from reaching this utility from the hard disk; in which case, you'll need that install DVD anyway.

Article C5092 - February 28, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Douglas A. Brace
February 28, 2012 6:39 PM

If you think ahead of time, you can create a System Repair Disc.

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/Create-a-system-repair-disc

You can also get someone else to create one for you. I believe that there are didn't discs for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7.

Originally when Windows 7 came you, you could download a free copy of the System Repair Disc but this is no longer possible.

Paul Schmidt
March 2, 2012 8:53 AM

You may have to do the "Startup Repair" three times because the utility repairs one item at a time (out of 3 possible).
Keep running it until you get the pc to boot.

Fr Bill Loring
March 2, 2012 11:10 AM

I have the windows 7 media disk for one of my computers, but we also have some laptops that use the same version but came without disks; can the one I have be used in one of the other computers if necessary?

For the repair console: almost certainly - for a re-install or other update of Windows itself: maybe, it depends on if the editions and versions are the same.
Leo
03-Mar-2012
Navin Patel
March 2, 2012 8:01 PM

Hi Leo:

Excellent piece of information.

Thank you and I enjoy reading your e-mails.

Wonderful job.

Navin Patel

Norby Fleisig
March 2, 2012 9:23 PM

Another common is when you have added a backup disk and Windows tries to boot from it. You will get a message about NTLDR being missing. Just keep hitting ESC when booting and then select your hard drive to boot. You can then fix your boot order.

Terry Hollett
March 3, 2012 1:01 PM

My nephew had a problem booting up his new Windows 7 computer that he had gotten for Christmas. Can't remember the exact error message. I first thought it was a corrupted MBR and tried to fix it accordingly but in the end it turned out to be where he had plugged in his USB external hard drive. The computer was trying to boot of it. I went into the BIOS to change the boot up sequence so it wouldn't happen again.

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