Fix “Windows Won’t Boot” Problems [Windows 7/Vista]


Is your Windows 7/Vista system failing to boot correctly? Are you getting stuck at the login screen? Did you mess up the boot sector or MBR while tinkering with hard disk partitions? I am sure that, at some point or the other, we have all faced Windows boot loader related debacles. Today I will share a couple of quick tips to solve such problems. They won’t always work, but they are the basic recovery/repair tools that every Windows user should be aware of.

Arrow System File Checker (sfc)

According to Microsoft’s official description, “(SFC) Scans and verifies the versions of all protected system files after you restart your computer”. Given how many times I have managed to mess up winlogon.exe and explorer.exe, I am particularly familiar with the second scenario described above (getting stuck at the login screen). SFC can almost always fix problems caused due to corrupted system files.

Normally SFC can be run from the command prompt. If your system is in an unbootable state, enter Safe Mode (by tapping F8 repeatedly after powering on your system). If Windows fails to boot even into Safe Mode, pop in the Windows installation DVD, select Repair Your Computer option and open Command Prompt. Once cmd is open, type sfc /scannow. After it finishes scanning, restart your system.

SFC is something which is available not only in Vista and 7, but also in older systems like Windows XP. If you don’t want to run SFC manually, you can also use the Startup Repair option offered by the Windows 7 installation disc. This should automatically deploy the sfc tool, among other things. However, it will take more time. Also note that SFC can come in handy if you are experiencing frequent explorer.exe crashes and other system instabilities/performance issues.

Arrow Bootsect and Bootrec

As suggested by its name, bootsect modifies and updates the Windows bootsector. It can be used for writing/copying the boot sector to any disc. This tool is present in the /boot subfolder of the Windows 7/Vista recovery disc.

Bootrec is another system tool offered by the Windows recovery environment. It can be used to easily fix your MBR (Master Boot Record). It’s important to note that bootsect can’t be used to repair the MBR. It only updates the boot sector of every eligible partition (in other words partitions which contain Windows installations). Once common usage scenario for bootrec is to remove GRUB after uninstalling (read deleting) Linux. However, bootrec.exe /fixboot can be used to refresh your boot sector.

If you Windows 7 or Windows Vista system is having trouble booting properly, follow the steps given below:

Arrow As before, boot from your Windows 7/Vista installation disc. Choose Repair Your Computer and launch Command Prompt.
Arrow Type bootrec.exe /fixmbr and hit enter. This will update your MBR.
Arrow Type x:bootbootsect.exe /nt60 all /force and hit enter. This will apply boot code that is compatible with BOOTMGR on all partitions. Of course, boot code will not be updated in partitions which don’t have any Windows installations (in other words partitions which are not bootable). Don’t forget to replace the x with the appropriate target volume (generally your optical drive).
Arrow Now enter bootrec.exe /rebuildbcd. This will scan all partitions for Windows installations. When detected, it will give you the option of selecting the installations you want to add to the bootloader.

Once again, the Startup Repair tool should also be able to take care of the situation in most cases. However, there will be occasions where you will be forced to get your hands dirty. Knowing a little bit about these elementary Windows system repair tools can save you a lot of trouble.

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15 Responses to Fix “Windows Won’t Boot” Problems [Windows 7/Vista]

  1. Tony August 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    In windows xp their was a secound repair . this is no longer available in vista and 7. Is their a tool for this ?I use to be able after pressing f8 the nexted screen had a press r for repair and all was done for you.

    • sell textbooks January 31, 2011 at 1:55 am #

      Check out the windows website they generally have fixes there.

  2. Computer Tips Tricks October 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    In this case, I would always recommend users to remove their HDD and retrieve important data on another computer, before further fix.

  3. Rohit | Ipod Touch 4G October 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    thanx a lot for this post….it sometimes happens with my Vista also….:)

  4. Jasmine November 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    Luckily, no problems with my Windows 7 so far. :)

  5. Tamas from Hungary January 19, 2011 at 3:47 am #


    The “Bootsect and Bootrec” section saved my life :)
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    plus info: if you haven’t a recovery disk then use an installation disk. Select recovery, start command prompt. In this case bootsec and bootrec are located in x:\windows\system32


  6. sell textbooks January 31, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    Thats good to know thanks. I did have problems with this awhile ago.

  7. diacad February 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    With a system that will not boot Vista, I followed the directions and selected “Repair Your Computer”, but no “Command Prompt” option was given. Instead, a box appeared labelled “System Recovery Options”, which listed the Vista system. That being selected, clicking “Next” brought a box “Startup Repair” and “Your Computer Was Unable to Start – Startup Repair is checking your system for problems”. After a long time, it claims the repair was made and asks to reboot. But system still does not boot.

    How do you get the “Command Prompt” option?

  8. Michael Fuller February 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Did the drill – worked like a champ – my question is how did the bootsector/bootrecord get goofed up? I’d like an ounce of prevention as well.

  9. erichv March 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    I read all the above BUT I am not able to get to a Repair screen. I had t drives in this system, a 500GB as the Boot/c: drive and a 1,5TB as another drive.
    on the 500GB drive:
    If I try to boot from the original Windows 7 CD OR from a repair CD I made a while ago, itdoes the loading files and then either the 4 glowing panes of the windows 7 logo (Using the original disk) ir a live status bar (on repair CD) but thats it! I have left it for a day or night – nothing more happens.
    On the 1,5TB drive I can install a new Windows 7 But that means I lose my set-ups on the original drive – A year+ work!

    I did get to an Install mode once but the box where tyhe drive is supposed to be, is empty.

    I looked at the 500GB drive using the Ultimate Boot disk and compared it with a similar disk in another PC (This one I am typing on now) and they look the same, start sector final sector

    Is there a way to transver the NTBOOT whatever from thei drive to the other?

    ANything!! I really don’t want to rebuild my main set-up on the main PC!



  10. sonylaptopfrank April 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm #


    i cannot start my windows 7 in safe more or use recovery function, what can i do ?

    problem happened after windows 7 update, then after restart windows defender asked me to restart again, and then blue screen or auto restart forever.

    i would like to disable or uninstall windows defender as i can access the command prompt but i can’t find how to do ?

    And do you know how to uninstall windows latest update with command prompt ?

    Thanks for help.

  11. erichv June 19, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    A few months has passed since my entry 4 up but:

    What always gets me is that problems get posted but never reported back on when it is solved – That goes for me as well! Only getting a message in the mail from Rode Ntk reminded of my plea for help earlier this year.

    Well I got the 1.5TB drive running with a new Windows 7 install but kept the 500GB aside to attempt to recover it regardless – there was too much on it installed and tweaked over the past year or 2.

    I luckily also had an exact similar drive I could clean and copy “The Drive‚Äôs data to using various packages I downloaded – best result pas with Paragon Backup & Restore Lite.

    Also found that my Intel DX58SO was not too keen to start up in other modes – think it’s bios was “too clever” so I moved to and older generation motherboard to work with.

    Then with Ultimate Boot Disk and Casper Boot disk I managed to get the MBR better and then the target file in the Windows 7 installation sorted out.

    This took many iterations and unsuccessful attempts until the last one (of course – who will go on when you achieved your goal! (I found the sock on the last place Iooked!) When, Viola! My boot screen (Pic of Table Mountain) came up on my main system and I could log in.

    After there was one or 2 repairs required and I was home and dry!

    I DO NOW have MHS running solidly and backing up my 3 system and I do have recovery disks from them as well as the MHS.

    But the bottom line was: I did succeed ! and the young “Computer Boffins” around do not have the will, tenacity nor the experience to get my system back as I knew it should be able to be done.


    Erich Aged 64 and living in Cape Town, South Africa.

    • Pallab De August 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      Congrats. Perseverance always pays off.

  12. emobile_developer August 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing these helpful gadgets. These are really good solution to reply any window boot loader related debacle.

  13. andrew cameron September 22, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Hi in windows 7 you can run the startup repair options which you should run it about 3 times to give yourself the best chance of a recovery

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