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My Computer Won’t Boot – Help!

By March 6, 2009Computer Tech Support


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Can I tell you how many times I have dealt with this issue?  Seriously.  I always say the same thing when first talking to a client with this issue: Take a deep breath and do not panic!  You should do the same.  It’s okay, we’ll figure it out.  Now, grab your favorite beverage and let’s dive in.

Now is not the time to start trying anything you can.  That may make matters worse.  First, did you make backups?  Hopefully you will say yes to that question.  You really have no excuse about backups, especially with services like Mozy.  So easy and cheap.  But I digress.

Okay, back to the matter at hand.  There are a number of ways that a computer will not boot.  Does your computer get to the Windows screen at all?  If not, then we may have more serious issues at play.  But again, do not panic.  Most situations can be rectified.

A lot of times, Windows can get to the load screen that shows the Windows logo, but no further.  It’s like it’s stuck.  Yeah, you will be tempted to smack it so it will move along!  I feel your pain.  If that’s the case, we may be able to overcome the problem.  By the way, I am going to title each area so you can navigate better.  If this scenario doesn’t apply to you, just scroll ahead.  I won’t be offended.

You Installed Something That Killed Your Computer (you Kevorkian you!)

First things first, did you make any changes before it stopped?  Did you add any hardware or install a new program or change a driver (like for a printer)?  If you did, then that is probably the culprit.  Let’s get you moving again.  Here’s how.

Okay, so you made a change and hosed your own computer.  Man, I hate when that happens.  What we are going to do is remove the offending hardware or software.  The way we do that is through the all powerful Safe Mode.  Yes, a lot of people don’t know about Safe Mode, but it’s your friend.  Here’s how to enter it.

Make sure your computer is off.  Now, turn on the computer.  Now, immediately start pushing the F8 key.  This is one of the keys at the top of the keyboard.  You usually don’t use it, so you may not know where it is off hand.

This will bring up the start up menu.  Select “Safe Mode” from that list and push enter.  You will see a bunch of strange “multi disk” readings go down your screen.  Don’t worry – that’s totally normal.  Okay, once it is loaded, you will get a prompt to say yes or no.  Say “yes” to enter safe mode.

Now you are greeted by huge icons and a small screen.  Welcome.  Now, let’s attack the problem.  If you just installed software, go to the Add/Remove programs icon in the control panel and remove it.  If you installed some hardware or a driver, let’s attack that.

Right click on “My Computer” and select “Properties.”  Select “Hardware.”  Now select “Device Manager.”  Another way to go there is to go to the Control Panel.  Go to “System,” “Hardware,” and then “Device Manager.”

Look for any yellow or red symbols that tell you, “hey, look at me, I’m messed up!”  Usually, those have a bad driver.  In that case, right click on the device and select “Update driver.”  Use a driver that you got from the hardware provider for your OS.

Sometimes, however, hardware goes south.  This is when you have to physically remove it from your computer.  If you don’t know how to do that, get someone who does.  A family teenager probably does. ;^)

But What If It’s None of Those and I Still Can’t Login?

Sometimes malware or software problems cause this.  And it is extremely frustrating.  But, alas, there are still some things we can do.  Let your heart rate slow and let’s attack this problem.

System Restore is a great help in these cases.  You will want to enter Safe Mode again.  Look in the scenario above for directions on how to enter it.  It’s in bold text so you can find it quickly – just stop when it talks about the yes/no prompt!

Now, when you get to prompt.  It will ask if you want to do a System Restore.  You want to answer “No” to go into System Restore.  I know, it’s totally confusing.

This wizard will guide you through a restore point to go back to.  Choose the nearest one before the boot problem.  Don’t worry, this doesn’t erase your documents or programs!  Reboot when it says to.  Hopefully this helps your issue.

What If I Don’t Get to Windows At All?

Ahhh, now we are getting a little more difficult.  But, once again, don’t lose hope.  We still may able to get it working.  There are varying levels of possible problems in this scenario.  Let’s take a look at some.

If you are getting messages about ntldr missing or corrupt, then check out that post I just linked to.  I did it a while ago.  That should help you navigate some of that.

If you are having error messages about a missing operating system or non-system disk.  Then you probably have a waxed boot partition.  This isn’t too bad to fix.

Now, you will need your XP installation disk (or Vista).  Boot up via the CD.  Now, sometimes your machine won’t boot to the CD and you have to change something in the BIOS.  Here’s a good guide on changing boot order.

Okay, now let’s boot to the XP installation disk.  It will ask you to “press any key to boot from CD…”  It goes quick, so when that appears press any key on your keyboard.  No, there isn’t an “any key” on your keyboard – though the question has been asked!

Now, at the setup screen, press “R” to go to the repair option.  Enter your administrator password.  If you don’t have one, just press enter.  Now, it finds your Windows installation – it’s usually 1.  Select it.  Now, at the prompt, type “bootcfg /rebuild.”  Do that without quotes.  You will be asked to add the installation to the boot list.  Type “Y”  Next it will ask you to type load identifier.  Just type “Windows XP”  Press enter.  Then it will ask you to type load options.  Type “/fastdetect”  Remove the disk,  type “exit,” and hit enter.  It should boot now, unless there are other problems.

And now we come to the big kahuna problem.

What if I can’t boot into Windows and my hard drive is clicking?

Okay, now we have a real problem on our hands, don’t we.  What you want to do now is get the data off that drive as soon as possible.  Don’t do anything else with the drive.  If you do, you could be losing data!

Now, most drives these days are SATA.  If that’s the case, then this external SATA drive dock is a huge help in this process.  You could also do this another way for free – and we will look at that too.

What you are gonna have to do is move this drive to a machine that does work and get the data off of it.  To do that, you have to physically remove the drive from your computer.  Bizarre, I tried to find a good tutorial, with pics, and can’t find any.

Well, if someone wants a tutorial on removing a drive, I can make that at a later date.  Just email me!

Now, once you have that drive out of the computer, you can either stick it in the external SATA drive dock or plug it into a spare SATA connection on your functioning computer.  Then I would simply dump the contents of that drive into a folder of the functioning drive.

The hard drive is toast when you start hearing the clicking noise.  And you should dispose of it.  I will do a follow up on hard drive disposal.  Please don’t just throw it in the trash – for a myriad of reasons.  One of them being your personal information!

Well, I hope that helped.  Feel free to comment or email me if I didn’t cover your scenario.



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