Fixing Boot Problems in Windows XP

It can be quite frustrating if you cannot get Windows XP to boot. Here are several things to try, which can solve boot problems:
  1. Look for clues where it hangs. First, if your computer is cycling through reboots, press F8 after the first beep of the reboot and select Disable the Automatic Restart on System Failure. Next time you boot, when the computer hangs, it may give you some clues to the problem.
  2. Use a Windows XP Boot Disk. This assumes you have made one prior to your problem. To create a boot disk, begin by formatting a floppy disk. Then copy the following files onto the disk: boot.ini, NTLDR, and Alternatively, you should be able to create this with a CD.
  3. Use System Restore. Assuming you can boot in Safe Mode (press F8 on reboot immediately after hearing a single beep, then select Safe Mode from the list of choices), from the Start menu, go to Accessories | System Tools and select System Restore. Follow the wizard interface to restore your machine to a previous point. Note that you will not lose any data, but you may have to reinstall some applications.
  4. Use Last Known Good Configuration. The Last Know Good Configuration is another option in the menu where you find Safe Mode when rebooting your computer. For more information on Last Known Good Configuration view Microsoft article #307852.
  5. Use the Recovery Console on your XP Disk. Reboot your computer with your Windows XP installation disk, and select the Recovery Console. From the Recovery Console, you can select which OS to log into (if this is your only OS on the machine, only one will be listed). When prompted, enter the administrator password (the default is blank -- just hit Enter). For more information on the Recovery Console view Microsoft article #307654.
  6. Use your backup. Many folks don't backup, while others just backup their data, but if you have a complete system backup, you can use that.
  7. Fix corrupted partition boot sector and/or master boot record. To fix a corrupt partition boot sector, go back to the Recovery Console and type fixboot c:. To fix the master boot record, you also use the Recovery Console. From there, enter fixmbr \Device\HardDisk0. This assumes that you are booting from c: and c: is on harddisk 0.
  8. Try reinstalling Windows XP. Boot from your Windows XP disk, and select Repair. Repair will overwrite your existing Windows installation but not destroy your data. After the repair completes, go to Windows Update (requires IE 5 or higher) to re-install all patches. Note that you may also need to reinstall some applications.
Of course having difficulty booting is no fun, and the fix can be time consuming. But now you have a way to fix this yourself instead of paying someone to do the same thing. Happy computing!


NAK00135 said…
Hello, MY Toshiba Satelite laptop has been running Windows XP for a few years now. Yesterday I was working and it started to freeze up. I shutdown wnet for a coffee break and when I cam back to restart, XP would not startup. I get the first screen which shows XP starting then a black screen that gives me startup options such as: safe mode, safe mode with networking, startup with last known settings, start windows normally, etc. However none of these selections will work. As soon as I select one and attempt to start the OS, the OS cycles back around and restarts taking me back to the black screen again. Also, for a brief moment a blue screen flashes but I am unable to read anything (split second flash). HELP!
Thanks, Greg
Chris Todd said…
Can you boot to DOS? Get a command prompt? If you boot from a CD, can you get to your hard drive. If these work, likely it's an OS issue and not a hardware issue.

From there, I would try #2 and #5 from this blog post. If that fails then you are looking at something more drastic such as a reinstall.
Unknown said…
My Windows XP wont boot in safe mode or boot from disk. After tyring safe mode and boot from XP disc I keep getting 'Not enough virtual memory or Paging for quota flash up then it restarts?
I cant get to a point where I can alter anything to try your fixes.
Please help.

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