How to Diagnose a Computer That Won’t Boot

Computer won't bootWhat a day. Your computer is not booting. This is a tragedy that seems to find many of us. It comes about without any warning or reason that makes sense. Windows fails to boot at all. This failure can occur at various stages of the boot sequence. You might make it all the way to the Windows boot screen and it still could refuse to boot. The best way to diagnose this is to start from the windows load screen and work backwards to a totally dead machine.

One little piece that I should add here is this, make sure that you have power going to your tower and all of the other peripherals that require a power source. That is if your machine does not respond at all. Check power connections, surge protectors, and breakers or fuses. Surge protectors may kick out need to be reset or even replaced sometimes. If that fails to be the problem or you have power then you should continue.

One of the last things that Windows will do before it is ready to use is to load the personal settings of the user attempting to log on to the computer. This happens to include the Windows registry, network connections, and any security settings in the account. There are a lot of areas that can affect boot up at this point. If it happens to hang or is very slow here, it can be a variety of things. Some things to check would include physical errors on the disk, fragmentation, holding the swap file, or it could be connectivity if you are part of a network that boots from the server.

The “Blue Screen of Death,” as it has been called, is a screen that sometimes appears before a crash. Any time there is a blue screen, hang or crash that occurs after windows boots, this would be included here. If this happens over and over again during boot, it could be anything from a bad device driver to a nasty virus, or spyware that has invaded your computer. The best thing to do first would happen to be booting in safe mode.

Safe mode disables many of the operating system’s components. This will probably disable the affected component that has created the problem. While in this mode you can run a virus scan which would be highly recommended. This is a great place to run the system file checker as well to catch any system file errors. It would also be advisable to get any Windows updates that may be available. They could include a security patch or update that could take care of your problem as well.

If safe mode will not even boot or work, then the next thing to do would be to use the recovery console. A recovery console can be found on your Windows installation disc. It can be installed to your computer before a problem occurs. Otherwise you will have to use your recovery console directly from your install disc. This will allow you to copy files, like to a flash drive for instance, you will be able to undo a an install that may have caused your boot problem, or if your master boot record should be corrupt you will be able to repair it here also. This method is best for a computer that will not even boot to the Windows logo, if it boots at all.

A truly scary message for anyone to receive is “Operating System Not Found.” If you have this message appear it typically means that your operating system does not exist on your hard drive anymore. If this is the case there could be something simple preventing your boot up, and your computer not recognizing your OS. Begin by making sure that you do not have a floppy or compact disc in any of those drives. Make sure that any external drives or mass storage devices, like a flash drive are not connected as well. If you try to boot up and your computer tries to boot from one of these locations it will not find windows and will fail to boot. If that is the case you may want to adjust your boot sequence to prevent further errors. This is a very common mistake and it happens all of the time. So don’t stress over it if this happens to you.

If you find that your computer doesn’t appear to have a hard disc, this can be very scary. It can get interesting when the recovery system doesn’t even recognize the hard drive. Most commonly this will result from your CMOS memory losing its contents. The CMOS memory contains your BIOS configuration settings. This can be caused by a power surge or malicious software. Most commonly the CMOS battery no longer has a charge. This looks like a flat hearing aid or watch battery. The location and type of battery varies from machine to machine. It is most commonly found on the machine’s motherboard.

The CMOS settings on most computers will tell the computer exactly what hard disk that you have. You will want to check your BIOS settings to make sure that the settings are in fact correct. You may have to make contact with a tech support representative to be sure that your CMOS settings are correct. If there happens to be a misconfiguration of the CMOS settings bios may recognize it as a hard drive, which would require refiguring your CMOS settings. If you conclude that it is your hardware then it is time to see a local repair shop or contact the machine’s manufacturer.

If your computer doesn’t even go so far as to check for the hard drive, or nothing appears on the screen at all, you are likely to have a hardware issue. If the machine only beeps a few times and then does nothing, then your computer’s Power On Self Test, or POST, is telling you that there is something is wrong. This means that the computer cannot display an error message for whatever reason, and the beeps are the POST code describing the error. This pattern of beeps relays the issue to a technician. With this being your concern you would want to take the computer to a tech for information on the issue and what can be done.

Finally, if nothing happens at all when you power on, ensuring that you have power running to your system, then you then something is likely to be seriously wrong. It could be a failed power supply which is the most common occurrence in this type of scenario. It is also possible that critical motherboard components have failed. If you have installed a peripheral card recently, it may have been installed incorrectly which could also create this kind of problem.

Modern computers are very complex, and the operating systems that control them even more so. Every problem will come from its own origin, so a boot error cannot just be narrowed down by the fact that your computer will not boot. It will take some trouble shooting to get down to the issue that has prevented your machine from operating successfully. Hopefully this article has helped you to understand the nature of your problems and a method by which you can repair it. Hopefully you yourself can even resolve the issue. Good luck with your computer.

Filed under: PC Hardware Troubleshooting

Comments are closed.