Help !!!  XP won't Boot !!

- here's how to get up and running -

- also see the WinXP Hives Backup and Restore page -

Unlike Win98, where boot problems are fixed by Safe Mode, or by using a boot disk - when XP won't boot - most users feel helpless. 

Protect Yourself for Next Time

  1. NTFS is touted as the holy grail for hard drives, but it has a huge drawback - you can't access the files with a boot disk !!  So you can't get out of trouble in many cases.  You can use FAT32 and it works just fine.  So use FAT32 for your Boot Drive instead of NTFS so that you can then Backup the 6 Registry Hives once a month - go Here Here for instructions on this
  2. then create the Backup Batch file from our "Backup WinXP Boot files and Hives" page and run it once a month or so
  3. if you have a floppy drive be sure to keep boot disks handy - both Win 98 (to access your FAT32 partitions) and WinXP.  BUT you still need boot CD's because today's viruses are too plentiful to kill with an antivirus program that can fit on a single diskette !!
  4. download and burn at least one emergency Boot CD's - EBCD (from http://ebcd.pcministry.com/ ), Ultimate Boot CD (from www.ultimatebootcd.com ), and if you do not have a floppy, get a Win98 boot CD

Also Keep WinXP Boot Diskette/s - since you are at this page, that indicates you have no XP boot diskettes (for the 6 diskettes method) or the single XP diskette method of bootng into XP.  In the future -  make sure you keep an XP boot floppy (not the 6 disks on Microsoft's site - they are for Install only).  To more info on this - see further down below, and also go Here.

Get back Up and Running

A)  if the problem is Software-related  ( and 90% of the time it is ) :

Do these steps in this order, and stop if your system boots up OK:

  1. Boot to your "Last Known Good Configuration" - press F8 right after the beep, and select "Last Known Good Configuration"

  2. Boot into Safe Mode and do a System Restore - press F8 right after the beep, and select Safe Mode.  Usually it will be fast - BUT if the boot seems to be taking forever - WAIT !!  It migbt take a half hour because Safe Mode will check your hard drive and it will do it in the background with no indication, as you wait and wait and wait.  So be patient when booting into Safe Mode.  Then when you get into Windows, go to: Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Restore, and restore the most recent Restore Point.  If that does not fix it, try again with the next older restore point, etc.

  3. check your drive - if you can get into Safe Mode but not into regular Windows, and you suspect a hard drive corruption - you can force the drive to be checked upon reboot.  Once into Safe Mode:

    Start/Run  .  .  .  cmd
    then in the DOS box, enter:   chkntfs /c drive:      For example, to check your C drive:   chkntfs /c c:
     - this will set the registry and tell Windows to check the drive using "autochk" (same as Chkdsk but it fixes errors) upon reboot
     

  4. try booting with your Emergency XP boot floppy - we show you how to make below.  If that gets you in - copy c:\boot.ini to c:\boot.bak - then copy all the files on the disk to the root of your C drive (in case some have become corrupted) and reboot without the disk.  If you have a specialized boot.ini, then open boot.bak and copy the lines of code into your new boot.ini

    try the recovery console - you will need to go into your PC's setup (BIOS) and set it to boot from CD.  Then boot from your WinXP CD, and press "R" for repair.  Then do the following:

         - run chkdsk /p  to repair any error on your hard drive - if that does not work try /r (takes longer
         - run FixBoot (to see the simple directions on these commands just type "Help command" - for example:  "Help FixBoot"
         - now type "Exit" to reboot and see if you can get into Windows 
         - if still no worky - retry the Recovery Console, but this time run bootcfg to rebuild your boot.ini file - exit and reboot
         - if still no luck - finally, run "fixMBR" - you will get warning prompts, but you have no choice - run it !!
    NOTE:  if you do not have a CD with the Recovery Console, then download the six disks from Microsoft (on another PC of course) and boot with them.  The WinXP Pro diskettes are available Here .

  5. copy in your backed up Hives - quite often a corrupt registry is the culprit - you should periodically backup your registry (it is composed of 5 hives, or files - see the Hives Backup section).  But for now, you probably have not backed any up - so get a set from the windows\repair folder as follows:
    NOTE:  if you have XP on an NTFS drive (always use FAT32 for your XP disk - for this very reason) - sorry this won't work - so skip to step 7

  6. try a WinXP reinstall "over" the existing copy (called an "in-place install" - or a "Repair" Installation) - this will retain all your files and programs, so don't worry about doing this.  

    l go into your PC's setup screen and set it to boot from the CD (set it to look for a boot CD "before" it looks to the floppy or hard drive).  

    l Boot with the XP CD - your system will say "Hit any Key to Boot from CD . . ." - so hit any key !!

    l the screen will say "To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER" - so hit Enter (NOTE: at this point an option to press R to enter the Recovery Console is displayed. Do not select this option YET).  

    l on the Windows XP Licensing Agreement screen, press F8 to agree to the license agreement.

    l make sure that your current installation of Windows XP is selected in the box
    l now you can press the R key to repair Windows XP.

    Completing the Re-Install  -  follow the instructions on the screen to complete Setup - make sure to follow all the prompts - be ready with your WinXP serial number, and be prepared to "possibly" have to reactivate (but usually you do not have to).  Then be aware that this process will appear as if it is overwriting and installing a fresh copy of Windows - it is NOT.  It does take about a half-hour.  

    NOTE:  also be aware that when it gets to the part where it is "Registering Components", it will seem to freeze at about 30%, but this is normal, and you will need to wait.  Some people have had to wait for more than an hour.  To speed this part up, cancel and disconnect all peripherals, and rerun the install.

  7. reinstall a fresh, new copy of XP - last resort - but try an in-place install first from step 5, so you can keep all your programs and settings.  For this step you will need a Win98 boot disc that has drivers for your CD drive, with deltree.exe on it - or if your drive is NTFS (horrors) then you will need an NTFS boot diskette.  Boot into DOS (if it is XP FAT32 use the Win98 boot disk, and if it is XP NTFS use an NTFS boot disk).  Then rename "Program Files" to "Progbak", and Windows to "Winbak" - of course if you do not have enough drive space, use Deltree to get rid of those folders (it takes a long time).  Then delete all files from the root of the drive except your own files  Go into your PC's setup screen and set it to boot from the CD (set it to look for a boot CD "before" it looks to the floppy or hard drive).  Then Boot with the XP CD.   The screen will say "To setup Windows XP now, press ENTER" - so hit Enter.  Follow all the prompts - be ready with your WinXP serial number, and be prepared to have to activate it.  This is the same method as installing over your existing WinXP, except since you renamed or deleted the Windows folder, it will do a fresh install.

 

B) if the problem is Hardware-related (rare but it happens) :

90% of "no boot" problems are caused by software.  If you are having a hardware problem, we will not address that in detail, since there are a millions of them.  But here are a few tips:

  1. you should listen upon startup for the Fan and the disks to be spinning up.  If not, then you know that either the disk, power supply, or motherboard is bad.  If you hear all the normal sounds, your system may be booting just fine and you may have a bad monitor (black) or a bad video card - try another monitor, and if still no video try another video card (I keep a cheapie lying around).
  2. if the PC is compltely dead (no sound or lights) - open the PC, unplug the power supply from the motherboard, and check it with a voltmeter (or goto http://www.pcpowerandcooling.com and order their $9 power supply tester).  
  3. If power supply OK but system seems dead except for power supply fan is running - check the power button connections and follow the leads to the mother board and check them there. 
  4. open the PC and unplug and replug all connections, and then remove and reseat all cards - this will fix about 50% of hardware problems !!!  
  5. no luck yet?  remove all cards except for the video card, and remove all extra memory except the one in the first memory bank.  Reboot - OK then add the cards and memory back in, one at a time, until you find the culprit. Also try swapping out the memory chip in Bank 1 with another. 
  6. if still no worky and you do have a fan and hard drives spin up fine - then listen for an odd series of beeps during bootup.  Then consult your manufacturer website on another PC or call their support - additional beeps are codes that tell you what hardware is malfunctioning - common culprits includes the memory chips, and the video card.

 

 

Windows XP Boot Disks

- only required if your system BIOS does not allow boot from CD !!! Otherwise boot from the WinXP CD.

WinXP does not allow the usual boot scenario that Win95-98 does, where you can boot to DOS and troubleshoot.  If you have XP loaded but for some reason can't boot, then try to boot with the CD first.  If your system does not support booting by CD then you will need to use diskettes.

Six XP Boot Disks (for installation of XP)

There are six floppy disks available to install the OS from on Microsoft's site - but even then it requires the CD later on during the install, and it does not give you a DOS interface to edit, add, and delete files from.  The WinXP Pro diskettes are available Here for those who cannot boot with the CD.  For instructions on creating your own boot disks - go Here. Here are the basic instructions - you must create the disk from a WinXP machine, and disk will only work with a WinXP machine !!!

One XP Boot Disk (not for installation - but to allow you to boot when hard drive won't)

*** the XP Boot disk has 3 files on it:  boot.ini,  NTldr,  and NTdetect.com

This disk has only the initial files to get the WinXP boot process started - it does not contain enough data to boot into XP all by itself - it will require that you have XP loaded on your drive !!  However, it is well worth making one of these, in case your system becomes corrupted and you can't get in.  This may very well allow you to boot to XP when your hard drive will not, and then from there you can troubleshoot, go back to an earlier, System Restore point, and even edit, add, and delete files using the F8 key to boot to Safe Mode with Command Prompt.  The alternative is to use a WinXP bootable CD, but this is much simpler since you do not have to go into your BIOS and change the order of boot devices.

  1. Format a floppy disk by using the Windows XP format utility. For example, with the floppy disk in the floppy disk drive, type format a: at a command prompt, and then press ENTER.
  2. Copy the Ntldr and the Ntdetect.com files from the I386 folder on the Windows XP Setup CD-ROM, Windows XP Setup floppy disk, or from a computer that is running the same version of Windows XP as the computer that you want to access with the boot floppy.
  3. Create a Boot.ini file (or copy one from a computer that is running Windows XP), and then modify it to match the computer that you are trying to access. The following example works for a single-partition IDE drive with Windows XP installed in the \Windows folder, but the exact value in the [operating systems] section depends on the configuration of the Windows XP computer that you are trying to access:
       [boot loader]
       timeout=30
       Default= multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows
    
       [operating systems]
       multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows="Windows XP"
    						
    If your computer boots from a SCSI hard drive, you may need to replace the multi(0) entry with scsi(0). If you are using scsi(x) in the Boot.ini file, copy the correct device driver for the SCSI controller in use on the computer to the root of the Setup disk, and then rename it Ntbootdd.sys. Change the disk(0) number to represent the SCSI-ID of the hard drive you want to boot to. If you are using multi(x) in the Boot.ini file, you do not need to do this.
  4. Start your computer by using the floppy disk, and then log on to Windows XP.

 

Create a Boot Floppy Disk Without a Windows XP-Based Computer

  1. Refer to the article Q310994 for directions to download and create the Windows XP Setup disks by using a computer that is running Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), or Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me):

    MS Article 310994 - Obtaining Windows XP Setup Boot Disks

  2. Delete all the files from the newly created Setup disk 1.
  3. Copy the Ntdetect.com and the Ntldr files from the I386 folder on the Windows XP CD-ROM to the new disk.
  4. Rename the Ntldr file to Setupldr.bin.
  5. Create a Boot.ini file. The following example works for a single-partition IDE drive with Windows XP installed in the \Windows folder, but the exact value in the [operating systems] section depends on the configuration of the Windows XP computer that you want to start:
       [boot loader]
       timeout=30
       Default= multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows
    
       [operating systems]
       multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows="Windows XP"
    						
    If your computer starts from a SCSI hard drive, you may need to replace the multi(0) entry with scsi(0). If you are using scsi(x) in the Boot.ini file, copy the correct device driver for the SCSI controller in use on the computer to the root of the setup disk, and then rename it Ntbootdd.sys. Change the disk(0) number to represent the SCSI-ID of the hard drive you want to start to. If you are using multi(x) in the Boot.ini file, you do not need to do this.
  6. Start your computer by using the floppy disk, and then log on to Windows XP.