Booting from a CD or DVD is a common step in many recovery guides. This knowledgebase article covers the basics of troubleshooting the most common problems booting from a CD or DVD.

Troubleshooting Boot from CD or DVD

If you’re unable to get your PC to start from a correctly-created bootable CD or DVD even after following our guide on booting from CD or DVD, it could be any one of many things.

Make sure the CD really is bootable

The default for any CD or DVD is to not be bootable. CDs and DVDs created by most applications cannot be booted into, and your PC will not give any indication that it tried to boot from the CD but failed. Your PC is designed to automatically move on to a different boot device, if your CD/DVD isn’t actually bootable, you will not get any warning or message.

It’s important to create the bootable CD or DVD properly. Bootable discs are very different from normal software that ships on a CD or DVD. The normal method of creating a CD by copying or burning files on to a blank CD-R or DVD±R is insufficient to create a bootable CD. Instead, if you did not obtain a physical copy of the bootable CD or DVD from a store or in the mail, you will likely need to convert an ISO file into a bootable CD or DVD by burning an ISO image of the data on to the disc, instead of the data itself.

Our knowledgebase contains guides on creating a bootable CD or DVD from an ISO image using free products like ActiveISO and ImgBurn. The instructions must be followed very closely, and it is essential that you do not open the ISO file directly — instead, install the burning software you plan to use (ActiveISO or ImgBurn) and use that application to browse for and open the ISO file you have downloaded.

Make sure the PC is set to boot from the CD Drive

Most PCs are not configured to attempt to boot from the CD or DVD drive by default. You must manually take action when your PC first powers up to have it start the system from the CD or DVD inserted into the PC. Refer to the instructions on setting up your PC to boot from CD or DVD.

Are you on Windows 8 or an EFI/UEFI PC?

Newer Windows PCs and laptops use something called UEFI/EFI that can interfere with booting from recovery CDs and USBs. Have a look at the instructions on enabling Legacy Boot and disabling Secure Boot to make sure your PC or laptop is configured to support booting from recovery CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks.

Burn the CD at a slower speed

Re-create the CD using the same verified instructions as before, but this time make sure to burn it at the slowest speed setting available (this is normally 1x or 2x). Bootable CDs can be tricky to prepare, as the BIOS is very picky about the physical layout of the data tracks on the CDs, and any imperfections in the blank CD/DVD media can translate to aberrations in the final burned product. Burning at a slower speed ensures more-even writes and often solves problems caused by aging CD/DVD±R media and burners alike.

Don’t unzip the ISO image!

If you download what appears to be a WinZip or WinRAR file, a folder, or a compressed archive of sorts do not extract or unzip the contents! The file you downloaded is an ISO image, and depending on how your PC is configured, it may appear like a ZIP file of sorts, but it most definitely is not. Follow the instructions on burning with ActiveISO or ImgBurn, and instead of opening the download file directly by double-clicking on it, launch ActiveISO or ImgBurn and use their “browse” feature to locate and select the ISO image you downloaded!

Don’t directly open the downloaded ISO image

Follow the instructions on burning with ActiveISO or ImgBurn, and instead of opening the download file directly by double-clicking on it, launch ActiveISO or ImgBurn and use their “browse” feature to locate and select the ISO image you downloaded!

Test the CD or DVD on another PC

The best way of checking if the problem is with your PC’s configuration or with the CD/DVD you’re trying to boot from is to try using the CD/DVD in another PC that has a clear and obvious “boot selection menu” button.

Test the PC with another CD or DVD

If you have any other guaranteed-bootable CDs lying around, such as the original Windows setup CD/DVD or your PC’s restore discs, try booting your PC from them. This will tell you if the problem is with your PC or with your CD/DVD.

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