Get the fix to “Error: Windows failed to start” boot error for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems.


About the “Windows failed to start” error

The following information on this error has been compiled by NeoSmart Technologies, based on the information gathered and reported by our global network of engineers, developers, and technicians or partner organizations.

Description and Symptoms

The error messages, alerts, warnings, and symptoms below are tied to this error.

Symptom 1: Error: Windows failed to start error screen on startup

The “Windows failed to start” screen appears on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 systems only and it’s identified by a specific error code.

These errors can also happen on Windows Vista and Windows 7 systems as well.

Causes of this Error

The most common causes of this error are:

Cause 1: BCD is missing or corrupt

One of the most common causes of this error is the BCD that became missing or corrupt. That could happen because of disk write errors, power outages, boot sector viruses, or errors made while configuring the BCD manually.

Cause 2: File system integrity compromised

For the same reasons, the file system itself may become corrupt or damaged. That happens even more often if one turns off a PC while it is in the middle of writing crucial data to the boot sector.

Cause 3: System files are damaged

The system files may also become corrupt or damaged for the same reasons.

Fixing “Windows failed to start” on Windows

Windows Setup CD/DVD Required!
Some of the solutions below require the use of the Microsoft Windows setup CD or DVD. If your PC did not come with a Windows installation disc or if you no longer have your Windows setup media, you can use Easy Recovery Essentials for Windows instead. EasyRE will automatically find and fix many problems, and can also be used to solve this problem with the directions below.

Fix #1: Use Easy Recovery Essentials

Easy Recovery Essentials is guaranteed to fix the “Windows Error Recovery. Windows failed to start” error automatically using its built-in Automated Repair option. EasyRE is currently available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, Windows 10, and Windows 11 and can be downloaded and created on any PC.

  1. Download Easy Recovery Essentials. Make sure to note your Windows version (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, or Windows 11) before you download EasyRE. This guide can help you identify what version of Windows you have installed.
  2. Burn the image. Follow these instructions on how to burn the bootable ISO image very carefully, as making a bootable CD can be tricky! Alternatively, these instructions explain how to create a bootable EasyRE recovery USB stick/drive.
  3. Boot up your PC from the Easy Recovery Essentials CD or USB you created.
  4. Once EasyRE is running, choose the “Automated Repair” option and click Continue.
    EasyRE Home

    Choose “Automated Repair” in Easy Recovery Essentials

  5. After EasyRE scans your computer’s drives, identify and select the drive letter for your Windows installation from the list, and then click on the Automated Repair button to begin.
    EasyRE displays a list of found Windows operating systems

    Choose the drive associated with the Windows installation you’re trying to repair.

  6. Easy Recovery Essentials will start analyzing the selected drive for problems. EasyRE will test for and attempt to automatically correct errors with the disk, partition, bootsector, filesystem, bootloader, and registry. No intervention is required, as EasyRE’s repair is fully automated:
    EasyRE: Automated Repair

    Easy Recovery Essentials searches for errors and makes corrections to the selected Windows installation.

  7. Once the process is complete, EasyRE will report its findings. Click on the Restart button to reboot your PC and test the changes.
  8. The “Windows Error Recovery. Windows failed to start” error should now be fixed as your PC begins to load:EasyRE: Automated Repair

You can download Easy Recovery Essentials from here.

Fix #2: Boot into Last Known Good Configuration

Here are the steps to boot into the Last Known Good Configuration option:

  1. Restart your computer
  2. Press F8 repeatedly until you see the list of boot options
  3. Choose Last Known Good Configuration (Advanced)
  4. Press Enter and wait to boot
Last known good configuration screen

Last known good configuration screen

Fix #3: Run System Restore from Windows installation disc

This method will only work if you have the installation disc and System Restore enabled on your Windows copy. Here are the steps to access System Restore:

  1. Insert the Windows install disc
  2. Press a key when “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD” message appears on your screen
  3. Click on Repair your computer after selecting a language, time and keyboard method
  4. Select the drive where you installed Windows (usually C:\) and click Next
  5. Select System Restore from the System Recovery Options window
  6. Follow the System Restore wizard instructions to select a restore point
  7. Restore your PC by clicking Finish

Fix #4: Run chkdsk

Alternatively, you can run the chkdsk process. Here are the steps:

    1. Insert your CD; restart your computer
    2. Boot into the CD by pressing any key when the “Press any key to boot from CD” message appears on your computer
    3. Press R to open the Recovery Console at the Options menu
    4. Type in your Administrator password
    5. Hit Enter
    6. In Command Prompt, type the following command:
      chkdsk C: /f /x /r

Press Enter

  1. After chkdsk process is completed, restart your computer
chkdsk utility results screen

chkdsk utility results screen

Fix #5: Rebuild the master boot sector

Using Bootrec.exe you can rebuild the master boot sector (BCD). This is a tool built in the Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) that can repair boot configuration data.

BCD stands for Boot Configuration Data, contains boot configurations options and controls how your Windows is started.

  1. Insert your Windows install disc
  2. Press any key at the “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD” message
  3. Choose Repair your computer after you select the language, time and keyboard method
  4. Select your Windows installation drive (usually C:\) and click Next
  5. Select Command Prompt at System Recovery Options
  6. Write the following command and press Enter afterwards:
    bootrec /FixMbr
    bootrec /FixBoot
    bootrec /ScanOs
    bootrec /rebuildBcd
bootrec utility results screen

bootrec utility results screen

More Information

Linked Entries

Support Links

Applicable Systems

This Windows-related knowledgebase article applies to the following operating systems:

  • Windows Vista (all editions)
  • Windows 7 (all editions)
  • Windows 8 (all editions)
  • Windows 8.1 (all editions)

Propose an edit