Steps to fix the Windows computer restart loop problem

Is your computer stuck in boot loop hell? See how to get out of the vicious cycle -- and find out why the problem occurred in the first place.

I have a Windows-based computer stuck in an infinite reboot loop. Why does this happen, and how do I keep it from continuing?

The computer restart loop problem is often the result of a device driver, a bad system component or hardware that causes a Windows system to spontaneously reboot in the middle of the boot process. The end result is a machine that can never boot completely.

There are several steps that can be taken to solve the reboot loop problem.

1. Attempt to boot in Safe Mode.

If you can boot the system properly in Safe Mode -- press F8 at startup -- there's a good chance whatever is wrong revolves around a device driver. Safe Mode loads its own set of fail-safe drivers, which are minimally functional, but more importantly, stable.

2. Disable the auto-reboot function.

By default, the Windows's automatic reboot-on-crash function is enabled on many systems, and this is likely contributing to the problem by not allowing you to see an actual crash screen. To disable the feature, the registry on the machine needs to be edited.

Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlCrashControl, and either create or edit a DWORD named AutoReboot, and set it to 0.

The blue screen of death, as we've come to not-so-fondly know it, usually isn't the welcoming sign, but when you're dealing with a reboot loop, it's better to see that than another reboot.

But there's a catch-22: You can't edit the registry without booting the system. If you can boot to Safe Mode as discussed above, then you're set. However, if Safe Mode doesn't work, you have to do an end-run around Windows and edit the registry offline.

There are several ways to do this. You can attach the system drive to another computer (e.g., by mounting it in an external drive enclosure), and then use RegEdit or another utility to change the AutoReboot value.

Or you can also use a utility like the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor, which you can boot -- and use -- directly on the target system without actually booting Windows.

3. Note any crash messages once auto-reboot is disabled.

The blue screen of death (BSOD), as we've come to not-so-fondly know it, usually isn't the welcoming sign, but when you're dealing with a reboot loop, it's better to see that than another reboot. The messages on the screen are instrumental in determining what went wrong and why.

If you can reboot from such a crash into Safe Mode, there are tools available to help examine the crash information and diagnose it further. Microsoft has its own tools, but I recommend NirSoft's BlueScreenView freeware, which does all the heavy lifting and presents a concise report of all the BSODs recorded in the system.

4. Consider swapping hardware if there's no BSOD.

If reboot-on-crash is disabled and the system simply reboots without crashing, there may be something more serious going on. One culprit could be bad memory. Run a copy of Memtest86+ on the offending computer overnight to make sure everything is solid.

5. Attempt an in-place repair or a fresh install.

An in-place repair -- installing a copy of Windows on top of another copy --preserves the applications and user settings, but it reinitializes the system components afresh. This option should only be used if everything else fails.

Note that Windows Vista and Windows 7 experienced far fewer computer restart complications as opposed to Windows XP reboot loop issues, possibly because of how things were reworked in those operating systems.

Windows 10 reboot loop solutions

As with other Windows OSes, a continually restarting Windows 10 operating system exhibits the same familiar BSOD -- the computer stuck in a reboot loop. It may also display a message like Internal Power Error, with similar problems. Even if you updated to Windows 10 over top of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 the infinite loop conundrum is an ever-present possibility.

One Microsoft fix provides an update to correct this. The procedure is:

Open Settings > Update & security > Windows Update

Click on Check for updates and a further update will then repair the endless reboot loop issue. To prevent Windows 10 persisting in a computer reboot loop, please see that you have the correct drivers and that they are compatible with the Windows 10 operating system.

Next Steps

Emergency restart Windows 10

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Swatting away the five pesky, all-too-common Windows 10 bugs

This was last published in September 2016

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