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Untangling the Gordian knot of the Windows boot process

An infinite reboot loop is a common issue with the Windows boot process. Start up in Windows Safe Mode to diagnose device driver or hardware problems.

A number of things can cause a desktop or laptop computer to constantly reboot without ever actually completing the Windows boot process. The causes can range from a buggy patch or device driver to a hardware problem.

When dealing with an infinite reboot loop, the first thing that I recommend is to try to boot the computer into Safe Mode. You should be able to do this by pressing the F8 key during the early phases of the boot process. Safe Mode offers very limited functionality, but it can help you to diagnose and repair the problem.

If the computer boots into Safe Mode, then you can usually (but not always) rule out a hardware problem. When a computer boots into Safe Mode successfully but will not boot normally, the problem is almost always related to a bad device driver or to some other piece of software that is loading during the Windows boot process.

Disable everything nonessential and reboot the computer. If the system boots normally, then try re-enabling drivers and software, but do one thing at a time, rebooting between each. This will allow you to tell which component is causing the problem.

If booting to Safe Mode does not work or if you are able to boot to it but the system eventually reboots anyway, then you may have a hardware problem. If the computer is running a version of Windows that is earlier than Windows 8, then look for the infamous blue screen of death (BSOD). This screen contains error codes that you can use to help diagnose the problem.

If you do see the BSOD -- or the Windows 8 equivalent -- the problem is very often related to bad memory. Swapping the memory out may cause the problem to go away. If that doesn't work, then you might consider reloading Windows and testing other hardware components.

Next Steps

Get quicker Windows 8.1 startup by modifying Group Policy caching

Fast startup, other settings can aid Windows 8 users and admins

Hidden files can hinder Windows startup, so restore the Boot Manager

Past approaches to the reboot loop problem

Troubleshoot Windows XP startup

This was last published in February 2015

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What problems have you encountered with the Windows boot process?
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I find recent versions of Windows easy to operate than older versions. You encounter minimal problems with the new ones. But then again there are a few problems I encounter such as the windows won’t start after I install a new software or hardware. Upgrading a device driver also causes problems when I need to boot the Windows. At times the Windows does not finish starting normally. Each of these problems can be fixed easily.
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I have to agree with Pat48090 thoughts with this.  I will say that I have had issues though with patches that failed to install properly and corrupted the registry and the restore points areas preventing the system from booting properly.  I attempted to restore using the Microsoft instructions which did not work, necessitating a backup of the data files to another storage area, and then a reinstall of the O/S and all the apps, then restoring the data files.
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I've a windows install problem that truly is a "Gordian Knot".
I need a sharp and clever "sword" to cut thru it.
Can anyone "point" me to documentation on how the entire
boot & install process works?
I believe I need to modify whatever installation "configuration" files
exist on the win7 boot & install USB flash drive I set up.
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I just encountered another issue in the boot process, that I attempting to deal with.  The master profile is corrupted, and even booting into safe mode, will not allow me to bypass the damaged profile and allow me log in as the default administrator.  The master profile is damaged enough that even in safe mode, it will not allow me to create a new profile in accounts and users area of the control panel.  My next step is to do regedit and see if I can delete the damaged areas of the registry.
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had this very thing due to a young family member downloading games! Wouldn't boot except from a rescue USB (created from another windows 8.1 machine).  That at least lets you rescue your docs and such if they haven't been backed up as it gives you a command prompt.

Advice: run a pre-boot virus scan.  I used bitdefender, and have used "windows defender offline" from a USB key, but there are loads out there that you can use.

You can try bootrec /fixboot, you can also try /scanos with it to see if the windows installations are visible and even bcdbuild or whatever it is.

testdisk also lets you examine/restore your partitions if you've lost them - and lets you copy off your files too.

After you've recovered your files it will be no surprise if you have to restore your o/s but at least the win8/8.1 rescue usb lets you do that quite easily even if you do lose your existing stuff.
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