Repairs to computers is a rather detailed subject and open to ifís, butís and maybeís. In this page I will give you the basics as a guide to decide if you might do something yourself, or engage a technician.
This series is aimed at those who are comfortable to get into areas on a computer that technicians use for recovering a computer that wonít boot.
More series will follow later.
What is the computer doing
The first step in forming some sort of judgement is to gain a clear picture of what the computer is doing. That will help in the following steps, i.e. should you be looking at software or hardware.
System Restore - One way to recover
System Restore is a built in function that returns a Windows computer's settings to the state of a previous date. The procedure varies for different versions of Windows.
Be aware that often vendors do not check that System Restore is actually turned on. When Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 are installed not always is System Restore enabled as a default setting by the install routine. Even if System Restore is enabled by default then it should be checked periodically because Windows Update is known to sometimes disable the function. System Restore can correct some boot problems - but not all.
Note that the method of running System Restore for Windows 10 detailed below may be used on Windows 8 or 8.1.
Windows 7 - Fails to boot to the Desktop
The computer appears to start up, but goes to a black screen, or an error message comes up. Generally that indicates something has corrupted in the boot process.
Check the user manual for the Safe Mode key combination, or the Boot Order. Depending on the mainboard model F8 will generally get Safe Mode for Windows 7 class machines:
1. When a menu comes up move the highlighter down to Safe Mode using the down arrow on the keyboard (the mouse isnít available at this time). Next press the Enter key.
2. When Safe Mode has loaded click the Start Orb for the Start Menu Ė navigate to Accessories and System Tools. In the System tools menu select System Restore. In the System Restore active window select System Restore and choose a restore point whose date precedes the date the problem was encountered. Follow the prompt buttons to start the restore process. Do not interrupt this once started.
Windows 8 or 8.1 - Fails to boot to the Desktop
For a Windows 8 or 8.1 class machine it isnít so easy to get at System Restore, since the F8 key or Shift F8 usually doesnít work. Currently Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that has largely replaced the older Basic Input Output System (BIOS), boots a computer too quickly for keyboard keys to interrupt. On some mainboards the F12 key will open a boot menu from which another drive may be selected containing a recovery disc.
Windows 8 will allow the making of a recovery CD/DVD via the "Charms menu", selecting Search then, typing in recovery, and follow the prompts.
For Windows 8.1 the procedure is similar except a CD/DVD cannot be made. Instead a recovery USB flash drive is offered. Follow this procedure:
1. Obtain a USB flash drive of at least 1 Gb - 512 Mb must be available.
2. A check should be done to change the boot order in the EUFI (if not previously done) to an optical drive (CD\DVD) first followed by a USB device, and the hard drive remains as the third device. If the computer boot order hasn't been set in the UEFI to look first for a disc in the optical drive and for a USB device, then that should be changed. An alternative is to use F12 (on some mainboards) on boot up for a menu from which the USB flash drive can be selected. Check the mainboard manual for what key starts the boot menu.
3. Insert the blank USB flash drive into a USB port. Be aware that on some machines a top or front panel USB port may not be recognised by the system for booting from.
4. Start the computer and a menu should appear titled Choose Keyboard Layout. Because keyboards in Australia are generally U.S. layout you will need to click on See More Keyboard Layouts until U.S. appears. Click on U.S.
5. In the next window click on Troubleshoot.
6. In the Troubleshoot window the next selection will depend on what the objective is. The choices are:
i. Advanced Options
ii. System Restore
iii. Start Up Repair
iv. UEFI Firmware Settings
v. System Image Recovery
7. The point to note with the above choices is the Start Up Repair. This should be used on Windows 8 and 8.1 computers since the earlier recovery utilities that come on discs suit computers with a BIOS. Running such a recovery disc on a computer with UEFI will corrupt the boot record and file system.
8. The choice to be related here will be System Restore. Click that.
9. From there the procedure for System Restore is
the same as for Windows 7 in the latter part of paragraph 2.
Windows 10 - Fails to boot to the Desktop
Note: The below information for Windows 10 assumes the user has installed Start 10 - a graphical user interface program from Stardock that inserts a Windows 7 like desktop interface.
Windows 10 has made things somewhat easier, however be aware that System Restore usually fails if it is run from Windows in "normal mode", i.e. the Start button > All Programs > Windows System > Control Panel > System > System Protection > System Restore.
Instead System Restore should be run from Safe Mode, i.e. Windows running with minimal drivers and services. To get at that the easiest way is to click the Start button > type msconfig into the Search line > then click msconfig.exe when it appears in a Programs window. That opens the Systems Configuration window. Now clcik the Boot tab and Safe Boot then OK. Windows will restart in Safe Mode. Be aware that the Desktop screen will have a black background and icons will appear somewhat larger than in normal mode. Icons may need to be re-arranged after returning to normal mode.
Follow the path as detailed in the second paragraph above. Windows should complete the System Restore function and return to the Safe Mode desktop with a message saying System Restore has completed successfully.
To return to normal mode click the Start button and type run in the Search line, then click Run in the Programs window.
In the Run dialogue window type msconfig. When the System Configuration window opens clcik the Boot tab again then the tick box at Safe Boot to remove the tick. Click OK.
Windows should resart in normal mode.
It may then be necessary to re-install any programs that may have been rendered inoperable. The affected program files may still be in place but the files added to Windows during the install routine will be missing. Just re-install the program to the original folder and the affected program should be OK. Windows Updates may be affected also, in which case any missing updates will auto install again.