When a computer doesn't boot into Microsoft Windows, the first thing a PC technician needs to ask is: What do you mean by "my computer won't boot"?
A problem often occurs in the boot sequence, even before the hard drive comes into play. When a computer is first turned on, its Basic Input/Out System (BIOS) routine performs a Power On Self Test (POST). Before the computer is ready to use the display monitor, it communicates the success or failure of the POST to the user with beep codes. After the display is initialized, only then can it send codes to the screen.
If your computer stops booting and displays an error code on the screen, you first need to find out who made your computer's BIOS and check the website of the BIOS manufacturer for the meaning of the error code.
When your computer starts the boot process, the BIOS reads the hard drive's partition table in order to get the boot record. If the partition table is damaged, the screen will display the message "Invalid drive or drive specification". The partition table never changes after the drive is partitioned and formatted unless it has been damaged (usually by a computer virus).
If the boot record of the hard drive is damaged, you'll receive this message: "Invalid system disk". If the partition table and boot record are valid, the computer will read the hard drive's File Allocation Table (FAT) in order to start loading the Microsoft Windows operating system files. If the FAT is damaged, this message will be displayed: "Sector not found reading drive C".
If you don't receive any beeps, error codes, or other messages and your computer still won't boot, then the problem is Windows will not start up. Note: the POST makes a single beep to test the speaker. This is normal and it doesn't indicate an error.
If your hard drive's partition table, boot record, or FAT is damaged, you can repair it using Nuts & Bolts Disk Minder or Norton Disk Doctor. But to do so you must have the utility on a bootable
CD-ROM or DVD and execute it from your optical drive.
You can also install a new hard drive and load Microsoft Windows and one of the above utilities on it. Then simply configure the old drive as slave and repair it using the utility on the new drive.
Important: If your hard drive makes a loud whining noise when you first start your computer, you need to run out and get that new hard drive right away. The whining sound means that the bearings in the hard drive are failing and the drive will stop working soon.
The first step to repair a computer that won't boot is to find out what "it won't boot" means. If during boot you did not receive any of the errors mentioned above, that probably means Windows won't start. How to repair that problem is covered in a separate article.
Stephen Bucaro is the owner of Bucaro TecHelp.
Visit him at: http://bucarotechelp.com
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