How To Fix A Windows 7 Infinite Reboot Loop

muo w7bootloop intro   How To Fix A Windows 7 Infinite Reboot LoopEvery morning I get up, switch on my PC and then go and prepare breakfast. By the time I’m done, Windows has booted up and I can start work.

But not today.

Unfortunately something had gone wrong with Windows 7 and the operating system was refusing to boot. Instead, the computer was caught in a reboot loop, unable to load the operating system and constantly restarting.

In previous versions of Windows this might have required a full reinstall or at least some messing around. Fortunately thanks to the way in which Windows 7 was designed it is possible to resolve a reboot loop in a relatively short space of time.

What Is an Infinite Reboot Loop?

Have you ever encountered an infinite reboot loop?

You would probably recall if you have. It is instantly recognisable by the failure of Windows to correctly load up after switching on your PC or laptop. Instead, the computer will reach a certain stage before the logon screen only to then reset back to the boot screen, at which point it will attempt to load Windows again, becoming caught in the loop (although in some cases it might successfully boot) again and again.

The error occurs because of a problem with the Windows 7 system registry. Unfortunately without booting into Windows the registry cannot be fixed, leaving the operating system unreachable.

It’s a Catch 22 situation.

In order to overcome this problem, the tools provided in the Windows 7 System Recovery Options can be used.

Booting Into the System Recovery Options Screen

First you will need to boot your computer into the System Recovery Options screen. This is usually done with the installation DVD, which should be inserted into the optical drive. When the computer boots, Press any key to boot from CD or DVD as requested, select your language preference and then click Repair your computer. A list of installed operating systems should be displayed – select Windows 7 and click Next.

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The System Recovery Options screen will appear. Select the first option, Use recovery tools that can help fix problems with Windows, and then select Startup Repair.

(If your computer has a pre-installed recovery partition, the process is a little difference. In this case, boot to the Advanced Boot Options screen, select Repair your computer and tap Enter. Next, select the keyboard language type, then your username and password before selecting Startup Repair in the System Recovery Options screen.)

With Startup Repair selected, Windows will attempt to automate the repair; this might work – otherwise, further action will be required.

Preparing Windows 7 Recovery

If the Startup Repair option fails, you will receive a message reading Windows cannot repair this computer automatically. At the bottom of the message, click View advanced options for system recovery and support to return to System Recovery Options, and instead click Command Prompt.

The black command line interface will open with X:\ selected by default; this is the Windows internal RAM disk that is used by System Repair. You will need to navigate to your Windows system drive, which will by default be on the C: drive.

To open this, type C: and press Enter. Type DIR and press Enter to check that you are in the right drive – the contents listed should include the Program Files, Users and Windows folders.

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You will then need to change directory. Enter CD \windows\system32\config and then DIR to check that the correct files and folders are listed:

  • RegBack
  • DEFAULT
  • SAM
  • SECURITY
  • SOFTWARE
  • SYSTEM

With access to the correct directory and the required folders present, enter MD mybackup to create a backup folder. Enter copy *.* mybackup to copy everything to this location, agreeing to the overwrite warnings when they appear.

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The RegBack folder stores automatic Windows registry backups. To check if these can be used in restoring your system, enter CD RegBack and then DIR to view the contents. In the folder, you should have the following:

  • DEFAULT, SAM and SECURITY files, each around 262,000 bytes
  • SOFTWARE file, around 26,000,000 bytes
  • SYSTEM file, around 9,900,000 bytes

Note that these figures are approximate, but recognise that if any of these files display a size of zero bytes then you will have to resort to another method of restoring Windows 7.

Running the Windows 7 Recovery

With your RegBack folder containing the data you need to restore Windows 7 and rescue it from the reboot loop, you will be able to copy the contents and use them to get the operating system back up and running again.

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Begin by entering copy *.* .. – note the two trailing dots. These indicate that the contents should be pasted to the level above – the Config folder. Agree to all prompts concerning whether you want to overwrite files, and once the process has completed enter exit to close the command prompt.

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On the System Recovery Options screen, click Restart to reboot your PC – if everything has gone as it should, Windows 7 should now start correctly!

Conclusion

Reboot loops have long been a problem with Windows. While previous versions offered a couple of ways out in the recovery options, these solutions were far from comprehensive.

The same is true in Windows 7 but there is at least a much better success rate of dealing with infinite reboot loops.

When following the steps outlined here, please take care to follow them precisely. Errors that you make while using the command line interface cannot be undone. Note also that these steps don’t guarantee success – you should be prepared to reinstall Windows in the event that fixing the reboot loop fails.

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53 Comments -

Richard Steven Hack

The fun part comes when this part…

“…then click Repair your computer. A list of installed operating systems should be displayed – select Windows 7 and click Next.”

…does not work as advertised.

I’ve had Windows 7 boot process hose itself so bad that even though it displays the installed OS, it cannot SELECT that OS…and thus never brings up the System Recovery Options – which you need in order to get to a command line.

In other words, Microsoft made it impossible to get to the command line a la the previous forms of Recovery Consoles in this situation! A MAJOR PITA!

The only thing you can do then is boot a live CD which has had some sort of Windows 7 boot database editor installed – which is hard because most of them rely on .NET which usually isn’t installed on a Live CD – although it is possible. If you don’t have something like that, you are totally SOL – the only recourse AFAIK is a complete re-install…

It’s almost as if Microsoft really wanted to make it much harder for PC support techs to fix these sorts of problems. They tried to automate the process but at the same time did not allow for the possibility of their “automated repair process” to itself fail miserably.

Fortunately I only saw this occur on two Windows 7 machines shortly after installation. Subsequently they ran for a year with no problems. But it happened twice on one machine early in its history, both times requiring a full re-install.

Igor Rizvi?

Im having a rpoblem,when i installed win/7 win8 and ubuntu linux,i deleted win8 an win7,now when i want to restart my pc it doesnt respond at all,so i have to shut it down and turn on again.Is this the same issue regarding thsi article or?

Christian Cawley

Your problem is quite different Igor. The culprit is probably a setting on your boot manager, although it might be worth reinstalling Ubuntu

Igor Rizvi?

Oh gosh,i posted a wrong question,uninstalled ubuntu (installed trough wubi),and deleted win8 that was o nthe separate partition.I used a progrma (cant remember the name of it) trough wich i setup the bio load menu on the default.So i think that program messed something up.Thansk for the response:)

Gideon Pioneer

“Begin by entering copy *.* .. – not the two trailing dots. These indicate that the contents should be pasted to the level above – the Config folder.”

I think you meant to say “note”, not “not” :)

Christian Cawley

Thanks Gideon, not sure how that got through!

Jcanman

How about rebooting in safe mode?

Ashwin Ramesh

Safe mode rebooting?

Sahil Dave

Will this method be the same for Windows XP sp2 or a little bit different?

Christian Cawley

Windows XP SP2 is a quite different process as the repair console isn’t as advanced as with W7

Trevor Lenten

Infinite reboot loop… I thought that was called windows update? ;P

VS Vishnu

useful

Elijah Swartz

It would also be good to note that if you do not have the Windows 7 install disc, whether from losing it not not being given one, you can download the .iso image for free from Microsoft’s Digital River storefront. You can find the links listed over in this wiki. Just download the image, burn it to a dvd with a program such as ImgBurn, and boot to it.
http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/software-os/w/microsoft_os/3316.2-1-microsoft-windows-7-official-iso-download-links-digital-river.aspx

Alternatively, if your laptop doesn’t come with a dvd drive, you can use a usb drive just as well. Microsoft has a little program to put it on a flash drive for you. You can find it here.
http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/html/pbPage.Help_Win7_usbdvd_dwnTool

moni

I hope this never happens to my laptop!! The only problem is that it’s not shuting down!! the only way to turn it off is to keep the ON button pressed … :(

Eric Wardowski

Excellent article. Especially on how to handle the registry when all you have is the command prompt.

Andrei

It’s Windows. Just reinstall on top of the old one, or use an Ubuntu live disk to transfer important files and reformat the system partition

pahaysaz

Never experienced this issue. Hope I don’t, but it’s nice to be prepared. Thanks!

Alex Livingstone

This has happened to a number of my clients and its a relatively easy fix once you do it once or twice.

Christian

I get “Volume in c is System Reserved” and can’t view dir or any fldrs in cmd. Other drives open up fine, is there another way to open c:?

Christian Smith

I realized c: went to d: under cmd. Went through the steps & worked like a chram, 100% fixed!!! Thnx so much!

Aseal

I tried this and never worked my computer goes to starting windows does the animation but does not go to login screen instead it just restarts. Has been doing this since 2days ago. Any suggestions on how to fix this irritating problem. My computer is not even a year old. I would really appreciate your help

Christian Cawley

Hi – can you get the boot selection screen up? Press F8 (repeatedly) after the BIOS and select safe mode – does you computer boot then?

aseal

nope it looks like it will do something but ends up in the loop again

aseal

what should i do

nilesh

what if, the above all steps does’nt work??

Is der any way to replace some files via application (which is already installed inside windows say linux or ubuntu) to avoid such start up repair loop … i.e.infinite loop ??

Usman Mubashir

I figured this out by monkeying into some options there, but this article sure gave me some insights as well.

dolemitey

Great article helped me solve the problem quickly. Thanks for the time it took to put together. Great job and thanks a ton.

Bill

Thank you so MUCH! You really saved my computer! I was trying to get it to stop the reboot loop and was to the point of thinking I might need a new mobo.

Vijay

How to Fix Windows Explorer Has Stopped Working Problem
Sometimes, just when you thought your computer is in a perfect condition, your windows explorer stops working, freezes up, and restarts. You get error messages like “windows explorer has stopped working” followed by “windows explorer is restarting”. You have done nothing wrong but the machine keeps stressing you out. Worry no more as this article will you show you how to solve the problem.

You do NOT need to perform a system restore to solve this problem. Nothing is wrong with your computer either. Inserting your OS installation disc and booting off the disc cannot fix the problem. The solution to the problem is very simple and only involves changing your thumbnails to icons. Follow the steps below to fix the problem and your computer will return to stability.

1. Click on the “Start Menu” and go to “Network”

Start Network

2. Click on “Organize” at the upper right corner of the window. A drop down window will pop up. Click on “folder” and “search options”.

search options

3. On the folder option window, you will see three tabs at the upper right-hand corner. Click on “view” and SELECT “always show Icons, never thumbnail”. Next, DESELECT “display files Icon on thumbnails” as illustrated below.

Display Files Icon on Thumbnails

4. Click OK and you should be good to go.

Emily

What is an “I/O device error?” I get to the command prompt line and try to get to the C: drive, but it just takes a few minutes of doing nothing and says it cannot find the drive due to an I/O device error.

AG

Im still having trouble with this. Its once i opened command prompt to attempt to fix my computer. What happend was i did what i was supposed to do in the first steps which was, type in “C:” and then dir. However it wasn’t intill it came to the next step
CD \windows\system32\config that it would say “the system cannot find the path specified. I don’t know what that means and im afraid to say that im a noob to computers. My computer is stuck in a infinite system restore cycle and i can’t even get close to the login screen. can someone help me i really need my computer to work soon.

Christian Cawley

Hi AG – did you use the full path, i.e. cd c:\windows\system32\config or just as you described above?

alex

I have the same problem and I have just tried cd c:\windows\system32\config

I don’t know what else to do. I, also am a novice PC user. Really lost on this.

Katerina Hartmanova

I’m having the same trouble, the path cannot be found and I used the full path. Any ideas? Is there still way how to fix this without having to format my harddisc?

Christian Cawley

Unfortunately, these steps aren’t a catch all, get-out-of-jail-free solution to Windows reboot loops.

Sometimes, a reinstall simply has to be performed.

Katerina Hartmanova

I wish I had found this tutorial few days ago, I guess the problem is that they tried to fix this at Best Buy by installing a Windows 8 at the top of it. So I guess that’s why it will have to be formated now. Anyways, is it possible that my personal files have been overwriten by the instalation of Windows 8? I’d like to at least save my files but I can’t find them in the Windows.old folder, the User folder there is empty. Is my data lost for good? Thanks for reply

Travis

I tried doing these steps but there is a problem. First, when the first screen comes up to select a driver, it comes up with Windows 7, Partion size 0 location unknown. I still click next and follow the steps and the list of things that should come up do not. I dont know what to do

Christian Cawley

What is displayed when you click Next?

Derek

You sir have made my night, like hell I would have figured out the registry trick on my own…. and here I was worried my SSD was dead.
many many <3's

Fernando

Hello and thanks for this great article, it is incredibly clear and easy to follow.

However, I still have a problem.
My “loop” started after installing Windows Updates a few nights ago.

Following your article, everything went well up until the copy function ‘copy *.* ..’ from the regback folder.
Everything but Software gets copied and gives me an error message indicating that it is not able copy it due to an I/O error; but it copied the rest, a total of 6 files.

The Software file is about twice as large as mentioned in the article, displaying 47mil bytes; yet it still fails to be copied.

Booting up results in the same loop as before; Startup repair starts and then mentions that it can’t be automatically fixed.

Anything I can do?

THANKS AGAIN!

Karandeep Ajmani

I want to buy you a beer man. You just saved my ass. Thanks a lot for this

Will

Christian, thanks for your article.

I’ve not been able to start windows7 for about a week since the last Windows update and my kids installed latest iTunes. I’ve tried repair and reverting back to previous save points incrementally until I’m pretty much back to the original win7 configuration (which for this machine was early 2012). I then tried your fix above but no luck. Still fails on Starting Windows -> bluescreen of death -> startup repair.

Can still get to cmd prompt.

Feels like the next option is reinstalling Win7.

Any other suggestions?

Thanx Will

Christian Cawley

Hi Will

Sadly as mentioned, this isn’t a universal fix. There are times when these steps won’t work, at which point the only option is to reinstall 7

Will

Thanks Christian anyway – worth a try.

venkatesh

i used windows7/windows8 os on my pc before ,now i format it and i’m using windows7 only but when i start my pc it will ask chose your os windows7 or windows 8,
how to clear this problem?

Christian Cawley

This isn’t really a reboot loop problem of course – your will need a boot menu editing tool to remove Windows 8 and thereby end the OS choice menu

billy

thanks mate…good save…i got stuck at copy *.* .. for all those stuck there its actually
(copy [space] *.* [space] ..

Note: the 2 spaces and the 2 dots..

Brenden Barlow

i had this happen to me the other day….not fun….your article would have helped a lot then lol

Lashana

Did nothing keeps saying cannot find the path so thanks for nothing

Christian Cawley

From the conclusion: “Note also that these steps don’t guarantee success – you should be prepared to reinstall Windows in the event that fixing the reboot loop fails.”

Sorry that you didn’t manage to fix your problem, Lashana. Don’t forget to let us know how you resolve it.

Lisa

Thank you so much for your simple and easy explanation on how to solve the Windows 7 looping problem on startup. My work laptop went into a loop and although I was delayed for half a day, I was able to repair it and get everything working again without having to send it off to our IT guy who charges a fortune and was talking about a full system wipe. Thanks again your help was invaluable!

Billy

Hi,

When I run dir on the C: drive I get “File Not Found”.

I know C: is my system drive and I have tried ever other letter just to be sure.

Any ideas?

Thanks,

Billy