In previous Windows versions this might have required a full reinstall or at least some messing around. Thanks to the way in which Windows 10 was designed a reboot loop can be resolved relatively quickly.
Here’s how to fix a Windows 10 boot loop and get your PC or laptop up and running in minutes.
What Is an Infinite Boot Loop?
Windows 10 isn’t particularly prone to an endless boot loop, but it isn’t unheard of.
It’s easy to spot, specifically by the failure of Windows to correctly load up after switching on your computer. Instead, the computer will fail to reach the logon screen before resetting to the boot screen and attempt to reload Windows. The is now caught in an infinite loop of booting and crashing.
The error occurs because of a problem with the Windows 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, use Windows 10 recovery options.
What Causes a Windows 10 Boot Loop?
A Windows 10 reboot loop can be frustrating to deal with. But what causes it? Typically, the fault can be traced to one of three things:
- A Windows Update
- An updated or new Windows driver
- The installation of new software (an app or game)
Something in the process goes awry. The result is a computer that is caught in an infinite reboot loop.
This is a problem that has plagued Windows for years. Further down the page, we have some tips for fixing boot loops in Windows 7 and Windows 8. If you’re using Windows 10, however, the fixes you’re looking for are in the next section.
When Automatic Repair Fixes the Windows 10 Boot Loop
If you’re lucky, the Repair Windows or Automatic Repair features might kick in without any prompting from you. Typically, this will only happen after several reboots, so give your computer time to get to this stage. Some manual interaction may be required—use the Automatic Repair option here and follow any steps.
However, if this hasn’t happened within 15 minutes, it’s probably not going to. Time to take matters into your own hands.
Access Safe Mode to Fix Windows 10 Endless Boot Loops
Three more options are available to fix an endless boot loop in Windows 10:
- Safe Mode: this lets you access the operating system and uninstall any software, drivers, or Windows Update causing the fault
- System Restore: a fast way of undoing recent changes
- Reinstall Windows 10: the nuclear option, for use when nothing else works or you don’t mind losing data.
Accessing Safe Mode will depend on how the boot loop is presenting, as well as your system setup.
1. Dual Boot Windows System
If you have multiple versions of Windows installed on your computer, wait for the OS selection screen to appear. When given the choice, instead of selecting Windows 10, choose Change defaults or choose other options. Then follow the steps above to access Safe Mode.
2. Manually Access Safe Mode
In some cases, you’ll be able to access Safe Mode from within Windows 10. This will be possible if the reboot loop is triggered on the launch of a specific app or hardware connected.
Before the reboot is triggered, you have three options to reboot Windows 10 in Safe Mode:
- Hold Shift then Start > Restart to boot Windows 10 into Advanced startup options.
- You might also open Settings (press WIN + I) then Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced startup > Restart now.
- In an elevated Command Prompt (search cmd in the Start menu, then right-click and select Run as administrator) enter shutdown /r /o to reboot the computer into the Advanced Boot options.
As noted, you may not have long to input your command. The first option is probably the quickest.
3. Use Installation Media to Access Safe Mode
Windows 10 users should have a recovery partition on their PC’s hard disk drive. If not, a USB or DVD recovery drive can be made by downloading the Windows 10 installation media. Note that this will need to be created with a different computer.
With Windows 10 stuck in the reboot loop, all you need to do is insert the installation media. Alternatively, access the UEFI/BIOS (tap Del, F8, or F1 when the system boots) and find the boot manager.
Select the recovery partition as the primary device then restart the computer. See our guide to creating Windows 10 installation media for more details.
Both methods should guide you through the Automatic Repair tool, or give you access to the Advanced options screen.
Fix Infinite Boot Loop in Windows 10 Safe Mode
With the computer in Safe Mode you can take steps to prevent further boot loops. This could be anything from uninstalling drivers to uninstalling Windows Updates in the Command Prompt.
Solve a Windows Update-Based Boot Loop
In Command Prompt (which you should open as Administrator on the desktop) enter
net stop wuauserv
Follow this with
net stop bits
Wait for the response, then browse to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Here, delete all the directory contents. If you’re using the Command Prompt, use our Windows command line guide for help using RD (remove directory).
(If you can only access the Advanced options screen, use the Command Prompt. This is also an option in Safe Mode.)
When you restart Windows 10, it should boot as normal.
Did an App or Game Cause a Boot Loop in Windows 10?
Suspect the boot loop is due to the installation of an app (perhaps one that launches at start up)? Perhaps it was a game you recently installed. Either way, this can be resolved by uninstalling the software.
Simply find the software in the Start menu, right-click, and choose Uninstall.
When you restart Windows 10, the boot loop should be fixed.
Stop Hardware Driver Boot Loops
If the system is in a boot loop due to hardware drivers, this can also be solved in Safe Mode.
Right-click Start and select Device Manager. Here, search for the suspect device. Typically, this will be something you’ve recently added, although not always. Right-click the device, select Properties > Drivers and choose Roll Back Driver.
If this doesn’t work, disable, and uninstall the driver. With the device selected, right-click and choose Disable Device, then Uninstall Driver.
You can then restart Windows 10.
Restore or Reinstall Windows 10 to Fix the Infinite Boot Loop
If you cannot access Safe Mode, or the fixes don’t work, the best solution is to use the refresh option. You might also reset Windows 10 back to the factory settings.
Check our detailed guide on resetting and restoring Windows 10 for more on this.
This process essentially reinstalls Windows 10 for you, leaving you with a blank slate. Just remember to back up your personal data first!
Fix Boot Loop Problems in Windows 8
Fixing a boot loop in Windows 8 and 8.1 is not dissimilar to Windows 10. Check the following video for the steps.
The real difference here is that Windows should boot to the Automatic Repair screen if there is a problem. Here you can access the Advanced Options menu, which may not be available in the boot loop conditions. As such, you’ll need to find the Startup Options as described and select Enable Safe Mode.
Recovering an Infinite Boot Loop in Windows 7
It isn’t only Windows 10 that can be stuck with an infinite reboot loop. If you’re using an older version, use these tips to overcome the reboot loop and get your system back online.
To fix the boot loop problem in Windows 7, you should have the installation media. If you don’t have the original DVD, grab the Windows 7 media installer tool from Microsoft.
You Fixed Your Windows Boot Loop!
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. Thankfully, Windows 10 has great recovery and restore tools, which make a boot loop problem easy to deal with.
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.
If you have been lucky enough to recover from the Windows 10 infinite reboot loop, it’s time to take precautions. Check our Windows 10 data backup guide to make sure the Windows boot loop doesn’t turn into a total disaster.