Monday, May 14, 2012

Fixing the Infinite Boot Loop Issue with Windows

I have been helping some of my family friends as of late with their computer troubles and I would like to share this tech support story with you today…

Our family friend dropped off her old, but still capable, Windows XP computer to me because it wouldn’t allow her to boot to Windows. She would turn on her computer and as soon as the Windows XP logo appears onscreen, the computer automatically rebooted without warning and would repeat the same process. It didn’t matter if trying to boot the PC into Safe Mode as the same problem would happen there too. In the tech support industry we call this issue an ‘infinite boot loop’ problem where the computer just keeps looping back to rebooting on its own at boot time without warning. I have seen this problem all too often and still plagues Windows XP and, sometimes even, Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers.

The question that always comes up is, “Why does this happen?” Sometimes it is caused by a virus corrupting some core Windows files, sometimes it is a hardware issue with the hard drive (bad sectors), and sometimes it is caused by an antivirus application or Windows Update that didn’t install correctly. But the infinite boot loop is always caused by some type of non-system volume corruption.

So how do we fix this problem? Run the Check Disk utility (CHKDSK.EXE) to check and fix any drive or system file errors. Doing this is incredibly easy, provided you have the tools to do this. The primary way to do this is to follow Microsoft’s recommendation:

1. Boot the PC using a bootable Windows Operating System CD or DVD.

2. Go into the Recovery Console.

3. Log into Windows from the command prompt.

4. Run CHKDSK.EXE

Check disk will run and fix any problems. But what do you do if you don’t have the Windows CD or DVD? Well, then there is little else you can do. You really need one of those Windows discs on hand in case a problem comes up. When you buy a computer, make sure to follow instructions when offered to create a backup of your computer system. But in my friend’s case with her XP computer, I was able to do something completely different to fix the problem.

I have Windows 8 Consumer Preview installed on my primary laptop and I have been using this OS ever since it has been released. Some of the most common troubleshooting tools have been tweaked and enhanced to be better performing and better able to handle more extreme tasks. Case in point – a corrupt Windows install (even Windows XP and Windows Vista!). After reading the “Redesigning chkdsk and the new NTFS health model” blog post on the Building Windows 8 blog, I was intrigued. Would Windows 8 be able to fix a corrupted Windows XP NTFS hard disk volume? The answer is yes!

I removed the hard drive from the broken computer and plugged it into my Windows 8 computer using a SATA-to-USB adapter. Once the drive appeared in Explorer, I performed the following steps:

1. Right-click on the drive in Explorer, choose Properties.

2. Click the Tools tab.

3. Under the Error Checking section, click the “Check” button.

Windows 8 fixed the errors on the NTFS partition within 5 minutes. I powered down the drive, installed it back in the old computer, and booted it up. Windows XP booted up normally and without any issues.

It is clear that Microsoft is building Windows 8 to be a top contender in the Operating System battle between desktop and mobile operating systems. I cannot wait to see what Windows 8 will surprise me with next.

-Joe