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Troubleshoot Windows 11 failure to start

If you have problems starting your computer with Windows 11, here are some steps you can try for recovery.

Perform a hard shutdown two times during the Windows boot screen. On the third time, Windows should boot to the recovery environment.

Troubleshoot Windows 11 startup failures

If your PC is not able to start properly, try the fixes given below from the Recovery enviornment:

  • Do a Startup repair, disk Check and System file check.
  • Rebuild the Boot configuration data Store using bootrec and bcdboot commands.
  • Perform a Reset or a clean install after rescuing your files.

  • Applies To : Windows 11


    Suppose you get a screen that says you need to use Recovery tools. In that case, you need to use another computer to create a recovery/installation media. You may also need to use Installation media if the Windows Recovery environment says your password is incorrect. See the following article to create a Recovery media.

    Create a Windows 11 USB Flash drive – Your Windows Guide

    Start your computer from the USB Flash drive. Ensure you have disabled Secure boot/Fast boot in BIOS Settings and change the boot order if required.

    When you have successfully booted from the Installation media, click Repair your computer on the first screen after choosing the keyboard layout.

    Click Repair your computer in the bottom left

    After the screen, click Troubleshoot to open Recovery options. Try the choices one by one:

    Click Troubleshoot to open Advanced options
    Startup Repair:

    The startup Repair option tries to fix the problems related to Windows 11 boot automatically. Select it, which should automatically diagnose the PC and attempt to repair Windows 11. After the process is complete, click Shut down and try starting your computer.

    Safe Mode

    Examine if the computer is able to start in the Safe Mode. This option is only available if the computer can boot to the Windows Recovery Environment, and not available if you are using a USB drive to repair. To start the computer in Safe mode, click Troubleshoot>Startup Settings>Restart>Press 4 for Safe mode on the screen.

    Startup Settings in Windows Recovery Environment in Windows 11

    If the computer is able to boot to the Safe mode, try undoing any changes you made to the device, like adding hardware or rolling back any driver updates you did, either through Windows Update or Device Manager.

    Uninstall Windows updates:

    The next step you can try is uninstalling the latest updates to fix the problem. Click the Uninstall Updates option in the Windows Recovery menu. Select the choice based on what was installed – a feature update or a quality update. Usually, the former is responsible. You can try both options one by one.

    CHKDSK

    The next step is to try doing a disk check. If the OS drive is corrupted, it may lead to Windows 11 failing to boot. In that case, running the Disk check from the command line may help.

    SFC and DISM offboot

    The next step is to run SFC and DISM tools in Windows offline. Widely used for correcting corruption in the system files in an online Operating system, these tools also work offline through a switch. See the steps below on how to run SFC/DISM offline. Remember that there is a space before every switch(/)

    Rebuild the Boot configuration data Store

    If the boot files related to Windows are corrupt, rebuilding those may help. To do so, perform the following steps:

    Open Command Prompt Window from Windows Recovery environment.

    Type bootrec.exe /fixboot command and press enter.

    ReBuild the EFI Boot files in Windows 11

    Another step you can try is to rebuild the EFI Boot files of Windows 11. The steps below are complicated – carefully execute the actions in order.

    Selecting volumes and assigning disk letter to the EFI partition

    Restart your computer and see if it can start properly.

    Running bcdboot command to create a new BCD with EFI drive as a target

    Advanced Windows 11 Recovery options

    If these steps do not help, the last resort is to Reset the PC or reinstall Windows. 

    Reset Windows 11

    A Reset removes all the installed applications except for Microsoft Store apps. You have the option to keep the files or remove everything.

    The reset is explained better in detail here.

    Clean Install Windows 11

    If the Reset is failing, the last resort is to reinstall Windows, which removes everything on the drive. For that, create a USB media using the steps I mentioned above. Then follow these steps in this article:

    Clean Install Windows 11 – Your Windows Guide

    Recovering files when Windows 11 fails to start

    Suppose you have some critical files in the C drive. In that case, you can use the following workaround to move files from the user profile folder to an external drive or other partition.

    1. Open a Command Prompt Window in the Recovery environment.
    2. Type notepad.exe and press enter to open Notepad.
    3. Click File>Open. This step opens File Picker UI, i.e., Mini Explorer, from where you can move or copy files.
    4. Click This PC and navigate to the OS drive, usually C. Go to Users><username> folder.
    1. One by one, go to each of the folders where your data is present. Select all the files, right-click and choose Copy. 
    2. Go back to This PC, choose the external drive or a different partition from C, and paste the contents using the right-click menu. Repeat Step 5 for each folder, including documents, Downloads, etc.
    User Profile directory in C drive containing files

    Then proceed to the clean install.

    These steps can help you in Windows 11 Recovery in case if it stops working.

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