[SOLVED] Windows Failed to Start, a Recent Hardware or Software Change Might Be the Cause

Just as the error message suggests, this could be caused by either hardware or software changes on your computer. On the hardware side, it could be that the disk with your Windows files or your operating system, for some reason is inaccessible to the boot manager.

So maybe the disk got loose from the disk connector or in the worst-case scenario the disk is failing, and so you get this error message.

On the software side it could be that certain applications or malware has managed to change the path to your Windows boot media, and as such the boot manager is unable to locate the boot files during startup, hence it gives off this error message. There are two possible ways to fix this Windows startup error.

The first solution is for situations where this error is due to hardware changes while the second solution will address the possibility of a software change leading to this error. If you’re unsure what could be causing this error in your case, I recommend that you start off with the first solution and if the error continues, then you can proceed with the second one.

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SOLUTION 1: Check Disk Connector/Boot Order

The first thing you want to do it to check that your C drive or the disk drive where you have your operating system is properly attached to the connector on your computer. For that your need to physically open the hard drive bay.

Then check that the drive is properly attached. You can detach and reattach it firmly to ensure is in proper contact.

Then go into your BIOS and check that the disk is added to your boot devices and that is properly positioned in the boot priority. To do that, you need to boot into your BIOS using the required key or key combination (function keys, escape key, delete key) e.g. F1, F2 depending on your computer model.

Depending on how your BIOS settings page is designed, locate the boot tab and then using the required function keys or the plus and minus keys, move the disk containing your operating system to the first priority in the boot order.

If your PC has the hard drive BIOS Boot Specification option, that’s hard drive BBS priorities

Then you want to go into it and ensure that your c drive is properly positioned in the priority order. This BBS controller basically presents the attached bootable devices up to the system BIOS for boot device selection. So you should check that your main disk shows up here and that is positioned on the top of the priority order.

If for some reason you don’t see your hard disk in the BIOS, then chances are you might have a failing disk, in which case you will need to test your disk using either a SATA adapter or some other computer to ensure is in good working condition. Remember to save any changes you make in BIOS using the F10 key and select yes to save changes, then restart and see if this error goes away.

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SOLUTION 2: Use Bootrec to Locate Windows Installation

For this solution, we will be using the bootrec tool to try to locate any windows installations on all disks attached to your computer and then add them back to the boot list so the boot manager can locate them during startup. To do this you will need a bootable USB with Windows 10 installation files. Click here to learn how to make a bootable USB with Windows 10 installation files.

Attach your Windows 10 USB stick and press the power button on your computer to start the process. Using the corresponding function keys or combination of escape and function keys, select your boot device to boot from the USB. On the initial set-up page select Windows 10 64-bit or 32-bits depending on your platform.

Wait for the installation files to load, then select next on this page.

Here click on repair your computer.

Next, select troubleshoot.

Then command prompt.

On the command line type: bootrec /fixmbr and hit enter.

It should say the operation completed successfully. Next type the command bootrec /fixboot, it should again say the operation completed successfully.

Then type, bootrec /scanos and hit enter. Obviously this command scans all your disks to see if there are windows installations on any of them. This could take some time depending on your system specifications and the size and number of disks to scan so you might have to wait a bit.

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After scanning, it will inform you whether or not any windows installations are found on your disks.

In this case, the process was able to find one Windows installation.

To add it back to my boot list so the boot manager can locate it during startup, type the command, bootrec /rebuildbcd and hit enter.

After that it should tell you again that it has identified your windows installation, it then asks whether you want to add it to your boot list. If you have multiple windows installations it could give you all the available installations and the corresponding drives where they are stored.

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So at this point, if you would want to add all the installations to the boot list, then type A and hit enter to complete the process. The A option would also work if you have only a single windows installation. Next type exit to close the terminal, and then restart your computer to see if it now works.

Please share your comments, questions and feedback in the comment section below. 

The following video demonstrates the solutions in this tutorial.

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