How to fix the "We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully" error

by Ross McKillop on October 27, 2008

Windows

This is a guest post by Aseem Kishore, the lead blogger for HelpDeskGeek.com, which focuses on providing Help Desk tips to IT Professionals. If you like this post, please subscribe to his RSS feed.

Are you getting this error message when you try to start up Windows:

We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change might have caused this.

If so, your Windows system files are probably corrupt or there is something wrong with your hard drive (bad sectors, etc.) Luckily, it’s usually an error that can be fixed without having to reinstall the Windows operating system!

I’ve seen this error several times in the last couple of years working as in IT support and each time it was fixed in a different way. Here are some steps you can take to try and fix the problem.

Method 1 – Repair Windows via Recovery Console by running CHKDSK

My first suggestion would be to restart your computer into the Recovery Console mode and run CHKDSK with the repair option to make sure there are no errors on your hard disk.

In order to get into the Recovery Console in Windows XP, you need to put in your Windows installation CD and press any key when it says boot from CD.

Now in the XP Professional Setup screen, press R to choose the Repair a Windows XP installation using the Recovery Console option.


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Now you need to choose the installation that you want to run the recovery console too on, usually you can just type 1. Enter the password for the local Administrator account on the computer and press Enter.


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Now go ahead and type in the command CHKDSK /r at the command prompt to run the disk check:


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Method 2 – Do a Repair installation of Windows

In Method 1, we ran CHKDSK through the Recovery Console to try and repair any errors that may have been on the hard disk. In Method 2, we will do a repair installation of Windows, which basically replaces all of your system files without deleting any of your data. The OS is reinstalled, but all data is left intact.

After doing a repair install, you will have to reapply all Windows Updates. For this, you would put in your XP CD like before, boot to it by pressing a key when you see Press any key to boot from CD.

From the menu of options above, press Enter instead of pressing R. This is a little counter-intuitive, but you have to choose the option to setup Windows XP.

Press F8 to accept the license agreement and then press R to choose the Repair the selected Windows XP installation option.


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Note that it will look like Windows is reinstalling the operating system fresh, but it is not! It’s just replacing all of the Windows system files, so your data will not be lost.


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Always make sure that you are using the same XP CD that came with computer originally or the repair may fail in the middle! Allow the install to complete and then restart your computer and see if you can log on. Your desktop settings may be back to their defaults because of the repair.

Method 3 – Use Last Known Good Configuration option

A final thing you can try is to press F8 when the computer is starting to boot up and choose Last Known Good Configuration from the Windows XP Advanced Options menu:


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Those are basically your three options for the “Windows did not start successfully error”. Last resort would be to simply reinstall Windows, but that means you lose your data. You can also try to log into safe mode and if you can, that means you can try to do a system restore by going to the command prompt and typing in the following command:

%systemroot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe

Now follow the instructions on to choose an earlier state to restore your computer back to. Hope that helps someone fix their problems!

  • Des

    Ross,

    Thank you for posting this. It saved my HP Notebook and me from having to take it for an expensive, time consuming repair.

    Des

  • Wanda

    Thanks but my pc wont give me the option to boot from the disc?

  • http://www.vandale.nl Willem van Oranje

    Een cursus Nederlands is op zijn plaats hier..

  • Pamela

    We have the same problem with our dinosaur desktop. No matter what command we try to use on it, the screen will just go blank, try to boot up, and show the same message….over and over and over and over and over and over again.

    We can’t find our repair disks, and F8 doesn’t work. Any help for the screwed will be much appreciated.

  • http://www.fofo.com اصلا انا ناسيه الباسوورد

    ساعدوني ناسيه الباسوورد حق الجاهز وحاولت اخترقه عن طريق
    F8
    بس مانجح معي لانه طلع لي كلام وهوو:
    we apologize for the inconvenience .but windows did not start successfully. a recent hardware or software change might have caused

    if you computer stopped responding . restarted unexpected . or was automatically shut down to protect your files
    and folders.choose last known good configuration to revert to the most recent settings thar worked

    if a previous startup attemp was interrupted due to a bower failure or because the power or reset button was pressed. or if you are not sure what caused the problem . choose start windows normally

    من رايكم وش اسوي تكفوون ساعدوني:(

  • kev

    i have the same problem just got it when i restarted my computer… im going to try to repair my comp frome the cd thx

  • G

    This doesn’t work if your computer came preinstalled with windows like my netbook.

  • trout mask replica

    thx, technique 1 was the charm! you be da man!

  • jessica

    what should i do if it is staying at the part where it says sorry for the inconvenience………a recent hardware or software change might have caused this. It counts down the seconds for windows to start and then goes right back to it and keeps counting down

  • Jason

    I have a compaq mini with no cd player.. And no external drives… I have the laptop and thats it.. Is it still something i can fix or is it out of my contrrol?..
    Having the same problem as everyone else

  • erika

    im able to get to the first two steps but i never set up a administration passwork or i must have forgotten what do i do…..????please help this is stressing me

  • http://Firefox Derek

    This can also be caused due to a memory incompatabilty issue. On my Dell 4100, no matter what option on the” We apologize” screen I chose the computer would keep looping back to that screen. After reading many blogs on the subject I found one that mentioned something related to memory so I began swapping the memory sticks ( I was using 2 – 256mb) placing them in 2 at a time(I have 6 ) and getting all kinds of other errors & problems then I decided to put them in just one at a time and suddenly it booted all the way to the Desktop! Perhaps I should mention that the problem seemed to be with the “V Data” memory stick I was using. When I opened up BIOS on the main page it only detected 256mb memory when actually I had 2 – 256mb sticks installed! it wasn’t reading the V Data — That I guess, should have been the tip off but I didn’t give it much thought and kept looking for other things that could be the problem so a rather long chain of events finally lead to the solution. Hope this helps someone.

  • Nathalie

    I’m working on a netbook that doesn’t come with an internal or external CD drive. For this reason, I tried method 3, which still didn’t work. I was thinking of going out to get an external CD drive, but I don’t have the necessary CD. Suggestions?

  • Mohammad

    I have SATA hard disk so when i made the Repair option from the windows xp CD he couldn’t find the hard disk any suggestion??

  • Mohammad

    I have SATA hard disk so when i made the Repair option from the windows xp CD he couldn’t find the hard disk any suggestion??

  • Kathy

    Wow buddy it worked! Had to remember my DOS a little. You just saved me oodles in repairs, not to mention the back breaking task of taking my computer to the shop. I used Method 1 and it did not accept my Administrators password, but it still booted up from the XP disk after that…..Thank you so much for creating your instructions. You are a true IT worker. Bless you.

  • Steve

    Method 1 worked for me. Many thanks Aseem.

  • HJ

    uh…when I did the method1 last time. I did not know what to do….so I typed.’ exit’ after that I found this method…so I put Window XP CD again but this time it does not pop up blue screen and not working…I really really have to fix this…please helpme

  • BK

    Intially, a blue screen will flash after choosing the start windows normally option. then it will go back to the ‘we apologise’ screen. The cycle will repeat itself. but after i tried method one, instead of a blue screen, i am now stuck on a empty black screen with no words on it, and the cycle does not repeat itself anymore. so i had to manually shut it down. What do i do? Any help will be appreciated.

  • yogish

    thank for your valuable information

  • PJ-please help

    How do I get round not having a windows installation disc. Pcs I have bought in the past already have windows installed and don’t have a spare installation disk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/De-Demax/562414588 De Demax

    Both suggested methods do not work. My XP-Pro PC goes from the Boot Menu automatically to the advanced option (We apologize for the inconvenience …. and below is Start Windows Normally) And then boots into Windows normally. I’ve run CHKDSK /r and CHKDSK /p several times in the RecConsole, with no avail. I also ran “R” with XP CD at least 6 times, which did not help either. A better solution would have been to know the actual files which cause this, to repair manually. Re-installing Windows is no option because of time and data loss, and having to re-install too much.

  • RT14760

    In my case..it was a friggin wireless mouse….i unplugged it and put the old one back in…. re-booted 3 times and the error is gone.

  • RT14760

    In my case..it was a friggin wireless mouse….i unplugged it….. put the old one back in re-booted 3 times and the error is gone.