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

This guide will explain how to fix the Windows error “We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully. A recent hardware or software change might have caused this.”

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 possibly 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.

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.

A windows message that says Press any key to 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.

The Windows XP Setup screen
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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.

The Microsoft Windows recovery console
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Now go ahead and type in the command CHKDSK /r at the command prompt to run the disk check:

running CHKDSK in Windows to fix Windows not start successfully
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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.

the Windows XP Repair the selected Windows XP installation screen
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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.

Windows XP Installing screen
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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:

selecting Last Known Good Configuration in Windows XP due to Windows not start up successfully
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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. Make sure to back it up first because Microsoft will no longer help you with issues related to Windows 95. 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:


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

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10 thoughts on “How to fix the "We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully" error”

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. Ross,

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


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