When you’ve had your computer for a while, certain signs of failures will start showing. This sometimes means that parts will need to be repaired or replaced. Things like sudden app crashes or getting the “blue screen of death” can mean that you’ll need to start looking into repairing your device.

Hard drive failure is a common computing issue that can happen to a lot of users, of both laptop and desktop computers. Hard drives do fail over time, and can become noticeable when your computer isn’t starting up or operating like it used to before.

Error messages that show at startup like “no bootable device”, “no bootable devices found”, or “no boot device found” can mean a faulty hard drive, and may seem a bit daunting to face. In this guide, we will show you how to fix “no bootable device” and test your hard drive for issues.

Bootable devices

Some bootable devices including a 3.5-inch HDD, 2.5-inch HDD, flash memory, and USB

A couple of bootable devices that you may recognise.

A bootable device is a storage drive that contains the operating system and all the boot files and drivers used to boot up a computer. This would have to be a storage drive with a form of non-volatile memory to retain written data even while the device is turned off. Different forms of storage hardware like USB drives or CD-ROMs can be used as a bootable device, but the main one is usually the hard drive on your computer.

What does “no bootable device mean?”

Your PC will report “no bootable device” when it doesn’t recognize or can’t locate the hard drive used to boot to Windows. It needs access to the OS and boot files to be able to successfully boot to Windows. Otherwise, the computer will not boot at all.

This can be caused by a range of things:

  • Incorrect or corrupted boot files
  • Damaged master boot record (MBR) partition
  • Incorrect boot order
  • Corrupted disk

Most of these causes of “no bootable device” can come from damage and an accumulation of bad sectors. They can cause the eventual failure of the hard drive, where data can become corrupted or lost. Or maybe you’ve simply forgotten to re-install Windows after replacing your hard drive. 🤷

What are bad sectors?

Bad sectors are small faulty parts of the hard drive that have been damaged or corrupted. They are also known as bad blocks. They can come from physical damage or software issues. Once bad sectors are detected, they will have to be repaired or isolated. Too many bad sectors on the drive will cause it to fail.

Traditional spinning hard drives (HDD) work on delicate machinery that are susceptible to damage. It is impossible to manufacture a perfect hard drive, so they’ll always have a small amount of bad sectors when they ship. These hard bad sectors are permanent and cannot be repaired. Physical damage sustained over time can also accumulate more and more bad sectors.

Software issues like improper shutdown or virus issues can cause soft bad sectors. Affected parts of the drive cannot work properly because of this. These soft bad sectors can be repaired with disk checkup software.

Other storage drives like solid-state drives (SSD) can also suffer from bad sectors, but have lower chances of getting them. They contain NAND memory chips rather than spinning disks and can sustain physical damage better than HDDs do.

How to fix “no bootable drive”

If your computer is not working normally or not starting up properly, it might be time to test it for issues and get it fixed. This involves testing and diagnosing for hard drive faults, then getting a replacement if you need one.

1. Testing with built-in tools

Your laptop or desktop computer comes with a range of diagnostic tools for your hard drive. Some simple ones include chkdsk and boot diagnostics.

Chkdsk

chkdsk hard drive properties

Chkdsk is a disk check up tool on every Windows laptop and desktop computer. If your computer boots to Windows, you can run it as a command prompt or from the properties windows of your hard drive. As a basic hard drive test, it can still do a lot.

Chkdsk can help you detect bad sectors for repair or isolation, and prevent premature failure of your drive. Even if your drive seems to be working fine, it may still be a good idea to check on it from time to time.

Boot diagnostics

Once you get the “no bootable device” error, you’ll usually be directed to press a key (F2, F12, or Enter) to get to the start up menu or diagnostics page. On the startup menu, you can check your boot order from the BIOS setup page. From boot diagnostics, you can perform diagnostics on possible hardware issues on your system. Hardware such as the hard drive, RAM, or battery are tested to find issues that you can then find the right repair solutions for.

You can also enter boot diagnostics by restarting your computer and entering when you reach the logo splash screen. Then, hold down the specific key to your brand of laptop or desktop (“F12” for Dell laptops, “ESC” key for HP, “Enter” key for Lenovo laptops, and “D” key for Apple Mac).

If any hardware issues are found, your system will report the issue usually along with a reference code. These codes are specific to your particular brand of laptop or desktop computer. You might want to note this down to report your problem if you’re looking to go to an authorised service centre.

Your computer might also come with brand-specific support software that can help you test hardware and offer solutions as well. This is covered in our guides to testing Dell, Apple, and HP laptops and desktop computers.

2. Testing with hard drive analysis apps

WD Data Lifeguard hard drive tests

Another way to test your hard drive if your computer does not boot successfully is by using analysis software. This method involves taking out your hard drive and testing it on a different desktop computer. You’ll also need a screwdriver and a SATA-to-USB enclosure box.

Hard drive analysis software like SeaTools and WD Data Lifeguard offers free diagnostics that thoroughly tests and attempts repairs on hard drives. Isolating the drive from your computer also helps to get an in-depth analysis. This is done by putting the drive in an enclosure box that is powered by a different power source, then connecting it to a desktop computer. It will probably take longer time than built-in diagnostics.

3. Choose a hard drive replacement

Now that we’ve diagnosed the problem, it’s time to treat the problem with a hard drive replacement. Choosing a hard drive replacement takes a little consideration, then you’ll be able to find the right drive for you. You can then buy a new drive from an online retailer like Amazon, or get some guidance from an in-store professional.

You might ask, “the disk checkup tools fixed my hard drive, why do I need a replacement?” As we’ve understood before, hard drives will undeniably fail. Getting a quick repair from chkdsk or other software is only a short solution that might get you another year or so on the drive. So why not get a reliable solution and replace the hard drive that will cause more problems down the line anyway?

Finding your own hard drive model

You can use the model of your current hard drive as a reference point when shopping for a new drive. It can help you judge what kind of computing experience you want from your hard drive performance.

Considering that your computer does not boot successfully, you can check your hard drive model from BIOS setup on the startup menu. But if you do get it to boot to Windows, you can look up the hard drive model on Device Manager, under “Disk Drives”.

A less “virtual” method is by directly opening up your laptop to take a look. If you’ve already taken it out for testing, you can kill two birds with one stone by checking the model number as well. Information about the hard drive model should also show up when you test it with analysis software.

Things to consider when buying a new hard drive

Form factor

A 3.5-inch hard drive

A 3.5-inch hard disk drive.

The form factor of a hard drive is something you can’t overlook. This is the physical size of the drive, so you’ll need to get one that can actually fit in your computer.

For consumer-grade laptops and desktop computers, hard drives come in two sizes: 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch. This refers to the rough diameter of the spinning platters. You can probably tell that the smaller 2.5-inch fits laptops, and 3.5-inch ones are for desktop computers. Of course, you can use a 2.5-inch HDD on a desktop computer, but they might run relatively slower than 3.5-inch ones and have less capacity.

Capacity

After physical size, comes the drive’s virtual size. This is how much data the drive can hold. You won’t need that much if you’re only using the drive for personal documents and images, 250-500GB should do fine. File storage for larger files like movies and photography projects might need something more heavy duty, like 1TB or more. Again, you can gauge this by using your previous drive usage as reference.

Performance and speed

Think about what kind of performance you want from your computing experience. The speed of the hard drive determines how fast the drive can read and write information. This is measured by the revolution-per-minute (RPM) of the spinning platters. Hard drives usually come in 5400RPM or 7200RPM.

The faster the drive, naturally the faster the performance. But this also means more power drainage, with a faster drive. So a 5400RPM is more balanced and is usually more popular in laptops.

Solid-state drives

If you’re looking to replace your HDD, upgrading it with a solid-state drive might be a better option. Solid-state drives balance both great performance and durability. It can be a quick upgrade for better performance, if you’re not keen on just getting an HDD replacement. They do cost more than HDDs, though.

Weigh your options with our guide to solid-state drive upgrades! We cover the pros and cons of SSDs, and hopefully can help you make this decision.

4. Replace your hard drive yourself

A hard drive replacement is one of the easiest computer repairs to perform. All you need are a few simple tools to open up your laptop. You can follow repair guides from tech site ifixit, where repair guides to specific brands of computer hardware can be found. They can show you how to install a new hard drive. You might even find your next DIY project on there as well!

5. Reinstall Windows on your new drive

Finally, all you need to do is re-install Windows to start using your new drive. You will require a USB installation media for this. Create a recovery media of your system or download a Windows OS installation onto a USB with at least 16GB free space. Then, boot your laptop with it from the startup menu. Installing Windows should take a while, and then you’re done!

As an alternative, you may also buy a licensed Windows installation CD-ROM and boot from there. It works the same way as an installation media as the USB should.

A quick tip: Keeping regular backup habits might be a good idea with your new drive. This way you’ll be prepared for anything from crashes or data loss. Knowing that you won’t suffer too badly from a drive crash is also a great feeling too!

In summary…

Your computer will show you warning signs when it’s not doing so well. It may be a good idea to pay attention to these signs so you know what to do when it comes down to it.

Don’t have the time or resources to repair your hard drive yourself? A professional repair service might be the solution for you.

Getting a professional repair

faulty laptop

Getting professional advice and service can definitely save you the time of figuring out things by yourself. If you can’t find time out of your busy schedule, or don’t have the right tools to test your hard drive, then getting it serviced might benefit you better.

An authorised service centre is usually the first choice for people with faulty computers. Brand-specific service centres can offer specialised support for laptops and desktop computers, usually free of charge while under warranty. Another place to get professional repairs would be a third-party repair service.

There are a couple reasons that people would choose to go to a third-party repair service. Their warranty may have expired, or no support solutions are available to them at an authorised service centre. Or the service centre might just be too far a drive.

Located in the heart of Inner West Sydney, our experienced technicians at Safemode Computer Service can offer the right advice and solutions for you.👍  We are highly rated among computer repair services in Sydney, and have the experience to tackle the hardest problems. We can help you thoroughly test your hard drive for issues and replace it with the right drive for you. If you’re around the Inner West, come by our Enmore store for a chat!