Your laptop or desktop computer has built-in mechanisms to test and fix itself as much as it can. This includes data repairs or software updates. It is a very smart machine, after all. When you’re having problems with booting up your computer, startup repair is one of the options you can do to solve them. But if the hardware problems are too far gone, startup repair might not be able to help you. Then it might be time to look for a replacement solution.

Problems with computer boot up can usually be traced back to a faulty hard drive. As the main storage drive, your local C drive is used as a boot drive that contains all the information needed for boot up and your operating system. When the hard drive fails, information needed for boot up might be inaccessible. Your computer will not be able to boot properly if this happens.

Startup repair

Startup repair is a Windows recovery tool that fixes certain system issues to do with Windows startup. It can be found at the “Advanced startup options” menu. This menu usually comes up when Windows 8 / 10 laptop or desktop computer users have trouble booting to Windows. To reach startup repair: Advanced startup options > Troubleshoot > Advanced options  > Startup repair. Your computer may ask for administrator credentials at this step. Then it will do its thing to diagnose and repair what it can.

Startup repair not working

startup repair couldn't fix

Startup repair might be able to fix your problem and boot the computer successfully again. If not, you might find yourself in a few of these scenarios:

  • Startup repair infinite loop
  • “Startup repair” couldn’t repair your PC”
  • Start up repair taking forever

The tool can only do so much to repair system issues, and not all the issues on your hard drive. When boot up is disrupted or unsuccessful, it can mean that the damage to the hard drive has become intolerable beyond repair. This may be from physical damage or an accumulation of bad sectors on the drive. Data may be corrupted, or lost, and that will cause problems with boot up and the performance of the drive as well.

Why do hard drives fail?

Hard drives generally last 2-5 years, depending on how you use it, or the type of the drive. They do unfortunately inevitably fail over time. The main culprit for this is the accumulation of too many bad sectors. Bad sectors cause damage to hard drives bit by bit and adds to the eventual failure of the drive.

Caused by either physical damage or software errors, bad sectors can be repaired or marked to be skipped over. A traditional hard disk drive makes use of spinning platters and read / write arms to work, and these moving parts are vulnerable to physical damage. It’s also impossible to manufacture a flawless drive, so a hard drive will always come with a small amount of bad sectors. Shutting off the power while the drive is writing information, or improper app uses will also create soft bad sectors. They will gradually pile up and cause hard drive failure.

How to fix startup repair infinite loop

Now that we understand why the startup repair process gets stuck or fails, we can start to look at other solutions for the issue. This begins with testing your hard drive for issues and replacing it as a solution.

1. Using Windows diagnostic tools to test your hard drive

Just like startup repair, Windows computers has other built-in diagnostic tools for you to test your system. Tools like chkdsk and boot diagnostics can be used as a basic test for your hard drive. It will depend on whether you can get your computer to boot to Windows though, as some of these options launch as a Windows app.

Pre-boot

If you’re still stuck at boot up and can’t start your computer properly, boot diagnostics can help you test your hardware. This tool can help you run diagnostics on computer hardware and look for issues that require your attention. Components like the processor fan, battery, and your hard drive are tested for any possible hardware faults.

You’ll need the specific key used to enter the diagnostics option from the startup menu. For your specific brand of computer, this might be “ESC” key for HP, “F12” for Dell laptops, “Enter” key for Lenovo laptops, and “D” key for Apple Macs. Restart your laptop or desktop computer, then hold this key when you reach the logo splash screen.

After running diagnostics, your system will report found issues with an error message and a reference code. These codes may be specific to your computer’s brand as well. They can help you do further research on the issue reported, or be used when you report the issue to online support.

After booting to Windows

If you can get your computer to boot successfully to Windows, you may use chkdsk to test your hard drive. Chkdsk is a simple but very useful tool that tests for and attempt repairs on hard drive errors.

Chkdsk can be run as a command prompt or from the “tools” tab of the drive properties window. It can repair soft bad sectors and isolate hard bad sectors to be skipped over. If you run chkdsk every now and then, it can help to prevent premature hard drive failure.

Other than chkdsk, you may also choose to use pre-installed support apps specific to your computer’s brand. You can usually find these software as a built-in app. They may be more specialised to your computer’s model and can help you find online support solutions as well.

Want to read more from specialised guides about testing hard drives of different computer brands? We cover running hard drive diagnostics of Dell, HP, and Apple laptops and desktop computers.

2. Running dedicated hard drive support software

SeaTools hard disk drive test diagnostics

Using hard disk analysis software is also another option if you can’t boot successfully to Windows. Or you don’t quite find boot diagnostics to be sufficient. That’s where software such as WD Data Lifeguard and SeaTools can help you.

You won’t need your current computer to do this, so you don’t need to worry about booting to Windows or installing software on it. You do need a separate desktop computer and a USB to SATA enclosure box though. This method involves taking out the drive and testing it on a desktop computer via the USB to SATA enclosure. The enclosure box is also powered by a separate power source. All this ensures proper isolation for the drive, separate from any factors that might affect the test process and results.

By doing so with hard drive analysis software, you can truly thoroughly test your hard drive for issues that are causing your boot up issues. They often offer two options: quick test, and extended test. These tests will usually take longer than previously mentioned Windows tools.

3. Choose a replacement hard drive

If you’re getting boot up error messages, it’s likely that your drive is getting too damaged to repair. Even if you can boot up after using disk checkup software, the drive will continue to sustain damage and fail again. So getting a hard drive replacement could be an equally quick and lasting solution.

Getting to know your drive

hard disk drive in laptop

When choosing a new replacement drive, it might be a good idea to use your current drive as a reference point. Note down your hard drive model number with the following methods, for further research:

From Device Manager, you can find properties of the drive under “Disk Drives”. You may also find the model number from entering BIOS setup from the startup menu as mentioned earlier. Another practical method is by simply opening up your computer and looking for the model number on the drive’s label.

Using your current drive as a reference can help you decide what you’re looking for. Some criteria to look out for when you’re considering a new hard drive include: form factor, capacity, and speeds.

Form factor

The physical size of the hard drive is what we call its form factor. Getting the right dimensions is important of course, or else the drive won’t fit in your system, naturally. There are only two sizes for consumer-grade hard drives, so you probably won’t make that mistake. Laptop hard drives come in a 2.5-inch size, and desktop computer hard drives are 3.5-inches each. This measurement is roughly the diameter of the platters within the drive.

2.5-inch drives are more compact to fit inside laptops. Because of this, it may not work as powerful as 3.5-inch desktop ones when installed on a desktop computer.

Capacity

After the drive’s physical size, then comes its virtual size. That is, how much data it can hold. As mentioned above, think about how much storage space you normally space and what you need.

For larger files like photography projects or movies, you might want to get upwards to 1TB or more. Otherwise, personal use of documents and music should only need 500GB or so.

Speed

The speed, or performance of the drive is determined by how fast the platters spin for reading and writing. This is represented in the RPM (revolutions-per-minute) of the drive. Consumer-grade hard drives usually come in either 5400RPM or 7200RPM. The faster the drive spins, the faster the read and write speeds.

The obvious choice may be the faster drive, but that might not be so. Moving parts within the drive need to be powered, and higher speeds might draw more power from the system. So for a slightly more balanced experience, some may choose to use a 5400RPM drive.

Upgrading to an SSD

A Samsung 840 EVO SSD

What if you don’t want to have to replace your hard disk every 3 years or so? Using an SSD as a boot drive might be a more reliable and long-lasting choice for you. Solid-state drives don’t contain any moving parts that need to be powered, and generally are more durable than traditional hard drives. It also offers a more balanced experience that doesn’t sacrifice speed or power use. Learn more about the pros and cons of upgrading to an SSD in our guide here.

4. Install the new drive yourself

Replacing your hard drive yourself is almost an idiot-proof process that you can do yourself. We always encourage DIY projects, when it comes to computer hardware repairs that you can save money on. You won’t need that many tools either!

If you’re looking for guides more specific to your computer model, popular tech guide ifixit might be able to help you. They offer all sorts of repair guides for tech hardware that are tailored to different computer models.

5. Install Windows

To use your new drive as a boot drive, you’ll need to install Windows OS on it again. Using a USB installation media is a simple way to do this. All you need to do is download a Windows installation media onto a USB with at least 16GB space. Then boot from the drive, and you’re all set. Alternatively, you may also use recovery media of your system along with backed up files as well.

A final word

Like most things in this material world, hard drives do not last very long. Still, there are things you could do to keep you from catastrophic data loss or corruption. Things like proper shutdown processes or keeping regular backups are both healthy computing habits to keep. Running checkup apps from time to time can also help you get a read on the health of your hard drive.

Professional repairs

Thinking about taking your computer to a professional instead? An authorised service centre or a third party repair should be what you’re thinking of. Both are options that can ease your troubles of having to take time out of your busy schedule to do things yourself.

An authorised service centre can usually offer free support services if you’re still under care or warranty. These support solutions are specialised to the brand and model of your laptop or desktop computer. If you’re unable to get support from them, or your device’s warranty has expired, a third party repair might be the way for you.

That’s us! Our experienced and helpful technicians at Safemode Computer Service can get you the right hard drive solution for you. We are situated in Inner West Sydney, at a very convenient location surrounded by Marrickville and Newtown. Our repair services are highly rated among Sydney, and we can offer a top-to-bottom checkup and solution for your faulty hard drive. Make an appointment at our Enmore store today.