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.
Most computer makes come with built-in boot diagnostics.
To get the boot diagnostic menu, first, turn off your computer.
Then, press the power button to turn it on and immediately keep pressing this key:
- HP computer: press ESC key continuously until you see a menu screen with different options. Select Diagnostics option.
- Dell computers: press F12 key continuously until you see a menu screen with different options. Select Diagnostics option.
- Apple computers with Intel processor: hold down D key till you see the next screen where it gives you the option to do Apple Hardware Test.
- Apple computers with Apple silicon or newer: Turn on your Mac and continue to press and hold the power button as your Mac starts up. Release when you see the startup options window, which includes a gear icon labelled Options. Press Command (⌘)-D on your keyboard.
- Lenovo ThinkPad or ThinkCentre computers: press Enter key (or F10 key on some models) continuously until you see a menu screen with different options, press F12 to select diagnostics option.
On some models, you can press F12 from the beginning instead of Enter / F10.
- On other computers (Acer, ASUS, Lenovo IdeaPad, Toshiba, Clevo, Razer), unfortunately these computers do not provide built-in diagnostic tools.
On boot diagnostics menu, 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.
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 computer repairer.
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.
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.
2. Testing with hard drive analysis apps
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 or NVMe-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.
There are many types of hard drives, solid state drives / flash storage in the market. It is important to pick a compatible one.
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-term 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
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.
Most computers are now using Solid State Drives (see below).
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 (SSD)
SSDs are installed in most computers now. They are much faster than spinning hard drives (HDD).
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.
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!
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
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!