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Fixing Windows System 7 and Startup Problems

This document describes some simple steps for dealing with Windows 7 system and start-up problems. These procedures require no technical expertise but the instructions (and occasional warnings) should be followed with care. Just work through the sections in turn until you find something relevant to your problem.

1. Backing Up Your Own Files

If you computer has system problem, you first priority should be to make sure you have up-to-date backup copies of all your own files. Some advice is given on doing this in a separate document. If your Windows system is working sufficiently well, you can just follow the section on What to Back Up.

2. Broken Internet Connection

If your system has had an adware or spyware infection removed, or you have uninstalled certain anti-virus products, you may find that the machine will no longer successfully connect to the internet. This may be because The Windows €˜Winsock€™ communications software has been damaged. In some cases, the network connection may look as if it is partly working, for example it gets assigned an IP address from the DHCP service, but application software such as a web browser cannot retrieve web pages.

Various free utilties can be used to quickly repair corrupt Winsock problems, for example LSP-Fix available from

3. The Windows Advanced Options Menu

The Windows Advanced Options Menu provides some alternative ways of running Windows when it won't start up normally. To display this menu, you need to power off your computer and then restart it. Immediately start tapping the <F8> key until the Advanced Options Menu appears as shown below. You may find it requires several restart attempts to get this menu to come up.

advanced boot options screen

If your computer's problem is so serious that it won't get as far as the Advanced Options Menu, skip to the section below on Windows Repair Installation.

4. Last Known Good Configuration

The Last Known Good Configuration option on the Windows Advanced Options Menu starts your computer using the configuration it stored at the last successful closedown. If your machine starts OK using this option, no further action may be needed.

5. Safe Mode

If you choose Safe Mode on the Advanced Options Menu, Windows will attempt to start up in a special mode where only its most basic components are loaded. It also bypasses any programs that normally run at system startup. You may find that some minor problems can be cured immediately by just doing a normal Windows Restart from within Safe Mode.

Other things you can try in Safe Mode are:

  • Running a Windows System Restore to undo recent system changes.
  • Uninstalling problem software via the Add or Remove Programs control panel or, if applicable, temporarily disabling it by deleting its entry in the Startup folder.
  • Disabling auto-running software using the Windows MSCONFIG utility (run via [Start/Run]).
  • Removing or disabling recently added hardware (via the Hardware/Device Manager section of the System control panel.
  • Running anti-virus software or adware/spyware removal software that you were unable to run (or was ineffective) in normal Windows mode

When you log into Windows in Safe Mode, use the Administrator username or another administrator-level username

As well as the basic Safe Mode, there two other variations:

  • Safe Mode with Networking - this loads the additional Windows components to let you access the network - e.g. to let you download software updates or an anti-virus scanner such as Stinger.
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt - provides you with a command prompt instead of the graphical user interface. Use of this option is beyond the scope of this document.

6. Windows 7 System Restore Facility

If your Windows system has suddenly started misbehaving, for example after you perform a software installation or update, the Windows System Restore facility lets you restore the system to a previous state. System Restore automatically creates Restore Points whenever you install or update your system. You can also, if you wish, manually create additional Restore Points at any time.

Note that performing a System Restore will only affect Windows system and application files. It will not change any of your own files or documents.

If you are unable to start up your system normally, you can try running System Restore with Windows running in Safe Mode as described above.

To restore your system to a previous Restore Point:

  1. Log on to Windows as Administrator (or as any other administrator-level user).
  2. Click [Start] then [Help and Support] then [Performance and Maintenance] then [Using System Restore to undo changes] then [Run the System Restore Wizard].
  3. On the Welcome to System Restore screen, select Restore my computer to an earlier time (if it is not already selected), and then click Next.
  4. On the [Select a Restore Point] screen, click the most recent system checkpoint in the On this list, click a restore point list, and then click Next.
  5. A System Restore message may appear that lists the configuration changes that System Restore will make. Click OK.
  6. On the Confirm Restore Point Selection screen, click Next. System Restore restores the previous Windows configuration, and then restarts the computer.
  7. Log on to the computer as Administrator or other administrator-level user. The System Restore Restoration Complete screen appears.
  8. Click OK.

If performing a System Restore did not solve your problems, the you could try the Windows Repair Installation described below.

7. Windows Repair Installation

If your system came with a Microsoft Windows installation CD, you can use this to perform a Windows Repair Installation. This tries to repair Windows by replacing the Windows system files on your hard disk with fresh copies from the CD. A Repair Installation will leave your own documents intact and, in most cases, your installed applications should also still work. If your machine came pre-installed with Windows may find that some applications need reinstalling after doing a Repair Install. Any Windows updates will need to be reapplied after running a Repair Installation but his should happen automatically.

Do not confuse a Microsoft Windows installation CD with the computer manufacturer's own System Restore CD(s) often supplied with laptop machines. The latter will fix your system by restoring it to exactly how it was when it left the factory - all your own files and any new software that you installed will be destroyed. If you do use the manufacturer's own System Restore CDs, they normally give you a clear screen message that that is what will happen.

If your machine did not come with a Microsoft Windows Installation CD, try contacting the supplier or manufacturer for one. Ultimately, you might need to buy a new Windows installation CD or download an image file from the Microsoft website ( if you want to do a Repair Installation. Please note that IT Services is unable to supply Windows Installation CDs to individuals.

If you have downloaded a Microsoft Windows installation image file (.iso) from their website you will need to create a DVD or bootable USB drive first. The Microsoft website should take you through the process but if in doubt then a brief guide to creating bootable media can be found on the Backing-Up a Non-Booting Windows PC page. 

To perform a Repair Installation:

  1. If at all possible, first make a backup copy of your own files if you don't already have one. Although a Repair Install should not affect your own files, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Disconnect your computer from the network.
  3. Boot (i.e. start up) the computer with the Windows CD in the CD drive or bootable USB drive connected. You may need to change the 'boot order' via the system BIOS so the media device boots before the hard drive. Check your system documentation for how to access the BIOS and change the boot order. If the system is set to boot from CD or USB, you may see an appropriate startup message such as Press any key to boot from CD....
  4. If all is well, the screen below will be shown:

windows 7 install screen

This process should be fairly self-explanatory. Choose Repair your computer and follow the steps provided. If you wish to install a fresh copy of Windows instead of performing a repair then Install now will continue with the installation process. 

8. Reinstalling Windows

If your Windows system is still not starting up correctly, you may need to consider completely re-installing your system. This is a fairly time-consuming exercise as it will probably require you to:

  • Back up your own documents and data
  • Re-install and update Windows
  • Re-install all your applications
  • Restore all your own documents and data

Separate documents are available which cover:


Written by IT Services. Latest revision 4 November 2019