Sometimes the computer turns on as expected, it gets to the Windows login screen, but then something happens. Your computer may freeze, restart on its own, or just stop and not respond to anything you do.
You may see the login screen, but after you enter your password, nothing happens. On the other hand, maybe you can log in, but then Windows freezes and you have to manually restart. On the other hand, Windows may seem to start up, but your desktop never appears and all you can do is move your mouse across a blank screen.
Regardless of the specific features, this is the troubleshooting guide to use if Windows boots most of the way but you can’t log in or the desktop never fully loads.
If you don’t even get to the Windows login screen, or if you see some kind of error message, check out the steps to fix a computer that won’t turn on.
Applies to : All versions of Windows, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
How to fix stop, freeze, and restart issues during Windows logon
- Start Windows in Safe Mode. If Windows boots completely in Safe Mode, simply restart your computer from there as you normally would and see if Windows starts properly. A failed update or single boot process can sometimes cause problems stopping, freezing or restarting the loop during the login process. Often all Windows needs is a clean boot into Safe Mode and then a reboot to fix the problem.
- Start Windows with the last known good configuration. Starting Windows with Last Known Good Configuration will return driver and registry settings to the state they were in the last time Windows was successfully started and shut down, possibly returning your computer to working order. Of course, this will only work if the cause of the Windows logon problem is a registry or driver configuration issue.
It is safe to try Safe Mode before Last Known Good Configuration, because the valuable information stored in the registry for Last Known Good Configuration to work properly is not written until Windows starts successfully in Normal Mode.
- Repair Windows installation. A common reason for Windows to crash between the login screen and the successful loading of the desktop is because one or more important Windows files are damaged or missing. Windows Repair replaces these important files without removing or changing anything else on your computer.
In Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista, this is called Startup Repair . In Windows XP it is called Repair Installation .
The Windows XP repair installation is more complicated and has more drawbacks than the startup repair available in later Windows operating systems. If you’re using Windows XP, you may want to wait until you’ve completed steps 4, 5, and 6 before trying this.
- Start Windows in Safe Mode, and then use System Restore to undo recent changes. Windows could freeze, stop, or restart during the logon process due to a damaged driver, important file, or part of the registry. A System Restore will return all of those things to a time when the computer was working, which could solve the problem completely.
If for some reason you can’t get into Safe Mode, you can also perform a system restore from Startup Settings (available for Windows 10 and 8 through Advanced Startup Options). Windows 7 and Vista users can access Safe Mode in System Recovery Options, which is available from the Advanced Startup Options menu as well as on the Windows 7 or Windows Vista Setup DVD.
You will not be able to undo a system restore if it is done from Safe Mode, Startup Settings, or System Recovery Options. You might not care as you can’t get to Windows normally anyway, but it’s something to keep in mind.
- Scan your computer for viruses, again from Safe Mode. If you’re having trouble getting to that point, you may want free startup antivirus tools for some programs that will scan for viruses even without access to Windows. A virus or other type of malware may have caused a specific enough problem with a part of Windows to cause it to fail during logon.
- Clear the CMOS. If the motherboard BIOS memory is cleared, the BIOS settings will return to their factory default levels. A BIOS setup error could be the reason Windows can’t get to the desktop
If clearing the CMOS fixes the Windows logon problem, make sure that all the changes you make to the BIOS are completed one at a time so that if the problem reoccurs, you’ll know which change caused it.
- Replace the CMOS battery if your computer is more than three years old or has been turned off for a long time.
- CMOS batteries are very cheap and one that is no longer holding a charge can cause all sorts of strange behavior at any time during a computer’s startup process, right up to the Windows desktop loading.
- Put everything back on your computer that you can. The reset will reset the various connections within your computer and might fix the problem that prevents Windows from starting completely.
- Try resetting the following hardware and see if Windows will boot completely:
Disconnect and reconnect your keyboard, mouse, and other external devices.
- Reseat all internal power and data cables.
- Replace the memory modules.
- Replace the expansion cards.
- Check the causes of electrical shorts inside your computer. An electrical short is sometimes the cause of problems during the Windows logon process, especially reboot loops and freezes.
- Try the RAM. If one of the computer’s RAM modules fails completely, the computer won’t even turn on. Most of the time, however, only part of your computer’s memory will fail.
- If system memory fails, your computer can freeze, stop, or restart at any time, including during or after the Windows logon process.
- Replace your computer’s memory if the memory test shows any type of problem.
Make sure you have done your best to complete the troubleshooting steps up to this one. Steps 11 and 12 involve more difficult and destructive solutions to Windows not booting completely. It may be that one of the following solutions is necessary to fix your problem, but if you haven’t been diligent in troubleshooting up to this point, you can’t be sure that one of the easier solutions isn’t the right one.
- Try the hard drive. A physical problem with the hard drive is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Windows may not boot completely. A hard drive that cannot read and write information correctly cannot load the files necessary for Windows to start.
- Replace your hard drive if your tests show a problem. After replacing the hard drive, you will need to perform a fresh installation of Windows.
- If no hard drive problems are found, then the hard drive is physically fine, which means that the cause of your problem must be with Windows, in which case the following step will resolve the problem.
- Do a clean install of Windows. This type of installation will completely erase the drive that Windows is installed on, and then reinstall the operating system from scratch.
In step 3, we recommend that you try to fix this problem using Windows repair. Since that method of fixing important Windows files is non-destructive, make sure you’ve tried it before the fully destructive and clean install of last resort in this step.
- Your computer should now allow you to successfully log in.