When an employee’s Windows workstation is stuck in an endless reboot loop, understanding why such a problem occurs and how to stop it.
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Often times, this problem is caused by a driver, system component, or hardware component that is causing Windows to spontaneously restart during the startup process. The result is a machine that never manages to fully boot and… turn on again.
The first thing you need to try is to start in Safe Mode. If it is possible to correctly run the startup sequence this way, there is a good chance that the problem is with a device driver. Safe mode loads its own drivers with limited functionality but stable.
Turning off the auto restart feature might be a good idea so you can see the crash screen. By default, automatic restart in the event of a Windows crash is enabled on many systems. If you are restarting with a loop, this likely contributes to the problem. To deactivate this function, you have to intervene in the registry, in particular in the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlCrashContro. A DWORD with the name AutoReboot must be created or changed there and set to 0.
There is a catch, however: it is not possible to modify the registry without starting the system. So it works fine as long as it is possible to boot in safe mode. But what if Safe Mode doesn’t work? There are several ways to do this.
You can connect the system hard drive to another computer by installing it in an external hard drive enclosure, for example, and then using RegEdit or another utility to change the value of AutoReboot.
It is also possible to use a utility such as the Offiline Password & Registry Editor that can start a computer directly without having to start the nominal Windows instance.
Once automatic restart is disabled, you should take note of the crash messages. The blue screen of death (BSOD) is usually not a welcome sign. However, a blue screen is preferable when restarting the loop. Because BSOD messages help determine what went wrong and why.
Microsoft has its own tools, but alternatives – like NirSoft’s free BlueScreenView software – do most of the work and present a brief report of any BSODs a system may have experienced.
In the absence of BSOD, it can be a good idea to swap out hardware components. If the crash feature reboot is disabled and the system continues to reboot in a loop, it can be more serious. And it can start with failed RAM components. It can be a good idea to run Memtest86 + on the malfunctioning computer overnight.
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There may also be a problem with the bootable media: bootable media or possibly faulty hardware components should be removed from the computer. And if that’s not enough, trying an in-place repair or reinstalling Windows may be a valid option. The first installs a copy of Windows on top of another copy – thus retaining applications and user settings, but resetting the system components.
For its part, Microsoft recommends checking for updates. Enough to ensure that the system has the latest drivers and other software components that are best suited for the machine.