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Disk boot failure: Fix for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10

Get the fix for the error  Disk Boot Failure on Windows XP,Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows


About &#;Disk Boot Failure&#;

The following information on this error has been compiled by NeoSmart Technologies, based on the information gathered and reported by our global network of engineers, developers, and technicians or partner organizations.

Description and Symptoms

The error messages, alerts, warnings, and symptoms below are tied to this error.

Symptom 1: &#;Disk Boot Failure&#; error screen on startup

Every time a computer is turned on, as part of the boot process the BIOS tries to find a bootable drive to continue the loading process by starting its first sector. However, if BIOS is unable to find a drive to boot from, then a &#;Disk Boot Failure&#; error screen is displayed and the boot process is halted.

Here is an example of &#;Disk Boot Failure&#; error screen for all versions of Windows:

Disk boot failure error screen


Causes of this Error

This error has been known to occur as a result of one of the following causes:

Cause 1: Incorrect BIOS boot order

The most common cause of this error is an incorrect order of boot devices in BIOS. Usually BIOS tries to find a bootable drive according to its boot device order, so if a PC has a floppy drive set to a higher priority than a hard drive, and there is a floppy disk inserted &#; then the PC tries to boot from a floppy disk, and a error message is displayed.

Cause 2: Faulty data cables

Like all components of our PC’s, hard drive data cables tend to deteriorate as the time passes. If the same data cable was used for several years(or even the same one across several computers), then it might me the cause of periodic read/write errors that can affect the loading process.

Cause 3: HDD is damaged

A hard drive can become damaged or inaccessible due to read/write errors, power outages, or virus attacks. If that&#;s the case, then the drive should be checked for errors and scanned for viruses to make sure that it works correctly.

Fixing “Disk boot failure” on Windows

Fix 1: Change BIOS boot order

To check a computer&#;s boot order, follow these instructions:

  1. Restart the computer
  2. Open the BIOS. If you&#;re not sure which key is used to open BIOS, it&#;s either any of the following or it&#;s listed on the first screen that appears on the monitor, before the Windows logo appears.Possible keys: , , , , or
    Dell BIOS screen showing special key options

    Notice the key guide in the top-right corner.

  3. Go to the Boot tab
  4. Change the order to position the hard disk as the 1st option
    Boot Selection Menu

    Boot Selection Menu

  5. Save these settings
  6. Restart the computer

Fix #2: Remove newly installed hardware, check data cables and jumpers

If a new hardware was recently added , follow these tips:

  • Remove the newly added hardware and restart the computer to check if the error still appears
  • Check the cables of the hard disk where Windows is installed
  • Check the jumpers of the hard disk

Fix #3: Check HDD for failures

To test if the hard disk has failed, use Easy Recovery Essentials&#; Automated Repair. The Automated Repair process will report any issues found with the hard disk or RAM memory with one single click:

  1. Download Easy Recovery Essentials
  2. Burn the ISO Image. Follow our instructions on how to burn a bootable ISO image. If you’d like to have a recovery USB instead, follow our instructions on how to make a recovery USB.
  3. Boot into Easy Recovery Essentials
  4. Select Automated Repair
  5. Click Continue and wait for the Automated Repair process to finish. Automated Repair process will report any issues found with your hard disk or RAM memory:

    EasyRE: HDD is failing

To download Easy Recovery Essentials, click here.

Fix #4: Run chkdsk

The chkdsk utility can detect if the computer&#;s hard disk has certain issues.

If a PC has Windows XP installed, follow these steps to start chkdsk:

  1. Insert a Windows XP CD into the computer.
  2. Restart the computer.
  3. Press any key to boot into the CD when you see the “Press any key to boot from CD” message.
  4. Press  to start Recovery Console when the Options screen appears.
  5. Choose the Windows installation to be repaired, and type in the Administrator password followed by the  key to submit it.
  6. Type the following command, and press  : to submit it: chkdsk C: /R

    Where C: is the Windows installation drive

  7. Wait for the scanning process to end, and restart the computer.

Here is an example screenshot of what the PC’s console output should look like once the chkdsk is complete:

Windows XP Chkdsk utility results screen

Windows XP Chkdsk utility results screen

If a PC has Windows Vista, 7, 8 or 10 installed, follow these steps instead:

  1. Boot from a Windows install disc
  2. Click on Repair your computer after selecting proper language, time and keyboard input.
  3. Select the Windows installation drive, which is usually , and click Next
  4. Choose Command Prompt when the System Recovery Options box appears
  5. Write the following command and press afterwards: chkdsk C: /f

    Replace C: with the letter of the driver where Windows is installed.

Here is an example of what the PC&#;s console output should look like once the chkdsk.exe is complete:

Windows 7 Chkdsk utility results screen

Windows 7 Chkdsk utility results screen

More Information

Linked Entries

Support Links

Applicable Systems

This Windows-related knowledgebase article applies to the following operating systems:

  • Windows XP (all editions)
  • Windows Vista (all editions)
  • Windows 7 (all editions)
  • Windows 8 (all editions)
  • Windows (all editions)
  • Windows 10 (all editions)

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How to Format Your External Hard Drive

If you buy an external drive—such as one of our recommended desktop hard drives, portable hard drives, or USB flash drives—you may need to reformat it to work with your operating system of choice, since different operating systems use different file systems to process data.

Although it’s true that any drive is compatible with both Windows and macOS, most drives come preformatted for Windows out of the box. If you use Windows, chances are good that you won’t need to reformat your external hard drive—unless you buy it secondhand, or you plan on switching between operating systems, your drive should come ready to use. If you use a Mac, the likelihood that you’ll have to reformat the drive is higher. But fear not: The process is simple.

Choosing the right format for your drive

Non-Linux computers can use four main file systems: NTFS, HFS+, FAT32, and exFAT. So what do those four file systems mean, and which one is right for you?

  • If you plan to use your drive for File History backups on a Windows computer, and you use only Windows, stick to NTFS (New Technology File System). NTFS is native to Windows, and most hard drives are preformatted for this file system. macOS and Linux, however, can only read files stored on such a drive; they cannot write to an NTFS-formatted drive. NTFS has huge file and partition size limits that you won’t hit; that makes it a better choice than FAT32, which has a 4 GB size limit per file. Many backup archives and video files are larger than 4 GB.
  • If you plan to use your drive for Time Machine backups on a Mac, and you use only macOS, use HFS+ (Hierarchical File System Plus, or macOS Extended). A drive formatted this way will not mount on a Windows computer without additional software. Like NTFS, the HFS+ file system has file and partition size limits that are much bigger and more suitable for modern use than those of FAT
  • FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32) is an older file system that both Windows machines and Macs still support. FAT32 was introduced in Windows 95 in , but it remains useful because nearly every system can use it. Unfortunately, it isn’t any good for storing movies and other large files: FAT32 has a size limit of 4 GB per file, so your files have to be small.
  • If you need to transfer files larger than 4 GB between Mac and Windows computers, exFAT (extended File Allocation Table) is the best option, although it doesn’t work with File History or Time Machine. exFAT works on both macOS and Windows, and it doesn’t have the file size limit that FAT32 does, so you’ll be able to back up movies and other large files.
  • If you want to use a single external hard drive to back up both File History and Time Machine, you can partition it so that some of the drive is NTFS and some is HFS+. First, partition the drive using Disk Utility with macOS, and (using our walkthrough below) format one part as HFS+ and the other as FAT32; then, plug the drive into Windows and reformat the FAT32 portion as NTFS. Now your computer will see your single drive as multiple, smaller drives. Make sure to leave plenty of room for future backups on both partitions. It’s possible, but tricky, to change the size of a partition later on in Windows and macOS; we recommend backing up the data on your drive before attempting the task, since it’s possible to wipe your drive doing this.

Now that you’ve figured out those differences, it’s time to reformat your hard drive. Reformatting will delete all the data stored on the drive, so if you need to reformat, do so as soon as you buy the drive. If you already have data stored on the drive, back that data up elsewhere, reformat the drive, and then put your data back on the drive.

Reformatting your drive in Windows

A screenshot of a formatting dialog box in Windows, showing capacity, file system, allocation unit size, and volume label.

To reformat a drive on Windows:

  1. Plug in the drive and open Windows Explorer.
  2. Right-click the drive and choose Format from the drop-down menu.
  3. Select the file system you want, give your drive a name under Volume label, and make sure the Quick Format box is checked.
  4. Click Start, and the computer will reformat your drive.

When you’ve completed the process, you can open the external drive in Windows Explorer.

Reformatting your drive in macOS

A screenshot with a dialog box in macOS' Disk Utility. It says "erase asmedia ASMT Media"? and has options for a new name, format and scheme.

To reformat your drive for macOS:

  1. Plug in the drive and open the Finder.
  2. Click the Go menu, select Utilities from the drop-down menu, and open Disk Utility.
  3. Choose your external drive from the left sidebar, and click Erase.
  4. Give your drive a name and select the file system you want from the Format drop-down.
  5. Click Erase, and the system will reformat your drive.

When you’ve completed the process, you can open the external drive by clicking on the drive’s icon on the desktop of your Mac.

Note: Using the formatting options above on a drive that has data on it may not be enough to prevent some of that data from being recoverable. If you're formatting a drive in order to give it away, sell it, or recycle it, make sure to securely erase the drive to prevent data recovery.

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How to Completely Reset the Hard Drive

By Ruri Ranbe

Back up your data before resetting your hard drive.

The file system (or filesystem) organizes the data stored on a hard drive. It tells the operating system where files should be placed on the drive for retrieval or modification. Formatting a hard drive erases this file system completely and installs a new one in its place; all of the files on the drive are erased as well. Businesses sometimes choose to reset, or format, the hard drive on a workstation to improve the PC's performance. Erasing the drive's contents and reinstalling Windows can speed up the workstation, eliminating the expense of upgrading to new hardware.

Formatting From the Windows DVD

Insert the Windows 7 DVD into the optical drive. Click "Start," point to the arrow to the right of "Shut Down," and select "Restart" from the options.

Press "Enter" when the message "Press Any Key to Boot From CD or DVD" appears. The computer will load the contents of the Windows 7 DVD.

Select your language, time, currency and keyboard preferences from the drop-down menus. Click "Next."

Click "Install Now." Review the license terms, select "I Accept the License Terms," and then click "Next" to proceed.

Choose the hard drive on which Windows is installed. Select "Drive Options (Advanced)."

Click "Format" and follow the on-screen prompts to erase the contents of the drive.

Click "Next" to reinstall Windows 7 to the PC and set up your new account.

Formatting in Windows

Click "Start" and type "disk" into the search field. Select "Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions" from the results.

Right-click the disk drive you want to reset and choose "Format" from the context menu.

Type a name for the new drive in the Volume Label field. Select "NTFS" from the File System drop-down menu to use the drive with Windows XP, Vista and 7; select "FAT32" to use the drive with older versions of the operating system, such as Windows 95 and

Uncheck "Perform a Quick Format." Click "OK" twice to format the hard drive.



  • You can't format your primary drive from within Windows; use Disk Management only to format a secondary hard drive. To format the primary hard drive, use the Windows 7 DVD.
  • Some computers ship with a recovery partition that you can use to reset the hard drive to its factory condition. You can usually access this partition by pressing "F8" on the boot screen and selecting "Repair Your Computer" from the menu. Contact your PC manufacturer for further assistance if needed.


  • Resetting, or formatting, the hard drive removes all of the data on the drive; back up your important files before proceeding.

Writer Bio

Ruri Ranbe has been working as a writer since She received an A.A. in English literature from Valencia College and is completing a B.S. in computer science at the University of Central Florida. Ranbe also has more than six years of professional information-technology experience, specializing in computer architecture, operating systems, networking, server administration, virtualization and Web design.


Usually, you boot your computer from its main hard drive, which contains your operating system (like Windows). But occasionally, you may need to boot from a CD, DVD, or USB drive&#;say, if you&#;re running a recovery program, or testing out a new operating system like Linux.

In order to do this, you need to tell your computer’s BIOS to load the operating system from a different place than usual. You can do this in two ways: By changing the boot order in the BIOS or UEFI firmware (so it attempts to boot from CD or USB every time), or by accessing a boot menu on startup (so it&#;ll only boot from CD or USB that one time). We&#;ll show you both methods in this guide. The first is permanent until you change it again, but should exist on every computer. The latter method is faster, but may not exist on every machine.

NOTE: This process will look different on each computer. The instructions here will guide you through the process, but the screenshots won’t look exactly the same.

How to Change Your Computer&#;s Boot Order

The boot order is controlled in your computer&#;s BIOS or UEFI firmware, depending on how new your computer is.

To access the BIOS, you’ll need to restart your computer and press a specific key at the start of the boot process. This key is generally displayed on-screen during the boot process. For example, you may see a message that says “Press <DEL&#;> to enter setup” or “Press F2 to access the BIOS.” Press the required key at the correct time and your computer’s BIOS will appear.

While Delete and F2 are probably the most common keys, your computer may require another key, such as F1, Escape, or Ctrl+Alt+Escape. If you don’t see the required key on-screen, consult your computer’s manual or search for your computer’s model name and “bios key” on Google. (If you built your own computer, consult the motherboard’s manual instead.)

RELATED:What Is UEFI, and How Is It Different from BIOS?

On a PC with UEFI firmware&#;which most newer PCs that came with Windows 8 or 10 will have&#;you may not be able to press a key at boot to access this menu. Instead, you&#;ll first need to boot into Windows. Press and hold the &#;Shift&#; key as you click the &#;Restart&#; option in the Start menu or on the sign-in screen. Windows will reboot into a special boot options menu.

Click Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > UEFI Firmware Settings on this menu screen to access your computer&#;s UEFI settings screen.

This boot menu will also automatically appear if your PC is having trouble booting properly, so you should be able to access it even if your PC can&#;t boot Windows.

Once you’re in the BIOS or UEFI firmware menu, look for some sort of “Boot” option menu. If you’re lucky, there will be a tab at the top of the screen named Boot. If not, this option may be located beneath another tab.

Use the arrow keys to navigate through the BIOS. To select something, press Enter. You’ll generally see a list of the keys you can use at the bottom-right corner of your screen. Some newer computers with UEFI firmware may allow you to use a mouse on this screen, too.

Locate the boot order screen that lists the boot devices. This may be on the Boot tab itself or beneath a Boot Order option.

Select an option and press Enter to change it, either to disable it or specify another boot device. You can also use the + and – keys to move devices up or down in the priority list. (These steps may be slightly different on some computers; consult the list of keyboard shortcuts on your screen.)

Note that &#;USB drive&#; doesn’t appear as an option in the list, even though our computer has USB ports. If we connected a USB device to the computer before starting our computer and accessing this screen, we’d see the USB drive option in the list. Some computers display the USB drive option even when a drive isn’t connected, while some don’t.

The boot order is a priority list. For example, if &#;USB drive&#; is above &#;hard drive&#; in your boot order, your computer will try the USB drive and, if it&#;s not connected or no operating system is present, it&#;ll then boot from the hard drive.

To save your settings, locate the Save & Exit screen. Select the &#;Save Changes and Reset&#; or &#;Save Changes and Exit&#; option and press Enter to save your changes and restart your computer.

You may also be able to press a specific key to save your settings and reset the computer. Ensure you select the “save and exit” option, not the “discard changes and exit” option.

Once your computer restarts, it will boot using your new boot order priority.

How to Access Your Computer&#;s Boot Menu (If It Has One)

To reduce the need to change your boot order, some computers have a Boot Menu option.

Press the appropriate key&#;often F11 or F12&#;to access the boot menu while booting your computer. This allows you to boot from a specific hardware device once without changing your boot order permanently.

On a UEFI-based PC&#;again, most PCs that shipped with either Windows 8 or 10 use UEFI&#;you can choose a boot device from the advanced boot options menu.

From within Windows, press and hold the Shift key and click the &#;Restart&#; option in the Start menu or on the sign-in screen. Your PC will restart into the boot options menu.

Select the &#;Use a device&#; option on this screen and you can choose a device you want to boot from, such as a USB drive, DVD, or network boot.


Harddrive how to reboot

How to Reboot a Computer Hard Drive

iBananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Rebooting a computer component is a time-honored method for trying to get it to work correctly. Shutting down and restarting a hard drive resets your computer hardware so that it works properly once again. Rebooting a computer hard drive has been practiced for as long as there have been computers in existence. While rebooting a computer hard drive doesn't always solve the problem you're having, it often is the trick you've been looking for.

Decide what kind of reboot you are going to do. A soft reboot is performed the way you are “supposed” to do it. For a soft Windows reboot, go to the Start menu and select “Shut Down” or “Restart.” The computer will then shut itself down. Clicking “Restart” makes it boot up without further intervention from you.

Perform a hard reboot by pushing the computer’s power button and holding it until the computer shuts down. Wait 45 seconds and restart the computer by pushing the power button again. You may have to start up in safe mode, but that also allows you the chance to restart properly or troubleshoot your computer. This method may cause you to lose data or interrupt the operation of some of your programs. But it may be the only option if your computer's hard drive is frozen.

Power down all of the computer's components. Shut off all of the peripherals you have attached to your computer and disconnect the cables. Then, plug all of the peripherals back in and restart your computer. This can often solve problems with your hard drive.

Investigate what the problem may be with your hard drive. Because of its delicate nature, your hard drive can very easily be thrown off.

How to Format an External Hard Drive on Windows and Mac

How to erase my hard drive and start over

Updated: 04/12/ by Computer Hope

Computer hard drive

Most computers have a system restore disc or built-in restore process on the hard drive to reset the computer to the original or default settings (factory reset). Resetting, formatting, or restoring, a computer helps eliminate issues with computer software, including corrupt program files and virus infections. Instructions on how to restore your computer back to the original software are provided below.


Restoring your computer erases all the information on the hard drive and makes it like new. Once the steps below are completed, you cannot restore any lost data. Back up any files you do not want to lose before proceeding with the restore process.

Erasing the hard drive and reinstalling Windows

To erase your hard drive and reinstall Windows, follow the steps below for your version of Windows.


If you're erasing everything and reinstalling Windows, an administrator login name or password isn't needed.

Windows 10

Follow these instructions to erase or uninstall and reinstall Windows

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Select the Settings option (looks like a gear).
  3. In the Settings window, select the Update & security option.
  4. Select the Recovery option in the left navigation pane.
  5. Click the Get Started button in the "Reset this PC" section.
  6. Choose either the Keep my files or Remove everything option, depending on if you want to preserve your files or delete everything and start over.
  7. Follow the prompts to begin the recovery process.

Windows will be reset, either keeping your files intact or erasing everything, depending on the option you selected.

Windows 8

Follow these instructions to erase and reinstall Windows 8.

  1. Press the + to open the Charms menu.
  2. Select the Search option and type reinstall in the Search text field (do not press ).
  3. Select the Settings option.
  4. On the left side of the screen, select Remove everything and reinstall Windows.
  5. On the "Reset your PC" screen, click Next.
  6. On the "Do you want to fully clean your drive" screen, select Just remove my files to do a quick deletion or select Fully clean the drive to have all files erased.
  7. On the "Ready to reset your PC" screen, click Reset.

The hard drive will be erased, and Windows 8 will be reinstalled.

Windows 7 and Vista

To restore a Windows 7 or Vista computer, you must have a set of restore discs for the computer or an original Windows 7 or Vista installation disc. If you do not have a set of restore discs, contact the computer manufacturer to order a new set or restore discs.


Before following the steps below, make sure the computer is set to boot from the CD-ROM drive.

  1. Insert the Windows 7 or Vista installation CD in the CD-ROM drive and restart the computer.
  2. When you see the message "Press any key to boot from CD," press a key on the keyboard.
  3. Press at the Windows Setup welcome screen.
  4. When prompted, press any key on your keyboard.
  5. On the "Install Windows" page, select your preferred language and other preferences, then click Next.
  6. On the License Agreement page, accept the terms and agreements and click Next.
  7. On the Installation Type screen, choose the Custom option.
  8. Select the Drive Options (advanced) option.
  9. For Disk 0, delete all partitions. When all partitions are deleted, a single entry named "Unallocated space" should be seen.
  10. Click Disk 0 and select Next.

The Windows installation process starts by creating a new partition, formatting the partition, and installing Windows on the hard drive. The formatting process erases the hard drive before installing Windows.

Windows XP and

To restore a Windows XP or computer, you must have a set of restore discs for the computer or an original Windows XP or installation disc. If you do not have a set of restore discs, contact the computer manufacturer to order a new set or restore discs.


Before following the steps below, make sure the computer is set to boot from the CD-ROM drive.

  1. Insert the Windows XP/ installation CD in the CD-ROM drive and restart the computer.
  2. When you see the message "Press any key to boot from CD," press a key on the keyboard.
  3. Press the key at the Windows XP Setup welcome screen, then press to accept the Terms and Agreements.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to select a hard drive partition to format and install Windows XP on.
  5. After formatting the hard drive, which erases all data, see our steps for reinstalling Windows.

Earlier versions of Windows and DOS

Follow these instructions to erase and reinstall MS-DOS +, Windows 3.x, 95, 98, ME, or NT

Formatting the drive

  1. Place the bootable diskette or disc inside the computer and reboot to get to the DOS prompt. In some cases, you may need to boot the computer with CD-ROM support or press a key to boot from the disk.
  2. At the MS-DOS prompt type, format c: /s

If the "format c: /s" command does not work, you may need to download the file to your boot disk.

  1. The computer asks you "Are you sure you want to erase everything on drive c:"
  2. If you are ok with doing this, press "Y" for yes and press .
  3. After doing this, the computer begins the formatting process. While the computer is formatting, make sure no errors are encountered.
  1. Once the format process is completed successfully, at the MS-DOS prompt, type "fdisk /mbr" and press . After entering this command, it should return you to the MS-DOS prompt with no message. This step is not required, but recommended.
  1. Once back at the MS-DOS prompt, reboot the computer with the boot disk still inserted and follow the steps below to reinstall Windows on the hard drive.

Windows NT

Windows NT can be installed in different ways. We recommend Windows NT be installed using the steps below as we feel that these steps by far are the easiest way to install Windows NT

First, we recommend all users wanting to install Windows NT use the /b switch, which allows the users to not need to create the diskettes. We do, however, recommend the user create the emergency recover diskettes if they have not already been created after the installation of Windows NT.

Finally, before the installation of Windows NT, we recommend you run smartdrv, which helps the installation of Windows NT run a lot faster.

  1. Place the CD into the computer.
  2. Type X: (where x is the CD-ROM drive, often this is D:).
  3. Once at the appropriate drive, type cd winnt and press to get into the Windows 95 directory.
  4. Once at X:\WINNT> type winnt /b.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Windows 95 with a backup CD

  1. Place the CD into the computer.
  2. Type X: (where x is the CD-ROM drive, often this is D:).
  3. Once at the appropriate drive, type cd win95 and press to get into the Windows 95 directory.
  4. Once at X:\WIN95> type setup to begin the installation.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

If you are encountering issues during the setup process, you can add additional switches to the setup command line. These switches are on our Windows 95 setup switches page.

Windows 95 with floppy diskettes

  1. Place the first diskette of Windows 95 into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> type setup and press to begin the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Windows 3.x

  1. Place the first diskette of Windows 3.x into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> type setup and press to begin the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.


  1. Place the first MS-DOS diskette into the computer.
  2. At the A:\> type setup and press to being the installation.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

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How to Boot From a USB Drive or CD on Any Computer

Image for article titled How to Boot From a USB Drive or CD on Any Computer

When you’re troubleshooting your computer or installing a new operating system, you may need to “boot from a disc” or USB device (like an external hard drive or flash drive). Here’s what that means—and how to do it.

When you press the power button on your computer, it boots up from its internal hard drive, where your operating system (usually Windows or macOS) is stored. But sometimes you need to boot into something different. Maybe you need to boot from your Windows installation disc to reinstall Windows, or perhaps you need to boot from a system rescue disc to solve a problem with your machine. You may simply want to run a different operating system on your computer.

On a Windows PC

Every Windows PC is different. Some PCs are already set up to search for a USB option before defaulting to the operating system on the internal hard disk. But once you get into your system’s boot menu, you should be able to find what you’re looking for.

Here’s how to boot from a CD or USB drive on a PC:

Restart your computer

Restart your computer and wait for that first screen to pop up. Often, it’ll say something like “Press F12 to Choose Boot Device” somewhere on the screen—the requested function key could vary depending on your machine. Press that key now.

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Wait a second

Give it a moment to continue booting, and you should see a menu pop up with a list of choices on it. Highlight your preferred CD or USB drive and press Enter.

Alternatively, you can set your computer to always check for a bootable CD or USB drive and change the boot order. That way, when you have an external disc inserted, your machine will boot from it automatically, and when you don’t, it’ll head into your regular operating system. To set this up, follow these instructions.

Restart your computer and watch for the first screen that shows up when you boot. You should see a message like “Press DEL to enter SETUP” or something similar (the requested key may vary depending on your machine). Press the noted key on your keyboard and wait for setup to start.

Select ‘Boot Device’

You should see a new screen pop up, called your BIOS. This is where you set a lot of low-level settings for your computer. BIOS menus are configured differently across machines, but you should see instructions for how to navigate yours (i.e., which keystrokes to use) somewhere in the window.

Using those instructions, look through your menu options (be careful not to change anything else) for a setting called “Boot Device,” “Boot Order,” or something similar. Select that option.

Choose the right drive

From the menu that pops up, choose your computer’s disc drive and press Enter. If you’re trying to boot from a USB drive, choose that option. It might be listed on its own or under a sub-menu like “Removable Devices.” Press Enter. Depending on your BIOS, you may need to use the Page Up and Page Down or +/- keys to move your selection to the top of a list instead. Again, use the directions listed on your specific machine.

Exit the BIOS

Follow instructions to exit out of your BIOS and save your changes. Usually, this option is under “Exit” or “Save and Exit” on the main menu or available via a keyboard shortcut listed somewhere on your screen. Depending on your BIOS, you may have to confirm your selection again.


Your computer should restart automatically. Make sure your CD or USB drive is in your computer. If you’re prompted to “Press any key to boot from external device,” do so. Your computer should boot into the CD or USB drive instead of your normal operating system.

From there, you can follow the on-screen instructions to install Windows, troubleshoot issues, or do whatever else it is you need to do.

On a Mac

Booting from a USB or CD is very, very easy on a Mac. One way to do this is to open System Preferences > Startup Disk. You’ll see your built-in hard disk as well as any compatible operating systems and external drives.

Click the lock icon at the bottom-left corner of the window, enter your admin password, select the startup disk you want to boot from, and hit Restart. This method will save your startup disk preference until you go through this process again to choose a different option.

To do a one-off boot from a USB, you’ll use the Startup Manager instead. Here’s how it works:

Image for article titled How to Boot From a USB Drive or CD on Any Computer

Reboot your computer

Reboot your computer. Press and hold the Option key as soon as your machine restarts. Release when the Startup Manager window opens (or when you’re asked to put in your firmware password).

Choose the right drive

You should see icons for your available drives. On the right, you’ll find your external (CD or USB) drive with its name listed underneath. Use your arrow keys or your mouse to highlight that drive, then press Return or click on the arrow below it. (If you press and hold Control at the same time, your computer will save this as your preference—similar to the process outlined above.)

From there, your computer will boot into the CD or USB drive instead of OS X, and you can do whatever it is you need to do by following the on-screen instructions.

This story was originally published on 3/22/13 and was updated on 9/27/19 to provide more thorough and current information.


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