Saturday, November 24, 2012

Computer Troubleshooting–The Bootloader

windows-bootloaderFirst off, what is the Bootloader?  The bootloader is the initial program that loads the operating system.  After your computer passes all the initial boot tests from the BIOS, then the Bootloader is loaded, in most cases you will probably never even see anything of the bootloader unless something is wrong or if you have multiple operating systems.  The bootloader is installed onto the very first part of the hard drive.  Generally bootloader problems are relatively easy to fix because of automatic repair tools (at least for Windows anyway).

Problems with the bootloader can be caused by both hardware and software problems.  I’ll start with the hardware problems first, mainly because in my experience the hard drive is usually at fault.  For the hard drive double check all the wiring is firmly seated, both in the hard drive and the motherboard.  When you first start your computer should be able to hear the hard drive spin up, this should tell if you the hard drive is getting power.  For further checking to make sure the hard drive is functioning properly most hard drive manufactures make diagnostic software that can be downloaded to a CD and run on the problem computer.  These diagnostic tools can check the hard drive for problems such as corrupt files and data.  If any problems are found they should be fixed, the usually problems are corrupt files!  If there is corrupt data on a hard drive, I usually remove the hard drive and plug it into a working machine and run chkdsk from the command prompt on the hard drive to fix any problems.  Also in my experience simply switching ports on the motherboard will fix the problem as well.

Another common problem is an incorrectly configured BOIS boot device.  The easiest way to fix this is reset the BOIS back to default .  When booting the computer, on the initial screen it should tell you what button you have to press in order to enter the BOIS setup, a couple common ones include F1, F2, and DEL.  Another common option at startup as well is the option to select the boot device (on most systems I have seen this is F12); from the options you will want to select the hard drive – hint, if you do not see the hard drive listed you probably have a hardware problem such as a bad cable, bad port, or bad hard drive.

For software problems the Windows Vista, 7, and 8 operating system comes with automatic tools to fix the problem.  While there are some manual methods for fixing the bootloader, the automatic tools are your best bet.   In most cases if Windows fails to start twice the option to repair the computer should appear.  Alternatively you can also insert the operating CD and use the repair option on the CD.