Windows 7 / Getting Started

Initial Startup Phase for BIOS Computers

After the POST, the settings that are stored in the nonvolatile memory, such as boot order, determine the devices that the computer can use to start an operating system. In addition to floppy disks or hard disks attached to Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA), Serial ATA, and small computer system interface (SCSI) controllers, computers can typically start an operating system from other devices, such as the following:

  • CDs or DVDs
  • Network adapters
  • Universal serial bus (USB) flash drives
  • Removable disks
  • Secondary storage devices installed in docking stations for portable computers

It is possible to specify a custom boot order, such as CDROM, Floppy, Hard Disk. When you specify CDROM, Floppy, Hard Disk as a boot order, the following events occur at startup:

  1. The computer searches the CD-ROM for bootable media. If a bootable CD or DVD is present, the computer uses the media as the startup device. Otherwise, the computer searches the next device in the boot order. You cannot use a non-bootable CD or DVD to start your system. The presence of a non-bootable CD or DVD in the CD-ROM drive can add to the time the system requires to start. If you do not intend to start the computer from CD, remove all CDs from the CD-ROM drive before restarting.
  2. The computer searches the floppy disk for bootable media. If a bootable floppy is present, the computer uses the floppy disk as the startup device and loads the first sector (sector 0, the floppy disk boot sector) into memory. Otherwise, the computer searches the next device in the boot order or displays an error message.
  3. The computer uses the hard disk as the startup device. The computer typically uses the hard disk as the startup device only when the CD-ROM drive and the floppy disk drive are empty.

There are exceptions in which code on bootable media transfers control to the hard disk. For example, when you start your system by using the bootable Windows DVD, Windows Setup checks the hard disk for Windows installations. If one is found, you have the option of bypassing DVD startup by not responding to the Press Any Key To Boot From CD Or DVD prompt that appears. This prompt is actually displayed by the startup program located on the Windows DVD, not by your computer's hardware.

If startup fails during the initial startup phase, you are experiencing a problem with the BIOS configuration, the disk subsystem, or the file system. The following error message is common during this phase. It indicates that none of the configured bootable media types was available.

Non-system disk or disk error
Replace and press any key when ready

If you changed the disk configuration recently, verify that all cables are properly connected and jumpers are correctly configured. If booting from the hard disk, verify that all removable media have been removed. If booting from a CD or DVD, verify that the BIOS is configured to start from the CD or DVD and that the Windows medium is present. If the disk subsystem and BIOS are configured correctly, the problem may be related to the file system. For instructions on repairing the Master Boot Record (MBR) and the boot sector, see the section titled "How to Run Startup Repair" later in this tutorial. For more information about configuring the boot order, consult your computer's documentation.

If you boot from the hard disk, the computer reads the boot code instructions located on the MBR. The MBR is the first sector of data on the startup hard disk. The MBR contains instructions (called boot code) and a table (called a partition table) that identify primary and extended partitions. The BIOS reads the MBR into memory and transfers control to the code in the MBR.

The computer then searches the partition table for the active partition, also known as a bootable partition. The first sector of the active partition contains boot code that enables the computer to do the following:

  • Read the contents of the file system used.
  • Locate and start a 16-bit stub program (Bootmgr) in the root directory of the boot volume. This stub program switches the processor into 32- or 64-bit Protected mode and loads the 32- or 64-bit Windows Boot Manager, which is stored in the same Bootmgr file. After the Windows Boot Manager loads, startup is identical for both BIOS and EFI computers.

Note The stub program is necessary because 32-bit and 64-bit computers first start in Real mode. In Real mode, the processor disables certain features to allow compatibility with software designed to run on 8-bit and 16-bit processors. The Windows Boot Manager is 32-bit or 64-bit, however, so the stub program sets up the BIOS computer to run the 32-bit or 64-bit software properly.

If an active partition does not exist or if boot sector information is missing or corrupt, a message similar to any of the following might appear:

  • Invalid partition table
  • Error loading operating system
  • Missing operating system

If an active partition is successfully located, the code in the boot sector locates and starts Windows Boot Loader (WinLoad) and the BIOS transfers execution to it.

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In this tutorial:

  1. Configuring Startup and Troubleshooting Startup Issues
  2. What is New with Windows Startup
  3. Boot Configuration Data
  4. BCD Stores
  5. System Recovery
  6. Windows Boot Performance Diagnostics
  7. Understanding the Startup Process
  8. Power-on Self Test Phase
  9. Initial Startup Phase
  10. Initial Startup Phase for BIOS Computers
  11. Initial Startup Phase for EFI Computers
  12. Windows Boot Manager Phase
  13. Windows Boot Loader Phase
  14. Kernel Loading Phase
  15. Control Sets
  16. Values for the Start Registry Entry
  17. Value Descriptions for Type Entries
  18. Other Registry Entries in the Servicename Subkeys
  19. Session Manager
  20. Logon Phase
  21. Important Startup Files
  22. How to Configure Startup Settings
  23. How to Use the Startup And Recovery Dialog Box
  24. How to Use the System Configuration Tool
  25. How to Use BCDEdit
  26. How to Interpret BCDEdit Output
  27. How to Back Up and Restore Settings
  28. How to Change the Default Operating System Entry
  29. How to Change the Boot Menu Time-Out
  30. How to Change the Order of Boot Manager Menu Items
  31. How to Create an Entry for Another Operating System
  32. How to Remove a Boot Entry
  33. How to View and Update Global Debugger Settings
  34. How to Remove the Windows 7 Boot Loader
  35. How to Configure a User Account to Automatically Log On
  36. How to Disable the Windows Startup Sound
  37. How to Speed Up the Startup Process
  38. The Process of Troubleshooting Startup
  39. Startup Troubleshooting Before the Starting Windows Logo Appears
  40. How to Start the System Recovery Tools
  41. How to Run Startup Repair
  42. How to Use BootRec.exe
  43. How to Diagnose Hardware Problems
  44. How to Use System Restore
  45. How to Manually Repair the Boot Sector
  46. How to Manually Update the BCD Registry File
  47. How to Manually Replace Files
  48. How to Reinstall Windows
  49. Startup Troubleshooting After the Starting Windows Logo Appears
  50. How to Restore the Last Known Good Configuration
  51. How to Enable Boot Logging
  52. How to Start in Safe Mode
  53. How to Identify Failing Drivers and Services
  54. How to Analyze Startup Problems in Safe Mode
  55. Event Viewer (Eventvwr.msc)
  56. System Information
  57. Error Reporting Service
  58. How to Use Device Manager to View or Change Resources
  59. How to Analyze Boot Logs
  60. How to Roll Back Drivers
  61. How to Temporarily Disable a Service
  62. Troubleshooting Startup Problems After Logon
  63. How to Temporarily Disable Startup Applications and Processes
  64. How to Disable Startup Applications Using the Shift Key
  65. How to Disable Startup Programs Using the System Configuration Utility
  66. How to Disable Startup Applications Configured Using Group Policy or Logon Scripts
  67. How to Permanently Disable Startup Applications and Processes
  68. Manually Remove the Entry