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Windows Error Recovery: Windows Vista failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause

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This document pertains to HP and Compaq Desktop PCs with Windows Vista.
The following error displays when starting the computer with Windows Vista:
Windows Error Recovery: Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause.
The computer may restart to this same error after selecting "Start Windows Normally".

Step 1: Determining how the error occurred

  • If the error occurs while setting up a new computer or after recovering the computer, select Launch Start Repair (recommended) from the error screen and let Windows repairs its files. If the error continues after the repair process, perform a system recovery to reset the computer to its original configuration. After recovering, make sure to complete the setup of Windows and make sure you can view all Windows desktop icons and sidebar items before shutting down the computer.
  • If the error occurs after restarting the computer after normal use or after software or hardware was recently added, use the steps below to try and recover to the Windows desktop.

Step 2: Removing recently added hardware

Use the steps in this section to disconnect any recently added hardware and test for the error.
NOTE:If a new internal device (sound card, hard drive, or other) was added to the computer before the error message started to occur, you have to remove it before continuing.
  1. Turn off the computer and unplug the power cord.
  2. Disconnect all non-essential peripherals attached (Printer, scanner, webcam, zip drive, phone cord, network cable and other devices). Leave only the mouse, keyboard and monitor cable attached.
  3. Press and hold the power button on the front of the computer. Release after 5 seconds.
  4. Plug the power cord back in.
  5. Turn on the computer.
  6. The monitor displays the message again. Allow the timer to count down to zero.
  7. If the error opens again, skip to the next step.
    If the computer successfully starts to the Windows desktop and does not restart to the error message, reconnect one device and wait until Windows recognizes it.
  8. Continue connecting the devices, one at a time, restarting the PC each time, until the device that is causing the error is found. Do not use the device that is known to cause the error.
    NOTE:Be sure to wait until Windows completely starts before reconnecting devices. Check with the device vendor technical support for known issues, resolutions, updated drivers and troubleshooting information for the device.

Step 3: Repairing

At the error screen, select Launch Start Repair (recommended) from the error screen and let Windows repairs its files. If the error continues, continue to the next step to use System Restore.

Step 4: Restoring with System Restore

Use the steps in this section to restore Windows Vista to an earlier time:
  1. Turn off the computer.
  2. Remove all attached devices except for the mouse, keyboard and monitor.
  3. Turn on the computer and press the F8 key repeatedly when the first logo screen appears.
    A Windows startup screen displays.
  4. Use the UP or DOWN arrow key to highlight Safe Mode with Command Prompt and press Enter .
    If the error message appears again, skip to the next step to perform a system recovery.
  5. When the logon screen appears, select Administrator and enter the password (if applicable).
  6. When the command window appears, enter the following at the command prompt:
    cd \windows\system32\restore
  7. At the new prompt, enter the following: rstrui
    The System Restore screen opens.
  8. Follow the instructions in System Restore to restore the computer to a time when the errors were known to not occur.
    When finished the computer restarts and attempts to open Windows. If the error still appears after using System Restore, continue to the next step.

Step 5: Recovering

If the error continues after the using System Restore, perform a system recovery to reset the computer to its original configuration.