One of the available features right across the board between Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10 is the Startup Repair tool. It comes with the operating systems out of the box, so there’s nothing you need to install to get it working. Startup Repair can fix problems to do with a corrupted registry, damaged system files, damaged driver files, disk metadata corruption, file system metadata corruption, incompatible drivers that won’t install correctly, service packs or patches coming back with errors, a corrupt boot configuration, and hard disk or memory errors.

Sometimes when people go to use the Startup Repair tool is gets stuck in an infinite loop, and it seems like there is no way out of it, but in fact, there is a way you can do it and without having to reinstall the entire Windows operating system or anything of the sort. The loop happens when Windows was unable to fix the problem and hence it tries to fix it again . . . and again . . . and again and that’s why it gets stuck in the loop. The same problem can arise when using Safe mode as well.

The guide below is inspired from the Microsoft Technet’s article regarding how to recover Windows 7 registry hives and files.

How to Fix Startup Repair Loop without Reinstalling Windows 7

1. You can recover from a Startup Repair loop by booting the computer to the System Recovery Options screen. To do that, insert the Windows 7 installation disk or the System Repair Disk and then select your language, followed by the Repair your computer link that’s on the same screen as the Install now button.

2. Click on the Startup Repair from the System Recovery Options screen. Windows will then search and try to fix the problems.

3. When the Startup Repair is unable to solve the problems, you’ll see a message along the lines of Windows cannot repair this computer automatically at the top of the window. In the same window is a link that says View advanced options for system recovery and support that you need to click.

4. You’ll now see the main System Recovery Options screen with all its options such as Startup Repair, System Restore, System Image Recovery and a few more, one of which is the Command Prompt that you need to click on.

5. Once you’ve got the Command Prompt open, you’ll see some text already in the window—don’t worry as that’s normal. What you need to do is find the system drive for your computer. There’s no way of telling whether it’s the C drive or the D drive yet. Type C: and hit the Enter key on your keyboard and then check whether or not that is your system drive by typing DIR and hitting the Enter key on your keyboard. If the results show the Programs Files, Users and Windows folders, then you have found the system drive. If not then repeat it again for the D drive, and it should then confirm that is your system drive.

6. With the Windows system drive now located, type the CD \windows\system32\config command into the command line and then press the Enter key on your keyboard.

7. Next, type DIR and hit Enter again and then check you have the RegBack, Default, SAM, Security, Software, and System files in the Windows config folder.

8. Now type MD mybackup and hit Enter and the Command Prompt will then create a backup for you so you can restore everything later just in case things don’t go to plan from here on out.

9. Now to create the backup that we are going to use to fix the looping, type copy *.* mybackup and hit Enter and then wait for the backups to complete. It’s possible you get a message about whether you want to overwrite the existing files. If that happens, press the A key, and it’ll allow for the older files to be overwritten.

10. Find out if you can use the automatic Windows backups to restore your registry by typing CD RegBack and pressing Enter on the keyboard and it will take you back to the Reg folder.

11. Find out the contents of the reg folder by typing DIR and then pressing Enter and then assessing the contents of the folder for the following:

12. Check that you can see the Default, SAM and Security files and that they are roughly 260,000 bytes total.

13. Check that the Software file exists and that it is about 26,000,000 bytes in size.

14. Check that you can see the System file and that it is about 9,900,000 bytes.

Note that these file sizes are estimates and will be unexact from computer to computer. The main thing you want to know is none of them show 0 as the size. If you do see that any of the files mentioned are empty, then you can’t continue, and you should seek an alternate method for fixing the Startup Repair loop.

15. When you’re certain that no hive files are empty and you want to continue, type copy *.* .. as your next command in the command line and press Enter on the keyboard to execute it. (Again, type A if you get prompted to overwrite any existing files.)

16. Now type Exit in the command line and hit Enter to close the Command Prompt window.

17. Now you’ll see the System Recovery Options window on the computer’s display once again. In the bottom right corner is the “Restart” button that you need to click on now. When you click that button, it should restart the computer without the looping occurring this time.

You should now hopefully find your computer is able to boot the operating system correctly and the Startup Repair loop is now gone.

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