Troubleshooting: Boot from CD

Accessing the boot selection menu

Immediately after powering up your PC, as soon as the manufacturer logo (e.g. Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, Samsung, ASUS, Acer, Gateway, etc.) shows up on your BIOS splash screen, you will have the option of pressing a special key. This key changes from PC to PC, it all depends on your PC’s make and model.

Are you on windows 8/10 or an efi/uefi pc?

Newer Windows PCs and laptops use something called UEFI/EFI that can interfere with booting from recovery CDs and USBs. Have a look at the instructions on enabling Legacy Boot and disabling Secure Boot to make sure your PC or laptop is configured to support booting from recovery CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks.

Bad cd or dvd

Verify the CD or DVD is readable by accessing it through Windows or in another computer. The CD or DVD may be bad or not readable. If you determine the CD is getting errors when being read, try first cleaning the CD before looking for a replacement. For additional information about how to clean your CD and CD-ROM drive, see our computer cleaning page.

Bootable cds

Depending on your computer’s make and model, there are two different ways of telling your PC to start from the CD or DVD. In all cases, you will need to insert the CD or DVD into your computer’s optical bay, and fully power-down your machine. It’s important that you start from a computer that is completely switched off.

Burn the cd at a slower speed

Re-create the CD using the same verified instructions as before, but this time make sure to burn it at the slowest speed setting available (this is normally 1x or 2x). Bootable CDs can be tricky to prepare, as the BIOS is very picky about the physical layout of the data tracks on the CDs, and any imperfections in the blank CD/DVD media can translate to aberrations in the final burned product.

Changing the primary boot device

The exact instructions will again vary depending on your PC’s make and model, but all PCs have an option in the BIOS to change the boot device. Unlike the boot selection menu in the previous section, this choice is “sticky” and will need to be changed back once you’re done with booting from the CD or DVD.

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Here are some screenshots of some of the more popular BIOS configurations:

As you can see, the exact names and labels differ greatly from one device to the next. You will need to access the section called something along the lines of “boot device” or “boot priority” and then change the first boot device from “hard disk” or “local disk” or “hard drive” to “CD-ROM” or “DVD-ROM.

” Changing the order of boot devices can be a little tricky, again depending on the BIOS in your computer the keys may vary, but normally using either the and – keys or the ↑ and ↓ arrows on your keyboard will move the highlighted boot option up or down in the BIOS setup menu.

After correctly giving priority to the CD/DVD over the local hard disk, you will need to save changes and exit. Again, the exact steps depend on your PCs make and model, but generally navigating with the ← and → arrow keys will let you reach the options of “discard changes and exit” vs “save changes and exit,” amongst others.

Your PC will then exit the BIOS setup utility and reboot. Upon rebooting, it will attempt to boot from the media in your CD/DVD bay.

Running Windows 8 or using a UEFI PC/laptop?Newer Windows PCs and laptops use something called UEFI/EFI that can interfere with booting from recovery CDs and USBs. You may need to follow the additional instructions on enabling Legacy Boot and disabling Secure Boot to make sure your PC or laptop is configured to support booting from recovery CDs, DVDs, and USB sticks, especially if you can’t get it to work after following the steps above.

Remember to change the option back!If you had to change the device priority in your BIOS, you will need to remember to change it back once you’re done with the recovery/installation disc. Otherwise, your PC will always boot from the CD/DVD drive if there’s anything in it — and only if there is no bootable CD inside will it actually try booting from your local disk!

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Don’t directly open the downloaded iso image

Follow the instructions on burning with ActiveISO or ImgBurn, and instead of opening the download file directly by double-clicking on it, launch ActiveISO or ImgBurn and use their “browse” feature to locate and select the ISO image you downloaded!

Don’t unzip the iso image!

If you download what appears to be a WinZip or WinRAR file, a folder, or a compressed archive of sorts do not extract or unzip the contents! The file you downloaded is an ISO image, and depending on how your PC is configured, it may appear like a ZIP file of sorts, but it most definitely is not.

Follow the instructions on burning with ActiveISO or ImgBurn, and instead of opening the download file directly by double-clicking on it, launch ActiveISO or ImgBurn and use their “browse” feature to locate and select the ISO image you downloaded!

Entering bios setup

Again, following the same instructions as above, fully power down the PC you intend to boot from the CD or DVD. Upon powering up the device, you might see a legend indicating which key will enter BIOS setup. In the screenshot above taken from a Dell PC, the F2 button will enter setup.

Jumpers not set properly

Not all disc drives boot if the jumpers are not set properly. If applicable for your computer and disc drive, verify that the CD-ROM or DVD drive has the jumpers set properly. We recommend the CD-ROM be set as primary on the secondary controller. This rule also applies to portable computers with removable disc drives.

Make sure the cd really is bootable

The default for any CD or DVD is to not be bootable. CDs and DVDs created by most applications cannot be booted into, and your PC will not give any indication that it tried to boot from the CD but failed. Your PC is designed to automatically move on to a different boot device, if your CD/DVD isn’t actually bootable, you will not get any warning or message.

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It’s important to create the bootable CD or DVD properly. Bootable discs are very different from normal software that ships on a CD or DVD. The normal method of creating a CD by copying or burning files on to a blank CD-R or DVD±R is insufficient to create a bootable CD.

Instead, if you did not obtain a physical copy of the bootable CD or DVD from a store or in the mail, you will likely need to convert an ISO file into a bootable CD or DVD by burning an ISO image of the data on to the disc, instead of the data itself.

Our knowledgebase contains guides on creating a bootable CD or DVD from an ISO image using free products like ActiveISO and ImgBurn. The instructions must be followed very closely, and it is essential that you do not open the ISO file directly — instead, install the burning software you plan to use (ActiveISO or ImgBurn) and use that application to browse for and open the ISO file you have downloaded.

Unable to boot from cd?

If you’re unable to boot from the CD or DVD, please refer to the dedicated article in our knowledgebase on troubleshooting problems booting from CD or DVD. The possible troubleshooting steps are too numerous to include here.

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Using the boot selection menu

After pressing this special key, a menu like the one shown below will appear:

Choosing “CD-ROM/DVD-ROM” from this menu will begin the boot process from your CD or DVD drive.

Why won’t the hard drive boot but still is readable when the pc boots from another device?

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