Windows error 0x000000f (Windows won’t load)

A few days ago, I woke my laptop from sleep mode and saw this message:

The most important parts are “Your PC/Device needs to be repaired. A required device isn’t connected or can’t be accessed. Error code: 0x000000f. You’ll need to use recovery tools.”

Then it says:
“Press Enter to try again.”
So I pressed Enter and nothing happened.

“Press F1 to enter Recovery Environment”,
So I pressed F1 and nothing happened.

“Press F8 for Startup Settings”.
So I pressed F8 and guess what… nothing happened.

“Press Esc for UEFI Firmware Settings”.
So I pressed Esc and… it took me to the BIOS screen. At least that’s something.

Installation media

After googling the problem, I learned i had to make “installation media”. This is basically a fresh copy of WIndows. So I borrowed my girlfriend’s laptop and I downloaded the Windows “media creation tool” from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. Then I used the media creation tool to turn a memory card into installation media.

Now I had to get Windows to boot from the installation media. I went back to my own computer and pressed escape to bring up the UEFI Firmware Settings. From these menus, I was able to change the boot priority order for the driver on my computer. I moved the memory card drive (USB FDD) to the top of the list so Windows would boot from that first.

I exited the BIOS… and viola! I had access to more options!

I could:

  • Continue. Exit and continue to (It was supposed to say “Exit and continue to Windows 10”, but strangely the rest was blank.)
  • User a device. Use a USB drive, network connection or Windows recovery DVD.
  • Troubleshoot. Reset your PC or see advanced options.
  • Turn off your PC.

I tried ‘Continue’ but this just took me back the blue screen from earlier. I didn’t have a Windows recovery device so the only option left was ‘Troubleshoot’. This gave me some more options:

 

Failed solution: Start-up Repair

Maybe I could repair my computer? I chose “Start-up Repair”. The next screen didn’t look too promising:

What happened to the words “Windows 10”? It’s as though the whole operating system has disappeared.

Unsuprisingly, Start-up Repair didn’t work.

Failed solution: System Restore

Next I tried a system restore. This didn’t work either. I got the error “STATUS_WAIT_3 (0X80070003)”.

Failed solution: bootrec

I had access to the command prompt, so I opened it and tried a bunch of commands recommended by some website. I tried bootrec /fixbmr and bootrec /fixboot but command prompt replied with “The system cannot find the file specified” for both commands. I also tried “bootrec /rebuildbcd” but this ultimately finished in “The system cannot find the file specified too”. The only command that did work was bootrec /scanos, which gave the message “The operation completed successfully”.

But when I restarted my computer, Windows still didn’t work.

Failed solution: chkdsk

Next I ran chkdsk on the C: (Windows) drive to see if there were any problems. The chkdsk performed its tasks merrily, finished up and told me “Windows has made corrections to the file system”.

But when I restarted the computer, Windows still didn’t work.

Failed solution: bcdboot

Then I tried the command “bcdboot c:\windows /s z: /f uefi” to recreate the Windows boot files. This gave me the message “Boot files successfully created”.

But again, this didn’t solve my problem. My laptop was still an expensive paperweight.

I give up…

At this point, I was ready to give in and use the nuclear option: reinstalling Windows. However, this would mean resetting the computer to factory settings. I would lose all my files. I wouldn’t lose everything since I’d made a backup of my files a month ago. But I would lose any files newer than a month. That would mean losing all my photos of newborn son for one thing. Not cool, man. Not cool.

But I wondered if my files were still on the C: drive. So I tried to access them using the command prompt… and they were still there! I could see them using command prompt!

And that wasn’t all. I realised I could copy the files from the C: drive to an external hard drive, and that way I wouldn’t have to lose them.

Copying my files to an external hard drive

So I did just that. I felt like a hacker stealing my own files from the Matrix. First I tried the copy command but I kept running into problems because it only works when the file paths are 255 characters or less. So I switched to robocopy because it didn’t have this problem.

Successful solution: Reinstalling Windows

After several hours of using robocopy, I had copied all my important files from my laptop to an external hard drive. Finally I was ready to format my computer and reinstall Windows.

Except when I tried to reinstall windows, I got the message “Windows detected that the EFI system partition was formatted as NTFS. Format the EFI system partition as FAT32, and restart the application”.

To solve this, I had to wipe the C: using diskpart in the command prompt, then format it as FAT32.

Then finally I went back and tried reinstalling Windows again. This time it worked! At last my laptop was working again, and I had managed to keep all my files.

So if this happens to you, the moral of the story is to try to retrieve your files using command prompt before wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows. That way, you don’t lose your files.

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