Tech Tip: Break out of a continuous reboot loop

Have you ever had to troubleshoot a Windows XP system that appeared to be stuck in a continuous reboot loop? In this scenario, you can start the system as you normally would and even log on. But within seconds of logging on, the system mysteriously reboots itself. In some cases, you don't even have to log on before the system reboots.

If this sounds familiar, you're encountering a feature of Windows XP's Startup and Recovery system. By default, this system specifically configures Windows XP to automatically restart itself after encountering a system failure error.

These system failure errors are usually isolated and occur randomly. As such, the best way for the operating system to deal with them is to automatically restart.

In most cases, doing so solves the problem. But if the system failure error is more serious and occurs on a regular basis, you'll encounter a continuous reboot loop.

However, you can disable the automatic restart behavior. Follow these steps:

  1. Press [Windows][Break] to open the System Properties dialog box.
  2. On the Advanced tab, click the Settings button in the Startup And Recovery section.
  3. In the System Failure section, deselect the Automatically Restart check box, and click OK.
  4. To enable the changes, click OK in the System Properties dialog box.

This change configures the system to halt after encountering a system failure error, which allows you to investigate the problem error in more detail. You'll then have to manually restart the system.

Keep in mind that you'll have to work fast in order to make the change before the system reboots. You may have better luck making the change if you launch the system in Safe Mode.

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