In-depth

Bootmgr is missing – what does this mean and how do you fix it?

This seemingly nightmarish error is actually not as bad as it seems

Windows 10 logo

Naturally, we’d expect technology to work as it’s meant to every single time we use it, but experience tells us that this is far from the case.

When things stop working, many people tend to panic, especially when you turn on your machine and it doesn’t boot correctly. Now and then, instead of being met with your Windows desktop, you’re met with a scarier “bootmgr is missing” message. While this is not a light issue, there’s an easy fix.

The Windows Boot Manager, or “bootmgr”, is software that’s preinstalled with your Windows device that walks you through the startup process. This is essential to the functioning of Windows, and won’t allow you to automatically load up your operating system (OS) if it’s missing. Without this crucial piece of the puzzle, you’d need to manually start up the OS using the BIOS by manually executing winload.exe; this is a process normally handled by the boot manager.

Error screens are, indeed, very troubling, but “bootmgr is missing” is actually not an uncommon issue. While fixing this can be a source of frustration, and take some time, the method is straightforward and requires no hearty amount of expertise. The key issue is that your PC cannot access bootmgr, and a result, can’t execute the process. The reasons for this vary, from a failed software update to a serious malware infection, although all you need to fix this is some dedicated time and a clear guide.

Troubleshooting

An IT employee repairing a PC

While the issue seems daunting, fixing it is actually far simpler than you might think

The first, perhaps rather obvious step to take if your machine is showing the "bootmgr is missing" message is to switch your computer off and then on again. Although it seems very simple, and is often joked about, it actually is sometimes the most effective remedy to an intermittent problem.

But if that still doesn't rectify the message, you should remove all externally connected devices, whether you have a USB key connected, a NAS drive or CD/DVD. Any of these could be feeding your machine with corrupt data that is preventing its normal startup. Try rebooting again.

If the computer still doesn't restart, it's time to get into the core of your machine and access your PC's BIOS settings. You can do this by pressing the F2, F12 or Del keys immediately powering it back up.

Now, take a careful look at the system's boot order and make sure it's set to start up from the first installed Windows drive.

Repairing the boot

If this doesn't fix the issue, you'll need to take more drastic action and attempt to manually repair the boot process yourself. The first step here is to set up your machine to boot from an external source - either the original Windows 10 startup disc or a USB.

This involves getting into your PC's BIOS settings, which can usually be done by pressing the F2 or Del key when the machine is first turned on. In the boot options choose a disc drive or USB to boot from, exit from BIOS settings and save changes. 

Startup repair in Windows 10 and Windows 8 

The Windows key being pushed on a blue laptop

Startup Repair's role is to repair any files on Windows that may be missing or corrupt, making it a pretty powerful tool. Even something as vital to the core operating system such as Bootmgr can be fixed, as long as you have a Windows System installation media (a USB, CD or DVD with the disk image available for booting).

If you don't have a hard copy of Windows 10 or Windows 8, you'll need to create one before you start the process. You can do this by visiting the Microsoft download page and clicking on the link to download the MediaCreationTool.

Once you have the USB, CD or DVD created, restart your machine and when the "press any key to boot from CD or DVD" message appears, press Enter, then choose language, time and keyboard configuration. After clicking Next, choose the "repair your computer" option on the bottom left of the screen, choose Troubleshoot, Advanced options and Startup repair.

Once the computer has finished doing its thing, you can try and re-boot your Windows 10 or Windows 8 machine. If the computer starts up without the "bootmgr is missing" message, you have just fixed the issue! If not, you may have to seek professional help.

Startup repair in Windows 7

Repairing Windows 7 is broadly similar to repairing Windows 10 and Windows 8, except that its no-longer supported by Microsoft, so if the quick fix doesn't work, then you are are on your own. In Windows 7, you will need to boot from the Windows 7 disc. You should wait for the setup process to load up files. Select the Language to install, Time and currency format, and Keyboard or input method that you'd like to use, then click Next. On the bottom-left of the Install Windows window, click on the "repair your computer" link.

This will start the Windows 7 System Recovery Options which features several suitable diagnostic and repair tools, one of which is Startup Repair.

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