Disk Boot Failure Message

Dear Computer Lady,

When I turned on my PC yesterday I got a message:

“Disk boot failure, insert system disk and press enter”.

I inserted my recovery disk in and nothing happened, I got the same message. Is there a different disk I am suppose to insert?

My PC is a 9 year old Compaq. Is it worth messing with?

Thanks for any information you can give me.


Dear Dan,

On a 9 year old computer, there is a very good chance that this error message means that your hard drive has failed and you would need to replace the hard drive.

Hopefully, you have already backed up your important files like pictures and documents!

Trying to use your recovery disk is a good first step in trying to fix the problem, but in addition to inserting the disk and trying to start your computer, you might also need to go into the system BIOS and set it to book from the CD or DVD drive. The steps to do this are different for each computer, so I can’t give you directions.

If the recovery disk works, that is great, you might get a few more years use out of the computer, but if the hard drive has failed, you are probably better off looking at a new computer.


PS: running the recovery disk will erase your data files, so get those backed up first!


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Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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    • Chas
    • August 18, 2013

    Had a similar problem with an HP PC that wouldn’t boot. Suspected a failed HD but opening the case I found a large amount of dust and hair, which I removed. PC started right up. Probably was overheated. I ran SpinRite Level 4 [took hours] which found only one bad sector. Runs fine now. SpinRite developer Steve Gibson is a miracle worker. Chas

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