5 ways to open Command Prompt when Windows doesn't boot

The Command Prompt is a powerful tool that can be used for many purposes, including troubleshooting and fixing problems with Windows. Starting it is easy if Windows is working correctly, but what do you do when Windows refuses to load? How do you "boot" to Command Prompt (cmd.exe) "from BIOS" to fix the issues that you are having? This tutorial shows you how to do it:

1. How to open Command Prompt at boot using the Shift + F10 keyboard shortcut

In our opinion, this is the best method of opening Command Prompt at boot, and that's why we're showing it first. It can be done immediately after BIOS POST, and it works no matter what Windows version you have installed on your PC. It even works if you don't have Windows or any other operating system installed on your computer. Here's what you need to do:

First, use a Windows installation media (DVD, USB stick, etc.) to boot your computer or device. It doesn't matter whether the installation media is for Windows 10, Windows 7, or Windows 8.1: any of them works.

Boot your PC using some Windows installation media (USB, DVD, etc.)

When the Windows setup wizard shows up, simultaneously press the Shift + F10 keys on your keyboard. This keyboard shortcut opens Command Prompt before boot.

The Shift + F10 keyboard shortcut for opening Command Prompt on boot

NOTE: If you don't already have a Windows setup DVD or USB stick at hand, read these tutorials to learn how to create your own Windows setup drive: Download ISO files with Windows 10 and Office (all versions) and How to use the Windows USB/DVD Download Tool.

2. How to boot to Command Prompt using a Windows 10 (or 8.1) installation USB memory stick or DVD

This method to open Command Prompt "from BIOS" is similar to the previous one, except it uses more clicks than keys. :)

Start your computer and, from the BIOS boot menu, choose the drive where you have the Windows 10 (or 8.1) Setup files as the boot device. Wait for the Windows Setup to load, and choose the language and keyboard that you want to use. Then, press Next.

The Windows installation wizard

Don't click/tap on Install now. Instead, click or tap "Repair your computer" on the bottom left corner of the wizard or press R on your keyboard.

Choosing Repair your computer

You are asked to choose an option on how to continue. Choose Troubleshoot.

The Troubleshoot option

You are shown several advanced options. Here, click or tap on Command Prompt.

Open Command Prompt before booting Windows

The Command Prompt (cmd.exe) is loaded, and you can use it to repair your non-working Windows system or do anything else you wish.

CMD open before startup

3. How to start Command Prompt when Windows 10 (or 8.1) doesn't boot, using a USB repair drive

If you have a Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 recovery drive, you can use it to start the Command Prompt. Insert the drive, then start your computer and use the BIOS boot menu to select the removable repair drive as the boot device. When the recovery drive loads, it first asks you to choose the keyboard layout. Select the one that you want to use.

Choosing a keyboard layout

Then, you can choose one of several options. Select Troubleshoot.

The Troubleshoot option

In the list of Advanced options, click or tap on Command Prompt.

Launch Command Prompt before boot

The Command Prompt is now loaded, and you can use it.

4. How to load Command Prompt "at startup" using a Windows 7 setup CD/DVD or USB memory stick

If Windows 7 is not able to load correctly, you can boot using an installation disc. Start your computer and configure it to boot from the DVD drive or the USB memory stick where you have the Windows 7 setup files. Wait for the Windows 7 setup wizard to show up, choose the language that you want to use, and click Next.

The Windows 7 installation wizard

Then, click "Repair your computer."

Repair your computer in Windows 7

The System Recovery Options window is now loaded. Click Command Prompt at the bottom of the window.

Open Command Prompt while installing Windows 7

The Command Prompt is shown, and you can use it for troubleshooting purposes.

CMD window opened before boot

5. How to get to Command Prompt "from BIOS" using a Windows 7 repair disc

If Windows 7 is not able to load correctly, you can boot using a recovery disc that you can create on a working Windows 7 computer. Here's a tutorial on how to create his drive: What is a system repair disc and how to create one in Windows. Start your computer and, in the BIOS boot menu, choose the system repair drive as the boot device. After the repair disc is loaded, select the desired language for the keyboard, click Next, and wait for the repair disc to scan the operating systems available on your computer. Select Windows 7 and click Next.

System Recovery Options in Windows 7

If you have multiple user accounts on your computer, you are asked to select a username and then type the password for it. Do so and then click on OK. The System Recovery Options window is now loaded. Click Command Prompt at the bottom of the window.

Open a Command Prompt window

I've managed to load Command Prompt at startup. What's next?

After you've managed to load the Command Prompt at startup, you can use advanced tools such as diskpart or bootrec to repair your system's partitions, boot records, write a new boot sector (if needed), or rebuild the Boot Configuration Data.

If these are the things you must do to get your PC up and running again, these tutorials might interest you: How to use diskpart, chkdsk, defrag, and other disk-related commands and How to use the Command Prompt to fix issues with your PC's boot records.

Why did you want to boot to Command Prompt?

Hopefully, this guide was useful to you when you've encountered issues with your Windows computers and devices. If you know other ways to start the Command Prompt when Windows refuses to load correctly, don't hesitate to share them using the comments below.