How to open the command prompt when Windows 10 doesn't boot

The Windows command prompt is a built-in Windows utility that allows users to enter computer commands to perform tasks or open applications without using the Windows graphical user interface. You can open the CMD prompt in Windows 10 to troubleshoot and solve problems on your Windows 10 computer.

In particular, if your computer/laptop won’t turn on, running Windows 10 at the command prompt will be very useful for troubleshooting Windows 10 problems later on.

This guide from IR Cache provides step-by-step instructions on how to open the command line when you start Windows 10. Learn how to open the Windows 10 command line at startup and how to troubleshoot Windows 10 command line issues.

Why won’t my Windows 10 computer start up?

Why won't my Windows 10 computer start up?

The process of starting Windows 10 is pretty straightforward. When your computer boots, it loads the BIOS or UEFI firmware, which performs a short series of checks on your hardware called a power-on self-test (POST).

The BIOS then scans the master boot record on your hard drive, which loads a large WINLOAD.EXE file into main memory. It starts the boot process by loading NTOSKRNL.EXE (NT kernel, the Windows kernel) and HAL (hardware abstraction layer). Windows 10 then performs tasks such as resetting hardware settings such as mouse and keyboard, reading the Windows registry and user profile.

If you see a black screen with gray text “Windows Boot Manager” and an error message like “Status: 0xc0000605 Info: A component of the operating system has expired”, it means that something went wrong with WINLOAD.EXE.

How to open the command line when Windows 10 doesn’t start

How to open the command line when Windows 10 doesn't start

Using the key combination Shift + F10

This is the best way to open the command line at startup, and that’s why we will show it first. It can be run immediately after BIOS POST and works regardless of the version of Windows installed on your computer. It works even if you do not have Windows or any other operating system installed on your computer.

Here’s how you should proceed:

  1. First, use Windows installation media (DVD, USB drive, etc.) to boot your computer or device.
  2. It doesn’t matter whether the installation media is for Windows 10, Windows 7, or Windows 8.1: either one will work.
  3. When the Windows installation wizard appears, press Shift + F10 on your keyboard.
  4. This key combination opens the pre-boot command prompt.
  5. If you don’t already have a Windows installation DVD or USB drive handy, you’ll need to learn how to create your own Windows installation disk.

Use a USB key or Windows installation DVD

  1. Start your computer and on the BIOS boot menu, select the disk containing the Windows 10 (or 8.1) installation files as your boot device.
  2. Wait for Windows Setup to load and select the language and keyboard you want to use.
  3. Then click Next.
  4. Don’t click Install Now. Instead, click or tap the “Restore Computer” button in the lower-left corner of the wizard or press R on your keyboard.
  5. You’ll be prompted to choose your next steps. Select Troubleshooting.
  6. Several additional options will appear. Click or tap Command Prompt here.
  7. The command line (cmd.exe) will boot and you can use it to repair a broken Windows system or for any other action.

Using a USB repair drive

  1. Plugin the drive, boot your computer and select the removable repair drive as the boot device in the BIOS boot menu.
  2. When the repair drive boots, you will first be prompted to select a keyboard layout. Select the one you want to use.
  3. You can then choose from several options. Select Troubleshooting.
  4. In the list of advanced options, click or tap Command Prompt.
  5. The command line will now load and you can use it.


Once you have access to the Command Prompt, you can run almost any utility it supports. This includes scanning your disk, scanning your system files, and more.

If something goes wrong and you need to reinstall, you can use the command line to copy/move important files from your desktop to another location or drive. It takes some getting used to since everything is done with commands, but mostly you will use commands to move between folders and copy/paste files.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Reboot your Windows 10 computer.
  2. Temporarily disable antivirus software.
  3. Change the PATH environment variable settings.
  4. Create a new user account.
  5. Run the SFC using Windows PowerShell.
  6. Create a shortcut for the CMD application.
  7. Make sure the command line is running in safe mode.
  8. Perform a system restore.

Insert the Windows installation media and boot your computer from it. Once the computer boots and the Windows Setup window appears, press Shift + F10 on your keyboard. A command prompt window will open.

  1. Click on Startup Repair.
  2. Click on System Restore.
  3. Select your username.
  4. Type "cmd" in the main search box.
  5. Right-click on "Command Prompt" and select "Run as administrator".
  6. Type "sfc / scan now" at the command prompt and press Enter.
  7. Click on the download link at the bottom of the screen.
  8. Click Accept.

You can press Shift + F10 to open the command line during Startup Repair and run this command. I'm assuming you have a Windows 7 startup disk. It is then very easy to reboot the system.