How to Fix: Windows 8 Critical Service Failed (Blue Screen)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Anne F. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

After a Windows Update, my laptop rebooted and then displayed a blue screen of death (BSOD) with the error message CRITICAL SERVICE FAILED. After that, the computer reboots and goes into a continuous loop -- I am not able to get into Windows at all. I used various repair discs and managed to gotten rid of the CRITICAL SERVICE FAILED message, but now my computer boots into a black screen with the message No Operating System Found. When I use one of the downloaded repair disks, I see my C drive and Windows 8 is still on there, so I don't understand why it won't boot anymore. I don't have a Windows 8 install disc, as the laptop came with Windows 8 pre installed. I have tried everything I can think of to get this to boot properly! Any ideas you can give me would be appreciated. "

My response:

I'm not sure which repair discs you used to fix the Critical Service Failed problem, but it may have done more harm than good. I will answer your question on how to resolve the Operating System Not Found error message -- however, other people reading this article will probably want to know how to resolve the Critical Service Failed error message, first; as such, I will address that now.

How to Fix the Critical Service Failed Error

The sequence I would choose to resolve the Critical Service Failed error are:

  • Restore Disk Image Backup (if applicable)
  • Attempt a System Restore
  • Repair Windows
  • Refresh Windows
  • Reset Windows
  • Reinstall Windows

Restore Windows using a Disk Image Backup

Assuming you backup your operating system using disk image backups on a daily basis, by far the easiest way out of this mess is to simply restore your backup. If you use Acronis True Image, you can boot from your Bootable Rescue media (or by tapping F11 at startup if you activated the Startup Recovery Manager) and choose the Restore option. Follow the on-screen instructions and you should hopefully be back up in no time flat with minimal loss in data.

I understand many users don't have True Image or use disk images, so the next step would have been to attempt a System Restore point.

Attempt a System Restore from an Existing Restore Point

This method is least destructive and will preserve your personal files and settings. To do so:

1. Turn the computer on, then tap the F8 key repeatedly until you get a Boot Menu. Then, choose Safe Mode from the list of options.

2. Assuming the computer boots into the desktop, click Start and type in "system restore" (no quotes). The System Restore icon will appear in the Start Menu; click it to execute it.

3. The System Properties Window will appear; next, click the System Restore button and choose the latest restore point.

4. When complete, reboot the computer and hope that the Critical Service Error message is gone.

Failing that, proceed to Repair Windows.

Repair Windows from Windows Install Media

This method is also meant to be non-destructive and will preserve your personal files and settings. To do so:

1. Insert the Windows Install Media and boot from DVD or USB. If you don't have Windows 8 install media, you can download it from Microsoft (free), then create a bootable USB drive or DVD.

2. Instead of installing Windows, choose Repair, and have Windows scan the drive. Hopefully it will find errors and fix them automatically.

3. Reboot the computer when complete.

Failing that, proceed to Refresh Windows.

Refresh Windows

Refreshing Windows will reinstall Windows, but your personal files and settings will not be affected. To do so:

1. Boot the computer into Safe Mode (if possible), then

2. Click the Start Menu and type in "PC Settings" (no quotes); when the PC Settings Icon appears, click it.

3. Click the Update and Recovery link, then click Recovery.

4. Under the option 'Refresh your PC without affecting your files', click Get started.

Reset Windows

Resetting Windows will effectively nuke the hard drive and reinstall Windows factory fresh, but you will lose all data on the drive in the process. You can achieve this using the same steps as Refresh (described above), but choose "Remove everything and reinstall Windows" (Reset) instead.

Reinstall Windows

If all else fails, insert the Windows 8 install media and reinstall Windows. This is essentially the same as the Resetting Windows (described above), except you're booting from install media and the process is not as automated.

How to Fix the Operating System Not Found Error

Now I will address your question regarding the "Operating System Not Found" error message.

Most likely your master boot record (MBR) on the hard drive is corrupt, and you can resolve this (preferably) using Windows 8 install media. There are other utilities that can fix the MBR such as the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD), but the Windows 8 install media can detect a wider range of problems and is therefore my recommended method.

You mentioned that you don't have the Windows 8 install disc; you can download Windows 8 Install Media from Microsoft (free) and then create a bootable USB drive or DVD.

Once the install media has been created, boot from the USB / DVD, and then choose the Repair option instead of installing Windows. The option for Repair is on the same screen as the Install Now option. Windows will then scan your hard drive and see that the MBR is missing and will repair it.

Additional 1-on-1 Help: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head and/or you are completely stuck and need help resolving the CRITICAL SERVICE FAILED error, I can assist you 1-on-1 through remote desktop support (a service I offer). In this case, I can do one or more of the following:

  • Advise you step-by-step what to do to get the problem fixed
  • Help you acquire and create the Windows 8 install media (if you don't have one) so you can repair the computer properly
  • Backup your data on the computer that's messed up, so that you can repair or format it - but only if you can extract the hard drive and place it into another computer (or external enclosure).

To get in touch with me for this service, please use the contact page.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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