Booting from a CD or DVD

Booting from a CD or DVD

Here we can see “Booting from a CD or DVD”

Starting the PC from a bootable CD, DVD, or USB is one of the only ways to fix a Windows PC that won’t start up, can’t boot, or won’t get past the login screen.

CDs that can be booted

There are two ways to tell your computer to start from a CD or DVD, depending on the make and model of your computer. In all circumstances, you’ll need to put the CD or DVD into your computer’s optical drive and turn it off completely. It is critical that you begin with a completely turned off computer.

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CDs aren’t all made equal!

The first and most important condition for booting from a CD or DVD is to have one on hand that is legitimate and bootable. Bootable discs are not the same as regular software on a CD or DVD. The standard approach of copying or burning files onto a blank CD-R or DVD-R is insufficient to make a bootable CD. If you don’t have a physical copy of the bootable CD or DVD, you’ll need to convert an ISO file into a bootable CD or DVD by burning an ISO image of the data to the disc rather than the data itself. Before continuing with this method, double-check that you successfully followed the instructions for making a bootable CD or DVD.

Set up your computer to boot from a CD

Via the Boot Selection Menu

Most laptops and desktops made in the last few years feature a specific key that may be hit immediately after pushing the power button on your PC to allow you to select a boot drive. This button will bring up a “boot selection menu,” which will display a list of all storage devices currently connected to your PC and give you the option of booting from a source other than your local hard disk this time. The choice is only temporary: whatever you choose, your computer will try to start from it. HOWEVER, your PC will use the original default startup setting on subsequent (re)boots (typically a local hard disk). Starting your computer from a CD or DVD is the preferable way.

The Boot Selection Menu is accessed

You will have the option of hitting a specific key when the manufacturer logo (e.g. Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, Samsung, ASUS, Acer, Gateway, etc.) appears on your BIOS splash screen after powering up your PC. This key varies from PC to PC, depending on the make and model of your computer.

The key will usually be indicated by a small notification at the bottom or top of the screen. The legend in the top-right corner of one such screen indicates that pressing F2 will start the BIOS setup, and pressing F12 will reveal the boot selection menu.

The F2, F8, F12, and Del keys are typical alternatives. It may, however, be any of the other hundred keys on your keyboard.

The Boot Selection Menu is used

A menu similar to the one below will appear after pressing this special key:

Select “CD-ROM/DVD-ROM” from this menu to start the boot procedure from your CD or DVD drive.

In the BIOS Setup, go to “Boot Priority”

There may not be an option to specify a one-time boot device via an F-key on older PCs or some of the new “user-friendly” laptops and notebooks. It may be necessary to modify the default boot device in the BIOS setup for certain PCs.

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Getting inside the BIOS Setup

Fully power down the PC you want to boot from the CD or DVD, following the same steps as before. When you turn on the device, you can see a legend that tells you which key to press to enter BIOS setup. The F2 button is used to enter setup in the screenshot above, obtained from a Dell PC. The Esc, F1, F2, F8, F12, Del, Enter, and Space keys are typical alternatives.

Changing the Primary Boot Device is a simple process

The specific methods will vary based on the make and model of your computer, but all computers include a BIOS option to change the boot drive. This option is “sticky,” unlike the boot selection menu in the previous section, and will need to be changed back once you’ve finished booting from the CD or DVD.

As you can see, the exact names and labels vary significantly amongst devices. Change the first boot device from “hard disk” or “local disk” or “hard drive” to “CD-ROM” or “DVD-ROM” under the section titled “boot device” or “boot priority.” Changing the order of boot devices can be a little complex; the keys may vary depending on your computer’s BIOS, but often using the + and – keys or the up and down arrows on your keyboard will move the highlighted boot option up and down in the BIOS setup window.

You’ll need to save your modifications and exit after successfully prioritising the CD/DVD over the local hard disk. The specific procedures will vary depending on the make and model of your PC, but generally, navigating with the and arrow keys will bring you to the options of “discard changes and exit” vs “save changes and exit,” among others. You must select the “save changes and quit” option. Although the keyboard shortcut F10 frequently means “save and exit,” you should double-check before using it.

After that, your PC will reboot and leave the BIOS configuration software. When you restart your computer, it will boot from the media in your CD/DVD drive.

Have trouble booting from a CD?

If you’re having trouble booting from a CD or DVD, please see our knowledgebase article on troubleshooting CD and DVD booting issues. There are just too many possible troubleshooting methods to list here.


I hope you found this information helpful. Please fill out the form below if you have any queries or comments.

User Questions

1. How can I make a computer boot from a DVD?

Insert the DVD while Windows is still operating and reboot. During boot time, pay attention to the on-screen wording and hit the appropriate key when you read ‘Select Boot Device,’ ‘Change Boot Order,’ or another similar command. Esc, F10, or F12 are likely to be the keys.

2. Is it possible to boot from a CD?

You may need to enter the boot menu on many systems while the computer is booting up (e.g., you may see Press F9 for the boot menu). If this option is available, press the key to access the boot menu, then boot from the CD-ROM or DVD drive.

3. What is the best way to tell if a DVD is bootable?

If you want to check a physical media disc, you can also attempt Open CD/DVD Driver and then CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive letter. MagicISO will display Bootable on the menu bar if the media or image file is bootable, and the ISO image will be bootable when burned to CD, DVD, or USB flash drive.

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4. “Press any key to boot from CD/DVD drive to continue” does not work entirely

"Press any key to boot from CD/DVD drive to continue" does not work entirely from techsupport

5. My new PC won’t boot from CD?

My new PC won’t boot from CD? from techsupport