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November 18, 2009 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Why won't my computer boot up Windows on the first try?

Details: Dell Studio Laptop, running Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit). About a month ago, it started doing this weird thing where it won't boot up when I first turn it on. The Dell Studio page will load, then it'll go to a blank screen with a cursor blinking in the upper left corner. It will continue to blink for a couple of minutes, before finally going to an all-black screen and just stalling. I have to turn off the computer, then turn it back on. The second time Windows will always boot up properly. I have run System Restore and Start-up Repair multiple times to no effect. I don't recall installing anything or making any changes to the computer before this started happening, but I could very well be wrong about that. I thought I'd ask the hivemind before I doomed myself to Customer Support purgatory. Any ideas how to fix the problem, or should I just upgrade to Windows 7?
posted by Saxon Kane to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Odd things like this sometimes lead to the CMOS battery. It may need a little charge the first time in order to start the second time. They are cheap, find out where your's is and replace it.
posted by Yorrick at 12:30 PM on November 18, 2009

Best answer: Any external storage devices connected, hard drive, flash drive, iPod, etc?
posted by IanMorr at 1:20 PM on November 18, 2009

- How do you shut down the system?
- Does it behave the same way whether you do a full shutdown or a hibernation?
- Do you get detailed output from the BIOS during successful boots, or does it boot directly into Windows (in the latter case, there might be a BIOS setting that lets you see more information, and that information could contain additional clues).
- Do you get any messages about a failed earlier boot when it finally boots?
posted by effbot at 1:26 PM on November 18, 2009

This sounds like a problem we used to get, where the BIOS would load too fast for the HDD, and it didn't have enough time to spin up properly. The solution was to hold the reset button for a second, then allow the computer to start. I'm trying to think how to test this... maybe if you use a windows setup cd, boot off the cd, but don't actually hit any key (the windows setup disk asks to you hit a key to boot off the disk, if you ignore it, it will time out and boot normally). Does the computer start up then? That's not quite addressing the problem, but I'm curious to see how it works.
posted by defcom1 at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2009

Oh, and clear the bios intro screen with "esc" probably, so you can see what's going on, instead of a fancy logo.
posted by defcom1 at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2009

Response by poster: IanMorr: It's hooked into a Kensington Docking station, which has a printer, external hard drive, keyboard, and mouse plugged in.

1) I use the Windows "Shut down" command
2) Haven't tried it from a hibernation
3 & 4) It depends. If on the initial failed boot (and it fails EVERY time on the first try) I hold the power button and turn it off while the cursor is still blinking, when I turn it on again it goes straight into a normal windows boot. If, on the other hand, I let it stall out, where the cursor disappears and it's just a blank screen with the power running, then when I reboot it goes to a screen that says "Windows failed to start properly" and gives me the option to boot normally or go to startup repair (which has never fixed anything).
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:55 PM on November 18, 2009

Response by poster: This morning when I turned it on, I hit ESC during the BIOS screen. It went by fairly quickly, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. As usual, Windows didn't load the first time. 2nd time, again, BIOS screen looked fine, and Windows loaded.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:07 AM on November 19, 2009

Response by poster: Update: IanMorr had it. Seems it was the external hard drive screwing things up. When I boot it without that plugged in, no problems.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:34 AM on November 24, 2009

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