Help me repair Windows 7 booting from a USB thumb drive
December 13, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

My netbook refuses to start in Windows 7, though it will boot into Ubuntu from a USB thumb drive. How can I repair Windows' startup from outside of Windows and/or booting from a thumb drive?

The netbook is a Toshiba Mini NB205 running Windows 7 Starter. Press the power button and it will start the loading sequence, display the Toshiba graphic (I can successfully access the BIOS, setup, etc. menus here), display the flashing-back-and-forth line of graphics indicating Windows is starting, and then...hang on a blank black screen with a (movable but useless) white cursor, for hours, until I hit the manual power button. On some boot attempts it will show the "Windows did not shut down properly" screen and ask if I want to start Windows normally or start in repair mode, but choosing either option will just make it go to the black screen with white cursor.

The netbook has been slow and having trouble shutting down for months and I've been attempting different fixes (installing updates, uninstalling bloatware, buying new memory which I haven't installed yet, etc.) I'm pretty careful with flashblock/AdBlocker/etc. and virus scans have turned up nothing, but I won't rule that out. All I can think is that I accidentally uninstalled something vital or whatever's been slowing it down has finally gummed it up entirely.

Using the instructions here, I can a boot from a USB thumb drive stick into portable!Ubuntu, in which it runs and shuts down just fine. I've been able to rescue what important files I need that way, so I'm not worried about saving files or system settings. But apparently to reinstall Windows or repair the Windows startup, it needs to startup in Windows, and that's not happening.

The netbook's out of warranty, so sadly I can't ship it back to Toshiba and make it their problem.

All the repair/reinstall instructions for Windows 7 I've found so far read something like "insert W7 install disc" (netbook has no disc drive & came with W7 installed), "use W7 install disc to create bootable USB thumb drive" (ditto), or "use existing W7 installation to create bootable USB thumb drive" (can't access the W7 installation to do this). Is there a surefire "Boot From Thumb Drive Into Windows Startup Repair" solution I've missed?

Have you any suggestions? I am moderately computer savvy--I have installed memory & harddrives and flashed BIOSes without bricking anything by carefully following step-by-step instructions, but I couldn't explain what a BIOS is if you asked me. And using Ubuntu off the thumb drive is my first use of Linux, if I need knowledge of that system.
posted by nicebookrack to Technology (6 answers total)
Have you tried booting in safe mode?

If you can get in via safe mode I would look at what you installed recently. Or going to a previous system restore point.
posted by Admira at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2010

You might also try to Enable Boot Logging which might be an option from the F8 menu. This will create a text file that you can read (either from safe mode windows or your ubuntu USB OS) and the last thing in there is probably whats causing the issue.

You could also try "Last Known Good Configuration".

Good luck!
posted by Admira at 12:51 PM on December 13, 2010

I've heard that removing the Toshiba bloatware can cause problems like this. Sadly, I don't have a solution for you. I have an NB305. When I got it, the Windows installation was brutally slow, I tried to remove the crap that came preinstalled, and that messed it up so much that I ended up just reformatting and installing Ubuntu as the only OS on the machine.
posted by number9dream at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2010

Admira: Booting in Safe Mode (with network & without) and from Last Known Good Configuration have both gotten the blank screen. I'll try Enable Boot Logging and see if it produces anything: where will the text file be located on the harddrive so that I can access it through Ubuntu?

number9dream: I would be willing to start over fresh with the Toshiba bloatware if I could get the computer to start properly :( And then shut down when it's supposed to.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2010

It should be in c:\windows\ntbtlog.txt
posted by Admira at 3:30 PM on December 13, 2010

No such luck, Admira. Thanks anyway.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:15 AM on December 20, 2010

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