BSOD at startup: What is the "three-fail boot method" doing exactly?
July 19, 2021 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Recently, my WIN 10 computer's screen at startup has not been advancing beyond the manufacturer's and then the Windows logos. At first, the desktop image would flash after these momentarily, followed by a black screen with no cursor. If I remember correctly (following some suggestions I found online), at first hitting the power button on the keyboard one or more times might bring up the spinning dots and then the desktop and on to a login screen, and my session was then without further incident. Now doing that just leaves me with the black screen, unless...

...unless I follow the procedure described here:

as follows:

Open Advanced startup using three-fail boot method

To access the Windows 10 advanced options, use these steps:

Start the computer.

As soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will start the Automatic Repair environment, where you will find the option to access the Advanced startup. Then continue with the steps below to boot the device in safe mode.

What happens now when I perform this "three-fail boot method" is that after the initlal logo screens, the computer goes through the normal startup routine and I see the expected desktop environment/login screen, and then enjoy a typical session. (I only saw the [Advanced startup?] screen asking me to choose between UEFI and BIOS over the manufacturer's logo when I restarted (after a full, normal computer session) in order to eject an external USB HDD which I am never able to eject without a restart. Interestingly, I was able to avoid BSOD and advance to the login screen after restart even without choosing UEFI or BIOS...).

My question, for now, is what exactly is the "three-fail boot method" doing (or disabling) that allows me to successfully login and enjoy a typical session? And why does even a restart after a "three-fail boot method" and full computer session result in the computer advancing in a typical way from manufacturer/Windows logos to startup and login screens? Is it possible to set the computer to automatically startup every time the way it does after performing the three-fail boot method?

note: Since for now this "three-fail boot method" works, I will be using it to access the computer in order to backup important files to external HDDs before attempting repair. This is an entry-level ASUS machine, the only things attached at startup are the bluetooth mouse/keyboard and the monitor. (Possibly relevant?: this started ten days or after a stretch of unusually hot weather here [39˚ C], no AC.)

Thanks in advance for any and all possibly relevant feedback!
posted by tenderly to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
That's triggering the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), which is likely loading a "cleaner" version (fewer device drivers and other extensions) of Windows than your default install does. It's probable you've installed something that's conflicting with your setup and WinRE is bypassing it. More info about WinRE (from an OEM vendor perspective, but useful) can be found here.
WinRE starts automatically after detecting the following issues:
  • Two consecutive failed attempts to start Windows.
  • Two consecutive unexpected shutdowns that occur within two minutes of boot completion.
  • Two consecutive system reboots within two minutes of boot completion.
  • A Secure Boot error (except for issues related to Bootmgr.efi).
  • A BitLocker error on touch-only devices.
posted by hanov3r at 8:42 AM on July 20 [1 favorite]

hanov3r wrote it better than I did. There's a diagnostic tool from Asus that should let you better understand the scope of the issue you are having, that's where I would start. If the GPU is cooked or there's some other hardware issue it might be time to look for a replacement. Or it might just be an OS issue.

Good luck!
posted by zenon at 8:48 AM on July 20

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies with document links!

Unfortunately, things now seem to have become more complicated: cannot get to the login screen at all now; after manufacturer and Win logos, black screen prevails. Trying to access MyASUS in WinRE (by pressing f12 after manufacturer logo) does.. nothing.

posted by tenderly at 3:30 AM on July 22

Response by poster: After further reading online last night, and fiddling about in a trial-and-error fashion, I regained access to my machine. However, rather than use that opportunity to go into safe mode (which I have not been able to access via the usual methods), I tried something else: I went into control panel/power options and disabled Fast Startup (which one onine commenter said fixed the issue for them), and also chnaged my wallpaper from a personal image to a solid color (which someone else said worked for them).

I then restarted, and the system booted up as it should and I thought that my problems were now behind me! I shut the machine down as it was late, but then tried my luck one more time, and once again the black screen did not appear to prevent my logging in and accessing my files. Yay!

When I fired up the box this morning, though, the black screen was back and I was unable to either go into Safe Mode or to log in to Windows. Well, next time I stumble upon a way back in, I will be running various utilities, and no longer assuming that because things seem to be back to normal, that they are going to remain that way.
posted by tenderly at 4:03 PM on July 22

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