Computer (not) loading to a black screen: why?
October 4, 2007 2:55 AM   Subscribe

Computer doesn't appear to load past the normal Windows XP screen. What could be the cause?

The computer in question runs Windows XP (I think it's SP2, but I'm not sure; computer's not mine, it's my boyfriend's).

Yesterday, the computer rebooted spontaneously, and came up with a "the system has recovered from a serious error" screen upon the next windows boot. After this, it seemed unable to connect to the internet any longer. (The internet connection was working perfectly fine; the computer just seemed unable to realize that.) A few reboots later, the computer decided to start refusing to work altogether.

When starting up, it does the usual Windows XP loading screen, but when it should otherwise go to the "Windows is starting up..." blue-ish screen, and from there to the "To begin, click your user name" screen... well, it doesn't. The screen goes completely black instead, and hangs there (no matter how long it's left for).

I can load into safe mode, or safe mode with command prompt, but not safe mode with networking.

Last known good configuration doesn't work either; neither does system restoring back to a point before this started happening.

Nothing has been installed anytime recently (2+ months ago was the last time something was installed).

I haven't the faintest clue where to even begin troubleshooting this as I've never had the problem before. Any ideas?
posted by sailoreagle to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
I had the exact same problem this weekend. The screen went black at where the login screen should have been and monitor complained about lack of input. However, the system was still alive as pressing ctrl-alt-delete then typing my password blind successfully loaded the profile (judging from HDD activity anyway).

The solution for me was to download the latest Nvidia drivers (Geforce 6 series) on a second machine. After that, boot into safe VGA mode on the affected machine and install the new graphics drivers; without uninstalling the old ones. Still at a loss as to what actually caused the original error though. Good luck.
posted by kuriyama at 3:32 AM on October 4, 2007

When you reboot in safe mode with networking, where does it stop? Usually it'll give you a readout of all the ".sys" files that it's loading as it loads them.
posted by SpecialK at 4:43 AM on October 4, 2007

I'd start with what kuriyama said. You can boot Windows XP into safe mode by holding down F8 right after the power on self test. If it continues to work in safe mode you probably, but not necessarily, have a driver issue.
posted by dereisbaer at 4:44 AM on October 4, 2007

Response by poster: Tried installing latest drivers (Nvidia Geforce 7 series here), but didn't work. (Damnit.)

Something gives me the feeling that trying to repair the Windows install wouldn't work either.

And I don't even know why the system rebooted spontaneously, out of the blue - which is what seems to have started the whole issue... nobody was using the computer when it happened, my boyfriend was out and I was using my own computer.

I checked add/remove programs in control panel, and it doesn't seem like there was any automatic-install patch or fix that got pushed out yesterday (or anytime recently for that matter).

Could it be hardware failure of some kind? Network card maybe? (Shot in the dark, just judging from the fact that when the computer rebooted, internet / network stopped working, and now it won't start in safe mode with networking...)
posted by sailoreagle at 4:44 AM on October 4, 2007

Response by poster: Safe mode with networking appears to stop at WINDOWS\System32\Drivers\Mup.sys. (Or at least, it does not load anything beyond that point.)

Normal safe mode also goes past Mup.sys, but loads perfectly fine (with Mup.sys being the last in the list).

I thought that maybe it was just being slow and if left long enough, it would load into safe mode with networking too - but it's been sitting there for five minutes now, and nothing.
posted by sailoreagle at 5:11 AM on October 4, 2007

Response by poster: What the...

I disconnected one USB cable from the back of the computer - the one that goes to the internet HUB thingy (whatever it's called, and however it works - BT ADSL, it beats me) - and it loaded fine.

*scratches head*

I guess that's that. Now to get it to go on the internet without that particular cable, if rebooting with it back in place hangs it again...
posted by sailoreagle at 6:03 AM on October 4, 2007

Does you motherboard have onbaord video you can use and remove the nvidia video card to see if that works?

A Google search of mup.sys shows you're not alone with the file crapping out on you. Perusing some of the results might yield some fixes.
posted by jmd82 at 6:03 AM on October 4, 2007

This randomly happened to me two days ago. Then it seemed fine, and then last night it did it and wouldn't come back to life at all. Maybe there's something going round...

Our tech support told us to run a system restore, which subsequently ate Windows, which now needs to be reinstalled.

He said corrupted file.
posted by letahl at 6:45 AM on October 4, 2007

Just to throw another possibility into the mix: I had this same problem very occasionally for over a couple of years. Every few months or so it'd spontaneously lock up or reboot - sometimes it'd come back OK, sometimes it'd find "new" hardware, sometimes it'd keep hanging part-way through the Windows boot, and sometimes it'd lock up hard before even getting to the BIOS screen.

This behaviour would go on for hours or days at a time. After much swapping, testing, and re-installing of parts, it'd come good and run fine for another few months.

Bad RAM, dodgy PSU, or failing HDD or video card, right?

Nope. CMOS battery.
posted by Pinback at 7:26 AM on October 4, 2007

I disconnected one USB cable from the back of the computer - the one that goes to the internet HUB thingy (whatever it's called, and however it works - BT ADSL, it beats me) - and it loaded fine.

Sounds like a hardware problem (usb controller?). Sounds like you have a modem that connects via USB. See if your modem has an ethernet adapter and just use an ethernet cable. Those usb slots should only be used by computers without ethernet cards.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2007

Strangely, this happened to me this weekend as well. I decided to reboot my machine after removing an antivirus program that wasn't working for my needs.

Box shut down without issues, then came back up to the bios boot, showed me the first Windows XP screen, then the screen went black and never came back.

After a minute, I killed it, waited another minute, and brought it back up in safe mode. It hung while loading mup.sys for more than three minutes, but eventually got past it and booted into safe mode.

Once that happened, I was able to do a clean restart and while XP took it's dear sweet time booting back up, it did eventually do what it was supposed to.

All kinds of strange gremlins in them thar windows.
posted by phredgreen at 11:26 PM on October 4, 2007

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