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I have a regular problem with the Windows 8 install on my Dell XPS 16.

A fresh install of Windows 8 works fine without issue, but (and its happened 4 times now) after either a windows update (which I have since disabled) or (possibly) a restart something happens and the system will not longer boot to desktop.

The resulting system is no longer usable or fixable (I hope otherwise).

The system results in the following states:

  • Black screen with large white cursor
  • Attempts auto resolution, restarts, reboots during next boot
  • Boots to dashboard (after a LONG time) but then crashes

I have tried booting to all Safemodes - no joy similar results to above

If I run the setup program and try and restore to previous point the set up never gets to the select restore point screen (just stays blank). Same if I try other restore options

I used to be pretty IT savvy (circa 2000/XP) but am now management so am out of touch.

To me it suggests that a fundamental driver (perhaps IO controller) is being updated which is conflicting with the hardware and thus rendering the system useless. Is there a log which shows changes?

The only resolution I have found is a complete reinstall, which I am currently running from on a seperate partition.

Can anyone suggest an alternative way to fix the dead install to save me reinstalling everything for a 5th this year!

Thanks

Update:

I have tried copying system32/regback over system32/config as after analysing the debug logs which claim the registry is corrupt - it still fails - the backup files are dated before things went whiley!

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To make the 5th time the last, maybe you should think about going back to Windows 7 which is much more stable. Do you know that Windows 8 has 2 update mechanisms : desktop & metro, and that one cannot uninstall a metro update, only desktop updates. –  harrymc Sep 13 '13 at 12:17
    
@Jet: I believe this is simply equivalent to booting to the last known good configuration. Recent registry changes will be lost. –  harrymc Sep 13 '13 at 15:25
    
OK. If you've created backup (as you said in comments), then it's easy to recover WITHOUT reinstalling anything. Just follow this link, I've explained a good way for it there: superuser.com/a/560105/180465 –  Jet Sep 13 '13 at 15:27
    
@harrymc , it isn't equivalent, because they are a lot of cases when you can't even boot to "last known good configuration" and "Safe mode". I've used this way, when "last known" didn't help me (as usual). And it worked great. –  Jet Sep 13 '13 at 15:30

3 Answers 3

If you can't even boot into safe mode properly then this problem is probably routed pretty deeply. You can do a few things, but be prepared to re-install:

  • roll back to an older state if you created recovery points regularly

  • create recovery points on a regular basis, especially before updating or installing new software (hindsight in action)

  • check the Event Manager in Control Panel for errors during start up

  • enable boot logging during start up (on the same menu that allows you to safe boot)

Personally, I'd install Windows 8 to a VHD (virtual hard disk). This way you can make backups easily by just copying the VHD. Getting a bootable system in case of errors without having to reinstall anything ever again takes only seconds this way. I have been doing this ever since Windows 7 started to support booting off VHDs and I've never had any lengthy re-installations ever again.

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Booting to a VHD isn't a long term solution. If a single sector with the VHD file goes bad then he loses his virtual machine. –  Ramhound Sep 11 '13 at 11:07
    
Thanks Zerobinary99 but I created restore points etc but I cannot open the recovery screen through set up in order to action them, any suggestion how? –  Anthony Main Sep 11 '13 at 11:10
    
@tigermain Unfortunately not since I never used restore points myself. –  Zerobinary99 Sep 11 '13 at 11:12
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@Ramhound You're missing the point AND are wrong at the same time. I wasn't talking about virtual machines, but booting natively off a VHD. Big difference. Also, fixed size VHDs are raw image files meaning that single sector errors don't affect other sectors. If parts go bad, you repair them with disk tools and be done or use an older backup which is the whole point of me suggesting them. Using VHDs are a perfect long term solution since they are easy to handle and reliable. –  Zerobinary99 Sep 11 '13 at 11:18
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@Jet There's an article by MS gauging the performance differences between HDDs, fixed size VHDs and variable sized VHDs. I don't have a link, but you can google it. The gist was that fixed size VHDs basically suffer no performance hits. Those are the ones I've been using for years for all of my systems and they work great. Variable sized VHDs will suffer a slight performance hit depending on the speed of your physical hard disk, its speed and fragmentation status. Everything will be as if you had booted off a normal HDD with the benefit of being able of making and restoring easy backups :) –  Zerobinary99 Sep 13 '13 at 15:18

If you're using an ATI/AMD motherboard, I remember that last year installing any of the available SATA controller drivers (I think) would cause my installation of Windows 8 to fail to boot in a similar sounding way. I think Microsoft are still offering these over Windows Update, so it might be worth disallowing optional updates (said drivers are classed as optional, and apparently won't be selected by default).

I'm embarrassed to say that I'm not sure of a way to uninstall the drivers from an otherwise inaccessible installation, but if this is the issue, maybe someone else can chime in?

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This is my thoughts as well, but Ive not idea how to prove it –  Anthony Main Sep 13 '13 at 16:40

There are several repair options when one boots from the DVD :

Automatic Repair automates common diagnostic and repair tasks for startup issues. You can start Automatic Repair from the Windows DVD.

If this is not enough, then when booting into the command prompt these commands may help :

bootrec /fixmbr
bootrec /fixboot
bootrec /scanos
bootrec /rebuildbcd

If you finally manage to boot into Safe mode, take a good look at your drivers. Try to disconnect any possible external device while booting.

If nothing works, and to make the 5th time the last, maybe you should think about going back to Windows 7 which is much more stable.

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