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So here is the info that I have so far:

The computer was on all night because it failed to go to sleep properly. It was also very hot in the morning. This is not irregular for the machine (it's a laptop). Restarted, and the diskcheck started automatically, and I left. Came back some time later and only a black screen with the mouse was visible.

Had to do a hard-power-off, restarted, got to safe-mode, and safe mode didn't load. the last file safe-mode loaded was crcdisk.sys (don't know if this is what it's supposed to do) and then it gave the same black screen with a mouse.

Notes: Vista version is Premium and automatic updates are on. When trying to load Vista not in safe mode, the splash is not visible, but the ribbon underneath is. Also, after loading, I left it standing and it seemed to go into screensaver mode: that is the mouse disappeared. When I moved the mouse again, it came back.

Anyone have any ideas of what I can do?

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2 Answers

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Sounds like a hardware problem, but we can diagnose that pretty quick. If one of these solutions fixes your problem, there is no need to move onto the next:

First, have you tried the Last known good configuration? You should be able to choose it on the same menu where you can pick safe mode. It will use the last settings that worked successfully.

If you have a Vista DVD lying around, boot from it and try a system repair.

If you've got any spare CDs lying around, try burning a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu to it and try to boot up. The latest Ubuntu should come with ntfsfix which will fix common NTFS errors. In the Terminal (Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal) run ntfsfix /dev/sda1. If that gives you an error about the device you probably have a drive connected via IDE, try ntfsfix /dev/hda1. You haven't indicated if you're dual booting so these device names should work.

If none of this yields anything, or you get errors trying Ubuntu, it may indicate a hardware problem. After being left on over night and becoming hot, it could be a few different things. There may be a problem with one of the motherboard's capacitors, memory, or even an issue with the power adapter among other things. A very hot laptop is usually related to heat dissipation problems. If it's under warranty still, you may want to take it in to have it looked at. If not, and you're comfortable with opening it, try and clean out some dust.

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Got it. I had to use the system restore tool (which is like Last Known Good Configuration, except you get to choose which configuration to use) and that did it. Apparently the last vista update ruined EVERYTHING. thanks for pointing me in the right direction. –  mechko Jan 15 '10 at 5:55
    
You're most welcome! –  John T Jan 15 '10 at 6:05
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Notebook was working, ran all night, got hot, locked, rebooted, file system corruption checked and maybe 'fixed', now won't boot into safe mode -- suspect your hard drive first.

Use the drive manufacturer's diagnostics to ensure there's no damage to the drive before you start messing with the file system (more chkdsks, restores, reinstalls, etc).

If it comes up clean or reports it fixed, then try an OS repair from the Vista CD.

If the drive fails the manufacturer's diagnostics then you have to consider getting it replaced, and data retrieval options.

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