Disclaimer: This is happening on my grandma's computer, I'm looking for a few tips before I go over there and try to fix it.

This is the thing: Last night there was a storm. For some reason, my grandma was pressing the reboot button and at that precise moment there was a blackout or something. After the lights came back, she turned the machine on. After the POST, Windows displayed the screen offering to boot into Safe Mode because the OS didn't shut down properly. She boots normally, and when Windows starts to load the desktop and shell, a dialog flashes for a split second and the PC reboots.

As I said, I'm trying to find possible causes for the problem. The most obvious thing seems to be some faulty hardware caused by the blackout and power coming back. How can I diagnose the problem? BTW, I don't think she has the Windows XP CD, so using the recovery console or whatever might not be possible.

EDIT: If anyone wants to know how it went, well, I wasn't succesful, mainly beacuse I thought my XP CD had the Repair option but for some reason it didn't. The error seemed to be some system file corruption (I think it was C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\Software). I tried running chkdsk from the recovery console, but whenever the checking got to around 70% it went back to 50% and went really slow from there, and I had other stuff to do. I told her to take the PC to a repair shop, where they'll have more appropriate recovery stuff. I'm accepting the first answer because it was the most complete.


The problem doesn't have to be hardware. Windows is entirely capable of destroying itself.

The only advice I can give is :

  1. Don't go over there without an XP boot CD.
  2. When arriving over there, try to boot into Safe mode and:
    a. First examine carefully the Event Log.
    b. Try to boot normally.
    c. If you can't boot normally, try to go back to a system restore point previous to the problem.
  3. If you can't boot into into Safe mode, try the Last Known Good Configuration.
  4. If this doesn't work, Perform a Repair Installation.
  5. If nothing works, you might need to reinstall Windows. Your priority will then be to try and save all data. You would also need to ensure that you have the installed XP serial number as well as Office and all other installed apps.
  • Safe Mode didn't work, so I'm going to go tomorrow with the CD and see what I can do. Thanks. – Javier Feb 16 '10 at 15:25
  • @reyjavikvi: Try to find an XP boot CD of the same service-pack level as is currently installed. If you can't find any, see lifehacker.com/386526/…. – harrymc Feb 16 '10 at 16:31
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    Sudden power loss during a shut down is a common cause of system file corruption. Do yourself a favor and buy a UPS for your grandma. They are not that expensive ($65 with shipping) and can prevent things like this from happening. They also can double as a surge suppressor. Recommended: newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16842101349 – Doltknuckle Feb 16 '10 at 17:38
  • @reyjavikvi: Doltknuckle has a good point. If you ever get Windows operational, one of your first actions should be chkdsk. – harrymc Feb 16 '10 at 18:03
  • @reyjavikvi:A free product that specializes in boot problems is Paragon's Rescue Kit 9.0 Express at paragon-software.com/home/rk-express – harrymc Feb 17 '10 at 8:20

Take over a Linux LiveCD and try booting from that. If it works ok, then your problem is probably Windows rather than a hardware issue (unless it's the hard disk, which a LiveCD shouldn't touch), and you can try the Windows boot options again like step-by-step confirmation, boot logging and the rest.

  • Yeah, I thought about the LiveCD, but good advice nonetheless. – Javier Feb 16 '10 at 16:50

Try rebooting using the Last Known Good configuration. If that fails, then try rebooting into Safe Mode. If you're able to boot into Safe Mode, then reboot again and see if it will start normally.

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