Windows XP won't boot. Black screen blinking cursor

By jimmy-jam ·
I've got a Dell Optiplex 755 running Windows XP... or trying to any way. When you turn the thing on, it POST's and then goes to a black screen with a blinking cursor in the upper left hand corner. I am able to get to BIOS and the boot menu but that is it. I've Googled around a bit and have not had any success in finding a resolution.

Things I've tried

1. I removed the disk and put it in a external enclosure and verified it can be read and all the data is there.

2. I've run Dell diagnostics and no errors are reported

3. I've booted into recovery console and run chkdsk /r; fixmbr; fixboot; bootcfg /rebuild

4. I've attempted to repair Windows from the setup screen booting from CD.

None of this has helped or changed the behavior. I verified the BIOS settings were correct for my SATA drive.

I have 2 160Gbyte SATA drives and 2GB RAM. System was functioning normally and no changes were made prior to this issue occurring.

I'm stumped... anyone anyone... Beuller Beuller...

edit: I would really really really really like to avoid having to reload Windows on this bad boy. The reconfiguration will be a nightmare. No I have no back up but before you scold me, I am field service and this isn't my site. I'm covering for someone else. Thanks for listening ;-)


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Windows XP won't boot. Black screen blinking cursor

by PuterGuy07 In reply to Windows XP won't boot. Bl ...

Have you checked for rootkits and/or other malware yet? I would remove the drive and check with GMER or sysinternals anti-rootkit programs, and also with Malwarebytes. If those come back clean, I would try to run Windows utilities again to fix the MBR after you've checked the BIOS to make sure that it is looking for that drive as a boot device.

Also, what response do you get when you tried to run a repair in Windows? Usually malware and hardware issue won't allow this to run, so I'm kind of curious what the response was.

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by jimmy-jam In reply to Windows XP won't boot. Bl ...

When I run the repair of Windows it behaves as though it worked normally. There were no indications of failure.

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have you tried running

by Sue T In reply to Results

system restore. or even possibly restoring an earlier version of the registry. I have had 2 dell computers lately that the customer had the same problem. unfortunately system restore was turned off so I could not try that so I had to reinstall. A couple of people tell me some update caused the problem on some dells but I can't verify that or even say if it was an MS, Dell or some other update. I do know that after I reinstalled I installed all MS updates and it still worked so I do not think it was MS but who knows.
Good luck.

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Defaulted the bios? Unplug ALL USB devices.

by robo_dev In reply to Windows XP won't boot. Bl ...

Will it boot into F8 safe mode?

Maybe it's trying to boot up from a USB device? I've seen one PC that would do this same symptom if you tried to boot with a USB flash drive plugged in.

tried safe mode with command prompt?


Most likely, either the mbr is hosed, or there's a hardware issue.

Normally Windows repair should have fixed the MBR, so I would wonder if the drive is failing, or something like bad RAM.

Reseat RAM, video card, etc.

I would boot a Linux live CD to test that the video card is healthy.

i would also try a boot with some RAM removed.

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Oh yeah, also tried...

by jimmy-jam In reply to Defaulted the bios? Unpl ...

I did try removing both of the RAM sticks... individually of course ;-)

The only thing plugged into it is a USB keyboard and mouse. There is a 3rd party video card for a Barco display.

It does not boot far enough for me to hit F8. I do have a Knoppix CD. I will try to boot from that and see what happens. AM I just looking to make sure it boots with a display?

"Normally Windows repair should have fixed the MBR, so I would wonder if the drive is failing, or something like bad RAM."

I did clone the one drive to the other and attempt to use that as the boot device but that did not work either. Ran fixboot and fixmbr on that drive as well.

Booted from Knoppix while typing... the system came up and is usable from the Live CD. All drives are accessible.

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that's a tough dog

by robo_dev In reply to Oh yeah, also tried...

hmmm, if it's not getting far enough for F8.

if it can run Xwindows on knoppix, then video hardware is OK and RAM too. And you've run diags on the SATA controller.

Crazy thought...although Windows will go BSOD if you try to boot that that drive into another mobo, as a sanity check...

Try disabling EVERYTHING in BIOS. Serial, USB, secondary SATA controller.

At this point I would jump into recovery console and start poking into the registry and maybe start trying to kill services or inspect individual system files for corruption.

Be sure to take a peek at the boot.ini.

Before giving up, I would see if you can install/boot XP on a bare drive in this beast.

Recovery console:

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Was system restore enabled?

by robo_dev In reply to that's a tough dog
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Great minds think alike...

by jimmy-jam In reply to that's a tough dog

Out of curiosity I took the second drive and restored a factory default ghost of this model of system and was able to get it to boot to Windows and I was able to log in. This in my mind eliminates hardware on the box no?


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by robo_dev In reply to Great minds think alike.. ...

The Operating System gods are laughing at you now.

Some driver file is corrupt or some nasty rootkit has hosed the mbr

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"Resolution" if you Googled to find this

by jimmy-jam In reply to Windows XP won't boot. Bl ...

I never got the system to boot off the original drive. I had to load the system from scratch and configure it from the ground up. Could I have figured it out eventually? Probably but the time it was taking to come up with the solution was beginning to out weigh the time it would take to load from scratch. The above suggestions were helpful and good ones and seem to be the way to go in most cases.

Good luck


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