Windows Vista shows black screen and the cursor before log in.

Written by Sam McGeown
Published on 2/5/2008 - Read in about 2 min (302 words)

Had an interesting one yesterday, my bosses Vista laptop booted as per normal, making all the right pictures until just before the log in prompt popped up, then a black screen in what looked to be VGA graphics with the white default arrow cursor.

Corrupted graphics drivers, I thought. A quick boot into safe mode…but no, the same black screen and over-sized pointer.

No problem, Last Known Good Configuration will save my day…except that LKGC points are set when the OS manages a successful boot, and Vista had, in it’s own opinion, successfully booted. The same problem occurred.

Googling around I found hundreds of posts describing similar problems, fewer, but still quite a lot had the same problem. There were no solutions for the symptoms that I was facing; that always begins to worry me because it’s very unlikely that I can fix something that no-one else can!

After several more hours Googling and trying various different recovery options, I came accross a very succinct and to the point technet article - KB946532. Apparently Vista’s fairly unknown Transactional NTFS has a bug which, if you’re unlucky enough to see, will “occur because of file system corruption within the $Txf directory. This corruption causes a deadlock condition between the Transactional NTFS (TxF) process and the Autocheck process.” In short, you’re screwed.

System Restore points don’t fix this problem. There’s no way of preventing this error, which will render your Vista install inoperable. Helpfully, MS suggest you reinstall Vista in parallel to your current install. They also mention that it’s fixed in SP1, which is the most compelling reason to install SP1 that I’ve heard.

Right now I feel a little like I’m playing Russian roulette with my fleet of Vista laptops, but do I really want to force an early adoption of SP1?

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