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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have an old back-up machine that I fired up the other day and when I downloaded a bunch of M$ "Critical Updates" for it and they installed, the next time I restarted it gave me the boot menu and would only go into Safe Mode.

Here are the details:

1. I hadn't been on-line with that particular machine in about 7 or 8 months, so I wasn't too surprised when IE went directly to the Windows Update site and it listed about 6 Critical Updates.

2. I OK'd them to download and install, and I think that was my mistake - I should've just done one at a time instead of letting all 6 install at once. I suspect somewhere there's a conflict among them.

3. The machine is a WinBook laptop, with 128MB RAM and W98SE.

4. Exact symptom: It boots through the POST and on into the DOS screen menu for "Normal Mode", "Safe Mode", "Command Prompt" etc. It goes directly to this menu, but when I press the key for entering Normal Mode, it doesn't do anything (well . . . one time I waited about ten minutes, and it DID start to go into normal mode, but it loaded the desktop - without any icons - VERY slowly, then showed the pointer, but clearly the pointer was just about frozen, only moving in response to the touchpad JERKILY).

But when I choose "Safe Mode", it goes to that immediately and loads it just fine.

So, I can troubleshoot in "Safe Mode" and that's what I'm trying to do.

I suspect that maybe it's a driver conflict, so I'm using WinDriver Ghost (a nifty little shareware utility that copies driver files, including an .inf file for reinstallation) and removing and reinstalling drivers. The video driver (ATI) is a prime suspect, but so far no luck with removing it and reinstalling it.

System Performance tab shows "MS-DOS compatible mode", but as I understand it, that's normal for "Safe Mode".

Anyway, I have a Recover CD but would like to get my "Normal Mode" back rather than do a full restore to factory conditons and lose all that I have on the machine (I've backed up the data files to removable media, but I'd still like to get the machine back as it was).

So, I'm looking for some troubleshooting ideas here . . .

BTW, just registered and made this post (am using my recently purchased HP ze4700 laptop, with XP HE, for this).

TIA

BJ
 

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After your computer restarts in Safe mode, use the System Configuration utility (Msconfig.exe) to minimize conflicts that may be causing the issue:

Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to System Tools, and then click System Information.

On the Tools menu, click System Configuration Utility.
On the General tab, click Selective Startup, and then click to clear the following check boxes:

Process Config.sys File
Process Autoexec.bat File
Process Winstart.bat File (if available)
Process System.ini File
Process Win.ini File
Load Startup Group Items

Click OK, and then restart your computer typically when you are prompted. After you restart and test your computer, if you do not experience the problem, continue with the next set of steps.


To identify the entry that is causing the problem:

Run the System Configuration utility again. Click to select one check box under Selective Startup, click OK, restart your computer, and then test.


Continue this process until you have selected all of the items under Selective Startup. If you select an item and the issue reoccurs, click the tab for the corresponding Selective Startup item, clear half of the check boxes, ( except for those clearly related for your mouse) click OK, and then restart your computer. Continue this process until you locate the setting that is causing the issue.
 

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Another suggestion:

Click on System in the Control Panel and select the Device Manager tab. Expand the line for Display. Highlight and remove the device listed therein. Restart the computer.

Windows will re-detect the Display Adapter and will install the drivers thereby.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
First, thanks for the suggestions - will try them.

But I forgot to mention a few things . . .

1. I tried the scanreg/restore command (I could get to the command prompt), but several previous iterations (that .cab stuff) of successful starts DIDN'T work.

2. I tried to use the Add/Remove programs applet in CP to remove those Critical Updates, but it didn't appear they were listed (well . . . maybe one of them, KB . . . something . . . but there certainly wasn't six of them listed. I know M$ will allow a user to uninstall some of their Critical Updates and has them show up in listings, but they still have some of their Critical Updates "hidden" and unremovable.

So, if it is in fact a problem caused by multiple Critical Updates installed all at once, apparently I can't go back and uninstall most of them.

3. When I first tried to reboot after downloading and installing those Critical Updates, two things happened: 1) the screen flickered with what looked like a test pattern, and then 2) it hung at a dark screen and wouldn't boot any further into Normal mode. I did in fact, that first time, get to the "Safe Mode" menu by tapping F8 during the reboot. But ever after that, the thing immediately would go to the "Normal Mode", "Safe Mode", "Command Prompt" etc. menu right out of the gate. I've never seen that happen ('till now)without first tapping F8 . . .

4. I haven't done a Virus Scan yet, and will because that's always a possibility, but I think it's remote. When I was on line, I had McAfee (updated DAT's of course) running and also Zone Alarm . . . so I don't think it's a virus or a Trojan . . . but I'll check anyway.

I'm only on my second day with this problem, so I've not done all the troubleshooting yet.

Anyway, I'll try what you suggested (thanks again), and report back here one way or the other.
 

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It could be a video driver issue and you may need to remove and reinstall them.

One possible test, though not sure fire, is to see whether you can boot into "normal" mode just using VGA 640 drivers. In most cases this can be done through the option in the msconfig > advanced menu.

Also your secondary symptoms sound like what happens when the Wnbootng.sts file is present in c:\windows. It must be deleted to avoid that boot menu:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/q143283/
 

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this may be nothing to do with your problems but last thursday I had a PC which would only boot into safemode and we checked (loads of things - device manager , reloaded spybot and ad-aware from CD with the updates etc) the startups and a program called zztp (trojan virus ) caused the problem - we went through and checked every startup option and unchecked any we did not want - and it booted in normal mode.

also on another post here - http://forums.techguy.org/t312369 - the bios was all wrong and after he went through and set the bios correctly it booted OK.
the machine was a 1999 PC and we suspect the motherboard battery needs replacing
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hey etaf,

I read that thread you referred to, and the more I think about it, the more I'm thinking that maybe it really IS a bad CMOS battery.

I'll get into the BIOS and check out the settings, but two things lead me to suspect that battery now:

1) I've had the thing in "mothballs" for about seven months, and when I brought it out and fired it up I noticed that it had a date and time that was way off (about three months behind on the date, and the time way off). That would seem to be a BIG indication that the CMOS battery was gone, but it just didn't occur to me at the time.

2) It's a vintage 1998 machine, so the TTF for the battery seems to fit.

Problem is, it's a laptop - and cracking the case on those things and getting into the guts is not as easy as getting into a tower case on a desktop. So, if it IS in fact a bad CMOS battery, I'm not sure I will be able to replace it.

But another thing DOESN'T seem to fit with that "bad CMOS battery" cause: that one time that it did go into normal mode, albeit with a jerky pointer and much reduced performance (as I said in a previous post on this thread, it took it over ten minutes to even get to the normal mode desktop, and even then it didn't show the desktop icons for about another ten minutes). If the CMOS battery were dead, would it even boot into normal mode???

Anyway, I have a lot of troubleshooting ideas now (thanks to you folks), so I'll get to it. Haven't tried the thing in a day or so now, but I'll get back to it with these ideas soon.

But I'm wondering now if it will turn out to be MORE THAN ONE issue: like a bad CMOS battery and some corrupted drivers from the multiple M$ Critical Updates . . . ??? Hmmm . . . that will be hard to troubleshoot . . .

Thanks VERY much for all the input and ideas . . . will report back when I find a solution.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well . . . I finally solved the problem.

I'll do the blow-by-blow here in a bit, but for those that don't want to read the details here's the short story:

It was the . . . drum roll . . . BATTERY. NOT the CMOS, but rather the regular lithium-ion that fuels the laptop when it's not on AC. I knew the battery was dead (and consequently had the AC hooked up), but what I didn't know was that when it's dead and still in the machine, then the charging circuit still tries to recharge it. Of course, the charging circuit wasn't able to do that because the battery was COMPLETELY gone and would NO LONGER take a charge. Apparently though, the charging circuit was the cause of the SEVERELY degraded performance in Normal Mode - that is, whenever the machine got into Normal Mode after I waited 15 or more minutes (and even then, once in Normal Mode it was essentially non-responsive - the pointer would only move slightly, and then only after about a minute of trying with the touchpad).

What I did was remove the battery ENTIRELY from the machine. THAT DID IT!!! It booted right into Normal Mode and behaved . . . well . . . normally.

OK . . . here's the details of what I went through step-by-step in sequence (took me the better part of the day - and I did all the steps in Windows in Safe Mode):

1. I checked the BIOS settings, thinking that perhaps the CMOS battery was the culprit (prompted by a post in this thread by ETAF) and that a reset of the BIOS would solve the problem. I didn't see anything that jumped out at me, so I did an "Autoconfig with Fail Safe Settings" Save and Exit, and tried to boot into Normal Mode then. That DIDN'T work - same symptom: it wouldn't boot into Normal Mode without a significant degradation of response, only Safe Mode was responsive.

2. Next, I ran a full virus scan (McAfee) and also did a scan with "Stinger" (a McAfee free tool for the latest malware) and that didn't show any virus, trojan, or other malware. Still, I tried to boot into Normal Mode but, once again, no good - same symptom: it wouldn't boot into Normal Mode without a significant degradation of response, only Safe Mode was responsive.

3. Next I did a defrag, thinking that perhaps the thing had been criticaly fragmented with the installation of those M$ updates. Didn't have much hope here, but I wanted to cover the basics before going any further. Still, when I tried afterwards to boot into Normal Mode - once again, no good - same symptom: it wouldn't boot into Normal Mode without a significant degradation of response, only Safe Mode was responsive.

<digression> After every step, I wanted to try to reboot into Normal Mode, but that was very tedious because I wanted to give it all the time it needed to do so - consequently, I spent a good part of troubleshooting time just staring at the screen. And even when I waited long enough for it to go into Normal Mode, once it got there it took what seemed like forever to get it to respond enough to boot back into Safe Mode <end digression>

4. Next I got into msconfig and tried JSntgRvr's suggestions for the Selective Startup settings. Still, when I tried afterwards to boot into Normal Mode - once again, no good - same symptom: it wouldn't boot into Normal Mode without a significant degradation of response, only Safe Mode was responsive.

5. Next, I tried JSntgRvr's suggestion for removing the Display Device. Still, when I tried afterwards to boot into Normal Mode - once again, no good - same symptom: it wouldn't boot into Normal Mode without a significant degradation of response, only Safe Mode was responsive.

6. OK . . . by this time I had spent several hours (rebooting, waiting, etc.), and I had finally reached the end of my patience. In fact, I was beginning to think that it was a hardware failure rather than a software conflict. Anyway, I decided to go ahead and use the Restore CD and just deal with any reinstallation of applications and reconfiguring that came up. But, when I had completely restored to the Factory conditions - IT STILL SHOWED THE SAME SYMPTOM. Which led me to the conclusion that it definitely wasn't a software issue.

7. At this point I was convinced it was hardware, and was about to tell my wife that we had a new Planter/Boat Anchor/Door Stop. But the lightbulb went on and I remembered reading somewhere about Laptop batteries and charging circuits, and seeing on some forum a discussion about taking a dead battery out of a machine entirely in order to resolve some sort of problem. So, in a sort of last ditch effort, I took out the battery. VOILA!!! I plugged in the AC and the thing went immediately into Normal Mode, and behaved, as I said . . . NORMALLY!!

So, for anyone who has a Laptop and is experiencing a similar symptom (sorry, M$, for casting doubt on your Critical Updates), just try taking the battery out of the machine and running it on AC only.

Thanks again to all who posted on this thread with suggestions.
 

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Thanks for the feedback. Use the thread's Tools and mark this thread as solved.

Best wishes!
 
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