Windows won't boot, or boots but the Start menu doesn't work


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A couple of months ago, I had a problem with my PC (details at the bottom) and reinstalled Windows. I did this by using the Media Creation Tool to create a bootable USB.

Ever since then, I've had a lot of problems with Windows. When I start the machine, once in a while it will start normally, but more often than not, I get as far as the blue Windows logo, with the spinning ring of dots below it, and after that one of three things happens...

1) The screen goes black, and that's it. Nothing else happens. I've tried leaving it, but it can sit there for an hour or two, so I don't think it's going to boot. At this stage, I had to hold down the power button to force a restart.

2) It boots to Windows, but the Start menu, search box (on the task bar), Cortana, etc don't work. This makes working with the machine almost impossible, as I can't start anything not pinned to the Task bar.

3) It boots to Windows, and the Start menu appears to work, but when I hover my mouse over an entry, it highlights the wrong one. For example, I can hover my mouse over a pinned app, and the highlight (when it appears at all) will be over the app below, or the one below and to the right. This makes working with the machine extremely difficult, as I can't run anything from the Start menu. I can click the Windows button and type something, but that's not always enough.

I have reinstalled Windows about four times since this problem began, and the same thing always happens. Sometimes I get lucky and get the machine working after one or two tries, sometimes (more often) it can take many, many restarts before I get it working.

The only pattern I have seen (and I'm really not sure if this is genuine or not) is that when it does 2) or 3), if I get the lock screen picture of the beach (picture below), then I can be fairly certain that 2) or 3) will happen. If I get another picture (Windows shows a variety), then I can be fairly certain that it will work. As I said, I can't say for certain that this is a pattern, but it does seem that way.



(picture pulled from here, not from my machine, as you can see from the date, but that's the picture)

Anyone any ideas? It's causing me no end of grief. I've lost count of the number of times I've restarted this afternoon (I'm using my lap top while I restart, restart and then restart again), but it's into double figures. With the exception of the two or three times I got a black screen, I've had the beach picture every time, and the Start menu has never worked.

Thanks for any help you can give.



PC specs...
Dell Precision T5810
2 x AMD FirePro graphics cards. (can't check the exact model as I can't start the machine!)
40Gb RAM (tested last week and all fine)
1Tb Samsung 850 Pro SSD for the main drive and a 1Tb HDD as a data drive (both also tested last week and didn't show any problems)
6Tb Seagate external HDD for backup
 
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Update: After the umpteenth restart, I got a different lock screen image, but still no Start menu. Looks like my pattern is either wrong, or at least not very reliable.
 

Trouble

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I think I would begin by reducing the hardware involved to the bare minimum, by....
Removing one of the video cards and experiment by testing between the two you have, first one then the other
Reducing memory modules to a single stick. That machine requires Registered ECC memory modules so make sure they are all ECC and adding them back a single stick at a time.
Remove hard disks internal and external and leave only the one hosting the operating system.
Detach / remove any and all other peripherals attached
Any USB devices including printers, wireless keyboard, mouse, network adapters, etc. leaving only a USB wired keyboard and mouse and a single monitor
Any Bluetooth devices.

Additionally you may want to check with Samsung and see if there is a firmware update for your SSD.
Samsung provides their own "Magician" software for configuring and checking for firmware for their SSDs.
I've seen many comments regarding its' use both pro and con
Personally I've only ever installed it, solely for checking for firmware updates and then I will typically uninstall it.
I've found that Windows 10 does a decent job of managing my Samsung SSD although I typically disable pre-fetch / super-fetch myself manually.
http://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/download/tools/

Whether or not to install and leave it installed is up to you, however in any case I would strongly suggest using the latest 5.2 version if you are going to use it.
 
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Hello, thanks for the reply.

I didn't think it relevant, but I went through all that hardware stuff in painful detail when this first started. I'm convinced I don't have any hardware issues.

I just installed Magician, and it shows me that I have the latest firmware, and that the drive is in good condition.

After posting, I found mention of the Windows 10 Start Menu troubleshooter. I ran it, and it gave the following error...

"Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost" and "Microsoft.Windows.Cortana" applications need to be installed correctly."

However, it didn't provide any indication as to how I would go about installing these correctly. Searching around, it seems that others have had the same issue. I tried various suggestions, but nothing helped. In the end, I did a system restore to the last restore point, and the PC came up OK.

Don't know if that helps. Thanks again.
 
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I pretty well agree with Trouble. The first thing you should do is remove the Seagate external drive, I have seen them cause boot problems. If it was, it may be interfering and corrupting your installs.

I went into more detail on the Microsoft forum but finding the source of the corruption is essential. Whether it is a bad copy of the install media or something on your machine. And I have seen some comments regarding AMD and the latest Win 10 builds.
 

Trouble

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I have reinstalled Windows about four times since this problem began, and the same thing always happens
I would find it odd that four clean installs with the same result would suggest anything but a hardware issue......
UNLESS
The installation media was somehow responsible for corrupting the Operating System which is always possible
I might suggest that you grab another ISO
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
Use that and Rufus http://rufus.akeo.ie/ to create a new USB installer and attempt another clean install.
AND
I still strongly recommend that during this attempt at an install you only have the target OS drive attached and on the first screen use Shift + F10 to bring up a command prompt and use DiskPart to clean the drive of any existing partitions to make sure there are no remnants left that might be responsible for any corruption.
AND then promptly attempt to upgrade that installation to the latest version by running Windows Update manually to get the most recent Cumulative Updates.
 

Trouble

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I pretty well agree with Trouble
Thanks Clark....
We evidently posted about the same time.
I had a Seagate Free Agent external USB drive that would actually prevent some HP desktops from booting at all.
Not the symptoms the OP is describing, just wouldn't boot at all. Unplug the external drive and the computer booted fine. Never actually figured that one out.
The only other thing I would definitely look into is the system firmware and confirm that the installed BIOS was up to date.
 
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Thanks to both of your for the replies.

I agree that a hardware issue would explain how the problem can survive four reinstalls, but I've driven myself mad trying to find any hardware issues on the PC and have failed. Everything seems to be working fine. I've tried with and without all extra drives, and it didn't make any difference. I've had the machine down to the bare bones, and I still had the problem.

I just downloaded Media Creator again, and it's exactly the same version that I already have, so I was using the latest when I created the bootable USB.

Interesting idea about unplugging the external drive. Will have to try that next time I reboot. Having spent two and a half hours trying to get the machine up and running, I'm not in a hurry to do it again!

Thanks again.
 

Trouble

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I just downloaded Media Creator again, and it's exactly the same version that I already have, so I was using the latest when I created the bootable USB.
It's not so much about which version you have been using as much as it is about the potential quality of the downloaded file itself and or the quality of the actual installation media that you created from that download.
Not all that long ago, many installation were impacted by the speed that was used to burn the installation media to DVD and it was always recommended if not considered a necessary best practice to always using the slowest burn speed possible when constructing the installation media.
 

bassfisher6522

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Is the PC in question the one listed in your system specs? If so please list the service tab number.
 
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It's not so much about which version you have been using as much as it is about the potential quality of the downloaded file itself and or the quality of the actual installation media that you created from that download.
Not all that long ago, many installation were impacted by the speed that was used to burn the installation media to DVD and it was always recommended if not considered a necessary best practice to always using the slowest burn speed possible when constructing the installation media.
I see what you mean. Would this apply to creating a bootable USB as well? I don't think you have an equivalent of a burn speed there.
 

Trouble

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Would this apply to creating a bootable USB as well? I don't think you have an equivalent of a burn speed there.
Only in so far as, no matter what the media hosting the installation files, it can be corrupt or can become corrupt just like the download itself can be corrupt.
Usually such issues will generally manifest during the creation process or the installation process and report as errors, but.....
There have been occasions where you just end up with a crappy install of the Operating System and you're left trying to figure out why it behaves so poorly.
 
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Only in so far as, no matter what the media hosting the installation files, it can be corrupt or can become corrupt just like the download itself can be corrupt.
Usually such issues will generally manifest during the creation process or the installation process and report as errors, but.....
There have been occasions where you just end up with a crappy install of the Operating System and you're left trying to figure out why it behaves so poorly.
Hmm, that could be possible. I did use the same USB for all installs.

However, the thought of starting all over again, just on the off-chance that it was that fills me with dread! I've wasted so much time on this already.

It occurred to me that I had a lot of problems booting yesterday, and it was only solved when I restored to a point just before I installed two pieces of software on Thursday. I wonder if something went wrong with the install of one of them? I've been having problems on and off for a couple of months, but nothing as bad as yesterday's.

I guess when I'm feeling brave enough, I need to try rebooting, and see if it comes up without problems. If so, then I should try installing those two, one at a time, and see if that causes any problems. Might be a start.

Thanks again.
 
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Came back to the machine after supper to find it was using 100% CPU on all 8 cores, and wouldn't respond. When I got Task Manager up, it showed NT Kernel & System as one of the main offenders, alternating with WMI service and something else (forgot now). I closed down all the apps and rebooted, and it did the same. Nothing in the event log to indicate any problem, other than hundreds of WHEA-Logger warnings with the message "A corrected hardware error has occurred. A record describing the condition is contained in the data section of this event" but without any useful information in the data section. No idea what I'm supposed to make of that.

There is obviously something seriously wrong with this machine or installation.

I've just found the Win10 installation CD that came with the machine. I was wondering about pulling out the SSD and putting it somewhere safe, pulling out the two memoray banks I added (leaving the two 4Gb banks that came with the machine), disconnnecting the second HDD and then installing Win10 from the CD onto a clean HDD (I have some spare). If all goes well, I could add back the memory, second HDD, etc in stages and install things, keeping an eye on it as I go.

Assuming I could get a stable installation, I could then clone the HDD onto the formatted SDD and put that back in. The advantage of this is that I could do it in the evenings, and put the SSD back in so I can work during the day.

Does that sound sensible? Any pitfalls? Specifically, will I have any problems if I clone the HDD onto the SDD? I think when you install directly onto an SDD, Windows makes some adjustments (to do with TRIM, pre-fetch, etc) that it doesn't do with an HDD.

Thanks again.
 
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I have done about 20 different computers upgrades or reinstalls to Win 10 FCU and recently had one that was similar to the above problems. When it would function to some degree, some of the Start Menu Tiles were not loading and displayed "A great app is on its way" plus many of the above problems. After two clean installs and an in place repair install resulted in the same issues, on one of the boots that it ran well enough to function, I created a new Admin level user, and Windows loaded all the Start Menu Tiles properly for the new account. It ran well on the new account so I deleted the old account and no further problems with that Notebook (it is doing windows updates and working well now). I can't explain why it fixed this Notebook, but try making the new account, copy any personal files to it and delete the old account.
 
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OK, thanks for the advice. Certainly less disruptive than an entire re-install!

When you say "copy any personal files" do you mean to include the AppData folder as well, or just the obvious ones (documents, pictures, etc)? I'm just wondering if there is something in my AppData somewhere that's causing the problem. Don't really want to recreate the problem, but then I don't really want to lose all the data in there.

Having said that, as I reported in my very first post, I do have problems with Windows not loading properly. After the blue Windows logo with the spinning circle of dots, the screen goes blank and nothing happens. Would that be connected with a duff user? Seems unlikely, as it never got near the log-in screen. Any thoughts?

Thanks again.
 
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I would not copy the AppData folder to the new account, except if you need to get browser bookmarks, grab a copy of those before deleting the old User. No rush to delete the old User until you are sure that you don't need a file that is missing, just do not sign in to the old User account.
Spinning circles of dots and blank screens are unfortunately not too uncommon during an install or reinstall of Windows 10. It is good to leave the PC alone for at least a couple of hours and then, if it is still hung, hold down the Power button to do a hard start, after which the installation will most often complete. On the one I mentioned, I think a big part of the delays at installation may have been due to the problems downloading/installing the Apps from the Windows Store as part of the installation process..
 
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I'll give you the best advice there is, go back to Win 7, or 8 if you play with them silly toys called lap, note & phone. :)
 
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I would not copy the AppData folder to the new account, except if you need to get browser bookmarks, grab a copy of those before deleting the old User. No rush to delete the old User until you are sure that you don't need a file that is missing, just do not sign in to the old User account.
OK, seems reasonable. It's mostly application data that I'm bothered about, and I would hope that wouldn't affect the stability of Windows.

Spinning circles of dots and blank screens are unfortunately not too uncommon during an install or reinstall of Windows 10. It is good to leave the PC alone for at least a couple of hours and then, if it is still hung, hold down the Power button to do a hard start, after which the installation will most often complete. On the one I mentioned, I think a big part of the delays at installation may have been due to the problems downloading/installing the Apps from the Windows Store as part of the installation process..
I think you misunderstood. The spinning dots is a normal part of the boot sequence. After the BIOS screen, I see the blue Windows logo with the spinning dots below it, then what is supposed to happen is that the log-in screen appears. However, sometimes the screen just goes black and nothing else happens.

But this is when booting into an installed Windows, not when installing. Every installation I have done has appeared to go without problem. It was only afterwards that I saw problems.

Thanks
 

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