Black screen with flashing underscore at startup

By PotatoYam ยท 11 replies
Apr 28, 2007
  1. Hey everyone,

    I've been googling everywhere for a solution and searched through this forum without much luck, I'm hoping someone will know what's causing this.

    I was cleaning out the dust in my computer today and accidentally tipped the case, which sorta slammed to the floor onto its side. The PC was on the floor to begin with so I didn't think too much of it. So it just tipped over, I thought. Well...

    After cleaning I started up the computer and the BIOS screen shows up with the eMachines logo. Then comes a usual screen telling me "Realtek blabla boot agent, Press Shift-blabla to configure."

    From this point, the computer loads up a black screen with a flashing underscore on the top left corner and stops. All the fans are working and the CDROM responds to the open/close button.

    When I first boot-up the computer, the fans are working normally, but then as the startup continues, the noise dies down and the fans spin slower. They are still spinning by the time the black screen shows up, but they are slow enough so that you can barely make out the blades as they whirl.

    I tried going into the BIOS and found that my harddrive was being displayed on a list (so it's being detected right?). I've checked all the wire connections and everything seems to be okay. I've tried switching the harddrive for another older one, and the same thing happens. Though I must admit I'm not too sure if this older harddrive works...

    One last symptom: before the problem, whenever I needed to turn off the computer, I would have to keep pushing the power button for say... five seconds. Now, I push it, let go, and the computer turns off, just like that.

    I have an OEM version of Windows XP home, and I neglected to make any recovery disks, so I haven't tried anything with startup disks. My computer doesn't have a floppy drive either, so I'm kinda stranded. If anyone could help, I would greatly appreciate it.
  2. gavinseabrook

    gavinseabrook TS Rookie Posts: 320

    So it seems like it is getting stuck right before the windows splash/loading screen comes up? I dont think that the computer would have much damage from tipping it and accidently dropping it. I have done that sometimes but thats cause my computer is heavy as hell lol.
  3. PotatoYam

    PotatoYam TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Yeah that's pretty much it, I hope the fall didn't do much. But if it didn't, then I really don't know what could have caused the problem.
  4. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,971   +2,527

    Oh My........

    The flashing cursor and hang is usually "boot agent failure", when the BIOS can't find any OS to boot. You may have trashed the HDD with the fall, it's the weak mechanical link. One thing you can try is a "live" Linux CD. Turn power on, insert CD, then turn power off and back on. This may get you further than you're getting now. It's not a fix, but it could diagnose the HDD good or bad. Your HDD could still possibly be detected even if it has mechanical damage. Point being, you need to go into BIOS and determine if it's set to boot from a CD drive first, to allow the system to ignore it (The HDD), at least temporarily. Using the Linux live CD would prevent any changes that you didn't want to be made to the system.
  5. PotatoYam

    PotatoYam TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks captainc, sounds like a good plan, I'll do that as soon as I can get a hold on one of those CDs. Could you or anyone point me in the right direction?

    So could it be a bad Master Boot Record? Or is the harddisk fried? I can hear it whirling when I turn on the computer, but nothing happens.
  6. herr5407

    herr5407 TS Rookie Posts: 101

    Try booting with your windows CD into the recovery console and typing "fixboot".
  7. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,971   +2,527

    You could download Ubuntu from here;

    herr5407's suggestion is a good one as well.

    The platter and drive motor in a HDD are not the weak links. The read heads are.
    The "master boot record" is magnetic information stored on the drive. It's the same as a photo file, (Well it does something way different). Point being, it's not the first thing that springs to mind as being damaged when someone drops a computer.
  8. Da_g33k

    Da_g33k TS Rookie

    I wouldnt use Ubuntu, its a rather large file to download, but... they do have the free Ship-IT service. but you will be waiting upto 2 months to get hold of the cd the time you wait for the cd is rediculous, go for something smaller like mini-sabayon linux, just one cd.
  9. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,971   +2,527

    Depends on Your ISP.....

    The Ubuntu Linux is about 680MB. (last time I checked).

    High speed cable internet will down it in about 20 minutes
    My 768Mb per second DSL ("it's slow fast service") takes about 2 Hr 20 min.
    With dial up you're on your own. (20 + hours?)
    Any Linux distro comes with the "hash number", so you can check if the download was successful.
    Is that the point here?
  10. PotatoYam

    PotatoYam TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks a lot for the advice everyone, currently I don't have access to a computer with a CD writer. I'll do some hands-on with the suggestions here as soon as I do, but for the moment, I'm stuck with non-functional circuits and a metal box. Really wish I had made those Windows XP recovery CDs when I first got my computer.

    Thanks captaincranky for the information about hard drives, I was also wondering if the motherboard could be damaged. Sure anything's possible, but is it fragile enough to lose a connection somewhere if the PC takes a dive? Is my working BIOS a sign of a healthy motherboard, or is it unrelated? Thanks in advance.
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,971   +2,527


    The Ubuntu Live IS only one CD. 698MBs for i386, that is one CD, is it not.

    Ubuntu is quite popular, is one of the easiest distros to use ,and someone else has heard of it. (sorry for that)

    You can boot up a "live session" of Ubuntu just for sport, running the OS directly from the CD, installing nothing.
  12. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,971   +2,527

    Dear Mr. Yam......

    you haven't provided the details of what type of HDD is in your machine. It is in some cases possible to install the drive into another computer to simply read the data. If the drive works elsewhere, them you can to look around for other problems. This would be the cheapest form of diagnosis.

    I don't know how new you are to computers, but you must be absolutely certain to take anti-static precautions while rooting around inside the box.

    Anything is possible, but the HDD must be eliminated as a possibility first.
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