Windows won't boot no safe mode

By nll4000 · 6 replies
Oct 29, 2007
  1. Hello. I'm hoping someone can help me with this, 'cause I'm pretty much out of ideas....
    This is actually in regards to my brother's computer. He called me up looking for a solution and just lost internet access today, so I'm posting this on his behalf.
    Anyway, here's the problem.

    His computer posts fine, but is unable to boot into windows. He's running Windows XP Home Edition (SP2 I believe). Whenever he tries, it hangs on a blank screen. He is also unable to boot into safe mode, using any option (last known good configuration, vga mode, etc.)

    I had him try an ubuntu live cd, which worked fine, no trouble at all.

    It turns out the problem started when he tried to install a modem driver. According to what he said, the installation appeared to get about half way through and either lock up, or the progress bar just vanished with no further messages. After that, his computer would no longer boot.

    So I had him load his windows xp cd and do a repair installation, which also didn't help.

    And it turns out that when he TRIES to boot into safe mode, and it goes through and lists what's being loaded, it was freezing on vpctcom.sys, which I believe is the driver for his modem.

    So I had him load his windows xp cd, go into the recovery console, and try disabling vpctcom.sys.

    Now when he tries to reboot in safe mode, it freezes on ndis.(??? forget whether it was .com or .sys or what). I'm not sure what that does, but I believe it's a core system file...Had him try to disable it in recovery console and reboot anyway (who knows?), but disabling it apparently didn't work as the file is still listed, and the computer still freezes at that point.

    It appears very much that it's this modem driver that fouled things up. I don't even know if the driver installed completely. And at this point, I don't know what to tell him to do. He tried doing ANOTHER repair installation after disabling vpctcom.sys, just for the heck of it, which failed again.

    I wondered if he could just install a second copy of windows on another partition and then copy the files he wants off the damaged install, but he just has one big partition on his drive. He could try loading ubuntu, resizing it with gparted (since he's only using about 120 of 200 gb) and then installing a new copy of xp on the new partition, but as he really, really doesn't want to lose any data and shrinking a partition can be a dangerous proposition, he doesn't want to risk it.

    He currently has no internet connection, no recovery cds like ubcd, bart's pe, etc...Just an ubuntu live cd. No other hard drives, nothing.

    So what can he do, bearing in mind that he has no internet connection, only the ubuntu cd, and his xp cd to work with, and only one hard drive/one computer?

    I wrote this hastily, so I don't know if I left anything out or not. But thanks a lot to whoever gets this one figured out ;-).
  2. pdyckman@comcas

    pdyckman@comcas TS Rookie Posts: 527

    This is really a mess. Why should a modem driver be involved with the Windows install? I did read most of your post, and get the idea that Windows needs to be re-installed simply, and then consider any and all drivers after the program is up and running. I'm pretty sure that I missed something here and if I did I apologize. Does the internet need to be on at the install 0f XP? I never have had that as a prerequisite. Anyway, Good Luck. No one else answered so I am trying to help.
  3. nll4000

    nll4000 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks for the response.

    I may not have been as clear as I could have been.

    Here is what I believe happened:

    My brother was in the process of installing the driver for his modem when the installation of it crashed/was interrupted somehow. Therefore what he got when he installed his modem driver, rather than a functional modem driver, was a corrupted form of it. Or it installed successfully, and the driver itself was bunk somehow...I don't know if he got it off a disk, downloaded it from the net, etc.

    When booting normally (or attempting to in safe mode), windows is hitting that file (vpctcom.sys) and going "What the hell?" and just kind of looping, perhaps?

    That's the impression I'm getting of what's going on, doesn't know what to do when it hits that file, so it doesn't do anything.

    I had him go into the recovery console (accessed through xp home cd) and disable the driver, thinking that might take care of the problem.

    However, now when he tries booting in safe mode it's hanging on ndis, which through I don't understand quite what it does, stands for network driver interface specification. So going by the name alone and the little I read about it, perhaps it got screwed up by the bad driver install/the driver being disabled.

    So I had him try to disable it the same way he disabled vpctcom.sys, but it didn't work...I think it's a core system file, and I assume that's why disabling it didn't work.

    I guess when you boot into "normal" safe mode, though it's only supposed to load a minimal configuration, windows counts modem drivers as "minimal," so when he tries to boot into safe mode, it would try to load the driver, fail, and hang.

    He certainly could fix the problem by reinstalling XP, that's true, but it's not an option in his case, as he needs to keep all his data. I *thought* you could install xp over an existing xp install without destroying personal data, but everything I've read says I'm wrong...Which is strange, because I believe I used to do that with '98...I don't know, either I'm remembering incorrectly or xp and '98 are simply different in that respect.

    He doesn't need the internet in order to install XP. I just mentioned that he doesn't have internet access at the moment so that anyone reading the post would know what there is to work with. You know, if someone had the idea of downloading and installing this or that etc, it isn't an option for him. He has the xp cd and an ubuntu live cd to play with, and that's pretty much it.

    If he had something like UBCD or Bart PE, he could attack the problem that way. I don't know what happens when you install a driver, in terms of what files are created/modified, where. So I don't know how you'd go about sort of manually rolling back/deleting a driver/undoing any changes the driver installation made. But if he had something like that, research could be done and questions could be asked and maybe the problem could be solved that way. But unfortunately, he had his internet shut off because he's about to move, and won't have it again for around a month.

    I think I responded to everything you said/maybe clarified things a bit.
  4. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    There is a remopte possibility that you could get Windows to boot in one of the modes called up by F8, where you have a selective startup. You would simply stop the modem driver from loading (knowing what it's called). If windows starts, then you could try re-installing the driver, having first ensured it is (a) recent (b) for the correct OS (c) for the correct hardware.

    I suspect NDIS is involved in a 16-bit real-mode driver, which should certainly not be the case today. Is the hardware on the motherboard ? If so, it may not need a driver at all, being in the motherboard mini-driver set.

    At the least, make sure the motherboard drivers are ALL installed at the latest patch level before doing anything else.

    I have no reason to think that you would be risking anything by re-sizing the existing partition and installing a fresh copy on another partition, but I personally would recommend a new HD be added, 80Gb is about £20. Install Windows again on that, copy the vital stuff over, BACK IT UP, then reformat the original drive as an extended data and backup drive. Easy.
  5. nll4000

    nll4000 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Unfortunately, he says he's tried booting in all flavors of safe mode, all to no avail.

    Is there a selective startup option under xp home edition? He looked for it, and I've looked for it myself, but neither of us can find it. Is there anything special you have to do in order to access it?

    The driver he was trying to install was for a dial-up modem, and I believe it's in a pci slot. The whole thing's kinda silly really: He has no need for the dial up modem at all, he was just getting tired of listening to windows tell him that it had found new hardware, so he decided to try and install the driver.

    So once his system's back up, I don't think he'll ever mess with trying to install the driver again ;-).

    He really wouldn't be risking anything by resizing the partition? I've done it before, but not when a mistake could really screw me. I've always heard that resizing partitions can be risky, and that if it goes badly, it goes really badly. Is this not true?

    I don't want to tell him to go for it if there is any significant risk...Beyond the ever present possibility of the power going out in the middle of it or the board failing or something. His drive's 200 gb, I believe, with one big partition with about 100-120 gb of data on it. He'd be using gparted to resize the existing partition/create a new one. Would that really be safe? Any precautions he should take if he does it?

    And furthermore, if he resizes the partition, creates a new, smaller partition and installs a second copy of xp on it, is he likely to run into any problems that way?

    I imagine what would happen is both copies of windows will be detected and he'll be prompted to choose between them at startup. I've just never had 2 installs of xp on the same hard disk at the same time before, so I'm not certain of that. Is that correct, or could he possibly run into a problem where only one or the other installation is recognized?

    Buying a second hard drive isn't an option, as he's moving (left today I think, actually), and won't have the extra cash for a while.

    Thanks for your input, and I look forward to more.
  6. electro_1975

    electro_1975 TS Rookie

    Trick that may Work

    One thing i didn't see in the stuff you have tried is to do a registry restore. i have had success when drivers corrupt. easiest way is to pull the drive, put it in a XP pro pc, give everyone read access to the System Volume Information folder, then replace the 5 registry files in windows\system32\config with ones from a few days back, before he tried to install the driver.
  7. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    I was surprised you could not find a selective start mode - I thought it was 'debugging mode', but on trying, it just started as normal. What a stupid, terrible muck-up by MS. Perhaps they think system restore does a better job ? Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you cannot start Windows, you cannot run system restore, EXCEPT as poster electro_1975 says, by somewhat more draconian means.

    For reference, a continual call for a driver for a non-used peripheral is best dealt with by disabling the device in hardware management, or better, in the bios if possible.

    As to resizing a partition, ok I always use Partition Magic and as part of my job, have done that dozens and dozens of times. Using a linux manager would be unlikely to be any more risky, but never 100% risk-free, how could it be?

    I almost thought you had only 120G of a 200G drive formatted, but maybe you mean that is the used space?

    Installing a second copy of windows is possible on the same partition as already in use. You need to suggest to Windows that it be called something different, like Winnew. But you are in a fragile space doing that, because of sharing other 'significant' directory names. I would NOT recommend it.

    When you install on a second partition, there is no problem at all. Windows re-writes boot.ini to include the second partition and you automatically get a dual-boot startup every time.

    Once the second copy is up and running, you can do what you like, such as copying vital stuff, and then you can just remove the line pointing to the old setup (in boot.ini) and be back in a 'normal' boot situation. You might them reformat the old partition, and use it for data and/or backup. Windows has no problem booting from drive partiton 1 instead of partition 0.

    What to do? Well, you talk freely about a Linux CD boot, and with that knowledge, doing as electro_1975 says is not all that hard, and will likely solve your problem - in technical terms, you have a bad entry in the registry hive, and need to replace that part of the hive with an earlier version. In fact, I'm pretty sure you can do the same thing from an install-CD with recovery console.


    will tell you all you need to know, or at least point you in the right direction.
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