Long story short: we have a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop with Windows Vista that is infrequently used. Around March, we turned it on to work wirelessly in the house. It booted fine, but after a few minutes it apparently downloaded an update and started to apply it. Kept giving us an "Installing update 3 of 3" screen and rebooting itself after a while. Tried doing a system restore, which failed (and now the restore point has disappeared).
Vista will now attempt to boot, get a decent way through the process, then die with a BSOD that flashes too quickly to read before rebooting.
I booted to the recovery options and tried the automated startup repair process. It runs, but can't fix anything. Viewing its report, it appears that all of its automated tests come back normal.
I then dropped to the command prompt and tried running SFC with the following command:
sfc /scannow /offbootdir=c:\ /offwindir=c:\windows
SFC runs and finishes, reporting that it has found some errors but could not fix them, and that details have been written to the CBS.log file.
The command prompt system actually boots from a copy of Windows on drive X. Going to x:\windows\logs\cbs I found an old cbs.log from last year. I viewed it to make sure no new info had been appended. To be safe, I renamed it cbs.log.old and ran SFC again. No new CBS.log file was created.
I also checked c:\windows\logs\cbs just in case. Same story. Renamed the old log, still no new CBS.log gets created.
For grins, I did cd %windir% to see where Windows thought it was supposed to be creating the CBS.log file. It came up x:\windows as expected. I tried creating a "log" directory in c:\ and setting the windir variable to c:\log, still no CBS.log created.
Just in case there was some permission error preventing sfc from writing to either the C: or X: drives, I plugged in a USB flash drive, created a "logs" directory on its root, and set the windir variable to that (e:\logs). Ran sfc again, still no joy.
I tried running it /verifyonly just in case. Still no CBS.log file gets created. Anywhere.
I've Googled this extensively and haven't found anyone discussing a CBS.log file that simply never gets created. Lots of articles on how to reveal a hidden CBS.log file, or how to get the proper permission to access it, but nothing dealing with the failure of SFC to create the file in the first place.
If anyone has any suggestions on why SFC is not creating a log file, or how I can either specify a log file via command line option or even just send the output to the screen, I would really appreciate it. I would really prefer to not have to restore the partition from the Dell recovery image and then re-install everything from scratch.
Thanks for your help!