Finally fixed my Black Screen of Death


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A few weeks ago I experienced the infamous Black Screen of Death (KSOD) on my computer running 64bit Vista Business. You know the one where the computer stalls out during boot up at a black screen with a white cursor and it won't respond to anything. I finallly fixed it today. :D

After much research, I'm starting to think this is boils down to ACL problems that prevent key Windows services from starting. For example, my (KSOD) occurred after chkdsk went haywire and "replaced invalid security id with default security" on every file on the hard drive. That made me suspect the services could not start because of bad ACLs on their associated files. Some KSODs may be caused by bad permissions in the registry as described in some posts, but the result is the same.

My fix was to reinstall Vista which puts the previous system folders in the Windows.old folder. Reinstalling Vista warn you that you cannot use the previous version of Vista. Fortunately that is not always true. Sometimes you can go home again.

Under the new installation I was initially denied access to the other folders on the C: drive and had reset the ACL and/or ownership on each folder by opening it with administrator permission.

Now here is the trick to get the old system back again. I booted the computer with a BartPE cd based on Windows XP that I had created in a previous life. I then used the file manager to access the hard drive whereupon I created a folder. I proceeded to move (not copy) all of the new system folders into (I guess I could have just deleted the folders.) I then moved all of the old system folders from windows.old to the root directory. I rebooted and had my old system back again without having to reinstall the application software.

I think this worked because reinstalling Vista essentially fixed the ACL corruption introduced by Chkdsk. I think it reset the ACL on the system folders to the standard administrator group ACL and allowed me to reset the rest of the folders manually.

Addendum 3/15/09 -I needed to give myself full control over my own profile for IE7 to work cleanly and I needed to take ownership and give the Users group modify permission to data folders hanging off of the root directory before some apps would work correctly.

Other items of note:

You don't have to reinstall with the same copy of Vista used in the original installation. You might not even have to use the same version of Vista. I was sweating a little bit because my original Vista cd is damaged. A borrowed copy worked just fine for me.

After reinstalling Vista, simply connecting the hard drive to another Vista or Windows 7 machine in order to move the folders did not work. It appears they "respect" the ACLs on the hard drive and deny access.

Addendum 3/15/09 I heard one can manipulate the Vista installation on the connected hard drive by turning off UAC.

However using a BartPE cd to move folders worked and connecting the drive to a Windows XP machine would probably work as well.

Windows 7 can experience the same problem.
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