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    Category: Windows

    Information and articles about doing stuff in Windows

    Microsoft Windows is the world’s most installed operating system, used on desktop computers and servers all over the world. I have been using Windows since the Windows 3.11 days and have worked with most versions (Windows 3.11, Windows NT 3.51, Windows NT 4, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7).

    Although I currently use OSX as my desktop computer I also have Windows 7 desktop and laptop and a Windows XP netbook and also run XP virtualized for testing Internet Explorer.

    Windows Vista Black Screen After Login

    This morning I came down to the office to check my email and my Windows Vista machine presented me with a nice blank screen. I leave it running all the time and have auto updates/reboots disabled so was a little surprised. I powered it off and started it up again only to discover it was completing installing updates. (Never mind that I have auto updates disabled…) When it started up again I got that lovely Windows Vista black/blank screen after logging in to my profile. This post looks at the blank screen issue and the only solution that has worked for me, which is to create a new user profile each time it happens.

    Update 26 June 2008

    I have found a solution to the problem detailed in the rest of this post. Read my Windows Vista Black Screen After Login – Resolved post for details.

    Windows Vista Version

    The version of Vista running on my desktop is Windows Vista Business with Service Pack 1. I am running the same on my laptop and I’ve never had this issue on the laptop, despite having Vista on the laptop longer than on the desktop.

    The problem

    The computer starts up fine and presents the Windows Vista login screen with the users listed. It’s only after logging in with my profile that the black screen happens. If I log in as one of the other users everything works fine and I don’t get the black screen. In safe mode I can log into the corrupted profile with no issues.

    The screen goes black after login and the only thing present is the mouse. The keyboard works because pressing the num lock and caps lock keys makes the lights on the keyboard go on and off, but no key press or key combination has any effect on Vista. Ctrl+Alt+Delete doesn’t do anything. Ctrl+Alt+Esc doesn’t do anything. Win+R doesn’t bring up the run dialog. etc etc.

    The hard drive whirrs for a couple of minutes and then stops. I can connect via Windows Explorer from another computer to the shares set up for this user, but can’t connect with Remote Desktop (but then I’ve never been able to anyway, despite it supposedly being enabled).

    The only thing I can do at this point is to reset the computer with the reset switch or turn the power off and back on, which amounts to the same thing.

    Attempts to fix the problem

    I tried switching off processes that run when that user profile logs in and that didn’t help.

    I tried starting in low res mode (640×480) from the F8 menu on boot and that didn’t help.

    I tried installing new nVidia drivers and that didn’t help.

    I tried doing a system restore to before the Windows Update and auto reboot happened and that didn’t help.

    One suggestion was to disable User Account Control (UAC) and that didn’t help.

    Creating a new user profile to fix the problem

    The last time this happened to me the only solution for me was to create a new user profile, because something has become corrupted but other logins/profiles are not affected. And now my “new” user profile has also become corrupted somehow. So once again I have to create a new profile because, despite all the advice I have found out there about what to do when Windows Vista has a blank/black screen on login, it’s the only solution that works for me.

    Update 30th May 2008

    Because I had rolled back to the system restore point prior to the Windows Update that automatically rebooted the computer, it did it again last night. And nuked my latest profile. So now I’ll be on to profile #4…

    I checked my automatic update settings, and despite thinking I had turned auto updates off I either didn’t or Windows reverted the behaviour. Either way I’ve now disabled auto updates (but left it to download them and prompt me).

    I also discovered I didn’t have Remote Desktop enabled but have enabled it now. I attempted to log into my newly nuked profile via Remote Desktop (another thing which was suggested on some other forums) but even logging in via Remote Desktop leaves me with a blank desktop after login.

    If my profiles continue to get nuked like this for no apparant reason I think I’ll have to change that desktop back to a Linux host machine with a Windows guest in VMWare (I’m currently running Vista as the host with a Linux desktop in VMWare with my development environment, email etc in it).

    Update 26 June 2008

    I have found a solution to the problem detailed in this post. Read my Windows Vista Black Screen After Login – Resolved post for details.

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    Display DNS cache on Windows

    It is possible on Windows to display the DNS cache from the command line. This can be useful for diagnosing DNS issues where an invalid or out of date DNS record might be cached. This post looks at how to displayed cached DNS records on Windows.

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    Reinstall TCP/IP on Windows XP

    After adding a new network interface to my Windows XP computer networking stopped working completely. I uninstalled the McAfee Security Center but that didn’t help. This article looks at the steps I did to uninstall and reinstall TCP/IP networking on Windows XP.

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    VMWare Writelock Disk Error

    VMWare is virtual machine software that lets you run a guest operating
    system inside your operating system without having to reboot your
    computer. This article covers an error that can happen which prevents
    VMWare from starting up in the event of a crash. Note that I have only had
    experience with this error on Linux systems, and it no longer appears to be
    an issue with VMWare Workstation 4.5 and greater.

    When starting VMWare, you may receive the following errors if it
    crashed (or your system crashed) while you were using it:

    “Unable to open either the disk ‘win98se-0.vmdk’ or the redo
    log”

    “Failed to configure disk ide0:0. The virtual machine cannot
    be powered on with an unconfigured disk.”

    This means VMWare was shut down without powering down the virtual
    machine and left behind some files which lock the virtual disk files. To
    fix it, you need to delete any of the write lock files which are named
    .WRITELOCK in the Virtual Machine directory.

    This is a sample listing of a VMWare virtual disk directory:

    -rw------- 1 chris users    
    18664 2004-03-22 10:45 nvram
    -rw-r--r-- 1 chris users    
    11549 2004-03-23 09:33 vmware.log
    -rw------- 1 chris users 575340544
    2004-03-22 17:27 win98se-0-s001.vmdk
    -rw------- 1 chris users  
      65536 2004-03-22 10:45 win98se-0-s002.vmdk
    -rw------- 1 chris
    users       389 2004-03-22 10:47 win98se-0.vmdk
    -r--r--r-- 1 chris users       11 2004-03-18 09:07
    win98se-0.vmdk.WRITELOCK
    -rw------- 1 chris users     397
    2003-12-15 19:08 win98se.vmdk
    -rwxr-xr-x 1 chris users    
    1558 2004-02-09 10:29 win98se.vmx
    -r--r--r-- 1 chris users  
        11 2004-03-18 09:07 win98se.vmx.WRITELOCK

    In this example you would delete the write lock files named
    win98se-0.vmdk.WRITELOCK and
    win98se.vmx.WRITELOCK
    then power up the virtual machine again.

    Since upgrading to the 4.5 branch of VMWare I have no longer
    experienced this problem.

    Please also refer to this post on the VMWare message boards for another reason for getting this message and a possible solution.

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    Open firewall ports for MSN Messenger and ICQ

    To connect to MSN Messenger and ICQ instant messaging servers through a firewall you will need to open up outbound ports to connect to them. This article describes which ports to open and has an example of how to do it using a Dynalink RTA200 ADSL router.

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    Editing the hosts file on Windows Vista

    On Windows Vista the hosts file has a higher level of default security than earlier versions of Windows and it cannot be edited by a regular user unless the permissions are changed, or you run your text editor as administrator. This post looks at how to edit the hosts file on Windows Vista using notepad.

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    Apple Magic Trackpad on Windows (not Boot Camp)

    I started using an Apple Magic Trackpad yesterday and already far prefer it to a mouse (I’ll do a review of it next week once I’ve used it a bit more). This post has a link to a page which shows how to connect a Magic Trackpad to a Windows machine that’s not on Boot Camp and a few observations I made when attempting to connect.

    Use an Apple Magic Trackpad on Windows

    This article at Digital Inspiration shows how to use a Magic Trackpad with your Windows PC. It has links to the driver files to download from Apple and 7-Zip which you will need to extract the necessary files. You’ll obviously also need to be able to connect to bluetooth devices with your Windows PC. In my case I had a Bluetooh dongle which did the trick nicely.

    Issues I had and solutions

    I had some issues trying to connect the trackpad in the first place but the main issue turned out to be that it was still connected to my Mac, even though it was a floor below where I was and there were a few walls inbetween me and the mac; so you may need to disconnect it from the Mac first.

    The other thing I needed to do was keep hitting the on button on the right side; it kept turning itself off after every 5 seconds (or thereabouts) which prevented it from connecting to the Windows PC. This may have been a continuing issue with the Mac being in range and may not affect you.

    Usability

    I only just connected the trackpad to the computer I am writing this on a few minutes before writing this post, so haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it yet, but the following do work:

    • it uses tapping by default for clicking
    • one finger moves the mouse as expected
    • two finger scrolls up and down and left and right as expected
    • to click and drag you have to use the same finger; on a Mac you could e.g. use your thumb to click and then drag with the other finger
    • double finger tap does a right click (same as on a Mac)

    On the downside, I have found:

    • no inertial scrolling (but then I didn’t actually expect it)
    • sometimes a tap does a click-drag type of thing and you end up selecting all (or some of) the text on a web page or dragging stuff all over the place

    I haven’t tried any other gestures yet (and don’t expect them to work anyway) and will update this post if I find anything else useful or interesting.

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