Question Mysterious boot loops and BSODs

Apr 21, 2021
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Hi everyone, long time reader first time poster here. This site has been very informative to me. Anyway, I've searched the internet high and low for answers to my issues and haven't found a definite solution, but I was hoping maybe I could at least get a little closer to it with your help. Tl;dr at the bottom.

So for my issues, starting around November last year, my PC would boot loop when I tried to turn it on. I built the PC back in 2017 and haven't changed any of the hardware nor do I overclock. It would power up for a few seconds, fans spinning and lights on, then turn off for a few, then turn back on and keep repeating endlessly. The display would be just black the entire time.

After disconnecting power, reconnecting it, and then trying to turn it on again ended up with the same results, I decided to try reseating my RAM; which actually worked... at least for a bit.

Reseating the RAM was only a temporary fix. After a week or so it would start boot looping again and I would have to reseat the RAM. The time in between it boot looping became shorter and shorter until it was a daily thing.

Strangely, it would only boot loop during a cold boot. For example, when I first tried to turn it on in the morning. And restarts afterwards would work fine. At one point, I decided to clean my RAM sticks. This seemed to help as the boot loop didn't happen for a while, but I noticed stuttering when playing games. Then the daily boot loops came back.

As annoying as having to reseat the RAM daily was, I continued to use my PC.... Until one day where it started freezing when I was using it. I was playing a game when it first happened and thought maybe it was the game's fault. Then, the freezing became more frequent. Sometimes it would freeze right after entering my login password just to get into Windows.

And then, they began to show up: the dreaded blue screens of death.

I received various BSOD errors such as driver irql less or not equal and unexpected kernel mode trap along with various causes listed for each.
So I got to troubleshooting and I tried basically every possible solution I could find.

Driver updates, Windows updates, uninstalling and reinstalling certain drivers, updating BIOS, messing around with BIOS settings (mostly related to RAM), using SFC and chkdsk on a USB, running memtest with no errors, reseating the CMOS battery, reseating the GPU, looking in event viewer, unplugging USB devices, shouting profanities, you name it and I've probably tried it.

The only real choice left was to reinstall Windows entirely, which I did. Installation went smooth, I reinstalled some of my apps, and then... BSOD. I don't remember what the message was but afterwards I updated some drivers (namely Nvidia GPU driver) and then everything seemed to be fine.

I was able to enjoy using my PC, problem free.... for 2.5 months.

Just this past weekend, I was playing a game and then it froze and the speakers let out this horrible buzzing sound. No input worked, it was completely frozen. Now, I should also probably mention to my embarrassment, I was getting quite mad at the game and may have hit my desk (which my PC is on) in frustration and the freeze happened right after that.

I don't think I hit it that hard, it was hard enough to maybe knock over an empty drink can, but it's not the first time I've done that. So I'm unsure if me hitting the desk has anything to do with the freeze or if it's just a crazy coincidence.
Anyway, I forced the PC off by holding down the power button then tried to turn it back on and then.... boot loop. "Oh no, not again" I thought to myself as I tried to ol' unplug, replug, and turn on trick to no avail. Tried reseating RAM, it booted normally and then it froze right when I tried to login.

Tried booting again after a RAM reseat and this time a BSOD appeared that said unexpected kernel mode trap that said it was caused by clipsp.sys.

After Googling a bit just to find the usual suggested actions, I said screw it and decided to just reinstall Windows again and hope for the best.

During the install process, I found that my C drive had multiple partitions that I didn't even know about. I deleted them all and reinstalled Windows. After the installation was done doing its thing, it needed to restart so I let it, but then it kept going back to the beginning of the installation process. I yanked the USB installer out and it went on normally (as suggested by another case I found by Googling).

One strange thing I did notice though is that now when my PC boots, it would show the splash screen, show a brief blackscreen with a blinking underscore(?) in the corner, then show the Windows logo. After several seconds, the spinning dot loading symbol would appear and then the login screen would come up. Before this reinstallation, the way my PC booted up was it would show the splash screen, the spinning dots would show up on that screen, and then I could login. I don't know if something is wrong now but it does take a little longer to actually boot up.

It's been about 3 days since the reinstall and I haven't had any issues (other than some missing drivers that I reinstalled) but I can't shake the feeling that trouble will find its way back to my PC soon enough. I also haven't tried playing the game that it froze on as of now.

So with that life story out of the way, does anyone have any idea what could be going on? I suspect drivers or maybe the OS getting corrupt, but I don't know why that would happen. I take good care of my PC (anger issues aside) and don't download weird things or click on strange ads. All the hardware seems to check out afaik and it's not like the inside of the PC is caked in dust. I recently also began thinking maybe the SSD my OS is on is wonky, but that's just a thought. The PC worked fine (at least for a while) after reinstall so I'm doubting it's a hardware problem. Any ideas?

___

Tl;dr: My PC started having boot loops and BSODs. Tried everything to fix it, didn't work. Reinstalled Windows and it worked for about 2.5 months. PC froze during gameplay recently (also happened right after I raged and hit my desk). Turned off PC and tried to turn back on gave boot loop and BSOD (unexpected kernel mode trap clipsp.sys) again. Reinstalled windows AGAIN and other than taking longer to boot, is working fine as of now.
___

PC specs:
MSI H270 Gaming Pro Carbon mobo
i7-7700K
MSI GTX1080
Corsair Vengeance 16GB RAM
Thermaltake 750W PSU
Samsung 850 Evo 250GB SSD, Seagate Barracuda 3TB HDD
 
Last edited:

Colif

Win 10 Master
Moderator
Glad you had spacing, I almost didn't read it all as its 5am here :)

Strangely, it would only boot loop during a cold boot. For example, when I first tried to turn it on in the morning. And restarts afterwards would work fine.
this could have meant problem was drivers. WIndows 10 uses a mode called fast startup by default. Instead of turning off when you shut down, it saves all open files either into ram or in the hiberfil.sys file. And then puts PC to sleep. On restart, since half the programs are already loaded, its way faster. It can play havoc with drivers not written for the mode.

You don't list drives but its only really helpful to have it on if you use a hdd, it doesn't help SSD or NVME. How to turn off - https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/4189-turn-off-fast-startup-windows-10-a.html

I received various BSOD errors such as driver irql less or not equal and unexpected kernel mode trap along with various causes listed for each.
So I got to troubleshooting and I tried basically every possible solution I could find.

Driver updates, Windows updates, uninstalling and reinstalling certain drivers, updating BIOS, messing around with BIOS settings (mostly related to RAM), using SFC and chkdsk on a USB, running memtest with no errors, reseating the CMOS battery, reseating the GPU, looking in event viewer, unplugging USB devices, shouting profanities, you name it and I've probably tried it.
BSOD sure sounds like drivers

2nd paragraph - you did most of what I suggest. Profanities happen :)

clipsp.sys.
that is victim, often bsod reports show what crashed, not what cause was. Its part of windows, it doesn't crash unless pushed.

After the installation was done doing its thing, it needed to restart so I let it, but then it kept going back to the beginning of the installation process. I yanked the USB installer out and it went on normally (as suggested by another case I found by Googling).
your motherboard probably has a mode called Boot Override that you could have used to boot off USB 1 time, and then next start it would have used boot drive as usual. I didn't look in your manual, MSI bios normally have it.

One strange thing I did notice though is that now when my PC boots, it would show the splash screen, show a brief blackscreen with a blinking underscore(?) in the corner, then show the Windows logo.
do you have USB as 1st boot item in bios as it might be why you get the flashing cursor after startup.

Most BSOD caused by drivers, you may have replaced the ones that were cause.

Just in case,
Can you follow option one on the following link - here - and then do this step below: Small memory dumps - Have Windows Create a Small Memory Dump (Minidump) on BSOD - that creates a file in c windows/minidump after the next BSOD

  1. Open Windows File Explorer
  2. Navigate to C:\Windows\Minidump
  3. Copy the mini-dump files out onto your Desktop
  4. Do not use Winzip, use the built in facility in Windows
  5. Select those files on your Desktop, right click them and choose 'Send to' - Compressed (zipped) folder
  6. Upload the zip file to the Cloud (OneDrive, DropBox . . . etc.)
  7. Then post a link here to the zip file, so we can take a look for you . . .
 
Apr 21, 2021
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10
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Glad you had spacing, I almost didn't read it all as its 5am here :)
Yes, I realize it's quite long but I fortunately believe in the importance of proper spacing. :D
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read it all and for your information.

You don't list drives but its only really helpful to have it on if you use a hdd, it doesn't help SSD or NVME. How to turn off - https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/4189-turn-off-fast-startup-windows-10-a.html
I did list them but was pretty vague about it so that's my bad. I have the OS running on a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD.

BSOD sure sounds like drivers

that is victim, often bsod reports show what crashed, not what cause was. Its part of windows, it doesn't crash unless pushed.

Most BSOD caused by drivers, you may have replaced the ones that were cause.
Do you know why these drivers could have possibly become broken? And also how to prevent them from becoming broken? It just seems so random that my PC was fine for 3 years before it had major issues. Then after the first reinstall, it was only fine for 2.5 months. I am very careful with what I download and install on my PC so I have no idea what could be going wrong. I've heard Windows updates and Nvidia drivers can break PCs sometimes but there doesn't really seem to be anything one can do other than hope for the best.

do you have USB as 1st boot item in bios as it might be why you get the flashing cursor after startup.
I believe it was at first, but since then I've changed the boot order to the SSD first but it still gives me that brief black screen with the blinking cursor. It only shows for like half a second but it was very surprising to me because my PC didn't do that before nor did it show a Windows screen for that matter.

Just in case,
Can you follow option one on the following link - here - and then do this step below: Small memory dumps - Have Windows Create a Small Memory Dump (Minidump) on BSOD - that creates a file in c windows/minidump after the next BSOD
Yes, if errors show up again (let's hope not), I'll be sure to provide relevant files. I'll also look into the other setting changes you mentioned.
One thing that concerns me about that though is whenever I get a BSOD, it just sits there at 0% for a long time which makes me just cut the power myself. I don't think the relevant files are generated if it doesn't complete.

Well, thanks again! These PC issues are just so frustrating and make me feel anxious and helpless so it's nice to be able to talk to someone about it :giggle:
 

Colif

Win 10 Master
Moderator
I did list them but was pretty vague about it so that's my bad. I have the OS running on a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD.
Try running Magician on the SSD, there are diagnostic scans in it - https://www.samsung.com/semiconductor/minisite/ssd/download/tools/
can run this on Seagate drive but i doubt its cause - https://www.seagate.com/au/en/support/downloads/seatools/seatools-win-master/

Do you know why these drivers could have possibly become broken? And also how to prevent them from becoming broken? It just seems so random that my PC was fine for 3 years before it had major issues. Then after the first reinstall, it was only fine for 2.5 months. I am very careful with what I download and install on my PC so I have no idea what could be going wrong. I've heard Windows updates and Nvidia drivers can break PCs sometimes but there doesn't really seem to be anything one can do other than hope for the best.
If I knew why drivers broke, I wouldn't be here answering questions about them breaking. They don't really break, its more a question of time and circumstances changing. Old drivers can trip over windows, but as you said, new Nvidia drivers can as well. I used to recommend using the Nvidia drivers that come with windows but it depends on age of the gpu, for yours I would try the old ones Windows contains but if you had an RTX card it should be okay to use newest - I am.
 

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