Win 8.1 laptop hangs on black screen during normal boot

kris678

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Feb 12, 2016
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I have a Windows 8.1 Dell laptop, about 2 years old, that I use on a daily basis. A couple of days ago I restarted it because it was running slow and found that it would not load back up. After the Dell logo appeared, it simply became unresponsive on a black screen before reaching the login screen. I tried various things to fix this, with only partial success, which I will list now:

I was able to boot the system in repair mode by pressing F8 when turning it on and the first thing I tried was a restore point, which had no effect on the problem. Then I tried rebooting in safe mode, which worked and got me to my desktop. I used that opportunity to back up my important files and then ran a "sfc /scannow" command, which gave a message along the lines of "the scan detected damaged system files but was not able to repair all of them".

From safe mode, I then ran a system refesh, the process which allows you to reset everything to factory conditions but keep your files. After the refresh, I was able to boot the computer normally and use it again. I restarted it after doing this just to test it and it booted normally each time. I then redownloaded some of the programs I use frequently, normal stuff like Chrome, Winamp, Steam - all of which had been on my laptop for at least a year before this problem started. I also ran a Malwarebytes scan and it came up clean.

Things went wrong again when I decided to run Windows update. After the refresh I was having some weird sound issues, and I thought that maybe having the latest updates would be good for my system (as it had been at least a year since I updated Windows at the time this problem started). After the system restarted to install the updates, it would not successfully boot again, exactly the same as what I described at the start of this post.

Again I tried safe mode, but this time it got stuck in an endless loop of restarting to "finish installing updates" and again not starting up successfully. I've just run another system refresh from the repair mode, which has again allowed me to boot normally and continue using the computer.

Does anyone know what the cause of this could be, and if there could be a proper fix for it? Even though this system refresh has worked (for now), it's going to feel like the problem could return at any time, especially if I make any changes to the computer.

Update: So the problem has returned after doing that second refresh. After the refresh I made the following changes to the computer:
- Installed Chrome with the new release of uBlock Origin
- Updated GeForce display drivers to the latest version
- Updated Windows Defender malware definitions to the latest version
After making those changes, the system once again failed to load when attempting to restart. I did not run Windows update or make any other changes. It seems logical that one of these changes is the cause of this problem? I remember Windows Defender having some problems shortly before this whole mess started, it was failing when trying to install updates.
 

thejackal85

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Jan 18, 2016
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The only thing I could think of with what you have done that could cause this issue is the driver package for the GeForce display drivers. Where are you downloading that from? Are you getting it from Windows Update or are you downloading it manually off their website? Also, Windows Defender includes various per-requisites that involve Windows Updates; so if you utilize Windows Defender, it will download updates as needed. I honestly don't recommend WD, I would shut it off, uninstall it and install an antivirus program. Avast works well for me.
 

kris678

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Feb 12, 2016
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I think you might be right about the display drivers. Did another refresh and ran Windows update. It failed to install something from Nvidia (I'm not sure what exactly it was and I didn't write it down) but everything else installed fine and the computer restarted successfully. Once it restarted, I got the latest Geforce drivers from the Nvidia website (entering my GPU model number and my operating system) and installed them. The installation appeared to be successful, but when I rebooted, it once again wouldn't load.

Is there another way to get the drivers that won't cause this? Should I try getting them through Device Manager or will that make no difference? They don't seem to be coming through Windows Update.
 

thejackal85

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No, you can either the drivers from Windows Updates or from the website itself. One thing I would try though is getting an older driver package off NVIDIA's website. They have an archive section I believe where you can do this.
 

kris678

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Feb 12, 2016
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Right, so in other words I have to just take a guess at which older driver won't brick my laptop. Well I guess I'll give it a try. Thanks a lot for your help with this so far.
 

thejackal85

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Well, I'm only assuming it's the most recent driver package doing this. So if you find one older than the one you have now, I would assume any of them might work. Let me know if I can help any further!
 

kris678

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Feb 12, 2016
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I'm pretty sure that I jumped up several versions of the drivers the last time I updated them. I'll try going back to one from early 2015, as I have a feeling that that was when my previous one was from.
 

kris678

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Feb 12, 2016
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Alright, I installed the 350.12 driver from early 2015 and the laptop can now consistently boot properly. I'm surprised that a display driver update could have such a destructive effect on my system but at least I have a decent solution now. I don't know what I'm going to do if I need to update in the future because the possibility of this happening again is too much risk. I guess if this happens again in the future I'll try a clean install of an older driver in safe mode before I resort to wiping all of my programs, now that I actually know what the problem is.

Anyway, again thanks a lot for your help.
 

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