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Question Windows XP Boots to Black Screen Blinking Cursor


Apr 7, 2016
I am trying to get a Windows XP SP3 installation to boot. All I get is a black screen with a flashing cursor. Bear with me, this is a complicated case. I have been fighting with this laptop for 3 days now. I have been installing XP since it came out. I have done easily over 500 XP installs. I have never had this issue.

I CAN NOT DO A CLEAN INSTALL of Win XP!! I have to get this XP installation working. The old 80GB hard drive died and I replaced it with a 120GB 2.5" Samsung hard drive.

It contained a critical application (for me) that the vendor requires it to be "activated" by their server when you install it. If you do not "activate" it, it refuses to run after a few days.

Here's the catch: The vendor has shut down it's server that does the activation for this version of the application. And the vendor does not offer an off-line activation option as "support" has run out. They say "buy a new version". The new versions do not offer me any new features that I need or would ever use.

The target computer is a Compaq nc6220 laptop. Compaq shipped this laptop with Windows XP Professional. It's specs are:

2.26GHz Pentium M
120GB hard drive
BIOS is the last one released

The 120GB hard drive is partitioned with 3 primary partitions:
Partition 1: 2GB FAT for IBM PC DOS 7

Partition 2: 68.37GB NTFS 3.1 for Windows XP Pro SP3

Partition 3: 41.43GB NTFS 3.1 for DATA.

The new(er) 120GB hard drive passed diagnostics and is working fine.

Partition 1 when set to ACTIVE boots IBM PC DOS 7 with no issues.

Partition 2 when set to ACTIVE boots to a black screen with a flashing cursor in the upper left hand corner.

I CAN boot the Windows XP partition IF I boot Hiren's boot CD 15.2 and use the the option to boot Windows. XP comes up fine and I have loaded all the nc6220 drivers and Device Manager is fine. My app runs fine. It just will not boot on it's own.

Here's what I have tried:

1. I booted the Windows XP Pro SP3 installation CD, used the Recovery Console, and logged into the XP installation. I executed FIXMBR and FIXBOOT. No help.

2. I verified that BOOT.INI was correct to boot XP from Drive 0 and Partition 2.

3. Replaced NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM from the WinXP media into the C:\ root directory. No help.

4. I verified that the HD MBR has NT5.2 boot code in it.

I am stumped. Why won't it boot on it's own when Hiren's Boot CD can get it booted? The MBR code has to be correct, the VBR has to be right, and NTLDR & NTDETECT.COM have to be correct for Hiren to boot it. Yet it hangs when it tries to boot on its own. PC DOS will boot when I make it active.

The only thing different from the 80GD drive install is I now have a 3rd partition for data.

More Info:
I used Macrium Backup to clone my desktop WinXP installation that had the app installed (license allows 1 desktop & 1 laptop installation). The desktop had been used to dual boot Windows 8.1 & Win XP. When I bought a new Win 10 computer I removed Win 8.1 from the old computer and configured XP to boot alone.

I did find BOOTMGR.EXE in the root of the cloned partition and deleted it. A leftover from Win 8.1.

At some point I will use a boot manager to dual boot the laptop with PC-DOS 7 and WinXP but for now I would just like to get XP to boot on it's own.

Thanks for your help!


Mar 18, 2019
First, you have another partition you did not mention, which is your MBR on the drive. As far as I know, there can be only one MBR on a physical drive.

I have never tried installing XP on an extended partition/logical drive, so I wouldn't know of how to set the bios to look for an extended partition to boot from. On the other hand, I have setup dual boot systems including XP, and in every case one must install the older system first, which in your case is XP?

Off hand, it sounds like Boot.ini is not being found. This file might still contain a Win 8.1 section which cannot boot. But since the Boot.ini menu is not even appearing, I'd guess that Boot.ini is not being found.

Since you want to dual boot anyway, I would suggest you D/L "boot-repair-disk-64bit.iso" or "boot-repair-disk-32bit.iso", and use either Rufus or Yumi to create a bootable flash drive. You can then boot the Repair Disk, and use the "Boot Repair" utility to create a Grub boot menu.

I have used this a few times in the past with 100% success. It will always find all the OS's on the machine and create a multi-boot menu that pops up after splash.
Last edited:


Apr 7, 2016

Thanks for your reply. There is one and only one MBR on the hard drive. I never count the MBR as a partition as it's never reported as such in Windows Disk Management or any of the disk utilities that I use. I used a utility that reads the hard drive's MBR and reports what is in it.

The Windows XP installation is in a primary partition, not an extended partition/logical drive. Sorry that I didn't make it clear. All three partitions are primary partitions.

I will examine BOOT.INI and add a bogus entry to see if that shows anything. Hiren's CD finds BOOT.INI and displays all the options in it. If there is just one entry, Hiren just boots it,

I have used System Commander to dual boot OSs since the early 90's. Once I get XP to boot it will be a snap to get System Commander Installed.


Apr 7, 2016
Problem solved. The solution was to boot Hiren's CD, load mini-XP, and then run BOOTICE.

Select the XP partition, select the NTLDR option under "Process PBR". It didn't work. Next I tried "Process PBR" with the BOOTMGR option. Bang! Windows XP is now booting!