Working on a customer's Vista machine, we started the install for Service Pack 2 and walked away. When we returned, it was in Startup Repair after having failed to start.

We then loaded Windows normally, and it loads to a black screen with cursor (before profile selection), then fades out and reboots. No errors, no information.

We've tried disabling automatic restart on failure, and it still reboots. (No BSOD)

Safe Mode does the same, Last Known Good Configuration does the same. Attempted a System Restore to the restore point prior to installing SP2, and it restored successfully. However, the issue still remains.

We have tried every solution we could find while Googling, including renaming \windows\winsxs\pending.xml, but this file does not exist.

This isn't the same issue as the "black screen with cursor" which we've experienced before, but in that case it does not automatically restart.

We've run the following command from recovery console, which was found while Googling:

start /w pkgmgr /up:VistaSP2-KB948465~31bf3856ad364e35~x86~~

Did not give an error, but did not resolve the issue.

We're at our wits end, and are hoping we can fix this without having to explain to the customer what a disaster this has become.

I know there were all sorts of issues with Vista and its service packs back in the day, but this issue is a new one for us.


We had gotten to the point where we just tried "Disable Driver Signature Enforcement" for the heck of it. Surprisingly, the OS loaded. Nothing of note in the Event Viewer, the system reports it is running SP1. There are no device drivers that report any problems.

The system will only boot using this option, and this confuses me even more.

  • 1
    Take a disk image so you can extract the files and data, and just install a new OS. Windows 7, maybe, because it would be just awful ito install a new copy of Vista on anything. – HopelessN00b Feb 11 '14 at 23:48
  • Thank you, unfortunately this is a business computer (running Vista, I know!) with some proprietary software that we're not sure if the client has backed up or has any installation media for. We'd prefer to just revert this botched SP2 install attempt. You're right though, we may be left with little choice. – mathiscode Feb 12 '14 at 0:59

I would remove the original hard drive, put in a new one, and do a clean install of Vista SP2 from media.

You can then put the original drive in a USB caddy and use the Windows Easy Transfer tool to copy the profiles and the like to the new drive.

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    Doing a clean install of a newer OS (Win7, Win8) & then recovering the profiles/data may also be a good idea - Windows Vista is not a particularly well-liked OS, and even Microsoft sort of disavows it at this point. It's the odd-numbered Star Trek film of the Windows world, like Windows ME :-O – voretaq7 Feb 12 '14 at 0:04
  • I agree that a clean install of a newer client OS is the way to go. My goal was to prevent OP from having to buy a new client license. – Ry Jones Feb 12 '14 at 0:25
  • Thank you, and ordinarily I would take the same route. I've updated the original question with some new information that came to light. Unfortunately, it's a business computer (why they think Vista for a business is a good idea, I'll never know). Attempting the SP2 install was a fatal mistake, and I'm hoping some sort of miracle will happen. Vista's not well known for miracles, though. – mathiscode Feb 12 '14 at 1:02

Like HopelessN00b said, your machine is probably hosed.

In order of things to try:

  1. If you have Vista install media, you could attempt a repair install.
  2. If you have backup software like Acronis or something else with a boot disk, you could use that to pull a disk image and get the customer's data off.
  3. If you don't have backup software or install media and can't or won't buy them for whatever reason, there are boot CDs (like Hiren's) that will enable you to get your customer's data off.

Vista is out of mainstream support as of April 10, 2012. I know this is a customer, so you might not have any control over the situation, but you might want to encourage them to upgrade.

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    Thank you, I would happily encourage them to upgrade but I can already see them throwing a fit about this. It was brought in for simple adware-related issues and we were nearly done..only to ruin our success with SP2. Vista, please go away forever. – mathiscode Feb 12 '14 at 1:04
  • :( I wish I had something better to suggest for you. Perhaps the SP had something in it that the device drivers hated? (MSRT rollup or something?) – Katherine Villyard Feb 12 '14 at 1:09

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