Troubleshooting Startup and Shutdown

9/5/2010 9:23:53 AM
As an administrator, you'll often need to troubleshoot problems with startup and shutdown. The sections that follow look at techniques for resolving common problems.

Resolving Restart or Shutdown Issues

Normally, you can shut down or restart Windows Vista by clicking Start, clicking the Options button to the right of the power and lock buttons, and then clicking Restart or Shut Down as appropriate. Sometimes, however, Windows Vista won't shut down or restart normally and you must take additional actions. In those cases, follow these steps:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del. The Windows screen should display. If so, click Start Task Manager.

  2. On the Application tab, look for an application that is not responding. If all programs appear to be running normally, skip to step 5.

  3. Select the application that is not responding and then click End Task.

  4. If the application fails to respond to the request, you'll see a prompt that allows you to end the application immediately or cancel the end-task request. Click End Now.

  5. Try shutting down or restarting the computer. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, click the Options button to the right of the power and lock buttons, and then click Restart or Shut Down as appropriate.

Real World 

As a last resort, you might be forced to perform a hard shutdown by pressing and holding the computer's power button or by unplugging the computer. If you do this, Check Disk will probably run the next time you start the computer. This allows the computer to check for errors and problems that might have been caused by the hard shutdown. If Check Disk doesn't run automatically, you might want to run it manually.

Reinstalling Windows Vista

When you cannot recover Windows any other way, your final recovery option is to reinstall Windows Vista with the repair option. This option tells Windows to reinstall the base operating system over the existing installation. The repair and reinstall shouldn't affect user settings, so any programs that were previously installed and any data should remain intact—in most cases.

To reinstall Windows Vista with the repair option, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the Windows Vista CD into the appropriate drive and then restart the computer.

  2. When the Setup program begins, do not select any of the repair options. Instead, press Enter to start setup normally.

  3. Press F8 to accept the license agreement. Windows Vista will then search your system for existing Windows installations.

  4. On the screen showing your existing Windows installation, press R to start the repair process.

  5. The remainder of this procedure follows the same steps you would take if performing a clean install of the operating system. When Setup finishes, the system files will be refreshed, and the existing user settings and data should be available.


    Keep in mind that the repair process cannot repair a damaged disk. If the file system is defective, you might need to reformat the disk and then perform a clean install of the operating system. If the disk itself is defective, you will need to replace the disk and then install the operating system.

Making Sense of Stop Errors

If a major error occurs while Windows Vista is starting, installing a program, or performing another operation, you'll see a Stop error message across the entire screen. Read this information carefully and write down the following information:

  • Error name The error name should be on the third line of the error screen and is listed in all caps, such as KERNEL_STACK_INPAGE_ERROR.

  • Troubleshooting recommendations The error name is followed by the troubleshooting recommendations. These recommendations are based on the type of error that occurred and provide general guidelines on resolving the problem.

  • Error number The troubleshooting recommendations are followed by technical information. On the next line after the Technical Information heading, you'll see the word STOP, an error number, and a list of error parameters. The error number following STOP is what you should write down, such as STOP: 0X00000050.

  • Driver information Immediately following the line with the Stop error number is a line that lists the name of the driver associated with the error. This information is only provided if the error can be traced to a specific driver. Write down the driver name.

If the system is configured to write an event to the event logs if a Stop error occurs and it was possible to write the event before the system crashed completely, the error number and error parameters will be written to an event in the System log with an event source of Save Dump. The event will also specify if a dump file was created and where it was saved if applicable.

Real World 

Windows Vista includes an Online Crash Analysis feature that allows you to send the dump file to Microsoft Product Support Services. If error reporting is enabled, you will be prompted to send this debugging information to Microsoft when you restart the system. You have the option of sending the debugging information anonymously or using your Microsoft Connect account. If you send the debugging information with your name and contact information through Microsoft Connect, a technician might contact you for further information and might also be able to suggest an action to correct the problem. You can manually upload crash information via the Microsoft Online Crash Analysis Web site ( The site also lets you track the status of your issue, and you can check for a diagnosis.

Once you have the Stop error information, you might need to start the system in safe mode. You can then look to resolving the problem by performing the following tasks:

  • Look up the Stop error on the Microsoft Knowledge Base Visit and perform a search of the Microsoft Knowledge Base using the error number as the keyword. If a known problem is related to the error code, you should find a related Knowledge Base article. As appropriate, follow the instructions given to resolve the issue.

  • Check the driver (if driver information was provided) When you reboot the system, check the driver to ensure it is digitally signed. If the driver has been updated recently, you might need to consider rolling back to the previous driver version. Just because the driver is listed doesn't mean the driver is corrupt and needs replacing, however. The Stop error could have been caused by other factors.

  • Determine what has changed recently Stop errors can be caused by both hardware and software. Closely review any programs or hardware that have been installed recently on the computer. If you added new hardware, check to ensure that the hardware is installed correctly; that the latest, signed drivers are installed; and that the hardware is properly configured. If you added new software, check to make sure the installation completed successfully. You might also want to check for updates or patches to the software.

  • Check system resources Stop errors can occur if the system gets critically low on RAM or disk space. Once you get the system started, check the drives to determine the amount of free space available and, as necessary, free additional disk space using Disk Cleanup or other tools. Also open the Task Manager. (In a domain, press Ctrl+Alt+Del and click Task Manager; in a workgroup, simply press Ctrl+Alt+Del.) Look at the Performance tab to check the amount of physical and virtual RAM available. If very little memory is available, determine which programs are using memory and whether there are problem programs, such as adware or spyware, running.

  • Repair system files Stop errors can be caused by damaged or improper versions of system files. If you suspect a system file as being the cause of the problem and the system won't boot properly, you might need to repair the operating system or reinstall the operating system using the repair options .

  • Check hardware and BIOS Stop errors can be caused by faulty hardware. If a computer frequently crashes, you might want to examine the hardware closely. Check the hardware drivers first; a driver might be causing the Stop errors. Check the physical hardware. Look specifically at the hard disks, RAM, CPU, and the graphics card. A hard drive might be going bad, RAM might be defective, the CPU might have overheated, or the graphics card might be incompatible with Windows Vista. Also look at the basic input/output system (BIOS). Check the settings carefully. You might need to see whether an update is available from the motherboard manufacturer.

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