Thursday, October 29, 2015

Black Screen of Death on Windows 10

I have so far liked Win 10, but was recently hit by the dreaded black screen of death (looks like, this is the new blue screen of death), where I am stuck with a black screen with a mouse pointer. There are numerous posts on the Internet, but it was actually not that easy to get through most of them. 

Let me state the issue clearly: I have a few months old ASUS Q302L model, which was working great. This is how it started:
  • I had the brilliant idea of connecting the ASUS Q302L laptop to Chromecast, so that I can project videos (mostly Youtube) on TV.
  • Installed Chromecast for PC, but realized that it doesn't do much.
  • Installed Chromecast plugin for Chrome browser, and that seemed to do the trick.
  • Uninstalled Chromecast for PC. [I think, this is the root cause for all my woes! Ok, Google!!]
After a day or so of the above, I noticed that my Youtube videos are not working on the notebook any more. The flash based player doesn't work, the HTML5 based player doesn't work. In fact, to my horror, I found out, that videos doesn't play at all on the notebook, even on standalone software like WMP. Bummer!! 
  • Decided to restore the PC to a recent restore point.
    • The most recent restore point errored out, saying something like "Can't change registry settings" etc., and booted back to Win 10 with no video.
    • Used an earlier restore point.
  • That seemed to work, until I was stuck at the black screen with mouse pointer.
Then started the long process of google searches and tryouts. Here are the steps in the ordeal:
  • Realized soon that I need to get to the 'System Repair' option by using Win 10 installation media.
    • Used another Win 10 PC to create an USB Win 10 installation media.
  • Inserted the USB media, but it was not used for boot up. Realized that I have to change the boot order.
REMINDER #1: When I get a new laptop, always change the boot order to have the USB drive before the hard drive. (More caveats to this later)
  • Realized that unlike lot of other systems, the nice ASUS logo screen when powering up by Q302L model, doesn't show any details of how to get into BIOS menu. More searching followed, including taking a peek at the manual for ASUS Q302L model. Seemed like either F2 or F8 might help. Tried both options, but no dice.
    • Eventually F2 worked, seemed like it was just a matter of timing. Now I actually appreciate having a separate button to boot into BIOS menu, like Lenevo models.
  • I tried a bunch of stuff: 
    • Other restore points: they errored out.
    • I had no System Image set up.
REMINDER #2: Probably a System Image would have been an easier option to restore, when the restore points failed. This is time consuming however, so can possibly be done once a month.
    • I also tried out booting into safe mode, safe mode with networking, with low-res graphics etc., however none of these worked. Every time I got stuck with the same black screen - it was really stubborn.
    • To my chagrin,  I found out that every time I tried booting without the Win 10 USB drive to check if things work, the boot option went back to 'Hard Drive', so I had to start at F2 again.
    • Finally decided to reinstall Win 10.
  • Reinstalled Win 10. Things went reasonably smooth, and I got back the display.
  • Got stuck at activating Win 10 though - the process errored out with an error code: 0xC004C003
    • As per this page, this means: The MAK is blocked on the activation server. 
    • My Win 10 copy was initially upgraded using Windows Update from Win 8.1, so as such there shouldn't be any problem regarding a fresh installation at a later point, specifically when there is no hardware change.
    • Contacted Customer Support over chat, and finally got things resolved.
      • Looks like, I have not set up my Country. This can be set up by bringing in the dialog by executing 'slui 4' command from Run. This has to be the same country from where you activated Win 10 the first time.
      • That may not have been enough. After that, the CSR needed my Win 8.1 product key. This can be obtained by running the following command in an Admin command prompt: wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey
      • Then the CSR did something in the background, got the Win 10 product key, and used that to activate.
      • My suggestion is to get this done using CSR help.
Long ordeal. I still have to reinstall all my apps, but I can use the laptop - which is more than enough of what I can ask :-)

Some links that were good but not helpful to me (may be they would be helpful to you):
- Youtube link
- MS link