I wanted to put this out here, in case anyone else has encountered it, or had any ideas.

We are currently seeing Precision 3510s and to a lesser extent so far, 7510s, with Windows 7 that will boot up past the Dell splash screen and hang on a completely black screen (no blinking cursor) before Windows loads.

Here's what we know:
  • First, we thought it was a video driver, because it was not consistent.  When we updated the video driver, the problem on those computers went away.
  • It may have something to do with the BIOS, as when newer versions of the BIOS came out and we updated it, the problem went away.
  • Some users report it happening on a regular startup, while others say it happened when they were trying to come out of sleep or hibernation.
  • There may be a problem with the way we configure the BIOS/UEFI. I created the 7510 image, and made it using UEFI boot with legacy boot ROMs available.  The 3510 image was created by someone else, and they made it using Legacy boot.
  • The 3510s exhibited the problem first, and I want to say those haven't had (m)any problems since the BIOS updates, but the 7510s started having this problem in the last few weeks.
  • A rough estimate, as far as I can tell, is that it might affect less than 20 3510s and 7510s combined, out of about 120 of those models in our organization.
  • The problems for the models may be different, just with similar symptoms.  As I mentioned before, fewer 3510s have been having the problem since the BIOS update, but at least one, possibly two 7510 users reported this immediately after Windows Updates.
  • Some computers had been fixed with the video driver ad/or BIOS updates, but others would never come back from the black screen, and needed to be rebuilt.
  • We image using Acronis.

Current leads:
  • I have been investigating the possibility of BIOS/UEFI misconfiguration, especially with the 3510s, since they were made with Legacy Boot.  There are several articles about using Windows 7 with M.2 NVMe SSDs which state that with Windows 7, UEFI Boot, Legacy Boot ROMs, and RAID On must be selected in order for it to work.  These options were set before the 7510 image was created.
  • Due to the recent reports of 7510s experiencing the problem after patches are applied, we are investigating recent Windows Updates.
  • Some of my team members believe users are holding the power button down to shut the computer off after they have initiated a shutdown.  This has been replicated by the IT department, but because this has been reported directly after Windows Updates, and when trying to come out of sleep or hibernate, this cannot account for all instances.
If anyone wants additional information to try to troubleshoot, just let me know; I've included what I can think of for now.  If and when we find the cause and fix, I'll post it here.  I'm also posting this elsewhere.
Answer Summary:
Cancel
6 Comments   [ + ] Show Comments

Comments

  • Does windows ever boot after the black screen? If not, We have had this but it was years ago. We contracted out to 3rd parties and the only resolution we had was to reimage the system. This was on 960, 980, and 990 systems. We tries bios settings, drivers updates (before the black screens happened), antivirus/malware scans, hdd boot sector scans, and registry restores.

    For ours we had black screen with the mouse pointer. CTRL + ALT + DEL never worked and windows never completed.
  • That's a good question; no it does not, and there is nothing on the screen at all, even a cursor or pointer.
    Press the power button, the Dell logo comes up, the bar goes across the bottom of the screen, then permanent and solid black. I left one on overnight and there was no change.
    The LCD is on, but even with an external monitor, nothing is displayed. There are no sounds, like the Windows start sound, and the hard drive light does nothing.
    When we take the M.2 SSD out, we can plug it into another computer with a USB adapter, and see all the data. We've just been reimaging them and sending them back out, and I think only two have had the problem more than once.

    I feel like it doesn't have to do with Windows at all, since I don't think it even gets to the point of loading Windows. I don't have a laptop in this state to experiment on right now, and I can't remember if I could get into the F8 Windows boot options menu, but I don't think I was able to. I really believe the problem is in the UEFI boot options/configuration/loading, but the weirdest part is, what triggers it? Because the computers will be in the field for days or weeks before it happens.
  • Yes! that sounds like what we were experiencing. Only none of ours was UEFI or SSD. When it was happening to us, it started out just a few then spread. We eventually just switched the systems out and reimaged them latter, to keep productivity up. We never did find a cause for the "Black Screen of Death".
  • As an update, we have been able to revive two 7510s.
    On one, the user had changed the boot sequence to Legacy from UEFI, resulting in the inability to boot. We ran a startup repair from a Windows 7 DVD and switched it back to UEFI, and it booted.
    Using that as an example, we set the boot sequence to Legacy on the other, ran the startup repair and switched it back to UEFI, and it booted.
  • Another update - One of the other techs was able to repair a 7510 with startup repair while in UEFI and not Legacy. Even if we don't have a reason why it's happening, we have a possible solution to repair it, and that's worth something.
  • It's been a long time, but we've recently had another spike in black screens, but I do have confirmation that the problem is related to hibernation. On one, the user told me they left their computer on overnight, and the battery ran out (so it went into hibernate at 5% battery life remaining, as the power plan is set to do), and when they tried to turn it on the next day, it would only go as far as the black screen. On another, they said the computer lost power, and when they tried to boot it back up, there was an error about Windows being unable to exit hibernate mode. And with a third that I got back, I booted it up, and it told me the battery was critically low, indicating that it must have gone into hibernate.

    We also have a repeatable solution, which I'll list in the answer!
Please log in to comment

Answer Chosen by the Author

1
We have been able to recover several computers by booting from a flash drive with the Windows Recovery Image from Dell, and doing a startup repair.  Credit goes to my coworker, Melanie, who figured this out.

For whatever reason, I have not been able to do the same with a regular Windows 7 iso or DVD; it has only worked with what we downloaded from Dell.

First, use these steps from Microsoft to create a bootable flash drive:
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj200124(v=ws.11).aspx

Second, download the Windows Recovery Image from support.dell.com > Drivers & Downloads > Operating System.  Note that while this was for Precision 7510s, Dell only offers a Windows 10 recovery image, so I downloaded the Windows 7 image from the Precision M4800 page.  It wants you to install Dell System Detect first.

Third, UEFI boot to the flash drive (legacy boot told me that it wasn't the same operating system), and start Startup Repair.  It will fix the problem and reboot, and Windows will be able to load again.

Hopefully this can help someone else.
Answered 12/06/2016 by: ondrar
Purple Belt

Please log in to comment

Answers

Answer this question or Comment on this question for clarity

Share