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Black Screen, Blinking Cursor?

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Hello, I'm new here. I did a search and found some similar situations, but the answers seem to involve menus that I can't access. Hope I'm posting in the right place, not sure if this is a virus.

Dell Inspiron 5150 Laptop
Windows XP Home

The computer is older and has had it's share of problems. Most recently, it would load Windows, but once on the desktop, you could not get anything to happen.

It had auto-updates. It had virus protection. There are no external devices plugged in. No software changes lately.

Then a black screen appeared with a blinking white cursor (looks like an underscore) in the left corner, computer sometimes makes noises at this point - like it's running something really process intensive. It's not a DOS prompt, and you can't type anything. I've tried all F keys and nothing launches any menus. Tried ESC and Control+Alt+Del. I think I've pressed every button on the keyboard if not to try it out of frustration!
Reboot after reboot yields no result. I inserted the OS CD in the drive, but I can't get to any options to run it.

I was able to reboot and get Windows XP to load once or twice but after clicking to launch a program, this happens again. Now, I can't get it to load at all.

It's been frustrating so we've been using a different computer instead. This one sat closed for a day or two and upon opening and attempting to boot, I received a message about the memory having been changed. I pressed F1 to continue. I then got a message about not having enough memory to launch Windows. I no longer have the exact error message. But after reboot, the cursor screen appeared.
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Hi nashaop :)

I highly doubt this will work because of

I received a message about the memory having been changed. I pressed F1 to continue. I then got a message about not having enough memory to launch Windows.

but worth a try.
Re-start the laptop and start tapping F8 to get to the options screen. In there you will see safe mode and "last known good configuration". I need you to try "last known good configuration".

The error points to a memory/ram problem. This message usually comes up when you add or remove ram modules from a computer.
Since ram modules are "locked" into position, I suspect you have a bad 1 instead of a loose 1.

Being a laptop, it is more difficult to check out for them being loose.
We can try checking if you would like, but I would have to get the manual before I guide you.

You can also run memtest86 which will verify your ram. You would need to download to another computer and burn the iso file to a CD.

Get the file that is named Download - The one you want is "Download - Pre-compiled Bootable ISO (.zip). When it downloads, it will be labeled memtest86+2.11.iso.zip
Unzip the file once you download it. You should have a .iso file in the unzipped directory. It will look like a zip file in some cases but the file name will now be memtest86+2.11.iso

if you don't have a burning program that will burn .ISO files get burncdcc in my signature below.

NOTE...do not put a blank cd in until burncdcc opens the tray for you
1. Start BurnCDCC
2. Browse to the ISO file you want to burn on cd/dvd ....in this case its memtest86.iso
3. Select the ISO file
4. click on Start
Make sure the bios is set for the cd drive as the first boot device
Put the cd in the cd drive and then boot your computer.

Running the Diagnostic Program:

The basic diagnostic screen has five main sections of relevant information. Three at the top which are labeled, PASS %, TEST %, and TEST #. This will basically show you the total progress of the current test, the overall progress of the diagnostic test, and the test number is currently performing.

On the middle left hand side of the of the program interface there is a “Wall Time” section that will keep track of how long the diagnostic test has been running for. This just gives you an idea if you are not attending the testing process.

The main section to look for is the lower half of the screen which is usually blank. As long as the memory testing is going ok with no errors this section of the screen should remain blank. If the diagnostic program finds any serious faults in the memory you will see it display a memory dump of address’s in this section. This is similar to what is displayed on your screen when you encounter a blue screen of death.

You now have most everything you need to know about setting up and testing your memory with diagnostic programs. This guide should help you get to the source of any intermittent problems related to your memory.

Run memtest for at least 2 hours:
If it starts showing any errors during that time then you will have to replace the memory
If there are no errors after 2 hours press Esc and that will end the tests
We will then try other options



EDIT: Heres your manual Inspirion 5150 manual

Edited by 123Runner, 28 April 2010 - 02:01 PM.

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Thanks for the quick response!

We tried the F8 trick, but it didn't launch any menus - just remained at the black screen with the cursor.

We actually can't even get it to recognize that there is a CD in the drive to try the next steps. We have the Windows XP reinstall CD in there but it won't launch, and we can't get the computer to load any setup menus with F8 or F12 - or F anything really. No keys do anything at all.

Edited by nashaop, 29 April 2010 - 09:36 AM.

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