Windows failed to start....

Dell Inspiron 15 laptop, running 64 bit Win 7 Pro, and there were no recent hardware or software changes.
When starting up, I'm getting the message 'Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause. Yada, yada, yada...', then gives the option to start normally (which will bring me right back here), or Launch Startup Repair.
Launching startup repair just takes me to a black screen, like the one I’ve currently been staring  at for about an hour. Now when I say black screen, it's not black like its off, it’s lit, just never gets to any progress bar, etc.
I tried booting from a Win 7 DVD, which will give me the ‘windows is loading files…’ screen, then go to the ‘Starting Windows’ screen, then it will go to a blank (black) screen, with an oversized cursor (arrow) that will move with the trackpad or a mouse.
I have stared at that screen for close to an hour, as well.
I have also run the diagnostics & everything checks out fine.
What’s my next best move?
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gromackAsked:
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
See if you can get a diagnostics USB ISO from Dell, and make a bootable USB key from it.

Now boot the laptop with the above USB key and test hard drive and anything else it will test.

Do you get any hardware errors?

If not, put the drive in a carrier, recover any files, and then reinstall Windows 7.
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gromackAuthor Commented:
After reading your reply, I hit the keyboard & the Windows Boot Manager screen came up. I hit F8 for the advanced options & on the next screen, chose ‘Repair your computer’, hoping it may get me to the system restore option.
I’ll leave it there while looking for the Dell diagnostic ISO.
Now I did run the diagnostics from the boot menu - how/will this be any different?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
The diagnostics USB was purely a suggestion to get it to start in some way.
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gromackAuthor Commented:
The ones I am finding (Dell Systems Service and Diagnostics Tools ISO) appear to be for servers, when looking at compatible systems & supported operating systems, or will it work for HW testing on anything?
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web_trackerComputer Service TechnicianCommented:
I you ran the PSA tests from the boot menu it works just as well as creating a boot diag usb stick. It really looks like windows is corrupted by why? It could be a hardware issue, which is why it is suggested that you run the diagnostics tests, If it is a hardware problem it will probably memory or hard drive related. If it is a driver issue, you could try booting in safemode.   As soon as you see the Dell logo when you turn on the computer start tapping the f8 key, see if you can boot in safemode, When the computer boots in safemode it chooses the native default drivers that can boot to windows although they are not the optimal drivers for the system they sometime work better than a incompatible driver or a corrupted driver.  when you see the safemode menu you can select restore the computer to an earlier time, which will try to remove any recent update that corrupted the system. If this does not work boot to safemode again and chose safemode with networking, if it boots to windows then you have to troubleshoot what driver is causing the problem. Check the event viewer for errors that may be driver related.  You maybe out of luck trying to repair the system if you can even boot to safe mode. The next thing to do is create boot disc such as the Ultimate boot disc and back up your data, and settings like bookmarks/favorites, spelling dictionary, your email signature, etc. Then reinstall windows, you can try to do a repair install to attempt to save your data, or do a fresh install after your data is backed up.
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nobusCommented:
i would run extensive diagnostics on ram and disk, i use the UBCD for that (see below)
another thing to try is install windows on another disk, to see if it also happens
this what i do :
here my laptop troubleshooting guide, i hope it helps you :
- remove all external devices
-you can disable devices from BIOS to test (sound, lan, etc..)
- if no display - test with an external monitor
- test if it runs from battery alone, or from AC alone
- test also with a known good battery !
***some laptops have a reset button - if you have one use it!
- remove battery and AC adaptor, hold power button for 20 sec, connect AC and reboot --> any display ? if NO -->
- disconnect all disk and cd drives, battery , and other cards and peripherals, leave only 1 ram stick
- boot -->any display ?
-if you can access the bios battery, remove the battery, AC, and bios battery for a minute to reset the bios
or test it, it should read 3 V
*** you can test the disk on another pc, if you like !

===>>you can test if the mobo works outside the casing, connected to power and external video  !

Hardware diagnostic CD    UBCD
---------------------------------------------------
go to the download page, scroll down to the mirror section, and  click on a mirror to start the download
Download the UBCD and make the cd   <<==on a WORKING PC, and boot the problem PC from it
Here 2 links, one to the general site, and a direct link to the download

since the downloaded file is an ISO file, eg ubcd527.iso - so you need to use an ISO burning tool
if you don't have that software, install cdburnerXP : http://cdburnerxp.se/

If you want also the Ram tested - run memtest86+ at least 1 full pass,  - you should have NO errors!
direct download :  http://www.memtest.org/
 
For disk Diagnostics run the disk diag for your disk brand (eg seagate diag for seagate drive)  from the HDD section -  long or advanced diag !  (runs at least for30 minutes)

http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/      

**  you can make a bootable cd - or bootable usb stick
*** note *** for SSD drives  use the tool from the manufacturer, like intel 's toolbox :
https://downloadcenter.intel.com/download/18455/Intel-Solid-State-Drive-Toolbox

for completeness -here's how i handle disk problems : http://www.experts-exchange.com/Storage/Hard_Drives/A_3000-The-bad-hard-disk-problem.html

==>>****in order to be able to  boot from CD or usb - you may have to disable secure boot in the bios
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Follow this link for your computer:
https://www.dell.com/support/home/ca/en/cabsdt1/quicktest
and see if you can make a USB key from the hard drive test application.

You need to test the hard drive as that seems to be the problem, or, simply replace the Hard Drive (or maybe the computer with a Windows 10 computer).
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Nobus, I wasn't even thinking about disabling secure boot - could that be why I'm just getting black screen with cursor? I have seen an extremely fast blue screen when trying to boot to safe mode, too.
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nobusCommented:
>>  ? I have seen an extremely fast blue screen   <<  if you had a BSOD, then i would suggest to post the minidump file (if existing)
to do that, connect the disk to a working pc, or start from a live cd, like knoppix  
http://knoppix.net/
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Where would I find that file?
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gromackAuthor Commented:
John, what tool am I looking for on that page?
Most of the stuff looks to be server related.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Did you try the Dell service tag to find your machine?
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Sends me to a page where I have he option to scan computer for errors or look up error codes.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Maybe contact Dell Support and ask them for a hardware diagnostic USB key.

Is the machine too old to service? Might be, in which case consider replacing it
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nobusCommented:
in windows\minidumps
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Two different knoppix iso files & no operating system found message when trying to boot from usb. Popped another HD in the laptop ' trying fresh windows install...
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You appear to have a bad hard drive on this machine
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gromackAuthor Commented:
I wonder why the dell diagnostics didn't tell me that?
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Hard to say, but that does look to be the issue.
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Yeah, windows installed just fine on new HD, now to see if I can recover files from old one!
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
OK so hard drive was the problem here.
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nobusCommented:
the diags test hardware - not soft
if the software is not recogniseable (eg because of bad sectors) then you can have that message
it can be a hard disk problem, but still the software can be the cause too
when the data is recovered, run the manufacturer's disk diag on the drive
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gromackAuthor Commented:
Popped a new HD in the computer & the new install went as expected. When I put old HD in a caddy, I heard click as it was spinning up. It would mount, I'd get the window asking what I wanted to do & as I started looking for files, it would shut down then remount after a few minutes. I was able to get desktop, contacts, favorites, & a few others, but fortunately, this guy kept most of his files on the server, so all is good & thanks to all!
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Thanks for the update.
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