So tonight I fire up my desktop PC just like usual, key in my password just like usual and as a result am greeted by the “Welcome” message and animated spinner, just like usual. Except unlike usual, the “Welcome” message sits there perpetually spinning for fifteen minutes with no further response.
I hit the reset button and tried it again two or three more times, in case it was a fluke. Still couldn’t logon. I even used System Restore to go back to the previous restore point, which was yesterday evening, when I knew the machine was running normally. Nope…still couldn’t logon.
Naturally, I’d arranged to work from home tomorrow, and now it was looking like I wasn’t going to have a PC to actually work on. So I did what any reasonable man would do in the year 2012: I got on my smartphone and started looking for clues. While that was underway, I tried booting to Windows 7’s Safe Mode. Interestingly, that worked. From there, I checked the System event log and found a whole lot of messages about services timing out or not starting in a timely fashion, like this:
A timeout was reached (30000 milliseconds) while waiting for the Print Spooler service to connect.
This was really just symptomatic of the problem, not indicative of its cause.
Fortunately, after relatively little searching, I found Microsoft Knowledge Base article 2578159. It describes a hotfix meant to resolve issues with the logon process, in which a “race condition” between the Windows Event Log service and the Event Tracing for Windows functions causes a deadlock situation. Now, quite honestly I have no idea what that means or why it would suddenly decide to happen after a year of trouble-free OS operation. But it sure described my problem to a T, so I decided to give it a try.
Here’s where the sheer number of hoops that I needed to jump through just to install a hotfix became comical. First off, Microsoft wouldn’t let me just download the hotfix. They made me give them my email address so they could email me a link to it. OK, fine. So after I’d downloaded the hotfix (still running in Safe Mode, remember) I tried to install it, but the installer service reported that I could not do so from Safe Mode. Great, so how am I supposed to install it if I can’t login normally?
Further searching of the web revealed that I could use msconfig.exe to selectively disable all non-Microsoft startup items, which would allow me to login normally (read: not in Safe Mode). After firing up msconfig, at first I tried to be greedy and just choose the “Diagnostic startup” option. Unfortunately, that didn’t work, because that prevents the Windows Installer service from loading, thus the hotfix still could not be installed. Grudgingly, I went back to msconfig, picked “Selective startup”, and then literally unchecked all of the Services and Startup items that did not say “Microsoft Corp.” listed as their manufacturer. Finally, after doing that and rebooting, I was able to not only logon normally, but also install hotfix 2578159.
Since installing the hotfix, I have had no further issues with logging on. It does indeed seem to have solved my problem.
Just thought I would put that out there, with an added smattering of real-world experience, in case anyone else runs into this.