The same problem has now turned up twice in two weeks. So far I’m not aware of any recent update or change that makes this happen, but keep this in the back of your mind in case it comes in handy.

The symptom is a black screen and a blinking cursor after the computer restarts or is turned on. The manufacturer’s logo might or might not appear and the computer won’t even bring up the BIOS setup screen.

If there’s an external hard drive connected to the computer, turn off the computer and unplug the drive, then turn the computer back on. If you’re lucky, it will start up completely normally. You’ll be able to plug in the external hard drive after the system starts.

Isn’t that interesting? That’s been enough to solve the problem twice now. It may not be that simple the next time, and there are always more things to try.

  • The last time I dealt with this was a couple of years ago, when a computer froze while it tried to boot from the card reader on an HP printer. (Honest!) The next troubleshooting step, then, is to unplug all USB devices except the keyboard and mouse.
  • Some computers have a BIOS setting that can prevent this – “disable USB legacy devices” or a checkbox for “boot from USB.” Many of the major manufacturers are now limiting the number of options in the BIOS setup screens so I haven’t seen those for a while.
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