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A flashing message during boot-up is not necessarily worrisome, but it is worth investigating.

When I boot my machine, Windows 7, the command prompt will flash up on my desktop, but does not stay long enough that I can see what's going on. Is this something I should be worried about? It just started happening in the last month or so.

In this excerpt from Answercast #52, I look at ways to capture and read an error message that flashes at boot time.

Boot up error

I honestly don't know if it's something you should be worried about, but it is something that I would probably investigate.

I'm going to share a tip that I learned. I think it was from Fred Langa who did the old Langa List. He's now over with WindowsSecrets.com.

He had a wonderful solution for these kind of flashing things that happen on your computer. If you've got a digital video camera, great!

Video record the screen

If you've got any kind of a digital video camera... those are perfect for this kind of thing. (If you don't, see if your phone has some kind of digital video capability.)

Where I'm headed of course is:

  • Take a video of the screen as your computer is booting (during the time that window pops up and then goes away).

  • Then later, take that video (maybe even to the same computer) fire it up and see if you can slow motion through it or pause it at the point that window pops up.

That's one way of determining what that window said. That way, you can slow it down effectively and see what the contents of that window are. From there, see if perhaps you can determine what it is specifically and why it's running.

Monitor the boot

Now, the other approach to this problem that's more traditional (more high-tech as opposed to this low-tech) is to use a program called Process Monitor.

Now, it's difficult to use it properly at boot time. What it does is... when it starts, it starts collecting everything that happens on your machine.

So if you have a way to get it started before this happens during your boot, then you can:

  • Go to Process Monitor after you finished booting.

  • Stop it from collecting more data;

  • And then examine the data that it has collected for you.

It will be complex. It collects just a ton of data. It's really very valuable if you are at all technically inclined.

The one thing I would point out real quick is, I believe, there's a Summary option in the Tools menu of Process Monitor. That may actually give you a very nice run-down of exactly what's been going on

But if nothing else works, then that can certainly identify exactly what process was started during the boot, if you can get it to run before this flashing window does.

Article C5806 - September 13, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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3 Comments
Dave Markley
September 14, 2012 10:11 AM

My desktop started doing exactly the same thing when I replaced an nVidia graphics card with a new AMD. It is absolutely nothing to worry about. That is unless it started suddenly with no hardware or software changes. Then I would suspect malware.

snert
September 14, 2012 1:34 PM

If you want to slow down (or speed up) a video use VCL Media Player's Playback/Speed option. You can do it with three or four (or five or six) clicks. It works on the audio portion, too.
It's free and I've used it for years, no problems.

Emad
September 14, 2012 1:39 PM

Well, i've experienced such a thing a few weeks ago, i looked in the running processes and i've found and killed it. It was something to do with my VGA.

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