1.    29 Jan 2017 #1
    Join Date : Jan 2017
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10 10240

    UltraUxThemePatcher - Recover From Black/Grey Screen - Windows 8 / 10


    At first, when messing around with 3rd party themes in Windows, I thought the black/grey screen was a dead end. I actually recovered from it recently and wanted to share.

    This should apply to most if not all 3rd party windows theme reboot issues (UltraUxThemePatcher and UxStyle). I'll explain how I got this info at the bottom of this post, but for now let's get to the main point.

    You will need a boot disc to get you to the windows command line.

    You should be able to use your Windows 10 installation media (disc/USB). Just boot up to the first screen before you click NEXT to start the installation and press SHIFT + F10. You can get a command prompt that way (unless your install media has that feature disabled).

    If you can't do SHIFT + F10 with your Windows Install Media then you will need to use a boot disc. The links below will help you create one.

    Origin of boot disc image:
    Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK)

    WinPE = Windows Preinstallation Environment
    WinPE: Create USB Bootable drive

    All official Microsoft distributions.

    Tools for writing disc image to media:
    - Rufus for USB
    - ImgBurn for CD/DVD

    The issue is nothing more than the theme files themselves. Not Windows Update (not anymore - as far as UxStyle or UltraUxThemePatcher is concerned). If you check the changelog / FAQ for UltraUxThemePatcher you'll see its been fixed. As for UxStyle, it does everything in memory, so there's almost nothing to break/fix (except disabling Fast Startup - later in this tutorial).

    ============================
    ===== PART 1 =====
    Replace [offending theme] with default theme
    ============================

    NOTE: It is important to either already know, or be able to find out the exact name of the theme you used before your system went to black screens on boot. Without this info, this tutorial won't be much help to you. In this tutorial I refer to the theme that broke your system as [offending theme].

    1) Boot from a boot disc (CD/DVD/USB) and get to the command line.

    2) Find out what your system drive letter is. Type the following command and see which drives exist on your system. I highly recommend you unplug all extra USB drives from your computer, unless you know exactly what you are doing. The more disk drives hooked in, the longer the list will be.

    COMMAND:

    wmic logicaldisk get caption,volumename

    Example result:

    Code:
    Caption  VolumeName
    
    D:       Something
    E:       Windows10
    F:       Something Else
    X:       Boot Disk
    If I named my C drive Windows10 then when using a boot disk, in this case it is the E drive. Make note of what your system drive letter is. It should be easy to spot. If you didn't use a custom name / volume label then look inside the Program Files / Program Files (x86) folders and check for software you remember installing. This will help you identify the correct drive letter.

    Here's a list of commands for looking around in drives and folders and how to use them. Always assume to press ENTER after typing each command. I will type commands in CAPS but note this is not necessary. I only do this for clarity.

    To make the E drive active.
    E:
    Use any other letter to make that drive letter active. The drive letter must exist in order for this to work.

    To list the contents of a drive or folder:
    DIR

    To go into a folder...
    CD FolderName
    Example:
    CD Windows

    To go into a folder with spaces in the name...
    CD "Folder Name"
    Example:
    CD "Program Files (x86)"
    Example 2 - the drive can also be specified when going into a folder:
    CD "C:\Program Files (x86)"

    3) Navigate to the following directory:

    Replace Z with your system drive letter in the following examples.

    Z:\Windows\Resources\Themes

    COMMANDS:

    Z:
    cd\
    cd windows\resources\themes

    4) Make note of the [offending theme] file and folder name (don't misspell it!)

    NOTE: The actual folder and file names might be different. You'll need to track these differences yourself for this to work. Hopefully you remember the last theme you tried before everything when belly up.

    5) Delete the [offending theme] file and folder

    6) Copy the aero folder and rename it to [offending theme] folder

    COMMAND:

    xcopy aero "[offending theme]" /i
    (chances are your theme will have spaces, so use quotes)

    7) Copy default theme file to [offending theme] file name:

    COMMAND:

    copy aero.theme "[offending theme].theme"
    (chances are your theme will have spaces, so use quotes)

    ============================

    This may be enough for some people. If you already disabled Fast Startup, try restarting normally into windows and change your theme back to default. You may notice artifacts from the previous malfunctioning theme. They will go away once you use the GUI to set the windows theme back to default.

    If you did NOT disable Fast Startup, keep reading.

    I could not even get into Safe Mode with the [offending theme] still active. Make sure you complete PART 1 above first before proceeding.

    Since Win 8/10 won't allow you to start in Safe Mode with F8 anymore, here's how you get into Safe Mode, and then disable fast startup:

    ============================
    ===== PART 2 =====
    Force Safe Mode and disable Fast Startup
    ============================
    NOTE: These settings are "permanent" and will have to be undone via command line when done (shown at the end).

    1) Boot via disc (CD/DVD/USB) and get to command prompt.

    2) Type BCDEDIT to display your current boot info.
    - Look for an entry that says Windows Boot Loader
    - Given the boot disc i used my boot records showed up named as {default}. Look for a line that says:

    identifier {something_here}

    the {something_here} is the identifier
    ============================
    the point is to find out what your {identifier} is

    in my case, via boot disc, it was {default}

    replace {default} with your {identifier} as necessary in the commands below
    ============================

    NOTE: If you see multiple instances of Windows Boot Loader, don't worry. If you modify the wrong boot record, you won't break much if anything. You can always undo the changes (later in this tutorial). Just keep in mind that you modify a specific boot record by using its {identifier}. Generally, the {identifier} you need to use in this case should be {default}.

    3) Run commands to force safe mode on next boot:
    COMMANDS:

    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network
    or
    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal

    NOTE: I needed network safe mode to look up instructions for disabling Fast Startup, but I've included that in this tutorial! Safe Mode is the only way to boot up a system affected by "black screen" issues (after completing PART 1 above) so that you can actually disable Fast Startup and finally tell your system to stop loading the previously saved system state that has your "black screen" issues bundled in it.

    4) Reboot normally into windows. Safe mode will be forced without prompt. Assuming you completed PART 1 above, you should be able to see the interface just fine instead of black/grey screen. You may see some artifacts remaining from the [offending theme]. You won't be able to change the theme in safe mode. But you can disable Fast Startup (tutorial by Brink). The info in that tutorial is included in this one.

    5) Run attachment below: Fast Startup - Disable.7z / mirror link
    or
    run this command on the command line:

    REG ADD "HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Power" /V HiberbootEnabled /T REG_dWORD /D 0 /F

    6) Disable safe mode:

    COMMANDS:

    bcdedit /deletevalue {current} safeboot

    (doing this in safe mode, and not from a boot disc, means your {default} configuration is now referred to as {current})

    7) Reboot normally into windows.
    ============================

    Now you should be back to a functional system state.

    ============================
    ===== PART 3 =====
    How to prevent this... or make recovery easier
    ============================

    Coming across a malfunctioning theme, or one that isn't compatible with your setup / windows version / etc, is inevitable. You won't have to do all of these things listed below, just make sure you take into consideration your current setup.

    Here's how to make future recovery easier:

    1) TURN OFF Fast Startup!!
    Pretty much mandatory for all serious theme enthusiasts. This is a system setting and affects all user accounts. It only needs to be disabled once (per install).
    I've mentioned this several times in this post, and for good reason. Fast Startup will save your previous system state, errors and all. Not good for themes, or any kind of tinkering under the hood in Windows. Any issues with UltraUxThemePatcher and UxStyle should almost completely disappear after you disable Fast Startup. Disabling Fast Startup will allow your system to completely refresh new settings as needed on every new boot and therefore your recovery from malfunctioning themes will be much more assured if it is off. The one thing that can't be fixed by disabling Fast Startup is an incompatible/faulty theme.

    2) Setup a backup user account (with or without passwords).
    This is best if you don't want to permanently enable Safe Mode boot options. This works fine even if you have automatic login enabled (read #4).
    The user logon screen is usually immune to theme malfunctions. I figured this out by accident. Once you log on to a user account with a malfunctioning theme, it's back to the black/grey/flashing/etc screen, however you can still reboot and get back to the login screen as long as you don't have auto-login configured via netplwiz. A 2nd user account will allow you to go in and do the modifications in PART 1 via the windows GUI.

    3) Add boot options to include Safe Mode as an option (Win 8 / 10)
    This is best if you prefer a single-user configuration or if you use automatic login. The downside is that you must use command line to replace offending theme files with default files (renamed as the [offending theme] folder and file).
    Brink (on tenforums) has made a tutorial for that here. This will make the command prompt more accessible without the need for a boot disc, in case you have to repeat this tutorial. If you choose this you'll want to make sure you only enable a "command-line only" safe mode option. Faulty themes will prevent any GUI from loading, even in Safe Mode.

    4) Manage automatic logon properly (netplwiz)
    Good news! Automatic login can be bypassed!
    I recently learned that you can have your system configured for automatic login, and selectively disable it on the fly.

    - Boot up normally

    - once you see the windows logo and circling dots hold SHIFT

    - keep holding SHIFT until you see the login screen background, at this point automatic login has been bypassed

    - this might not work with bluetooth or USB keyboards connected to a hub on a laptop, but it works!

    This makes having a backup user account far more appealing (to me) since I can still configure automatic login, and have a GUI to fix theme issues in the alternate user account! No need to mess with safe mode even.

    5) Change your power options - Do NOT "Sleep" on Power Button or Lid Close
    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    Any setting you allow (or as default) that preserves the previous system state (hibernation/sleep mode) that potentially has fatal errors will cause you many headaches.

    My power settings look like this:

    (Plugged in / Battery)
    Lid Close: Nothing / Nothing
    Power Button: Shutdown / Shutdown
    Sleep: Never / Never

    You may have good success with different power settings, but I'm tellin ya, disable Fast Startup!!!
    ============================

    Hope this helps someone. Please let me know if any of this works for you. I'm hoping my success isn't an isolated incident.



    ============================
    My Testing / Results Explained
    ============================

    My first issue / resolution started with a black screen, a 3-day old backup, and trying to uninstall / upgrade UltraUxThemePatcher. Usually at some point when using a 3rd party theme I'll see some artifacts after a few weeks. The results and timing are always random, but when I saw these glitches, I usually knew uninstalling UltraUxThemePatcher would get me the black screen.

    Basically, I borked my system, and tried several things, always going back to my 3 day old backup each time an uninstall of UltraUxThemePatcher borked my system again. I finally came across Fast Startup, I had forgotten about it, but did remember that it saved a previous system state, which of course I didn't want. After disabling Fast Startup round 1 was over and I got my system back only losing 3 days worth of data, which wasn't much this time.

    Round 2 started on a business trip. I was feeling confident after round 1 so in my free time on this trip I tried some more themes. My system borked again. As soon as I clicked APPLY I saw the black screen again. CTRL + ALT + DEL did nothing. It was obvious that round 2 had begun. Luckily, I recently did a clean install of windows and had not yet used netplwiz to configure automatic login. After seeing that the login screen was immune to theme issues I realized that a 2nd user account would have been even more helpful. At this point I had not even disabled Fast Startup after my clean OS install, so I knew it was "do or die" once again.

    The login screen immunity to theme issues gave me the idea to just overwrite the bad theme with the windows default theme (this has no effect with Fast Startup on). After struggling to get to a command line prompt, I managed to do that, force safe mode, and turn off Fast Startup (again - now I have the saved reg file... Oy).

    It all worked out beautifully.

    For a while I have not been a fan of making HDD images for backup mostly because 3rd party themes gave me so much heck. I didn't want to reinstate a half broken OS when restoring. Now that I more accurately understand the issues of 3rd party themes and how to recover from them I'm much more confident not only in keeping my backups running, but in trying more themes!

    EDIT: Apparently posting the actual boot disk made Microsoft unhappy. Fortunately, the tools to make the boot disc are still free. The link to the boot disc and the boot disc image have been taken down.

    EDIT2: Added some clarity on how to find out what your system drive letter is (under normal circumstances) when using a boot disk.
    UltraUxThemePatcher - Recover From Black/Grey Screen - Windows 8 / 10 Attached Files
    Last edited by TheArkive; 15 Aug 2017 at 03:31.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  2.    20 Feb 2017 #2
    Join Date : Feb 2017
    Posts : 6
    x64 Windows10 Home Build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 without KB3213986 + KB3211320

    i went the way below


    my history:
    => ssd 32gb with uefi and gpt
    => clean installed win10 build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 (for this i made a USB 3.0 bootstick with rufus)
    => no other updates
    => did set a windows system restore point
    => did install UltraUXThemePatcher 3.1.4
    => did install a Theme (i think it was dark-ubuntu), got dark gray background, no nothing
    => did turn off the pc, put in my bootstick, turned on pc and it booted to the windows-installation mask (os and language-settings). THERE in left bottom corner was a link "other installoptions" (or something like that). clicked on it and came into the mask, where you can choose "troubleshooting" (or something like that). here you have the possibility to choose the command prompt (for sfc), or you can choose to reset your pc (all data left). i've chosen "set pc to an older system restore point"
    => no five minutes at all for restore, got back my os !

    so long
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  3.    03 Mar 2017 #3
    Join Date : Jan 2017
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10 10240
    Thread Starter

    Quote Originally Posted by Perlchamp View Post
    my history:
    => ssd 32gb with uefi and gpt
    => clean installed win10 build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 (for this i made a USB 3.0 bootstick with rufus)
    => no other updates
    => did set a windows system restore point
    => did install UltraUXThemePatcher 3.1.4
    => did install a Theme (i think it was dark-ubuntu), got dark gray background, no nothing
    => did turn off the pc, put in my bootstick, turned on pc and it booted to the windows-installation mask (os and language-settings). THERE in left bottom corner was a link "other installoptions" (or something like that). clicked on it and came into the mask, where you can choose "troubleshooting" (or something like that). here you have the possibility to choose the command prompt (for sfc), or you can choose to reset your pc (all data left). i've chosen "set pc to an older system restore point"
    => no five minutes at all for restore, got back my os !

    so long
    Thanks for posting! Yah, I don't use system restore points like I should. I usually use disk images.

    But big thanks for posting your success results!
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  4.    08 Mar 2017 #4
    Join Date : Jul 2015
    Posts : 78
    Windows 7 Ultimate x64 | Windows 10 Home x64

    I have a 3 point question here:

    1) Is having Fast Boot disabled Pre-Installed going to prevent this?

    2) System Restore points can totally undo this if something ****s right?

    3) If I uninstall this patcher is it going to mess my Windows up? What's the point of that?
    Last edited by RECONBunny; 08 Mar 2017 at 02:30.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  5.    08 Mar 2017 #5
    Join Date : Feb 2017
    Posts : 6
    x64 Windows10 Home Build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 without KB3213986 + KB3211320

    my experiences in these cases are:
    1) yes, because with disabled "fast boot" you can reach the boot-menu (one time i had it enabled, and couldn't come into boot-menu => took out batterie on MoBo => got the possibility back coming into boot-menu again)
    2) security first, this means set a restopre point before installing themepatcher and better: make a system-image with security-soft that really works (test it)
    3) use ccleaner after uninstall, or replace your system-image you made before or reset restore-point you made before

    what i think:
    don't install themepatcher-software because you never will know what will happen, if microsoft comes with updates. by the way: i can't understand why microsoft block users to modify the design (here is the starting point of becoming/getting motivated employers - microsoft has build some locker-rooms and quiet-zones instead ...)
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  6.    31 Mar 2017 #6
    Join Date : Jan 2017
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10 10240
    Thread Starter

    1) Is having Fast Boot disabled Pre-Installed going to prevent this?

    ####
    As long as the configuration is correct then yes. Fastboot is part of hibernation mode, so hibernation must be disabled too, but that is covered by the attachment in my OP.
    ####

    2) System Restore points can totally undo this if something ****s right?

    ####
    It should. I've had issues with system restore actually restoring a faulty state. But with fastboot properly disabled system restore should be more reliable.
    ####

    3) If I uninstall this patcher is it going to mess my Windows up? What's the point of that?

    ####
    You will only mess up windows if you uninstall this patcher while your system is in an unstable state because of waking from hibernation or booting with fastboot. Or if you uninstall the program while an unsigned theme is active.

    This is covered in the OP, but I'll say it again because it's important:

    Once you disable fastboot you must shutdown and do a cold boot to break the fastboot cycle. Once the cycle is broken everything will be more reliable when using UltraUxThemePatcher. It works even through windows updates.
    Last edited by TheArkive; 31 Mar 2017 at 02:17.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  7.    23 Jun 2017 #7
    Join Date : Jun 2017
    Posts : 1
    Android

    Hi...the part 1 ..when it says to delete the offering theme file and folder..how do you do that and when I put copy aero.theme "[offending theme].theme" it says the system cannot found the file..help please
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  8.    15 Aug 2017 #8
    Join Date : Jan 2017
    Posts : 5
    Windows 10 10240
    Thread Starter

    Quote Originally Posted by fernandex00 View Post
    Hi...the part 1 ..when it says to delete the offering theme file and folder..how do you do that and when I put copy aero.theme "[offending theme].theme" it says the system cannot found the file..help please
    First, did you replace the [offending theme] text with the title of your actual theme? That's quite important.

    Second, if aero.theme can't be found, then it sounds like you didn't navigate to your C:\Windows\Resources\Themes\ folder. Either that, or in this process you accidentally deleted or renamed the aero.theme file. But you would have to use the DEL or REN command to actually do that, and I didn't use those commands in my tutorial.

    Your C drive will usually become another letter when you boot from a boot disc.

    While at the command prompt type this to see what drives are available:

    wmic logicaldisk get caption,volumename

    Code:
    Example Result:
    
    E:       Windows10
    D:       Other drive
    F:       Yet another drive
    X:       Boot disc drive

    If you used a specific volume label (or name) for your C drive then which ever one you see with the correct name is the new letter (while using a boot disk/usb) for your system drive. In the above example, let's say I used "Windows10" for my system drive volume label. What would normally be my C drive on a normal boot is now the E drive in on the boot disk. This is a very important detail to know when using a boot disk. Apologies for not mentioning this in the tutorial.

    Now, run these commands on a command prompt to check and see if your aero.theme file exists:

    Replace Z with your actual system drive letter while boot from a boot disk/usb.

    CD Z:\Windows\Resources\Themes
    DIR

    This will ensure you navigate to the Themes folder and then show you a list of what exists there. Hopefully your aero.theme file is intact. If not you can simply copy it from a friend's computer.

    I'll update the tutorial to go over this. And sorry for the late reply.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  9.    30 Sep 2017 #9
    Join Date : Sep 2017
    Posts : 1
    Windows 10

    I did everything correct. Everything was going great until xcopy aero "Aero 7" /i and it said 0 files were copied. After all the rest, when I restarted my computers into safe mode, it flashed black and white.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

 


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