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

  1.    29 Jan 2017 #1

    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 here's a link to a very basic boot disc/usb ISO (223.89 MB) to get you to the command line. I know it's crazy big, but that is all I could find to get to a genuine Win 10 command prompt for now.

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

    2) Navigate to the following directory:

    C:\Windows\Resources\Themes

    COMMANDS:

    cd\
    cd windows\resources\themes

    3) 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.

    4) Delete the [offending theme] file and folder

    5) 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)

    6) 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!
    UltraUxThemePatcher - Recover From Black/Grey Screen - Windows 8 / 10 Attached Files
    Last edited by TheArkive; 12 Feb 2017 at 06:14.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


  2. Posts : 6
    x64 Windows10 Home Build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 without KB3213986 + KB3211320
       20 Feb 2017 #2

    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

    Perlchamp said: 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

    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. Posts : 6
    x64 Windows10 Home Build 14393.rs1_release.160715-1616 without KB3213986 + KB3211320
       08 Mar 2017 #5

    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.    3 Weeks Ago #6

    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; 3 Weeks Ago at 02:17.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


 

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