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Windows XP Logon/Logoff loop

Posted by on February 11, 2009

I recently had a customer whose computer was not letting them log on. XP would prompt for a password as normal. After entering the password, the computer
would display “Loading personal preferences”, flash the desktop, then logout.

I should first mention that this did not work! I include it here so that others can see what DIDN’T work!

First, I tried the Recovery Console from the XP install
disk. I was told to:
type C:\WINDOWS\system32
type copy userinit.exe
(I also copied to ntos.exe as other sites suggested)

As I mentioned, the above process DID NOT fix the problem.


The working solution was found at
For the non-geeks out there, read the post from the beginning starting here
Geeks, the exact solution is here.

I’ve copied the above post below so that I can access it in the future.

Part 2 – Typing time!

Now that we know there’s a problem, we’re going to try and fix it the easiest way possible. We’re going to use a method I found (thanks are on the last page if you’re curious) to see if we can get into Windows after this fix. I’m going to post simplified instructions of their method because most people didn’t seem to follow it.

Remember, type slowly!

  1. Download this file.
  2. Unzip it.
  3. Burn the .iso to a CD. (remember that quiz I talked about? ;-) )
  4. Boot to the CD.
  5. You’ll see boot: _ at the bottom of your screen. Press Enter to continue.
  6. After some stuff scrolls by, a menu will appear. Press d then Enter.
  7. You’ll see a list of things displayed under the heading Candidate Windows partitions found. One of them says BOOT over on the right. Look ALL the way over to the left edge of your screen. A number is there. Type that number in there and push Enter.
  8. If you get a prompt asking you to force it, push y and then Enter.
  9. Push Enter.
  10. Push 2 then Enter.
  11. Push 9 then Enter.
  12. Type cd Microsoft then push Enter.
  13. Type cd Windows NT then push Enter.
  14. Type cd CurrentVersion then push Enter.
  15. Type cd Winlogon then push Enter.

Does the prompt at the bottom of the screen say something EXACTLY like this?
(…)\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon> _
: Good! Continue on this page for just a bit.
No: Go back and retype those commands starting with Step 11. If you’re having issues, just keep typing .. (two periods) and then Enter until the prompt says > _.

  1. Type cat Userinit then push Enter.

Whew! Now, look near the bottom part of your screen. (about the third line up) That last command should have popped up something. Do you see a line that says something EXACTLY like this?
: Good! Take the CD out and reboot the computer. Go to the next page.
No, I get an error message that says cat_vk: No such value <Userinit>: This means that the Userinit key has been fully deleted from the registry. We can remake it by typing:
nv 1 Userinit

After that, continue these directions.
No, something different appears: Let’s stay on this page for a bit.

  1. Type ed Userinit then push Enter.
  2. Type c:\windows\system32\userinit.exe, then push Enter. (THAT COMMA IS NOT A TYPO)
  3. Type cat Userinit then push Enter.

Now, look near the bottom part of your screen. (about the third line up) That last command should have popped up something. Do you see a line that says something EXACTLY like this?

: Good! We’re almost done!
: Go back and retype it using the two steps above.

Now, we’re going to do a quick test to see if you have another infection that could start the loop:

  1. Type cd .. (two periods) then push Enter.
  2. Type cd Image File Execution Options then push Enter.
  3. Type cd userinit.exe then push Enter.
  4. If you get Key userinit.exe not found! then skip the next step. (that’s a good thing! :-) )
  5. Type delallv then push Enter.
  6. Push q then Enter.
  7. Push q then Enter.
  8. Push y then Enter. (ignore any errors that appear)
  9. Push n then Enter. (ignore any errors that appear)
  10. Wait about 3 seconds.
  11. Take the CD out.
  12. Press Control+Alt+Delete to reboot the machine.

With any luck, you should be able to get into Windows now!

Now, were you able to log in or not?
Yes!: You’re in! Congrats! I would STRONGLY recommend you scan for spyware (Recommendations/steps coming soon, I promise!)
No…: Continue on to the next page.

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