So you pressed the power button on your PC, it starts to load up as usual until it gets to the point where you’re supposed to see your desktop, but instead of that, it shows you an entirely black screen with only your cursor showing on the screen.
This can be annoying on the least and frustrating in most cases. More and more of this issue has been reported recently among Windows 10 users.
There are many possible reasons why you may be having this problem, but the most common cause is your user shell being corrupted either by some malware, applications, or system updates.
The user shell manages various windows explorer functions like the taskbar, the desktop, and other user interface features. So, if you’re having this issue, it is likely that some malware or incompatible system updates have managed to corrupt or change the value data of your user shell, hence certain explorer functions like desktop and taskbar tend to malfunction.
Here we provide two possible ways to fix this problem.
SOLUTION 1: Manually Modify the Value Data of Your User Shell
The first method is more suitable if you suspect that this problem could be due to certain malware changing the value data of your user shell, so to fix that you need to manually correct the value data of your user shell. This is quite a straightforward process and here’s how you do that.
While on the black screen press the keyboard combination, “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” at the same time, it should bring you to this blue screen with these different options. Here select task manager from the list.
In a moment you should see the task manager page pop up, here click on the file menu and select run new task.
You should see a dialog box like this asking for the name of the program, document, or window you want to open. Here we want to open the registry editor, so I will type in “regedit” and click on the checkbox below where it says “create this task with administrative privileges”, and then hit ok.
You should then see your registry editor page pop up. Here you want to double-click on the folder “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE”.
That should open up a number of other subfolders underneath it, you can click on this little arrow next to each folder to expand it. In the same manner, expand the folders in the following order.
At this point you should have a bunch of files on the right side of the screen. Here you want to look for the file named shell. These files are arranged alphabetically so you want to scroll down to the s category, and there you should see the shell.
Double-click on it, and then you should have a dialog box pop up.
In the field under the value data, you want to ensure it says explorer.exe. This is usually the value that certain malware gets to change into some other executable file that it would have saved somewhere on your computer, and this could be the reason why you may not see your desktop and other GUI functions.
Also if you notice any unusual icons or images on your desktop after installing some application, then this could also be a solution for you. So here you want to ensure that your value data is explorer.exe, if not then delete whatever you currently have in this field and type in explorer.exe. Then click ok to save the change. Close the registry editor, and also close the task manger.
Again press the keyboard combination, “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” at the same time, it should bring you back to this blue screen. On the bottom right corner, you should see the power icon, click on it and select restart to reboot your computer.
This could take some additional time, so you might see the restart taking longer than usual, but that is ok.
Upon restarting, you should be able to log back in and access your desktop and other GUI functions as usual. And if for some reason this doesn’t work for you then you should proceed to the second suggestion.
SOLUTION 2: Using Windows Troubleshooting Tool from Advanced Startup
This second method is more suitable if you suspect that your black screen error could be as a result of a Windows update you recently installed or some applications that you’ve installed and that you think might be causing this problem.
Here we will be using the troubleshooting tool from advanced startup option to either revert back to the previous version of windows or boot to safe mode and uninstall the application that could be causing this error. To do this, while on the black screen press the keyboard combination, “Ctrl+Alt+Delete” at the same time, it should bring you to the blue screen below with these options.
On the bottom-right corner of the screen, you will see the power icon. Press and hold down the shift key and then select restart from the power options, keep holding the shift key until you see the advanced startup option page.
Here you want to click on troubleshoot.
On the page that follows, select advanced options.
Here you get to decide which option is more suitable in your case. If this black screen error occurred after you installed some major updates, say you upgraded from Windows 10 build 1709 to build 1803, then you can select the option that says go back to the previous version, and then follow the instructions to revert to your previous build, and that could possibly fix your black screen problem.
But if you suspect that this could be coming from an application you recently installed then you want to boot to safe mode and uninstall or modify the application from there. To do that you want to click on startup settings on the page below.
Then on the page that follows, click on restart.
Wait a bit for the startup settings page to come up. Here you can see the option 4 that says enable safe mode.
To select it you need to press F4 or the number 4 on your keyboard and then wait for your computer to boot into safe mode. From here you can go to the Windows search and type, “add or remove programs”, then click on add or remove programs from the search result.
Wait a bit for the page to open up. Here you can see a list of all the programs you have currently installed on your computer. From here you can check for the program you suspect might be causing the problem, then click on it and select uninstall to remove it.
If you don’t remember what program you recently installed, then you can go to the place where it says sort by, then click on the drop down to select install date.
Then you should have your programs listed in the order of the date of installation, so from here you can locate the most recent installations.
Remember that some programs are designed to install themselves automatically along with other programs, so if you find a program you don’t remember installing and you think might be causing this black screen error, simply click on it and select uninstall to remove it.
Afterwards you can restart your PC to boot back into normal mode, and hopefully your black screen error gets resolved.
Please share your comments, questions and feedback in the comment section below.
The following video demonstrates the solutions in this tutorial.