How to Solve Login Screen Unavailable from Windows 10 Surface Pro 4

So back in October, Microsoft released its Fall Creators Update for Windows 10. And that particular update won’t install on any of my laptops, which has been a bit frustrating.

So looking at a variety of ways to fix this, one of the recommendations that Microsoft makes to fix these sort of failures is to do a clean boot. Basically, you run MSCONFIG and then disable all of the Microsoft services that run at startup that might be interfering with an update.

What Microsoft doesn’t warn you about is that on the Microsoft Surface–and I imagine other systems–this can leave your PC in a state where there is no way to log into the PC. In my case, after the laptop would boot up, I would see the normal login screen except there was no fields to enter a username and password, and no way to bring those up.

Googling about this, several people had done the exact same thing trying to get a recalcitrant update to install. Most of those lacked thorough documentation for how they were resolved, so I thought I’d write up how I fixed this after a couple of hours of Googling and trying different things on my Surface Pro 4. There may be more straightforward ways than this, but this worked for me.

  1. Basically, you’re going to need to find a way to boot into Safe Mode. There are a few ways to do this.It didn’t work for me, but it is worth a try to click on the “Power” icon on the login screen. Then hold down the SHIFT key while clicking on the Restart option.A lot of sites claim this is a way to get into safe mode in Windows 10, but it never worked for me. So here’s what I had to do.
  2. You’ll need a USB drive with at least 8gb free. Then go to Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 page. Under the second option, “Create Windows 10 installation media” click on “Download tool now.”Start up the file that is downloaded, insert the USB drive, and then select the “Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC”On the next screen, select whatever Language, Edition and Architecture is appropriate for your PC

Finally, select “USB flash drive”, point the utility toward whatever Flash drive you want to use, and be prepared to wait a very long time for the drive to be imaged.

At this point, you’ve got a bootable Flash drive within Windows 10 on it. No we need to make some changes to allow the Surface Pro 4 to be able to boot off it.

  1. First, turn off the Surface.

Once the Surface is completely shut down, press and hold down the volume-up button. As you continue to hold the volume-up button down, press and release the power button. Keep holding that stupid volume-up button and the Surface should load the Surface UEFI screen, which looks something like this.

You want to click on the “Boot Configuration” option, which will bring this screen up.

There are two things that must be done here. The items in the top area can be dragged and dropped. So click and hold on the “USB Storage” option and drag it to the top of the list, so it is above the “Windows Boot Manager” option. Also make certain that the “Enable Boot from USB devices” toggle is set to on.

Once that’s finished, click on Exit, and confirm changes if asked to do so.

Now, you can insert the Flash drive we created with Windows 10 into the Surface and reboot.

  1. The Flash drive should boot your computer to this Windows 10 installation screen. You want to click on the “Repair your computer” option that is in the lower left screen.

 

That will bring up a menu that looks something like this. There may be more or fewer options depending on your particular computer’s setup. You want to click on “Command Prompt.”

This is where, frankly, I thought I was screwed because my Surface Pro 4 is protected by Bitlocker, so I couldn’t access the C: drive. Instead, I was stuck on this X: drive prompt which I assume is some sort of temp area. Anyway, it turned out you can enable booting into Safe Mode from this command prompt.

All you need to do to enable Safe Mode is type the following at the command prompt:

X:\Sources>bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal

After entering the command, you should see a message that “The operation completed successfully.”

Close the command prompt window, which will then bring up the “Choose an option” screen. Remove the USB drive and then click “Continue.” This will cause the computer to reboot in Safe Mode.

  1. Once in Safe Mode, you want to run MSCONFIG.EXE again. Click on the Services tab and re-enable all of the services that were disabled.

We’re almost ready to reboot back into normal mode. There is a small chance, however, that you might be asked to enter a BitLocker recovery key during that process. Make sure you have that key before you reboot. If you don’t, you can login via safemode to the admin account and obtain it. As the admin account, run the Command Prompt as admin so it has elevated access.

Then, in the command prompt, type

manage-bde C: -protectors -get -type RecoveryPassword

Once you’re certain you have the recovery password safely recorded, go to MSCONFIG again and click on the “Boot Tab.” Uncheck the “Safeboot” boot option, and click “Apply.” You should be prompted to allow the computer to reboot.

If everything went correctly, you should now have a Windows machine that reboots with the services needed to login.

From there, I recommend firing up Chrome, going to Apple.Com, and buying a Mac.

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