Installing Visual Studio 2017 Community edition on Windows 10 1607 (Anniversary Update) could break your boot process

Well, that’s a long title. I decided to give Xamarin a shot for cross-platform Android and iOS development a couple of days ago which led me to install the Visual Studio 2017 Community edition. I performed a basic installation with only Xamarin selected (I already have the Android SDK and NDK, so I unchecked those). The installation was successful and my system ran fine until the next day when I tried to launch a VirtualBox VM. This failed with an error stating that it was unable to start, asking me to check my VBoxHardening.log file. I couldn’t make any sense of the last entry in relation to starting to VM, so I decided to try the good old solution to everything.

I restarted my laptop, only to be greeted with a blue screen of death and the stop code: CRITICAL_SERVICE_FAILED. I tried restarting a couple more times and was greeted with the same error. I went through the usual troubleshooting process. I tried:

  • Using startup repair. This failed spectacularly with an error asking me to check C:\Windows\System32\LogFiles\Srt\SrtTrail.txt. The last line in this file started with: Unknown bugcheck: 0x5A param 0x1 xy. Searching for this led me to try some startup options.
  • Tried to use System Restore, but it turned out I didn’t have any restore points. I probably disabled this due to the Windows taking up more and more space on the SSD partition created for the OS. Why?!
  • Tried to boot into Safe Mode after startup repair. Got the same CRITICAL_SERVICE_FAILED blue screen.
  • Based on some of the search results I found for the bugcheck error in #1, I tried booting with the Driver Signature Verification option disabled and this worked. However, I got an popup error that nvcpl.dll (NVIDIA Control Panel-related) failed to start, and my WiFi device wasn’t working (failed to start error in device manager). I updated my WiFi driver which seemed to fix the WiFi device problem, but I didn’t bother rebooting to test it out.

Trying to remember the last major change I made to my computer, I figured it must have been the VS2017 installation from the day prior that may have interfered with certain things. This led to me searching for a combination keywords related to Visual Studio 2017 breaking Windows 10, which led to me a reddit thread with 2 people having encountered something very similar: install VS2017 Community Edition, CRITICAL_SERVICE_FAILED blue screen of death upon next boot. Installing the Windows 10 Creator’s Update fixed the problem for them, and I tried the exact same thing. And that worked. I no longer have any problems booting. And VirtualBox works fine too.

So, if you would like to install Visual Studio 2017 Community edition, make sure you upgrade to the Windows 10 Creator’s Update first. I was able to do this using the Windows 10 Update Assistant. Steps to fix if you encounter the BSOD boot loop:

  • Boot with Driver Signature Verification disabled.
  • Download the Windows 10 Update Assistant and upgrade to Windows 10 Creator’s Update.
  • Reboot as many times as you like after the upgrade is complete.

No idea if it’s a combination of hardware or software and drivers installed on my notebook, a Lenovo Y700, that caused this issue, but it’s 2017 and I just find it bizarre how installing VS2017 which is meant to be a developer tool should affect the Windows boot process. But hey, if you do encounter the issue, now you know what to do!

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