Fix Windows XP Log On/Log Off Loop

I’ve run into this issue so many times while fixing client computers and it seems like every time I do a search for a fix, I get a different answer each time and sometimes, the fix works, sometimes it doesn’t. Well today, my troubles are over! And hopefully yours as well.

I found this ridiculously organized and thorough tutorial over at DanFischbach.com that should fix this problem 99% of the time. In fact, if it can’t fix this issue, you’re better off restoring your system. When you’re done with that, give your pc to your little cousin and buy yourself a Mac. 😉

Anyway, moving on…this guide was written by Dan Fischbach way back in 2006, but for all you Vista-haters out there, it’ll still hold up today. I’m not going to re-post the multi-page guide here, but I will provide a mirror for at least one of the large downloads required for the repair to work.

To see the guide, click here. To download the needed disc images, see below.

Windows Vista Recovery Disc (Direct download removed due to Microsoft copyright claim) — 120Mb
Save Me Disc — For good reasons, I won’t be posting a download of the second disc. As it often changes, it would be a much better idea to download it directly from the source.

*If the link above is not there, the mirror is not available at the moment. Try again later.

Here’s something you can try if you don’t want to go through the whole guide. Sometimes, the problem is just a quick fix. Please note that if you follow the guide, this fix is performed automatically. It’s still advised to follow the full guide!

I’ve seen quite a few infected computers lately that have some type of virus that changes the registry key for the USERINIT.EXE file which is what’s used to log you into user accounts.

In the registry, you’ll find the key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrent VersionWinlogon

Within that key, USERINIT should be referenced like this:

C:WINDOWSsystem32userinit.exe, (<–With the comma)

If you’re infected, it most likely points to WINLOGON32.EXE or something else. If it looks right, but you still can’t log in, you might have a corrupted (or missing) USERINIT.EXE file. You can fix this file a number of ways:

  • Copy one from another similar machine (Same OS version, same service pack)
  • Retrieve it from the i386 folder (either on disc or from the root of your computer if it’s there)
  • Run this command after placing your XP disc in the computer: sfc /scannow

You may ask how to edit the registry when you can’t log into Windows! You will need to have a “PE disc” of some sort like Bart’s PE or the Ultimate Boot Disc. PE simply stands for Preinstalled Environment and it allows you to essentially load a temporary OS from a CD or DVD disc to enable you to access the “broken” OS for repairs. You can also use discs like these for data backups and a whole lot more.

13 thoughts on “Fix Windows XP Log On/Log Off Loop

  1. Hello,
    The Windows Vista Recovery Disc I have no problem with you mirroring, as it is made available by Microsoft, but please do not mirror the Save Me disc. It changes over time, and it’s one more thing for you to manage. However, I do appreciate your enthusiasm for the fix. If you liked the fix, please consider donating if you haven’t already to help with server costs.

    Also, the guide has been revamped completely over the past few months, and it is only 7 pages not 11. I will delete those other pages in time as they are simply old instructions.

    Lastly, it’s ThinkinginPixels.com, not ThinkingPixels.com.

    Thank you,
    Dan Fischbach

  2. Hey there Brandon,
    PS; Please change “the source” link to not have “5/” at the end in case the guide moves to another domain. I can redirect it easier this way.

    Thanks for your cooperation! 🙂 I’ll let you know if anything in the guide changes that makes your post out-of-date.
    Dan Fischbach

  3. Hey there Brandon,
    FYI, the SaveMe disc takes care of the registry key and the missing userinit.exe file. Also, the guide’s address/location has been updated. If you click on the old link for the guide, you’ll see that it’ll bring you to the new link.

    Thanks!
    Dan Fischbach

  4. Yeah, I posted that step mainly for my own knowledge as well as for anyone who didn’t want to go through the guide. I updated the link and added a note saying that your guide/tools take care of that process automatically.

    Thanks.

  5. PS: Thank you for providing a mirror for the Vista Recovery Disc. Do you want me to link directly to the file (hotlink) and make you an official mirror on my guide? I would be glad to if your server can handle the extra bandwidth. Also, they don’t need to use a BartPE CD to edit the registry. I am working on redoing the SaveMe application to make it easier for everyone to do common tasks.

  6. Thanks! Last month, my fix alone caused almost 1 TB of bandwidth. Crazy. You’ve been thanked on the Thanks page as well.

  7. dan fischback… YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE!

    where the hell is your "oh so well explained fix" for the logon/off problem?! i go to your site and it is literally… a mess. these step by step instructions are not there. why did you take them down?!

    1. I can't speak for Dan, but I can say that it has been a long time since I wrote this article, so it appears that a lot has changed on Dan's website. However, I think he made those changes so people would stop asking the same questions over and over.

      If you click on the link I provide to his website, just start the process by clicking the "Click here to start" link and begin the process of answering the questions. At the end, you'll be presented with the final page that's tailored to your specific problem and OS.

      Here's a quick shortcut for the majority of problems people are having on Windows XP: http://saveme.danfischbach.com/cddvd3

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