Vista Issue of the Day - Remote Desktop Kills Local Desktop

After upgrading my machine to Vista yesterday, I went home and connected to it via Remote Desktop (from an XP client). It worked fine. However, when I came in to work this morning, I found both my screens blank and unresponsive - I got a mouse cursor and that's it. I could still connect to the machine through Remote Desktop and all my apps were still running fine, but sitting down at the machine, I got nothing. The only thing I could do was remotely restart the machine.

My instinct is that it's a video driver issue, but that's just a guess. More experimenting is required.


  • I think it just might be a driver issue as I've been connecting via Remote Desktop and XP since the RTM was release on MSDN. What I have noticed, though, is that if I do remote in, when I come in the next morning, my LCD screen shows the login screen-saver. So, aside from slowly burning out my 4-year old LCD screen, not a problem :)

  • If it is a driver issue then the original Microsoft drivers (installed by default) for Nvidia card are broken too. This problem does not happen always; it seems to be more frequent after I started using new Terminal client with 32bit color depth and wide screen (1680 pixels, local LCD has only 1280). Sometimes I can see random windows. Their partial images are placed at the top right corner of the screen but they still respond to the mouse at their correct position. Some windows (including display preferences control panel) are not visible at all (they are blank or the whole screen is blank). Even session control screen (shown after pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del) has redraw problems (although the buttons images are correctly repainted when the mouse is moved over them). The hibernation does not fix the problem so it does not seem to be a hardware issue.

  • I am having the exact same problem described by Kevin. This is happening on two identical Lenovo machines with ATI video cards running Vista Business Edition. This blog posting is the only reference I have been able to find with the matching problem. Has anyone found a solution/fix/workaround?

  • I had this same problem, and finally figured out what was happening. I have a video card with dual-monitor output. However, I'm only using one of the outputs. Turns out my monitor is on output 2. Normally, this is fine (output 1 and output 2 are the same). However, after a remote desktop session, output 2 stops working. Switching the connection to output 1 took care of the problem.

  • I got this problem after upgrading to Vista sp1 release candidate. 64 bit , dualmonitor. ATI graphics card(Upgraded tot latest driver incase driver issue but didn't work).

    Havent found anything on why this happens.

    Remedy for know without reboot is to press sleep button on keyboard and wake computer the screen will work again.

  • Same issue here. Have been testing with several version of the nvidia forceware-drivers and mixing with the powersave options both in bios and in Windows Vista..
    But still sometimes after using RDP to the machine the screen never comes back to life.
    Currently using Vista with Sp1 RC.

    Regards, Magnus Finbom

  • I am having the same problem. One thing I have noticed is that if you log off through the remote(instead of just closing the connection) this problem goes away. Still very annoying...

  • Same problem here.
    When returning to office both monitors have black screen with only the cursor moving.
    Have dual screen setup on Vista Business sp1.

  • Don't know if this is a valid bug with MS and most may know this but if you get this screen, press CTRL+L to lock your computer and then type in your password to unlock again and that seems to make the screens work.

    (Obviously I suffer from this too)

  • Started seeing the same issue after installing Vista SP1 RC. I uninstalled the SP1 RC, and the problem went away.

  • Try this:

    First, download the free Autoruns program, which is made by Sysinternals (a Microsoft-owned company). Thanks to Scott Dunn, whose article "Fast Windows Fixes" in the latest issue of PC World recommended this program.

    Once you've downloaded and installed the program, right click on it and run it as an administrator.

    Next, once the program is running, you will see a list of all the start-up functions in the registry and elsewhere. You will probably want to look for places where it says a file that the registry is supposed to load is not found, and either uncheck that entry or change the location to the one where the file is, if it still exists on your computer.

  • Happens to me too...
    I have Vista Business 64 bit at office
    nVidia FX3500/4000
    Dual Displays (1600x1200 each)

    I go home and use a laptop with 1920x1200
    to rdesktop to my work system.
    It authenticates, but just gives me a black screen and a mouse.

    I come back to the office the next day and all I have is a mouse, nothing else.

    Have to reboot the system.

  • Same problem here. I remote into my Vista Ultimate box, single screen, and after I disconnect, I get the black screen after authenticating, either through RDP or locally, I get the black screen with mouse only.

  • I do have the same problem, Vista Business Edition, SP1 RC.

  • Hey,

    I'm suffering from a similar problem too on two separate computers, both with ATI Radeon cards and Vista Ultimate (no SP1).

    After RDC - sometimes but not always - the secondary display becomes black, with only the cursor showing (the primary display is typically unaffected).

    FYI - there *IS* a workaround that prevents you from having to reboot your system - go to the Device Manager, go to the ATI driver, disable it, wait until it's disabled, and re-enable. It takes about 20-30 seconds, significantly shorter and less painful than a reboot.

    The caveat - you might have to re-enable it blindly, since once disabled, you don't have a video driver... (you can use the keyboard to re-enable it, using the button that opens a context menu). YMMV - I'm actually getting basic video after disabling the ATI card since upgrading to Catalyst 8.2.

    The fact this problem can be solved by disabling and re-enabling the ATI driver makes me pretty confident this is a bug in Catalyst. Theoretically it might be a bug in the Vista video driver system but I think it's less likely. The description of the problem with the Nvidia card in this thread sounds like a separate corruption bug to me...

    I've opened a trouble ticket with ATI about this a few days ago and I'm hopeful they'll be able to figure it out.


  • Happening to me too. Using an Ati card and Vista x64 w/ SP1. I'm not sure if the primary display is affected, because that is a projector that is not on all the time. My short term fix may be to use a different remote desktop program given this is most likely a bug in ATI's driver.

    Zeev: Let us know what ATI says!

  • Out of curiosity - for those of you that are experiencing this problem - what kind of resolution(s) are you using?

  • Having the same issue
    Vista x64 SP1 (RTM)
    dual monitors 1680x1050 and 1280x1024
    nvidia geforce 8600gt

  • Folks, see Russell Davis's reply. You need to hook your display to the other display port.


  • Miko,

    It's great except it doesn't really solve the problem at all, if you have two displays and you want both to work as they should.

    UPDATE: I got a response from ATI. They say that they now believe this is an Operating System issue and therefore I should talk with Microsoft instead. The fact that there are a couple of Nvidia owners here that complain about the same problem may mean they're right (in fact I pointed them to this blog - so that may have been what made them decide that).

    Still - I'm not sure at all that this is really an OS problem. To the Nvidia users among you - can you elaborate on exactly what you're experiencing? The first Nvidia user describes what appears to be quite a different problem - a redraw of specific parts of the screen. I'm experiencing a completely black screen, cursor only.

    NVIDIA USERS: please send me any additional information you can. I really want to figure out whether this is an OS problem or an ATI driver problem. You can email me directly at

  • Completely black screen, have to kill explorer then restart for it to work again. Id say it works around 2 times before it will fail and force a restart.

  • Ive magically stopped having this issue, anyone else?

  • I'm still getting it, have been since I installed Vista Ultimate at RTM. Ati card, dual-monitor setup. I get black screens, no mouse cursors, not even a signal to monitors (power buttons on dell monitors go to orange). The only key that does anything is the ESC and it just makes my machine beep. I do have microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse, but had this problem before when I had a wired keyboard and mouse. I haven't installed vista SP1, hoped a fix would come with it but sounds like it's not there yet.

  • I changed the power management settings in my BIOS for the wake on lan and remote wake on lan to allow each...

    seems to have done the trick, I'll keep tunneling in to make sure.

  • Doh, happened again. I did find that when I get to the computer at home (blank screens) I can hit CTRL-ALT-Delete (as if the monitors were on), hit enter (as if I were selecting the current user logged in, and type my password followed by enter. Magically the screens come back to life then. Makes me think that the computer is not actually in sleep mode, it's just that the video card thinks it's in some power saver mode or something and shuts 'em off.

    I'm done trying to figure this out more, this workaround is good enough for me. hope it helps at least one person out there.

  • Nvidia user 8800gtx vista ultimate 64bit sp2... frantically looking for solution. None of the above seems to work for me, will come back if I find solution.

  • Did a series of attempts with no luck... reformat is my only option... I can now see my wonderful screens again.

    what a pain, been running vista for less than a month, I bought it over a year ago but feared installing it... strange huh?

  • my bad... vista sp1

  • Only solution I have so far is to set machine to sleep when I hit the power button, takes about 20 seconds. Then power up from sleep takes about 10 seconds. After that, screen is active.

  • Pretty much the same issue here. But when I go from remote to local, the system tells me that it's busy disconnecting a remote session. The only thing I can do is hard reset the machine. Happens everytime. Sucks.

  • Similar problem here. I can connect and it works great. As soon as I disconnect I can't reconnect (Says its busy processing a connect, disconnect...) and the only way to fix it is to hard boot the computer.

  • John S' workaround above of CTRL+ALT+DEL > Enter > then password seems to do the trick. I have disabled the additional resources and that did not do it for me.

  • I have the same issue myself. It's soooo frustrating. It appeared after running SP1.

    I contacted MS and they said it was my video driver. Every couple of months I run Windows Update and notice there's a new video driver, which I always upgrade to. I've also tried downloading the latest drivers from nVidia. Nothing helps.

    It fails about once a week, I use RDP daily. After it fails I end up shutting down with the pwr button. I can't make the black screen go away.

    I've even stopped displaying the desktop on both monitors, thinking that would help. Nope.

    It's got to be an OS bug.

    I will probably try the CTRL-ALT-DEL > Enter > Password trick and see if it works.

    -Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
    -Vista Ultimate
    -nVidia GeForce 8600
    -2 monitors


  • This issue is definitely an operating system issue. I'm a system admin for a large user base with different hardware through out the site. HP and Dells mostly; but with both ATI and Nvidia installed. This issue has started happening more frequently with no resolution from Microsoft...yet. I have a case open and it being worked on.

    RDP client connection info:
    The black screen is actually the Secure Desktop (the same screen that is shown when CTRL+ALT+DEL is pressed or UAC asked for permission) and this happens due to a timing issue with winlogon and atbroker.exe. Every so often the RDP session will give an error about an application failing to initialize. The work around, regardless whether the error message appears or not, is to CTRL+ALT+END and choose either Log Off or Task Manager.

    RDP host info:
    Black screen is still the Secure Desktop with winlogon running but is not rendered which is why CTRL-ALT-DEL > Enter > Password works.

    Microsoft has acknowledge the atbroker.exe issue but only during log off, see KB940542 for details. I'm trying to get MS to admit it is a bug so they don't charge me for the fix whenever that happens.

  • Same here, when I log onto my computer. A message saying "transitions accessible technologies between desktops has stopped working!"

    But Before all this started to happen. I had like 5 Trojan viruses. I removed the With Cox Security Suit from McAfee. The files that where infected I deleted. That's the only thing I could have done. Another prob I have is I cant log off to switch users. It just freezs. I Believe the two are related.

    Any who my system is a DELL Dimension C521 With Windows Vista.

    Here is the information it gives me...

    Problem signature:
    Problem Event Name: BEX
    Application Name: atbroker.exe
    Application Version: 6.0.6001.18000
    Application Timestamp: 47918c9b
    Fault Module Name: StackHash_e51a
    Fault Module Version:
    Fault Module Timestamp: 00000000
    Exception Offset: 77599491
    Exception Code: c0000005
    Exception Data: 00000008
    OS Version: 6.0.6001.
    Locale ID: 1033
    Additional Information 1: e51a
    Additional Information 2: 4c0d4d78887f76d971d5d00f1f20a433
    Additional Information 3: e51a
    Additional Information 4: 4c0d4d78887f76d971d5d00f1f20a433

    If anyone can help me please E-mail me I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks, Dude Man

  • (EDIT ABOVE) E-mail is

  • (A fallow up on my last post) The Ctrl-Alt-End workaround was no help I my case I'm afraid. However, I did find the solution! As the issue has only started happening in the last month I decided to uninstall all updates recently installed... Presto, problem solved !!!

    The updates in question are KB933566, KB929123, KB931213, KB905866, KB929762 & KB936825

    Hope this helps.

  • Hi, is there a way ro create a hotkey that will restart vista from the logon screen? (since it's black I can't select restart)

  • I'm having exactly the same problem.
    only that none of the above solutions work for me. My primary is blank, i can't use CRL+ALT+DEL, doesn't matter if i reboot. Only thing i can do is start in safe mode, disable ATI driver and then reboot. After that i need to uninstall the driver and install it again. Then i works, until i use rdc again that is.

    If anyone has found a solution for this problem, please post


  • God Vista sucks. Same problem here on a new ZTGroup Quadcore from Costco, all updates installed. All 5 of machines have the same problems. Also, spell checker is in French because Outlook doesn't support the spell checker on 2007 office. Excellent! Wish we could afford macs, but at this rate I think what would sysadmins do w/out a job?

  • Thanks John, I can confirm that the below works for me too. (Vista Business x64)

    # re: Vista Issue of the Day - Remote Desktop Kills Local Desktop@ Friday, April 25, 2008 6:34 PM

    Doh, happened again. I did find that when I get to the computer at home (blank screens) I can hit CTRL-ALT-Delete (as if the monitors were on), hit enter (as if I were selecting the current user logged in, and type my password followed by enter. Magically the screens come back to life then. Makes me think that the computer is not actually in sleep mode, it's just that the video card thinks it's in some power saver mode or something and shuts 'em off.

    I'm done trying to figure this out more, this workaround is good enough for me. hope it helps at least one person out there.

    John S

  • This problem of remoting to a machine only to get a blank screen ("Welcome" is briefly shown before the screen goes blank). My remote machine is Vista 64-bit w/ SP1, my client machine is Vista 64-bit w/ SP2. The Ctrl-Alt-End solution worked in my case.

  • I've just run into this problem recently and am happy to see I'm not the only one.

    I had been RDPing home from work for the past few years with no problems. However I just upgraded my PC to an Intel Core i5 cpu with an ASUS P7P55D EVO LGA 1156 motherboard. After a format and reinstall of Vista, the problem appeared. I recently upgraded to 7, and the problem persists. I'm able to get back onto my pc at home only by blindly typing in my password (im the only user). The interesting note is that if I dont RDP in and allow my monitors to sleep, both monitors come back on fine. The problem is ONLY after RDPing in, and only with the primary monitor. As far as I know, I installed the same Catalyst ATI driver that was on my original install, but can't say for sure. From my experience, this has to be a driver and/or hardware issue.

    If anyone finds a resolution, please share!

    Intel Core i5
    4gb DDR3
    Sapphire ATI 4870 HD 512MB

  • I log in correctly for example everything is OK but suddenly the desktop goes blank and in the lower left corner shows "show desktop" I return to desktop immediately by moving the mouse. I contacted Dell support but could not solve the problem.
    what is it?
    Windows 7 OS

  • I contacted MS and they said it was my video driver. Every couple of months I run Windows Update and notice there's a new video driver, which I always upgrade to. I've also tried downloading the latest drivers from nVidia. Nothing helps.

  • I'm trying to get MS to admit it is a bug so they don't charge me for the fix whenever that happens.

  • I have the same problem with Windows 7. I just tried the sleep / resume approach, but my power button is sticky on my Dell computer and now I've just shut down my computer improperly. Argh! I guess I'll try the remote logout approach next. I usually just close RDP, but might have to change my ways.

  • I've been having this issue also. I have a laptop and desktop both with Windows 7 (64-bit) Build 7600. I remote into my desktop from my laptop, everything works great. When I return to my room, all i have on my desktop is a cursor and black screen. I have a dual monitor setup on an ATI card. Clearly MS is taking it's time on this issue since they have rolled it from Vista right into 7.

  • I've noticed that the mouse only shows up on one screen and the other is in power saving mode. I mashed a bunch of buttons and now I have the accessibility lady telling me what is on the screen. She is not at all helpful though, i think i have a menu on the login screen open and she is reading it.

  • I put my desktop to sleep with my MCE remote, then woke it back up the same way. The login screen was on the monitor that was in power saver mode (not the one I could see the mouse on) and the accessibility menu was open.

    So try the following for workarounds:

    > put it to sleep / wake it back up
    > if not, hard power it down :(
    > when you get to where you can see the screen, log off and back on again multiple times until you are confident that you can do it blind

Comments have been disabled for this content.