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Monday, 04 June 2018 14:56

Microsoft, you broke my laptop


A windows 10 PC I have won't start properly and none of the users' files exist.

After considerable nagging, I finally relented and permitted the April update to proceed (not realising it was a major one).

The process took, perhaps, an hour. Eventually, the machine re-started.

First sign of a problem... the PC boots and says "Hi" and asks me to select a language. Hmmm, this isn't good.

I eventually convinced it to deliver a login screen (oddly with the original first-up image of the 2 small islands off the beach). Also not a good sign.

I logged in successfully to find a black desktop with ONLY a recycle bin. In addition, the screen resolution was much lower than usual. Also, networking was disabled.

After a few reboots, I randomly saw a variety of errors... for instance, a dialog box with "sihost.exe - System Warning" and contents of "Unknown Hard Error." This could not immediately be be acknowledged as the mouse was disabled, but eventually <ALT>+ Tab gave focus to the dialog and the key was able to acknowledge it.

The most common error I saw said, "C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\systemprofile\Desktop is unavailable. If the location is on this PC, make sure the device or drive is connected or the disc is inserted, and then try again. If the location is on a network, make sure you're connected to the network or internet, and then try again. If the location still can't be found, it might have been moved or deleted."

In many instances, the desktop was was never visible, simply showing a mouse cursor on a black background. Eventually, I was able to shut down with the power button. This looped me back to "Hi" again followed by the language and then a screen offering four choices:

  • Continue (Exit and continue to Windows Rollback) - I've tried this, it says there's no roll-back!
  • Use another operating system (Continue with another installed version of Windows) - yeah... who has that available?
  • Troubleshoot (Reset your PC or see advanced options)
  • Turn off your PC

Option 3 looked promising... it offers 5 choices:

  • System Restore (Use a restore point recorded on your PC to restore Windows) – tried that, I don't seem to have any (any more!)
  • Go back to the previous version – doesn't work!
  • System Image Recovery (Recover Windows using a specific system image file) – like I have one of those hanging around!
  • Startup Repair (Fix problems that keep Windows from loading) – that was no help.
  • Command Prompt – looks promising!

So, I opened the prompt and navigated to the user folders – EVERYTHING was gone. As was every installed program and there was no Windows.old folder to recover from.

While trying to repair the machine, I created (using Rufus) a bootable USB drive with Ubuntu on it in the hope that I might be able to access files that way. But having (finally) explored the system via the Command Prompt, I now know that is pointless.

This appears to be a very widespread problem. Interested readers might like to follow this pre-built search to see the extent of the complaints.

Most "troubleshooting sites" (this one included) are suggesting that there is no workaround. A full re-install is required. Of course, since this machine was upgraded to Win 10 during the "free period" I have no licence code that I can apply.

Microsoft – what will you do to fix this? I really would like my files back!


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.



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