Saving Uranus

posted on 16 Jun 2020 | Software

So I'm finally getting myself a new computer. Had it all figured out - new off-lease desktops were coming available for my kids, and I was going to buy myself a brand-new gaming machine. No hard feelings because everybody's getting a new machine at once.

Just had to wait until August.

Which is why it's awesome that my kids' computer (named Uranus) died. And died in an infuriating way - it was murdered by its own software.

See, suddenly my son was upset that he couldn't open the shutdown menu. Or search the start menu. On closer examination, the problem was pervasive - couldn't open sub-menus in start, couldn't use the address bar in IE, couldn't open uninstall dialogs in the add/remove program screen. Any new-windows-UI screen that tried to create a floating widget failed.

So I went through the expected stack of approaches that every forum will rattle off:

  • sfc /scannow
  • dism (both variants)
  • various built-in troubleshooters
  • installing all updates
  • uninstalling recent updates
  • a big crazy powershell scripts that reinstalls as much of the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps.
  • switching to other user profiles - each of my children have their own user account and they all have this bug
  • turning off all startup programs in task manager restart with msconfig with all non-microsoft services turned off
  • safe mode... which worked! But you can't live in safe mode.
  • reinstall the OS (without removing software)

Aside, "" should be renamed "questions" because there are a lot of people asking things there and not a lot of answers besides "sfc /scannow".

Ultimately, this came down to "okay, let's reinstall windows". Which sucked because it meant sitting down with each of my kids and backing up their stuff.

Even that didn't work.

I pulled out all the stops. I crawled through procmon and process explorer. I tried rolling back windows versions (couldn't do it). So many infuriating obstacles - the CD/DVD drive acted up, I couldn't boot from USB.

Eventually, in a moment of frustration, I gave my PC a thump on the top. And that knocked the dvd out of its tray. So it got scratched up, and I didn't even have a windows DVD. Did you know you can only burn the official windows ISOs to dual-layer DVDs? They're bigger than 4.7GB now. Somehow, though, Windows Home can burn images of itself, and they're smaller than 4.7GB.

In the end, I considered it a huge victory when I got it back to its old broken state. I think it was windows update 2004 that broke it, but I no longer care enough to find out.

So that was my weekend. The plus side is I'm getting a new computer so I can hand-down my old one.

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