20 fixes for a Windows 10 update meltdown

Latest Win10 update got you fuming? Here’s how to get your PC back on track

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Step 5: Look at the log and see if you can find anything weird. Generally, an EventID of 10001 is nothing to be concerned about. An EventID of 7 indicates a bad sector on your hard drive -- run chkdsk (see “Check for mundane hardware problems” at the beginning of this article).

If you encounter an Event ID that doesn’t ring a bell, try looking it up on the EventID.net website. Garden-variety events are a dime a dozen. But there’s a tiny chance you’ll stumble into something that will lead to a fix.

Refresh the built-in Windows programs

After the sfc /scannow run, this is the second-most-common general recommendation for fixing a bad Win10 cumulative update. It reaches into your computer, looks at each app installed in your user profile, and re-installs a fresh, supposedly glitch-free copy.

Although it sounds like the process will fix only errant built-in Windows apps, users report it fixes all manner of problems with Win10, including icons that stop responding, Start menu and Cortana problems, balky apps, and halitosis.

The approach uses PowerShell, which is a world unto itself -- a very powerful command-line adjunct to Windows 10. Here’s how to refresh all sorts of apps, possibly knocking the Start menu and Cortana back into shape, in the process:

Step 1: Right-click Start and choose Command Prompt (Admin).

Step 2: In the Admin (elevated) Command Prompt, type powershell and press Enter. That brings up PowerShell. You get a window that looks a lot like a Command Prompt window, except PS appears before the name of the current directory.

Step 3: Copy and paste this text:

Get-AppXPackage -AllUsers | Foreach {Add-AppxPackage -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register "$($_.InstallLocation)\AppXManifest.xml"}

into the PowerShell window and press Enter. It’s all one line. Don’t try to type it.

Step 4: You’ll see a bunch of red error messages. Don’t panic! Ignore them, even the ones that say, “Deployment failed with HRESULT: blah blah. The package could not be installed because resources it modifies are currently in use” or “Unable to install because the following apps need to be closed.”

Step 5: When the Get-AppXPackage loop finishes -- even with all the red warnings -- you’ll be returned to the PS PowerShell prompt. “X” out of the Command Prompt, reboot, and see whether the demons have been driven away.

Surprisingly, that approach seems to clean up some Start, taskbar, and Cortana problems. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve now undertaken the second standard approach (after sfc /scannow) that you’ll find offered nearly everywhere.

Look at Task Manager

If sfc and Get-AppXPackage don’t work, it’s possible that a renegade program is taking over your machine, freezing up the parts that should be running smoothly. Nothing beats a visual check.

Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc to bring up Task Manager (see screenshot).

Windows 10 Task Manager

Take a look at the listed Apps and Background processes. Does anything look totally out of whack?

If you find an app or process that’s taking up 50 percent of your CPU or beating your disk to death, you should focus on that app or process. Check with the software vendor, in particular, to see whether they know of any reason why the latest cumulative update is driving their program bonkers.

Don’t be too surprised if Service Host: DCOM Service Process Launcher has taken over your CPU. If that’s your problem, the current best advice is to run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool to gather information about the problem (see the next section), then roll back the cumulative update and block it with Wushowhide, as described in the sections “Make sure your problem is the patch” and “Break out of the endless updates” earlier in this article.

Run a DirectX Diagnostic test

The most common source of problems with the DCOM Service Process Launcher red-lines (see the preceding section) is DirectX, the set of system calls that Windows uses to run multimedia. If you have reason to suspect DirectX, try dislodging the problem with the DirectX Diagnostic Tool:

Step 1: In the Cortana search box type dxdiag.exe and press Enter. Windows will take a while to examine your system, then toss up a screen like the one in the screenshot.

Step 2: Click on each of the tabs -- Display, Sound 1, Sound 2, Input, and any others -- and look in the Notes box at the bottom to see whether any problems were encountered.

Windows 10 DirectX Diagnostic Tool

Step 3: If you found problems with a specific hardware device, check the manufacturer’s website to see whether there’s a newer version of the driver available. If so, install it and pray. If not, look in the section “Where to get more help” at the end of this article to tell Microsoft all about it.

Run a NetTrace

If you’re having trouble with Wi-Fi or you can’t connect to a network by other means, your first step is to check the router and make sure other devices can still get in.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, you can run a NetTrace, which looks into all sorts of networking nooks and crannies. The problem with a NetTrace is that normal people can’t do much with it. You can run Microsoft’s Network Monitor (download on MSDN) to look inside the file, but most of it’s gibberish to those who don’t speak IP natively.

If you want to try, it’s easy:

Step 1: Right-click Start and choose Command Prompt (Admin).

Step 2: In the Admin (elevated) Command Prompt type:

netsh trace start wireless_dbg capture=yes

Press Enter. NetTrace will do its thing, as you can see in the screenshot.

Windows 10 NetTrace

Step 3: When your system comes back up for air, type:

netsh trace stop

It takes a while, but eventually Netsh packs up all of its report and sticks it in a NetTrace.etl file, in the location noted in the Command listing.

You can try to pry the file open with Microsoft’s Network Monitor. More likely, you’ll end up sending it off to a Microsoft tech, who may be able to parse it. See “Where to get more help” at the end of this article.

Check your Device Manager

Many problems can be traced back to non-Microsoft peripherals with drivers that don’t work right. (Many can be traced back to Microsoft peripherals that don’t work right, too, but I digress.)

First stop for bad devices is the Device Manager, and it hasn’t changed much since Windows XP.

Step 1: Right-click on the Start icon and choose Device Manager.

Step 2: Look for yellow Exclamation! icons.

Step 3: If you find any, double-click on the device that’s causing problems, click the Driver tab, and see whether you can find a newer driver, typically on the manufacturer’s website.

Make sure the new driver works better than the old one -- Google is your friend -- and that it’s specifically designed for Windows 10. Failing that, usually Win 8.1 and Win 7 drivers work, but ya never know for sure.

Troubleshoot printers

If you can’t get a printer to work and everything else looks OK, try removing and re-installing the printer. Sometimes that works, frequently it doesn’t. Here’s how:

Step 1: Click Start > Settings > Devices.

Step 2: In the Printers & scanners section (see screenshot), click on the printer that isn’t behaving.

Windows 10 Printers & Scanners

Step 3: Click Remove device.

Step 4: Let the device manager do its thing and reboot. (The reboot may not be technically necessary, but it won’t hurt.)

Step 5: Add the device back. Click Start > Settings > Devices. In the Printers & scanners group, on the right, click Add a printer or scanner.

Chances are very good Windows will find the printer and install the driver automatically. If it doesn’t, you may have to click the link “The printer that I want isn’t listed” then follow the instructions to specify a shared printer, to use manual settings, or to get help.

Re-install missing programs

The cumulative update installers are notorious for wiping out specific programs that you may rely on -- old versions of Norton Security, Speccy, CPU-Z, even the AMD Catalyst driver control center. It’s boorish behavior, but Microsoft has a reasonable excuse -- the eliminated programs, typically older versions, crash Windows 10. Or so it’s said.

The best solution in every case is to download and install the latest version of the zapped-out program. In every instance I know about (admittedly, a small subset of all known problems), the vendor has updated its program to work with Windows 10.

Re-install the program, and get on with your life.

Roll back to a previous restore point

Lots of people report that installing the latest cumulative update zaps out their restore points. I don’t think anyone has ever gotten to the bottom of that problem. But if you’re ready to throw in the towel and re-install Windows 10, you should first take a minute (or 10 or 20) to see whether your computer can be saved by restoring to an earlier restore point.

Here’s how:

Step 1: In the Cortana search box type restore point and press Enter.

Step 2: In the System Properties dialog box, on the System Protection tab, at the top click System Restore. Windows will show you a dialog like the one in the screenshot.

Windows 10 System Restore

Step 3: System Restore will show you the latest restore point. Don’t be too surprised if it’s from a long time ago -- Windows 10 rarely takes restore points unless you tell it to. (I talked about setting up restore points, File History, and system protection settings, in the original Windows 10 Tour. If you haven’t set up File History, now’s a good time to do so.)

Step 4: If you feel comfortable turning all of your registry settings back to the date and time noted, click Next. Otherwise, click the radio button marked “Choose a different restore point,” and go fish for something more to your liking.

Using a restore point won’t fry any of your data, but it may change file associations, and you may have to re-install programs after you use it. Chris Hoffman at How-To Geek has a good overview.

Re-install Windows 10

Ready to toss the damn computer out the window? Yeah. Been there, hurled that. Figuratively, of course.

Fortunately, as long as you’ve installed Windows 10 once on your computer, and you haven’t changed any major hardware (say, the motherboard), re-installing Windows 10 and making it “genuine” is easy. Keeping your data and programs, that’s not so easy.

Win10 has the ability to nuke itself from afar, and if you decide to toss in the blanket, that should be your first approach, if you can get Win10 to work at all. Click Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery, and click the button under “Reset this PC” that says “Get Started.” You see the ominous message shown in the screenshot.

Windows 10 Rest this PC

Try the first option first (“Keep my files”) -- it’ll reset the system files, pull your apps, re-install the registry, but leave your data intact. If that doesn’t work, back up everything you can get your hands on, then come back to this point and click “Remove everything.”

If you can’t boot Windows or get it to the “Reset this PC” setting, use a different PC and follow the instructions on the Windows 10 Software Download page to create a file on a USB or DVD that you can use to boot and install Windows 10. The version of Windows 10 that you install may not be the latest, but after you go through one update cycle (Start > Settings > Update & security > Check for updates) you’ll be caught up with the latest.

You won’t get your data or your other programs back, but Win10 should install fine.

Walk away and forget it

It’s good to keep a little bit of perspective. If the latest cumulative update won’t install (or breaks something) and you can get your machine back to a normal state -- using, perhaps the uninstall/Wushowhide sequence described at the beginning of this article -- you should seriously consider doing nothing.

I know it’s heresy, but the most recent cumulative update doesn’t necessarily fix anything you need (or want!) to have fixed immediately.

Yes, there are security patches tossed into the giant cumulative update maw, but Microsoft doesn’t bother to split those out and let you install them separately. You’re stuck with an undifferentiated massive mess of fixes and security patches that may or may not be important for you.

There’s no penalty for sitting out this particular cumulative update. The next one will come along, usually within a month, likely on Patch Tuesday (the anointed second Tuesday of the month) and it may well treat you and your machine better.

Or maybe not.

Get more help

When the April cumulative update, KB 3147458, came out, a Microsoft engineer named John Wink took to the Microsoft Answers forum, the TechNet forum, Twitter, and Reddit, offering to help with any problems. It was a noble effort of unprecedented goodwill that should be lauded, but John was completely overwhelmed from the get-go. My guess, at this point, is that John -- along with his able sidekick Stephanie Anderl -- is drowning under many, many thousands of complaints.

John, and his bosses at Microsoft, simply underestimate the magnitude of the problem. Instead of putting one or two people out there to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged customers, there should be a platoon of Win10 hotshots -- a division, an army. If Microsoft wants to convince people that Windows 10 is ready for prime time, they need to start putting support money where their business plans are.

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