Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Windows 10 crash.

More like a fizzle, really. By last Monday it was most programs refusing to launch though a few would. I purchased a utility with high recommend from a reliable computer advice site but despite a nine-hour "transfer" process it failed to transfer 95% of my loaded programs. The idea was to reinstall or reset Windows 10 without having to go through the extreme hassle of reinstalling my programs.

I did a "reset" of Windows which is easy to do using your installed Windows software, though getting "restart" from the Start/Power option to materialize was one of the problems I was having. Once you can get to it (after multiple restarts, perhaps), holding the shift key and clicking on "restart" gets you to the troubleshooting/recovery screen you want. From there you can do your reset.

I felt uneasy about the results of the reset. It seemed like not all problems were solved but I can't recall the particulars at this time after a lifetime of multiple reboots and researching the arcana of the latest and most greatest of Windows versions. I think Firefox was behaving oddly as I recall. Among other things.

So I opted for a fresh re-install of Windows and am glad I did. In the process of doing this I discovered the mysteries of ISO files, which make your 8MB thumb drive act like a new attached drive rather than an attached storage device. Whether that's accurate I don't know but when you download the installation files from Microsoft you save them to a blank thumb drive with at least 8MB of capacity and when that's finished you "unmount" the thumb drive rather than just "eject" media. It's something you do through Explorer rather than through the taskbar option marked "^".

That's a pretty neat service offered by Microsoft. It's a free download. You plug the now-unmounted drive into a USB port on your sick computer and reboot. Windows 10 comes with the necessary executable to recognize this new "drive" and you don't have to fiddle with your BIOS settings to make the new "drive" a boot drive. Just navigate to the drive after you boot up again and click on "setup" and next step is a fresh install of Windows. Your installation key is apparently recoverable by Windows but it's a good idea to make sure you have available elsewhere, as is true of all your installed programs.

You can choose to keep your files even though it's a clean Windows install but you should have your files backed up on an external drive just to be safe. I like Karen's Replicator as a data backup tool. It saves your files "as is" so you just search for whatever file you want in the backup set on the external drive and that's the file without compression or proprietary encryption.

Western Digital "My Passport" drives are excellent and though you have to use their backup software to restore any files it's not that difficult. But I do like the simplicity of Karen's Replicator.

You'll have to define several backup tasks or jobs to get that to work but it will be good for you to locate your data "family jewels" and make active decisions about what you want to keep. Include your Desktop, your obvious data files, as well as your email messages and profile, your browser profile (which with Firefox includes your bookmarks), and the jobs that Karen's Replicator creates in C:\Users\[User name]\AppData\Local\Karen's Power Tools\Replicator\. It takes a bit of thought and a little effort to define your jobs and why not save them just in case?

After you re-install Windows but before you start re-installing or downloading files, I recommend that you create a restore point so you have a way of getting back to the most pristine of installations. These tend to be deleted by Windows in a fairly short time but I suppose if you allot 30 or 40MB for the storage of restore points they'll last longer.

I didn't do the restore thing as I just recommended but what I did do was re-install my MS Office 2003 files and make sure that my autocorrect files and macros were back and that backup frequency, file locations, template locations, and autosave file locations were as before per personal preference. THEN I made a backup by creating a disk image on my humongous external hard drive so I can restore a nearly-pristine version of Windows plus my most important working files. That takes a lot more time than creating a restore point but it's quite easy and worth your time to figure out and do.

Your autocorrect files are stored in a file called MSO1033.acl and, after you reinstall Office, copy your backup copy to C:\Users\[User name]\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Office. MSO1033.acl is one of those files that are down the rabbit hole of the "User" folder and its bewildering warren of data files and settings so search it out and back it up. My Thunderbird email profile/files are down that dark and mysterious hole but they're now being backup by Karen's Replicator.

Some people may use Auto Text in the way that I use autocorrect in which case this link may be helpful: useful link here. Subscribe to Mr. Wyatt's newsletter if you go there. He has lots of good info about tweaking and troubleshooting all versions of Microsoft Word.

On Word macros, I believe they're stored in your Normal.dot template file. My macros came back with my simply selecting the template folder (called "Template") of my creation under Tools/Options/File locations/User templates. That folder is the one that has Normal.dot in it and so my macros reappeared.

I'm glad I went with a clean relnstall as I've got an essentially new computer back. I don't like having to reinstall programs but then I had a lot of programs installed over the years that I don't use. I'll re-install selectively as needed which will keep the bloat down and that won't be such an arduous task as trying to re-install all at once.

A PS on reinstalling Firefox. I encountered the situation where it would appear as a process under Task Manager but not launch or I'd get a message that a copy of Firefox is already running when I'd try to launch it. Making sure that the template folder is not marked "read only" is the key here. Uncheck that option under file "properties" and answer "yes" to whether all subordinate files/folders should also be readable.

A PPS: I think highly of the Everything search utility. It's free and if you make sure it's part of Startup under Task Manager it will keep its index up to date and it's WAY faster than the native Explorer option. Maybe the latter does better if you elect to have Explorer index your folders. Everything just seems simpler to me and I like being able to do stuff outside of Windows's clammy embrace. YMMV.

All told, about five days to go through all this but then, like Harvey Weinstein, I was feeling my way along at every step.


HoundOfDoom said...

Good job. My restore process is pretty similar. When Win goes bad, best to nuke the site from orbit and reinstall.

I have critical data backups on dropbox and carbonite for versioned backup.

Thanks for the tips on utilities.

Steve S said...

Having gotten tired of doing this nearly every year I switched to Linux/Ubuntu over 10 years ago. All your files (apps, everything) are in one folder. Simple backup. Also it's much more stable, as in I've not had to nuke from orbit.

Col. B. Bunny said...

HoD, nuke from orbit is hilarious. Very apt.

Steve, I've wondered about Linux and how Windows apps behave with it installed. I have a pal with Linux experience and will have to quiz her. Anything to chip away at the MS, Google, PayPal, etc. monopoly just has to be good.

Linda Fox said...

I'm still using my Macbook (bought in 2013, still working quite well). When it dies, I'm probably going to go with a Linux laptop for convenient travel. As well as using my Linux Raspberry Pi, which is cheap, easy to use, and less bloated.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Linux sounds intriguing. I've been aware of it but perhaps unreasonably assumed that my favorite video and graphics apps that I'm sure are tuned for Windows would not work well on top of Linux. Investigation must be made.

My most antiquated apps are Word 2003 and MS Money 2001. Both work fine even now. What with my beloved '89 Honda owned since new I'm sitting pretty.

Steve S said...

Programs designed for Windows won't run on Linux anymore than they will on Mac. Not directly. I don't mess with running a Windows environment app on other platforms.

As for MS Office, the Linux world has alternatives. LibreOffice comes with the Ubuntu distribution and can read/write MS Office file formats including MS Access. The Linus world has apps for pretty much everything that Windows does. Main drawback is sharing Windows app files (outside of Office) with other users.

I bought a Windows laptop (happens to be Win 8) which I had Ubuntu set up as a dual boot. I can boot up either Linux or Windows. You also have the choice of eliminating Windows when you install the Ubuntu package. Ubuntu is free for personal use and seems to be the easiest Linux package to use.

Col. B. Bunny said...

Thanks, Steve. I was pretty sure that going down that road almost certainly involved abandonment of my suite of working graphics, video, and word processing apps, plus assorted utilities. If I don't load my system with every extra that comes with Corel software, etc., I can probably keep the pain of reinstalling Windows to a minimum. Restore the disk image I mentioned and reinstall a few work horse programs and I'm probably in pretty good shape.