I’ll admit it. I’ve been on the hate Microsoft bandwagon for a lot of years, in fact it started with Windows 95. In early 96, I figured it was time to dump the old TRS-80 and move on up to Microsoft Windows with the brand new copycat design from Apple. Took 2 days for the system to break down. Bundled everything back up in the box and headed back to the computer store. Couple of days later – after exhaustive testing – they used the technical term trash to describe the o/s. So they replaced the malfunctioning trash with a new machine and sent me on my way.
I managed to keep that machine going for the next eight years. A used one with the Millennium operating system filled in the gap until I bought my present computer with Windows 7 sometime around 2010. I’ve had my share of blue screens, frozen screens, mangled updates, disappearing programs, odd error messages, and various other abnormalities. All of which do nothing but cause you stress and the desire to heave the computer out the nearest window.
Despite not being a computer technician or having a programming background or any coding knowledge, I’ve somehow been able to keep these machines running. And never had to resort to visiting the local computer store to cure my problems. As always, the first rational trick has been to shutdown and restart. (And in case you’re wondering, I was never caught flat-footed with the power cord not plugged in.) Surprising how often this has worked even if I had to do it 3 or 4 times in a row. Searching out my problem on the web usually gave me either answers or some direction to follow. Plus if you can find them on their site, Microsoft has a bunch of Fix-It programs which can diagnose your computer and will even fix up errors all by themselves.
When all else failed, it was time to start up in safe mode. You know the one where you hold one finger over the F11 key (maybe), and use the other hand to start the computer. Then attempt to hit the key before the screen changes to the startup. Frustrating on those days when you are suffering from slow finger syndrome or hit the wrong key. Which means you get to sit patiently and go through the whole startup and shutdown process once again. If successful at the first go-round the screen gives you the choice of how you would like to start up Windows. Using the lengthy self diagnostic program became a lifesaver, as it not only located errors but fixed them. After which it prompted you to restart Windows. With luck, it always succeeded.
So a couple nights ago my wife walked in with her laptop and said there was a problem with the Windows 10 updates. I figured here we go again.The message said the computer was at risk because the monthly update had not installed. Taking the easy road I pushed the retry button and figured that would cure the problem. Oops, no. Not only would it not install, I discovered the previous two monthly updates had also not installed. Sensing impending disaster with Meltdown and Spectre on the loose – didn’t James Bond put those guys out of business years ago – time to do something immediately. I started looking for the internal troubleshooter programs when I noticed a link to Microsoft help on the page. Figuring why not give it a shot, I clicked on the button. Up popped a page where I discovered we could chat about our problem with a Microsoft technician.
Surprisingly, it only took three or four minutes to establish a conversation. I’ve become so used to either waiting an hour or getting cut off before help arrives, it was a shock when the first message popped up on screen. After the preliminary niceties, we got down to the business of trying to establish why the updates were not installing. Once he confirmed no third party antivirus software blocked the installation, the teckie requested permission to remote control the computer. No problem. Then it was sit and follow the dancing cursor. Several minutes passed by before the next message. The machine would shutdown, restart and the updates should load . Great. Once restarted, we notice the updates were reinstalling. We typed our thanks and goodbyes in the chat screen satisfied the glitch had been fixed.
Not so fast donkey breath! Updates finished and everything looked perfect. Clicked on the startup button, nothing happened. Clicked on the Edge browser, nothing, clicked on the Microsoft store, nothing either. In other words, all the programs on the computer are in prison behind the non-functioning Microsoft system. Luckily the Chrome browser would still respond and open from the taskbar. I had already looked online using my tablet and discovered it seems to be a common problem with Microsoft after some updates. First line of attack, restart the computer and hope for the best. Okay, that fix didn’t work. I was hesitant to follow some of the suggestions I found online, so why not establish another chat with a Microsoft technician. Yes, I could see a potential problem here as our last Fix-It session did not exactly end up successful. But what the heck you have to give it a try.
Thinking last time may have been an anomaly, I’m prepared to wait for quite a while to establish the chat session. Again I’m surprised. We’re typing away in under 5 minutes and I explained the new problem which resulted from the old problem. Another very friendly technician requested permission to establish a remotelink and within moments we’re up and running, with him at the controls. This time as I’m watching on screen, I can tell the little Microsoft Fix-It apps are not doing their job. Then he powered up the self diagnostic program which takes close to 30 minutes to complete. Sure enough at the conclusion, there are a couple of problems. Unfortunately, the program is unable to fix them and that seems to be it. Not all is lost though. Our techie says there is one perfect solution to the problem. Reinstall a new copy of Windows 10 over top of the existing one on the machine. Guaranteed it will toss out the corrupted parts and leave us with a perfect up-to-date operating system.
My first question was, how long is this going to take. Answer, 30 minutes to 1 hour with a good internet connection, 4 hours with a poor connection. Since I was uncertain what he meant by a good connection I hoped at least for a midpoint. After all, since the beginning of the first problem we were now four hours in to correcting the machine. As Windows 10 begins to download, my Microsoft technician is ready to sign off. He says all we have to do is tell the program to install once downloaded. Well that sounded easy. Once again we say thanks and goodbye and hope for the best.
It was now a few minutes after midnight. All I could do was sit and stare at the screen. Tried to keep track as the whirly thing kept spinning around updating the percentage of download. I had my Nexus but my eyes kept closing and my head drooped as I tried to stay conscious. Twenty minutes later, I realized the prompt to install Windows faced me on the screen. All I had to do is press “I Agree” to the 5 page disclaimer. Then I returned to my semi comatose state to wait for the installation to finish. The onscreen warning that the computer will restart several times kept me interested. Suddenly, minutes before the clock struck one, I realized I was staring at the startup screen. Everything updated and complete. Time to run the test. And with great fanfare I started clicking icons with the realization that every one of them now functioned.
By the next morning, I was beginning to think Microsoft may not be quite as evil as portrayed. Both technicians were friendly and helpful. Unlike some other online companies, they didn’t spend quiet moments doing a sales pitch. Even though it took the better part of five hours, the laptop now runs like a brand new machine. Plus no two or three days languishing in a shop awaiting repair. Oh, did I mention no charge – something to do with maladies from updates covered by your Windows 10 agreement. While I’m not ready to bow in obeisance in the direction of Redmond Washington, I’ve decided to jump off the bandwagon and observe from the sidelines for a while.