I have three recent cases of Windows 8 computers being corrupted by Windows updates, to the point where only a Refresh or a Reset will fix the problem. Of course by the time I get them, it’s not possible for me to know the exact cause, so the previous statement is a well educated guess. It could be that the update fails for a physical reason, at least one of the computers had a disc with damaged sectors that could not be repaired, and there is no guarantee that updates were not being done with the machine unplugged either.
The symptoms in two cases were the computer trying to do an automatic system repair, which fails, so it tries to do it again and again. The reason the repair fails appears to be because the file system is corrupted beyond repair.
In one case, I was able to do a refresh of the system, retaining the customer data, and then clone the working system onto another hard drive (because of the faulty sectors).
In the second case, a system Refresh would not work, failing for the same reason – the file system corrupted beyond even this repair. The data was backed up and a Reset done to factory settings.
In the third case, the system decided that it was just too far gone all on its own, and did a system refresh without being asked. This is surprisingly difficult to diagnose, when the user is effectively computer illiterate.
In all three cases, after refreshing or resetting, the computers were all back at the factory fresh Windows 8 system, with no updates applied, and any applications loaded from disk etc, including office, antivirus etc just not present any longer. Again in all three cases, the 116 or so outstanding updates were automatically downloaded and installed, but something within them failed, and they were backed out. This can take several hours – very frustrating. As the Windows 8.1 upgrade will not work without some or all of the windows 8 updates, these all have to downloaded and installed again. The second time round it seems to work OK, possibly because of some sequence problem being resolved.
In two cases the windows 8.1 upgrade was not an issue, just a slow process with a 3.6GB download and a long install job (several hours). In one case however, the windows store app was not working correctly, and nothing I tried made any difference, until I gave up, installed Office 2013 Home and Student ready to give the computer back as a Windows 8 machine. By chance I tried the 8.1 upgrade, and after a couple of false starts, and another 5 hour install, it worked ok.
The machine that spontaneously refreshed and had problems with the 8.1 upgrade is also running a bit slow, so I may get the computer back and try a “chkdsk /r” on it to see if a faulty disc is the cause of all these problems.
So either Windows 8 updates are a load of rubbish, or they do not cope well with hardware problems. Hardware problems have always been an issue for updates, I have a Windows Vista machine in the shop at the moment with a faulty disk and exactly the same windows issues (all fixed now).
Incidentally, it is very important to know the difference between a refresh and a reset.
A refresh overwrites all the system software with a factory fresh image stored somewhere on the hard drive (in one of the other 6 partitions in the average Windows 8 HDD), removing all non Windows 8 apps such as office, Norton and other stuff. All user data and most settings are left on the system, so if Windows Live mail is being used it still works, if Office is being used, you have to go searching for the .pst files to get your emails working again. I don’t fully trust the refresh option, I am not convinced that all user information is retained correctly, and I try to do a backup before doing a refresh.
A reset is used to completely blow away the existing windows system and all user data, and return the computer to “out of the box” condition. It is essential before doing this that all user data is saved on another HDD somewhere so that it can be reapplied to the reset computer. This may only be possible by taking the hard drive out of the machine and plugging it into another machine and extracting the data from the relevant directories. Prepare yourself for a lot of work rolling forward if you have to do this!