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Balky Mobo Caused Insider Boot Woes

I just got finished rebuilding my test desktop Windows Insider PC. This system was set up for dual boot, actually. It could boot either Current Branch (1703/Build 15063) or Insider Preview (Enterprise Build 16179). I’d been having terrible boot issues lately trying to manage both boots. That’s because the Windows Installer happily trashes dual-boot setups when it performs a feature upgrade. That makes rebuilding the boot files and boot configuration data a necessary follow-up. Given the frequency of feature upgrades in the Insider Program, that drove me bonkers. When I replaced some hardware, I determined that my (former) balky mobo caused Insider boot woes galore. A motherboard swap set things right. Let  me explain…

How Do I Know a Balky Mobo Caused Insider Boot Woes?

I’d been having problems getting the system to boot into the BIOS for some time. Even the maker’s “Boot to UEFI” function was hit or miss. I ran that MSI Z87-G45 board for just over three years, but recently it started getting wonky. Eventually, I found myself in a situation where if I tried to boot with any SATA drives attached, the board would hang with a SATA device error code (A2). But with no SATA devices attached, it would hang with a USB error code instead (99). Ouch!

Alas, you can’t boot a system that can’t get past the error codes. That’s when I decided to purchase a new motherboard, so I could reclaim most of the components at a modest cost. Because I chose an Asrock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer, I also decided to spring for an M.2 NVMe SSD (a Samsung 951) to replace the mSATA Samsung 840 EVO I’d been using in the previous build. I confirmed my initial diagnosis when the new build fired right up, upon inserting the CPU, RAM, and the 1703 boot drive into the new motherboard. I didn’t even have to reinstall Windows 10, though I did have to go through some contortions to get the new install activated. For the first time, the activation troubleshooter didn’t automatically activate my install when I clicked the “hardware changes” button. I’m guessing it was because I was using an MSDN key that had been auto-upgraded from Windows 8. But I still have MSDN keys for Windows 10 Pro available, so burned another one of those…

With a combination of nice features and a good price ($140), I pick the Asrock Z97 Fatal1ty Killer.

Not Quite Home Just Yet, Though

I switched from an mSATA to an NVMe SSD for the other part of the dual boot: Windows 10 Enterprise Insider Preview. That meant I wanted to perform a clean install to a brand-new drive. Wouldn’t you know it? Microsoft has turned off Insider Preview ISO downloads at the moment, and I can’t find them anywhere for that reason. Even the usually infallible HeiDoc.Net Windows and Office ISO Downloader comes up blank for Insider Preview items right now. No sooner than is one problem solved, than another jumps up to take its place. To be continued…