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Win10 Upgrade Repair Install Tips

Last Friday afternoon, I went ahead and did what’s called an “upgrade repair install” (URI) on my production desktop PC. For historical reasons I’m running the current production of Windows 10 Enterprise, x64, EN-us (US English). Recently, the machine has been acting up a bit, primarily with issues related to the Windows UI. I’ve noticed interesting and odd behaviors on the tool/notification bar, some flakiness in IE, Edge, Chrome and Firefox, and more. Nevertheless, file checks with SFC and integrity checks with DISM turned up clean. Under those circumstances, says conventional wisdom, this system is a prime candidate for a URI. Now that I’ve just finished one, I’m pleased to share some Win10 Upgrade Repair Install tips. And, just for the record, a URI simply involves using the upgrade facility built into the Windows 10 installer to re-install (upgrade) the same OS on top of itself. This replaces older, possibly corrupted OS files with brand spanking new ones while leaving applications and user files alone and untouched.

Setting the Stage for Win10 Upgrade Repair Install Tips

There are several conditions one must meet before an upgrade repair install can do its thing. First, a URI won’t work unless the target Windows 10 image still runs well enough to launch setup.exe. (That’s the Windows 10 program that oversees and coordinates OS installation). Second, you must use an installer for the same version of Windows in need of repair. That’s version, so that means a 1703 image for the Creator’s Update version, 1709 for the Fall Creator’s Update, and ultimately 1803 (if the rumors are correct) for the upcoming spring update. In my case this was 1709, which I grabbed using the excellent Windows ISO Downloader from HeiDoc.net. Also, please note that the base language (EN-us in my case) and bittedness (64-bit in my case) must also match.

I used Rufus to build a bootable USB Flash Drive (UFD) installer for this Windows 10 version. But that wasn’t strictly necessary. I could’ve simply mounted the ISO file instead, and run setup.exe from that mounted virtual CD drive. This time, I accessed setup.exe from the root of the bootable UFD and off things went without too much muss or fuss. Just for the record it took me 5 minutes to download the Windows Enterprise ISO, and another 8 minutes or so to build the UFD for that ISO using Rufus. Finally, I was ready to start the URI process for real.

Win10 Upgrade Repair Install Tips

Once you get past the preliminaries, you can keep working while the installer does its thing in the background. When the progress meter gets to 30% or thereabouts, that’s when to expect that first reboot to occur.

Doing the URI Thing

It took another 37 minutes to get through the whole Windows 10 URI process, up to the first boot into the newly upgraded OS. (At this point, Windows says “We’re getting a few things ready” as it applies updates and makes last-minute adjustments.) After another 4 minutes, the first boot into the new environment completed, giving me complete control over Windows 10. Total time not including download and RUFUS setup was 41 minutes; add those other items in for a total of 54 minutes, or just under an hour.

I’d like to assert that my situation represents the high side of a continuum of times to perform a URI.

First, it’s well-known that if you run the URI with the target PC disconnected from the Internet, the URI completes much faster. While the URI was underway, it took 11-12 minutes to download updates.

Second, it’s also well-known and widely recommended that one disconnect all peripherals from the target PC except for the boot drive, a mouse and keyboard during the install. This ups the odds of a successful upgrade greatly. It also speeds the install time somewhat (fewer extraneous devices and their drivers to deal with during installation). I didn’t do that, because I’d already successfully done a URI on the same hardware last year.

Third, my production PC has somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 applications installed. Time for an upgrade is directly proportional to the amount of “other stuff” that the installer must accommodate when building a new Windows image and its supporting registry and configuration data. I’ve seen URIs on less heavily-burdened machines, with no Internet access, and all extraneous peripherals removed complete in 15 minutes or thereabouts.

Reaping the Benefits of a URI

Since the URI completed on my PC last Friday afternoon, it’s been much better behaved and more stable. I’ve noticed none of the toolbar or web browser weirdness I’d been dealing with beforehand. Certain applications — most notably Nitro Pro 11, Corel Paintshop Pro 2018, and Snagit Editor 2018 — now launch and run much more quickly than they had been prior to the URI. Ditto for system startup and shutdown, too.

The real benefit of a URI is that, for a modest investment of time (half an hour to an hour), IT pros can restore balky, misbehaving, or even semi-broken Windows 10 installs to normal, stable working behavior. I’ve experienced its ability to address minor (but vexing) UI and performance issues. I’ve also read (mostly at TenForums.com, where I spend 1+ hours a day answering such user and member questions as I can) that it fixes Bluetooth and USB device issues, network access problems, difficulties accessing and downloading Windows Update, and more. A URI is no panacea for all Windows 10 ills. But as general cures and tune-ups go, it ain’t at all bad, either!

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