It all started quite innocently. I was working in Windows 8, when all of a sudden my internet connection dropped. Nothing unusual about that, but what was unusual was that I couldn’t reconnect. I tried resetting my modem and turning WIFI off and back on, nothing. As a last resort, I chose to restart my computer.
That's when things started to go wrong. Rather than boot up into Windows, the computer showed me a screen that said there was a problem and that automatic repair would run. I let Windows do its thing, but instead of a successful repair, I got the screen saying automatic repair had failed. There were a number of options available to me, and the one I took was to restore my computer to a system restore point. This took a little while, but on completion I was logged back into Windows.
Thinking everything was now fine, I continued with my work, but my computer was running really slowly so I decided to restart again. This time I fully expected the machine to be back into Windows 8, but Windows had other ideas and I was once again faced with the screen saying the computer had failed to start and that it would attempt an automatic repair. This again failed leaving me with the same options as before.
I decided to try another system restore, not because I thought it would fix my computer, but because it would give me an opportunity to get back into Windows and backup my system. It did, but with only two hours before my flight to go on holiday, I didn't have any time to do the backup. I therefore closed down my computer in the hope that when I got back from my holiday miracle would happen and I could get back into Windows 8. The worst-case scenario, at least so I thought, was that I would have to system restore again to get back in to Windows to do my backup.
Fast forward one week and just back from holiday, I turned on my computer. I got the familiar screen that it would attempt an auto repair, which again failed. I went to the option to restore the system point, only to find I wasn't offered any. The only real choice I had was to do a system refresh which could reinstall Windows 8 without affecting my files. At least this way I would be able to reinstall the applications, but my data would be safe.
Fortunately, the system refresh worked and I was back into Windows 8. The first thing I did was to check my data files, and they were all their present and intact. All I needed to do was to reinstall the Windows applications and I should be back to a working computer.
The one thing I didn't factor in was all of the Windows updates I needed to do to get my computer backup to Windows 8.1.
The biggest of the Windows updates was the Windows 8.1 upgrade that would take my computer from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, but Windows wouldn't even let me download it.
After reading around the Internet, I saw that it was necessary to install all of the Windows 8 updates before I attempted the 8.1 upgrade. So, after several hours of constantly updating Windows, I was ready to attempt the 8.1 upgrade.
However, Windows still refused to let me download the upgrade from the store, telling me that “Your Windows 8.1 install couldn’t be completed. Something happened, and the install of Windows 8.1 can’t be completed.”
More searching on the Internet, and I found instructions that helped. You can read them here.
After following the instructions on that page, the Windows 8.1 upgrade downloaded. Hurray, everything is going to be okay.
Well no actually. After downloading the Windows upgrade, it tried to install.
This took hours and the installation routine stuck on 82% for at least an hour. Once it started again, it got through to 100% fairly quickly, but then returned a message saying the installation could not be completed and that it was rolling back to my previous version of Windows.
After hours of upgrade, I ended up back in Windows 8.0.
I went back to the Internet for help. There were a lot of people with the same problem, and a lot of “solutions” that didn't work for me. It was a time-consuming process, because every time I tried one of the solutions, I had to go through the installation process again, which took hours. I tried most of the solutions, but to cut a long story short, here is what worked for me and finally let me install Windows 8.1:
- Uninstalled AVAST Internet Security (this may have been the only step necessary, but I was wasting so much time trying solutions, that I tried these three things at once).
- Disconnected all peripherals from my computer. That included backup drives, external monitor and a USB connection to my monitor. I left the mouse attached.
- Did a clean boot of my computer.
After booting from the clean boot, I once again attempted the installation of Windows 8.1 upgrade. This time it worked and I found myself back in Windows 8.1.
The entire process of getting my computer working, and back to version 8.1 took four days, which included the reinstallation of all of the software that I needed my computer.
It should have been so much quicker, but for serious bugs in the Microsoft update process.
Backing Up Your Computer
I usually use a tool called R-Drive Image to back up my hard drive, but this computer was less than a-year-old I hadn't gotten around to it. R-Drive Image is a fantastic tool (if you use it) because it will create an image of your computer drive which you can then use, if necessary, to reinstall the entire system, with all applications, settings and documents on a new computer or drive, even if you cannot boot into Windows. If I had taken a backup with this tool, I could have been back working within a few hours on a fully updated computer.
Here is a quick review of R-Drive Image:
More details of R-Drive Image here.
One of the first things I did when my computer was back to normal, was to take one of these image backups. And in case you're wondering, these images do work very well, as I’ve had to restore several computers in the past using this type of image backup. While you are creating the backup image, create a bootable CD at the same time. That way, if your computer ever crashes and you cannot login to Windows, you can boot to the CD and restore the image that way.
The other thing I've done is buy a backup program called GoodSync (by the same company that created Roboform). This allows me to backup selected folders to an external drive. The obvious folder to backup is your user folder within the Windows system, as this includes all libraries (documents, images, videos etc). This tool can work automatically, scanning for updated files and writing them to the backup drive. I am a lot happier knowing that my documents are all backed up, more than once, on separate external drives. The other great thing about Goodsync is that you can have backups written to a second computer if you have one, or backup via FTP, S3, GDocs, SkyDrive or DAV.
Here is a quick review of GoodSync:
I highly recommend it. You can find out more about Goodsync here.
My Backup Routine
Once my computer is up and running with everything installed, I’ll create an Image of the drive using R-Drive Image. I will then take a new Image every 6 months or so, or after I’ve installed a lot of new programs.
Then, on a weekly basis, I use GoodSync, to backup just my data folders. Any new documents are written to backup, and I have two external drives that I write these backups to.
If my computer ever fails in the future, I can use the image to get the computer back up and running, then sync my data folders with my GoodSyn backups to get all of my data files back.
If you have your own routine that works for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.