Windows 8 woes

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:

  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).
  2. Disconnected all peripherals from my computer. That included backup drives, external monitor and a USB connection to my monitor. I left the mouse attached.
  3. 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.


Hi, I'm Andy Williams, an ex-Science teacher turned online entrepreneur. This is my personal website where I'll add things that interest me.

9 Responses

  1. Sean says:

    You may want to consider getting an Mac. If you absolutely must have access to Windows computer, there are programs available that will let you run it virtually on a Mac as well.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks Sean. I don’t want to start a Mac v PC war here, but I do have an iMac (with Windows installed as a virtual machine). I just prefer using PCs. I find Macs incredibly unintuitive, and their minimalist design of software makes finding simple tasks difficult. Just my opinion.

  2. Jeff says:

    Thanks Dr. I’ve been through this sort of thing too and I appreciate your tips to get past it.

  3. Billy roberts says:

    Hi Andy,i use reimage when my windows system has a lot of errors. I updated to a used computer with windows 7. It had major problems with it. I had over 6 months of updates that wouldn’t update. I got the reimage software,ran it and it repaired the files in win7 that were bad. Reimage has all the operating system files on their servers and when the software runs it downloads and fixes the problems.

  4. Guy says:

    You’re right, you should have backed up all your files even though your pc is less than a year old.

    It also seems to me that you like to restore images after you’ve already logged into your pc and thus, are already using the Windows shell to restore your image. WRONG! Why?

    What if your MBR (Master Boot Record) becomes contaminated preventing you from logging in/booting up to your Windows 8 Operating System? Then you have to start that 4 day re-installation pain-in-the-butt process all over again!!!!

    Here’s what I recommend that will solve any pc problem, even if a virus wipes out your entire hard drive:

    1 — Always make a weekly backup of all your files onto a separate external hard drive. But, if you wish to make a weekly backup onto a second internal hard drive, that’s ok too – until a supervirus comes along to wipe that hard drive clean too.

    2 — Create what’s called a Bootable CD or a Bootable flash drive. This means your R-Drive software should have a feature that will allow you to put special files from your R-Drive software onto a CD or a flash drive which will then restore the images that you’ve saved onto your backup hard drive.

    If you can’t log in or boot up to Windows 8, you just put your Bootable CD into the CD tray (or the flash drive into the USB jack on the back of your pc) and let your pc boot up to the CD tray (or flash drive) where you can now use the CD (or flash drive) to search for your backup image on your hard drive and then it will restore the image in about 15 minutes. Then you can boot up to Windows 8 with no fuss & no muss.

    3 — I’m betting that you have put a lot of extraneous files onto your C-drive. No, don’t do that. Instead, just let the C-drive contain only:
    A) the files that are extracted from the CD that contains your Windows 8 Operating System’s files,
    B) the files Windows 8 will constantly put on it once you start using your pc,
    C) the files the Internet downloads onto the drive.

    Then create other partitions (which you’ve already done) and put any new files that you create, backup, download, etc., onto those partitions and leave the C drive alone. Why? ‘Cause over time you will create Gigabytes of files. Those Gigabytes take up a lot of space. Let the other partitions expand with all of those other files and let partition C stay small, let’s say, only to a maximum of 50 Gigabytes.

    Two reasons:
    First: If a virulent virus hits you, it/they mainly target the C drive. By hitting the C drive, it will damage files on the C drive and could even wipe out the MBR, but the virus will leave your data on the other drives alone.

    Secondly: if you constantly restore images due to Windows 8 malfunctioning, it only makes sense to just restore the smaller C-drive image that never gets larger because it’s the other partitions that are getting larger, not the C-drive. So, if you only restore the always-small C drive – and that’s the one you need in order to boot up again since it’s the drive that contains your Windows 8 Operating System – it will take no more than 15 minutes to restore.

    But if you constantly keep making images of an entire hard drive and then restoring those images of an entire hard drive, it will eventually take you an hour or more to restore just one constantly expanding image.

    I hope this advice helps. I’m not a techie; I just learned of the importance of fast, efficient, total backups via my own school of hard knocks similar to how you’re learning about the importance of backups. Good luck to you.

    • Andy says:

      I agree with what you say Guy. I do actually use a bootable CD with R-Drive Image, and have had to use it in most cases where I’ve reinstated an OS and files.

      • Guy says:

        As I said before, I’m no techie but I believe the reviews for Win 8 were terrible. I may be wrong, but I think perhaps the only advantage Win 8 may have is that one can run 3D images and do touch-screen selections on tablets.

        Maybe you’ll be better off stepping back down to Win 7. Two IT people I knew both told me “Windows finally got it right” regarding Win 7.

        My personal favorite OS was Win 98. But of course Microsoft makes each OS version obsolete after awhile so that they of course can sell the next “new & improved” version.

  5. Jim P says:

    A related question if I may. I run Win 7 on a desktop and Laptop. If I get an external drive for Backups, how big a drive will Win 7 address/recognize? I’ve seen them available up to 4 Terrabytes I think. Thanks…
    ps Always read your writings Andy, you’re one of the few on the net that I trust.

    • Andy says:

      Sorry Jim, I don’t know. A Google search should help you out though. However, I have to say that I’d prefer to have 2-4 smaller backup drives rather than one big one. I currently use 1TB backup drives for my own computers.

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