Saturday, October 17, 2015

Simple PC repairs (not)

engineersFour engineers are riding in a car when it suddenly sputters and stops.  The electrical engineer suggests that the problem is the battery, the mechanical engineer pokes the valves, the chemical engineer sniffs the gasoline.  The computer engineer insists that everything will be fine if everyone simply gets out of the car and then gets back into it.

windows 10 1Friday I logged into my PC to find that my Start Menu was corrupted.  This would prevent short-cut access to any programs, so I checked on the internet and found lots of people reporting the same error and lots of guidance for fixing it. 

Rebooting, disabling the antivirus, going to Safe Mode didn’t resolve things.

I tried to add a new user, the solution that most advisors advocated, but Windows prevented that.

I hacked into PowerShell and rebuilt the startup tables.  Nothing changed.


Deepak, the Indian IT fellow living up the hall, suggested getting a Mac.

Worse, the problem was spreading.  Search stopped working.  The Associations, which link a program to a data file type so that clicking on a document, for example, starts Word, became corrupted.  Repairing / reinstalling Office failed to fix anything.

Worried, I updated my backups.

The next suggestion was Reset my PC / Reinstall Windows 10 (Your applications will be lost, your data files will remain).

win10 reset pc

It took a few hours for the process to complete, and my data files and account settings came through intact.  Microsoft kindly posted a list of everything that was uninstalled to my Desktop.  All of the problems were, indeed, resolved.

So I’m now in the midst of a two-day recovery to re-install and re-set several dozen applications.  It’s time-consuming, but likely will make the computer run better.

I also took advantage of the transition to migrate from Windows Live Mail to Outlook.  Microsoft hasn’t updated Mail since 2012 and it has been getting increasingly unreliable.

Outlook 2016 is not a happy alternative.  Bloated and slow, it’s been a hassle to set up and connect to my email accounts, and slow to download my existing mail files.  I can’t drag and drop mail between different accounts, and Search will take weeks to finish indexing.

EngineersWe treat our computers, like our cars, as an appliance: focused on using them to get from here to there and  not worrying about how they work.  When they fail, the cause can be difficult to diagnose, and any fix often seems like trial and error.

And when it involves IT, the fix is often counterintuitive and leads to a lot more work.