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A Pound of Prevention – Backup Windows 10
Recently I learned how important it is to have a current Windows 10 backup. One morning I sat down to use my computer and found it wouldn’t boot. I restarted it and the error message, “Windows could not complete the installation. To install Windows on this computer, restart the installation.” appeared.
I wasn’t attempting to install Windows, so I assumed a Windows Update had gone awry. I Googled the error message to determine what the message meant and what the solution to the problem might be. Thus began an epic 10-day journey to resolve the issue and restore my PC to health.
What I learned from this experience is that Windows 10 system files can’t be fixed unless Windows is able to run. If Windows won’t run, then the only recourse is to install a fresh copy of Windows or install a system backup. It is absolutely necessary to have a System Image Backup in order to restore a PC to health and keep your programs and personal files.
If you want to jump to the instructions for making a system backup, click here.
One of the things I struggled to understand as I set out to fix my PC was the terminology Microsoft uses for various methods of system repair. Microsoft has defined three levels of repair:
A restore removes updates, drivers, and programs added since the last time a restore point was created. A restore point is a snapshot copy of Windows and programs. Restoring does not affect personal files. Normally Windows Update and some program installers create restore points. You can also create a restore point manually. A restore can be run inside Windows or from a recovery disk.
A reset fixes a running, but sick, Windows system. Reset has the option of preserving your personal files or not. With either option a clean copy of Windows is installed and programs, drivers and settings are removed. The only difference between the two options is whether your personal files are kept or not. After a reset you have to reinstall your programs and Windows Updates. NOTE: THIS OPTION IS ONLY AVAILABLE FROM INSIDE WINDOWS. This means your PC has to be working well enough to boot into Windows.
A recovery overwrites your hard drive with either a fresh copy of Windows or a system backup. If you have not previously created a system image backup, the only option is to install a fresh copy of Windows which removes your programs, personal files and settings. If you have created a system image, then recovery will install the system image backup. After the backup is installed, your computer will be in the same state it was when you created the backup. Programs you installed and personal files you created after the system image will be deleted.
I had a system image backup and a recovery drive. The backup was 10 months old, so I my first objective was to fix Windows, rather than restore the old system backup. I booted the recovery drive and attempted to revert to the last restore point.The restore program said there were no recovery points available. I thought that was unusual because Windows Update creates a restore point before updating. Perhaps I had turned off this feature.
Windows wouldn’t run, so I booted the original Windows update DVD from 2015. That disk has a reset option, but the reset said it had encountered a problem and changed nothing. Apparently the utility checks the installed version and aborts if the PC’s version doesn’t match the version on the disk. The latest system recovery drive/disk does not include the reset option. This is when I learned that you can’t reset Windows 10 unless it is working.
At this point I realized I was going to have to restore from my old backup. Before doing that, I was able to backup my personal files using a 3rd-party backup program. Once the files were safely backed up, I restored the old system backup and the personal files backup. It still took a couple of days to get the computer back to a healthy state. Windows Update went through several rounds of updates. In between updates I made system backups in case one of the updates failed.
Preventative Medicine for Your PC
To save yourself the aggravation of reinstalling Windows and losing your programs and personal files, make a system backup. Don’t make just one backup either. Make backups after major Windows updates or after you’ve made significant changes to your programs and personal files. I’ve written a step-by-step guide for making a System Image Backup and a Recovery Drive. You’ll need to buy an external hard drive and a thumb drive. You can buy 3rd-party software to make your backups, but Windows 10 has the backup program built in and my guide shows you how to use it.