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Windows 10 upgrade woes

Alastair Grant | Tuesday 11 August 2015

Don't let anybody tell you that Windows 10 is a free upgrade. To upgrade my PC it cost me three entire evenings and a slightly annoyed wife.

In order to get the free upgrade, you have to upgrade from inside Windows (7, 8 or 8.1). Anybody who has worked with computers for even a small amount of time will tell you - never upgrade an existing installation, always do a clean install.

Previous Windows upgrades allowed this, providing you had an older version of Windows already on disk, or had a previous CD-key, you could do a clean install. Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, have changed things and disallowed this. There is still an upgrade option in the DVD boot, but it just tells you to go back into Windows and do it from there.

True as ever, upgrading didn't go well. I ran the setup program, it downloaded the data and did the first reboot - and I was promptly presented with a blue-screen:

A required device isn't connected or can't be accessed.
Error code: 0xc00000bb

The only option is to continue back into Windows 8.1; to which I am then presented with an even more useless message:

0xC1900101 - 0x20017

Super! Thanks Microsoft. My suspicions went immediately to my installation drive being an Intel 750 PCIe SSD, and not your standard SATA affair. So then started my long quest with Microsoft. Using the "Answer Desk" online chat, this is a slow process as I suspect the operators are juggling more than one chat. Still, it avoids phone bills and lengthy sitting around with a phone to your ear.

It wasn't long before the helpdesk lass was on my computer trying things out. She wanted to go through the motions so that evening was spent trying different ways of installing it. I started with the DVD iso, but they wanted to try via Windows Update (it didn't work) and then went onto the Media Creation tool, which downloaded to USB - at this point, they realised that USB upgrade isn't supported, so started it again. Each time having to download 3GB of data. At one point I seemed to have picked up a slow server and the download would have taken 12 hours, luckily restarting it picked up speed - I am lucky enough to have reasonably good broadband.

After a few token things were changed around the helpdesk advisor was feeling confident that it would work so I tried again - naturally it failed, but her confidence was so high that she had terminated the support session so I couldn't get back in contact with her.

This meant starting again with another helpdesk contact, despite having a case number they wanted to go through the motions again - I managed to convince them to jump a few steps and was passed onto second-line, who told me that it wasn't an issue with the upgrade and my system was corrupt and it would work if I did a clean install of Windows 8.1.

Due to apathy, I waited a couple of days before trying this - but sure enough, it didn't work. And I started the conversations anew with another advisor, who also went through the motions before agreeing to get me back in contact with second line; although this time there was a 72 hour wait for a call-back from them.

My final conversation with second line started at 6pm and ended just before 10pm. As you can guess, it involved going through the motions of re-downloading and re-running. It was when I was told I'd probably have to get a local IT technician to have a look I lost my patience. I explained what I do for a living, and what I thought the problem was; it didn't take long for the engineer to agree that a clean install would probably be the best and he'd see what he could do about getting a CD key.

I did the install from scratch and it worked fine, an hour later I got a call back with a CD-key - it turned out that the engineer had to spend the best part of forty minutes convincing his manager that this was the right approach and provide evidence that in-place upgrade wasn't working.

Thumbs up to the second-line engineer for fighting my corner, but a big thumbs down that Microsoft made this so hard for him (and me, as a customer).

If you're reading this as somebody who has the same error, I'm sorry to say that there is no quick fix, you'll probably have to go through the motions with Microsoft to try and get a CD-key for Windows 10.

My next approach would have been to install Windows 8.1 onto a SATA drive, upgrade to 10 and then transfer the image over to the PCIe SSD and hope that activation wouldn't throw too much of a wobbly.


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