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WinDos Tehn

Posted in Blog, Computers, and Work

As you can probably tell from ye olden journal here — I’m primarily a Mac user. I also spend an unhealthy amount of time in various flavors of *nix, which is pretty similar to using a Mac if you open the terminal full-screen.

But I also have to support windows, because in I.T. windows is generally what you’ll find installed in whatever the problem is that just landed on your desk.

Today, for example, I’m having to set up an HP EliteBook 850 G5 laptop for a tester who is working from home. This will take roughly half a day to complete.

Not that this is a slow machine; mid-tier i5, 8gigs of ram, 256gig SSD. It’s that Win10 is such a mess these days… Let me illustrate.

It begins by resetting the laptop to remove the previous test/tester data, because believe it or not that’s the quicker option to completely reloading the machine. Luckily, Win10 has a handy facility for doing this; system reset, which is logically located in the system update controls…

Apparently wiping out the entire system is an update — who am I to argue?

That’s not horribly surprising though; this is, after all, the same OS that has trained an entire generation to press start to shut down…

After stepping through the various menus to indicate that, yes, I really do want to wipe out everything and reload, the OS restarts and the laptop thinks for about fifteen minutes while Win10 gets its ducks in a row.

Once reloaded you get to the system setup process. Cortana starts jabbering at you, but with the click of a microphone icon you can silence her — because of course mute is a microphone icon.

Then you get to create an account. Win10 is rather insistent on forcing you to create a Microsoft Account, and as versions of win10 have progressed it’s gotten tricker and trickier to avoid this.

See, as a business, locking a company-owned device to a third-party account system controlled by an employee is, well, stupid. Fortunately you can still bypass win10’s insistence on a Microsoft account by simply disconnecting the machine from the network… As soon as win10 cannot talk to the Eye of Sauron there in Redmond, it relents and lets you create a local account.

At least for now.

Okay, so we made it to the desktop! So far it’s only taken about 20 minutes to reset the machine — but we’re not done yet… Now it’s time to reconnect to the network and do updates…

Updating win10 is a special level of hell because it’s incredibly slow, obtuse, and subject to a high incidence of failure. For example; I clicked ‘update’, the laptop thought about this for about ten minutes, and then responded with a cryptic error message that translated to ‘time not set right’.

Sure enough — even though the clock control panel showed the little slide button as enabled for “automatically set time”, I had to toggle it to actually get it to set the time. And even then it had the timezone wrong.

So with the clock now reading the correct time, we re-run the check for updates and wait another ten minutes for the panel to populate with the dozen required updates. But seeing what updates are required is the quick part, actually downloading them can take a while… In this case it was about 20 minutes.

Now we have to restart the machine to actually install the updates. The screen turns blue and the whirly thing whirls above a note that states “your PC will restart several times”. And I wait some more.

The whole update process takes four reboots spread over about an hour. So now I’ve got two hours invested in just setting up a machine for testing — but wait! There’s more!

After the fourth reboot the screen comes up and says “Hi — we have some updates for you. This might take several minutes — don’t turn off your PC” and I wait another five minutes as the screen slowly color cycles.

Setup, part the second is required. This is apparently because one of the updates redid the user preferences enough that I once again have to go through the new user setup and be shown all the ways Microsoft will collect my data.

Now I have about two and a quarter hours invested, but I once again have a desktop! But — I know this game, this is an illusion because that was only the first batch of updates…

Back to the updates control panel, another five minutes of thinking, and yes — more updates that take another five minutes of downloading before the inevitable five minute reboot and install cycle.

Two and a half hours now.

Once we’re back at the desktop I know there has to be at least one more update — because there’s always one more update. And sure enough, after another five minutes of thinking the “2020-11 Cumulative Update” appears…

This is apparently a bigger deal than update part two because it takes a solid ten minutes to download and another fifteen minutes to install before the requisite reboot.

Back to the blue screen with the whirly thing that is “Working on updates” for another ten minutes…

Eventually, after almost three hours, the laptop is ready to go. Well — mostly.

See, Win10 will now do some sort of file maintenance in the background that will bring the machine to its knees for an hour or so. This is on top of making sure to load several games, social media apps, and other bloat that is apparently required on a business machine.

So there you have it; the four-ish hour Win10 reset process.

Bleh.