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Insider Build Upgrade – The Tale of a Brick Formerly Known as a Laptop

Murphy’s Law: “If s*** can happen, it will happen. Kari’s Law: “If s*** will happen to someone, it always picks me”.

That said, here’s what happened since I allowed my laptop to attempt the upgrade from Insider Fast Ring build 17063 to build 17074. The 17074 build was released on Thursday (11-JAN-2018). I remained online until about 4 AM at which point I launched the upgrade process and went to bed. Woke up a few hours later, saw the 17074 watermark on desktop. Noticed there was no network access but as I was already late for a doctor’s appointment, I just shut the laptop down .

I returned home at about Friday noon. I booted the laptop up, and got a notification that Windows was not activated. Also, I had no network access, and Microsoft Office reported it’s wasn’t activated, either. At this point I thought it was because the PC was missing network access. But nothing I did could fix the network. I uninstalled drivers, used a tablet to download current ones from manufacturer’s site, installed them, got nowhere fast.

Fortunately, I had a two-day-old Macrium Reflect system image from my prior 17063 setup. So I mounted the image in Hyper-V using Macrium’s excellent ViBoot tool, and booted up that image as a VM. Of course, it didn’t have network access because the host PC had none, but I didn’t need the Internet. I just exported the virtual machine’s drivers using PowerShell to a file in my user folder. It might even be better that this VM had no Internet access. That’s because the VM was just a mounted system image containing existing drivers on this laptop at the moment when the image was made. Not having Internet access guaranteed that Windows Update did not start replacing them with emulated VM drivers, which would have defeated my purpose.

When I’d finished exporting those drivers, I simply shut down the VM saving changes, only changes being those exported drivers in a folder. Then I mounted the VM in Macrium Reflect to browse. I found the wired and wireless NIC drivers, copied them to the host PC (my poor, suffering laptop). I uninstalled the current drivers, disabled networking devices and rebooted. Next, I enabled those devices, and installed drivers their manually using the ones I’d exported from the Macrium image. This time, when I rebooted: voilà, I had restored the laptop’s Internet access.

However, Windows still refused to activate. The activation troubleshooter informed me it could not restore my digital license. I tried two different product keys from my Visual Studio Enterprise subscription, a volume license and a standard license. No luck with either one. “Windows cannot activate”. Alas, it was the same with Office 365 which gave me this message, whatever I tried:

Of course Office Repair didn’t help, because there was nothing to repair. Office itself was OK, it was just the activation that failed. Basically, this is a bigger issue for me than not activated Windows 10. W10 is fully functional when not activated, only its personalization options are missing. But even that can be worked around to some extent, using a premade theme file to apply wallpaper, color and such settings. Office, however, must be activated before it can use connected services.

Anyway, back to Windows activation issues. I remembered something: just a few weeks ago I had helped my dear friend Cliff to get his Windows re-activated after he changed his motherboard. His Windows 10 PRO license was retail, not OEM, so there should have been no reason for Windows not to activate. As a last resort I asked if he had Secure Boot enabled in UEFI settings, which he had. I asked him to disable Secure Boot, boot back to desktop and remove any traces of any product key currently stored in his system, by running the Software License Manager in elevated Command Prompt with Uninstall Product Key switch (command: slmgr /upk). After a restart, he was able to activate Windows.

I tried the same strategy on my laptop. After disabling Secure Boot and removing any current keys with Software License Manager then restarting, and finally running Activation Troubleshooter, Windows was activated with its digital license! I re-enabled Secure Boot. Halfway there, Windows Activated, now to do likewise with Office!

I fought Office activation all of Friday afternoon and evening. Nothing worked. I uninstalled and re-installed Office several times, trying Click-to-Run installers from an O365 Enterprise account and from an O365 Home account, and MSI installers from an ISO image. Nothing worked. Office did not activate. Skype for Business showed “Not for commercial use” in its title bar, and Word would not connect to Sharepoint or OneDrive for Business.

After every re-install, Office installation stopped at 96% and gave me this:

On Saturday morning I continued my fight. I decided to try something new. I made a new deployment image on a Hyper-V VM containing all my software. But instead of using Insider build 17074 Windows, I built that VM using the official version 1709 ISO (Build 16299). My idea was to deploy it, then upgrade it using the 17074 ISO.

Capturing the image from the VM and deploying it went fast and easy using the FFU image format instead of WIM. If you are new to FFU, read my post about it: Windows FFU image – Faster capture & deployment.

To my surprise the same Windows activation issue appeared once again. Windows did not activate after I deployed the OS image. Luckily, the Secure Boot & Software License Manager trick worked again. Windows activated, and to my great relief, Office also activated without issues.

OK, forward to today (Sunday). I wanted to use the latest Fast Ring builds, so today was the time to upgrade my now perfectly working Windows 10 PRO from build 16299 to build 17074. I grabbed the 17074 ISO, then launched the upgrade with high expectations. But after an hour and a half, it once again failed somewhere around the 90% mark. Back on the Windows desktop, I was greeted with this message:

Being quite experienced with all kinds of upgrade issues, I did the most logical thing: I disconnected from the Internet, disabled AV and firewall software, disconnected all external devices, and tried again. No dice. I only achieved the same result: dismal failure.

I will give it one more try before starting from scratch and creating a new deployment image. This time I’ll let Windows Update take care of the upgrade instead of using a home-made ISO. The outcome does not look promising; WU had already announced it was “Installing 82%” when it failed. I clicked the Retry button. At this very  moment, I am still awaiting for WU to finish:

Windows build upgrade at 49%. Click screenshot to enlarge.

I’m going to bed now, it’s almost 1 AM, leaving my laptop to try to upgrade on its own. I’ll find out tomorrow morning how things turned out. No matter what happens, I already have plans B, C & D ready to try something else, to get my laptop upgraded to 17074.

The story continues. How it all ends depends on if plan B, C or D turned out to be the one that finally worked… Stay tuned! More to follow soon.


EDIT: How i finally got it done: The Tale of a Brick formerly known as a Laptop

P.S. An hour later. Decided to wait the WU before going to bed, to see what happens. It failed second time. Need some sleep, tomorrow starting other plans in alphabetical order, starting with Plan B.

Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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