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April 6, 2020

Insider Preview GSOD Recalls Best Installation Practices

Just this afternoon, August 21, word went out about a new Insider Preview for the Fast Ring (Build 18965). As is my usual practice, I immediately fired up my two test machines just before I went to eat lunch. Upon my return, I notice the Dell XPS 2720 (Haswell i7-4770S, 16 GB RAM, 250 GB SSD) flashing the “Green screen of death” (GSOD) with a stopcode of DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE. A little quick reading on this topic informed me that (as the name suggests) a driver issue falls into the picture. Further investigation showed USB-attached storage devices to be particularly likely causes for this error condition. It should come as no surprise to readers, therefore, that I immediately thought of the Inatek FD2002 dual SATA drive dock plugged into that PC, along with the Sabrent mSATA drive enclosure with its Samsung EVO 960 SSD inside. When the GSOD cleared, the post-GUI install phase started over. Quick as a wink, I unplugged those external USB 3.0 devices. The installation proceeded through to a successful completion.

Insider Preview GSOD Recalls Best Installation Practices.usb

Unencumbered by external USB connections, a second install attempt worked without issue.

What Are Those Best Installation (and Upgrade) Practices, Anyway?

The idea during a Windows clean or upgrade install is to present the installer with as few options and devices as possible. It is considered best practice when performing a clean install, in fact, to disconnect ALL drives except for the one that intended to fill the system and boot drive roles for the new Windows installation. Upgrades are a little less demanding, because an upgrade works within an existing disk structure, rather than establishing (or modifying) a new one. That said, Insider Preview is also a way of saying “beta software,” so it’s possible for installation to run afoul of issues or problems that a production version of Windows will sail right past.

The general principle is to disconnect all devices that aren’t necessary to the functioning of the OS prior to a clean or upgrade install. This also includes SD and other plug-in media cards, extra monitors, printers, audio devices, and other stuff that computer users find useful and interesting. Likewise, it may make sense to uninstall known problem devices before performing the install, with plans to reinstall afterward. Thus, for example, I kept a wireless USB 3.0 dongle around for my now-departed Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 because its built-in Wi-Fi adapter would routinely get “lost” during the upgrade process anyway. After rebooting into the new OS I could count on the dongle to get me sufficient network connectivity to bring the new install up to snuff, after which I could manually reinstall the Dell/Atheros driver for the unit’s built-in Wi-Fi adapter.

I’m not saying you have to do this for all upgrades or clean installs. But if you fall prey to driver difficulties during installation, disconnecting all non-essential devices before attempting another go-round is probably a good idea. It just worked for me today. There’s no reason it couldn’t do likewise for you sometime, too.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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