Yesterday, May 21, Microsoft unleased the latest Feature Upgrade for Windows 10. So far, it is being offered to only some PCs through Windows Update. But those who, like me, would rather upgrade sooner than later, can use the Update Assistant at the Download Windows 10 page to forcibly update their PCs. I did that yesterday for two PCs: one, an older Lenovo T520 (vintage 2012 with i7-2640M, 16 GB RAM, and mSATA SSD); the other a brand-new Lenovo X1 Extreme (less than a month old with i7-8850H, 32 GB RAM, and 2 NVMe SSDs). I ran into problems with both installations, but I only had to re-try one of the two to reach a successful completion. MS has claimed it is trying to improve the upgrade and install experiences for the May 2019 Update for some time now. Yesterday, I saw some tangible proof that this is not necessarily wishful thinking or hyperbole. Let me explain…
T520: Continue from where I left off?
I saw something new and unexpected from the upgrade installer yesterday on the T520 laptop. I got about 87% through the GUI-based installer, and then got hit with this error message:
By now, enough folks have seen this error screen to recognize that the first subsequent fix attempt to follow should be: “Remove the SD card, and try again.” So that’s what I did.
[Click image for full-sized view.]
As described quite nicely in this Ghacks.net article from Martin Brinkmann, one common fix to address and overcome this error is to remove an SD card from the affected PC, and then to try the upgrade or install again. In fact, this happened when I upgraded my Release Preview PC (a Surface Pro 3) about three weeks ago. So as soon as I saw this error message, I immediately popped out the 128GB SDXC card from the T520, rebooted, and re-ran the Update Assistant. After some initial start-up and status checking/verification of downloads, I was stunned to see this Window make an appearance:
Amazing! The installer recognized I was most of the way through an already-attempted install, and let me try to carry on through to completion. Even more amazing: it worked!
That was my first sign that a new installer approach and new installer capabilities would show themselves. My second sign was that this upgrade indeed picked up where it left off, and chugged the rest of the way to completion in under 10 minutes. But in its own quiet way, my next experience with the installer is even more jaw-dropping. So now, let’s talk about the X1 Carbon upgrade adventure.
X1 Carbon: We Don’t Care About Boot-up Crashes
During the X1 Carbon upgrade, I had to make an unscheduled BIOS change. After it got through the GUI-based portion of the upgrade install, it experienced two crashes during the Post-GUI portion thereafter. Upon experiencing a crash at boot-up during the first restart in that mode, I hit “Enter” as the machine started up and turned off Secure Boot in the BIOS. Knowing that Windows has to mess around with boot stuff during OS install, I decided that my crash might not recur if I disabled Secure Boot. I disabled Secure Boot, and the install kept going.
Then it crashed again soon thereafter, this time with a new-style bluescreen of death error message that cited a DPC Watchdog Violation. Having read about this in conjunction with a 2017 Tom’s Hardware article, I found myself thinking, “Drat! Time for NVMe driver shenanigans on this PC.”
Then when the machine rebooted, it resumed the post-GUI upgrade install as if no error had occurred. Where I had expected to use my can-opener on a specific can of worms for driver troubleshooting, Windows handled the issue on its own. It carried the upgrade through to completion, and the resulting system finds no errors using either sfc /scannow or DISM /online /cleanup-image /checkhealth at the command line. And there’s no funny stuff going on in Device Manager, either.
I must say I like and appreciate the effort involved and the outcome achieved when MS can engineer its installer to recognize and deal with already-known gotchas on the path from starting out to finishing up. From recent personal experience, I can say this makes things a heck of a lot easier for me. Even though I am reasonably well-versed in troubleshooting installation problems and issues, there’s undoubtedly less work and stress involved when the installer shoots trouble entirely on its own. In at least these two cases, MS has done a terrific job. I’ll be interested to see if this pattern continues as I upgrade my other three current branch PCs to the May 2019 Update. Stay tuned!
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.