30 June 2018

Troubles with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Yet another article I planned on writing for some time (a couple of months to be more precise), but unfortunately life got in the way. It’s about my frustrating experience with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from the fall of 2017. Overall, the new version delivered improved stability – in the roughly six months using it, I haven’t had any crash, whereas previously a Blue Screen of Death would randomly interrupt every couple of weeks – and a faster Edge browser. But I was left with two rather serious issues as well.

The first sign of trouble was that the update failed to complete on the first attempt; it encountered a problem and rolled back, starting from scratch a couple of days later. After reboot, the first problem was immediately apparent: a weird corruption of the Start Menu. Some apps that I had pinned to the Start Menu were now missing. To make matters worse, they were also gone from Windows Search, despite being installed. The only way to launch them was to search for the app in the Microsoft Store and click the ‘Launch’ button there – very tedious.

As I soon found out, I wasn’t the only one with this problem: two huge threads in the Windows forums were filled with hundreds, if not thousands of users complaining. I have tried every suggestion posted there, short of reverting to the previous version of Windows – I didn’t want to go through that much hassle. The only fix that worked reliably was uninstalling and reinstalling affected apps, but that wasn’t an option for built-in Windows apps like Mail and Reader. Sometime later Microsoft released a proper fix, but it only corrected the issue for devices that hadn’t applied the update, so to install the fix I would have had to revert the update, and by that time it was already too late (you can only revert a feature update for 10 days after applying it, afterwards the OS deleted the previous versions of system files). In time, the problem gradually went away: as apps released updates, the OS registered them again and in a couple of weeks things were more or less back to normal.

The other issue was less impactful in the short term, but it took much longer until it was eventually fixed. Right after the Fall update, Bluetooth on my laptop stopped working. Not a very big deal, as the only peripheral connected by Bluetooth was a mouse – I still prefer wired headphones because I don’t have to constantly charge them.

  • Windows 10 Bluetooth driver publishing date
  • Windows 10 Bluetooth driver install error

At first, I assumed it was simply a temporary Windows glitch and applied the oldest (and most ridiculed) troubleshooting trick in the book: rebooting the PC! Unfortunately, that didn’t work, nor did its more advanced version, the cold reboot. Now convinced I’m dealing with a more serious problem, I proceeded to inspect the device manager for Bluetooth errors and to search online for troubleshooting tips. This also proved unsuccessful: logs in device manager listed a cryptic installation error, “Device … requires further installation”, for which I have yet to find a proper explanation. There were no new driver versions available; uninstalling and reinstalling drivers had no effect; nor did restarting the various Bluetooth-related services running in the background. I also discovered that Acer, the laptop manufacturer, keeps a device compatibility list for Windows feature updates, and at the time the model I own was listed as not compatible with the Fall update – wish I has known that before updating! After hours spent working on troubleshooting, I decided to give up. I temporarily returned to an old mouse and later purchased a newer, wired model.

I kept searching for updated Bluetooth drivers once a month until a new version finally became available in March of this year. As an added oddity, the publishing date was listed as November 2017, so why it didn’t show up in the update queue until four months later is anyone’s guess. The joy was short-lived though: while the laptop started detecting the mouse, it still couldn’t complete the paring process – back to square one. It took three more months for the mouse to finally connect to my laptop again; I tried again in the first week of June and – lo and behold – it suddenly worked again!

What’s most ironic about these problems is that the same Windows version installed flawlessly on my underpowered tablet, which barely qualifies for feature updates anymore. The difference was thought that on the tablet I used the Windows update assistant – something to keep in mind if you’re not sure your system can be safely updated.

The moral of the story? As much as every security expert recommends keeping your devices up-to-date, massive changes can be riddled with unexpected issues. And I’m no talking specifically about Windows here; there were many cases when iOS updates broke functionality. I’m beginning to be a lot more cautious about installing significant updates and start to feel that Android’s slow update pace may have some benefits for users after all!

Since I’ve delayed this article for so long, I might as well say something about the most recent Windows 10 feature update. Scheduled for the end of March 2018, it got delayed for more than a month to solve last-minute crash issues. And I’m glad Microsoft did that, because when it arrived, this update was one of the smoothest I’ve experienced. Over the course of a couple of days, in the first month of May, the update prompt appeared both on my main laptop and my old tablet, and it installed smoothly – though not so fast as Microsoft claimed. Hopefully the experience and longer user testing will help the company improve this complicated process even further.

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