Microsoft Windows 10 update hell

I am some hours into a computer reboot now. A Windows 10 computer reboot. Yes, really. Maybe I should explain a bit…

For the record, I run Ubuntu Linux. Currently on 16.04 because I like Long Term Support releases that I can mostly ignore for a couple of years. I’ll move to 18.04 maybe six months after it comes out, so that others can work out the worst of the kinks in it before I get there. But back to the nightmare at hand.

My mom uses a Windows computer. It’s awful. First she let an automatic update to Windows 10 happen to her laptop, and that was a disaster. It did all kinds of funny stuff, culminating in the start menu no longer working. I got tired of trying to fix it for her. It got so bad — and the laptop was a bit old anyway — so I gave up and she got a new computer, with Windows 10 on it.

Now, my mother has an amazing ability to make strange things happen to computers. Things just go wrong in ways no one gets. Partly it’s because she hates them, partly because she has no patience with them, partly because she doesn’t read the messages they spit out when she does something odd, and partly it’s because she doesn’t understand the messages if she reads them. It’s a swell set of stuff, let me tell you.

As I say, I am not a Windows expert. I was, back in the Windows 3.11 days, but those are long gone now, and I gave it up for Unix at work and then Linux at home a long, long time ago. I’ve been happy that way.

But mom’s computer is mine to support, so I do my best. And in desperation I decided I should own a Windows machine myself, just so I could keep tabs on what it looks like. Thus, I went out and bought an inexpensive Windows 10 laptop from Acer. And for a long time I’d basically power it up every couple of weeks, let it contemplate its navel for a while, install any needed updates, and then shut it back down again. Pointless, I know, but it helps me.

Well, a few months back I managed to stuff it into a drawer and basically forget about it until today. Today I decided to dust it off, boot it up, and let it update. I know the “creator’s update” has released, and I have no idea what else, so I figure I should let it run.

So I do that. And… grind grind grind.

First, Avast (free antivirus) has to do a massive update.

OK. That actually makes sense. Update those antivirus definitions, and perhaps even the scanner. Sure thing.

Grind. Grind. Grind. For a very long time. Windows has the slowest boot sequence of any OS I have ever seen. Ever.

Popup: Something about Avast SecureLine. What the heck is that?

Another popup: Avast Secure Browser. What’s that now?

Do some digging on a real computer. These are new(ish) things from Avast and it appears I can uninstall them from the Avast UI. OK. Good. I will do that.

Launch Avast UI. (Wait.)

Find the components menu choice, then find the SecureLine component, then tell Avast to uninstall it. Oh… goodie. It needs a reboot next. Do that.

Grind. Grind. Grind.

Popup: Avast Secure Browser. (Close that puppy.)

Back into Avast UI. Back into components. Find the secure browser extension. Uninstall. Oh… what a surprise. Another reboot needed. Do that again.

Grind. Grind. Grind.

Popup: Avast Secure Browser. Wait… what? I just uninstalled that! Close it. Launch Avast UI. Sure enough it claims I can only install it because it is uninstalled. And yet it seems to still be there and relaunch with every reboot.

Go through the rest of the components seeing if there is anything else I want to uninstall. (There are a couple.) Do so, and then restart again.

Grind. Grind. Grind.

Popup: Avast Secure Browser. Crap. This is a problem.

Back to a real computer for some research. There is a way to uninstall it from the control panel. Go off to that location and there it is listed in the installed software. And SecureLine. Both still installed. How about that Avast uninstall process, eh? Nice!

Well, at least if I uninstall them via Windows Avast won’t get into the middle of things. Uninstall them both. No reboot required. Interesting. But do I trust any of this? Oh hell no. Reboot.

Grind. Grind. Grind.

No popups! Yay!

OK… so now I can get back to trying to apply Windows updates.

Navigate to the Windows Update screen, check for updates, and…

Wait. Wait. Wait.

That stupid display of dots going from left to right goes on for a very long time. Eventually — after going away for lunch — it does come back and tell me there are updates. Good!

But downloading them? Why would you need to do that? A good computer can wait for data forever.

After I sat around long enough, however, it did manage to start and finish downloading one update package, and 87% of another, then it stopped again. For a long, long time. So long, in fact that I did exactly what you’d do to a Windows machine that has stopped responding: reboot. Again.

Grind. Grind. Grind.

And go back to the Windows Update screen and let it scan for updates again. Lots of time passes (again) with nothing happening except for dots moving around.

But then, I look back and there are more updates listed. Several, in fact, and it has downloaded at least some of them. Whee! Progress.

And it sits there now, as I type this on the Linux machine. (Which, by the way, needed an entire kernel update this morning. That took about 3 minutes to download, install, and reboot for. Done. The user experience difference here simply cannot be overstated.)

According to Windows, the current update is 26% downloaded, but it’s said that for a long time now. The disk is really busy (I have the task manager running, because Windows is so bad there is no way to tell if the machine is actually busy or just not doing anything without it) but not much data is moving. I can’t tell you if this is a problem of:

  • MS can’t send the updates fast enough

It could be any of those. I simply cannot tell. And the thing just keeps sitting there.

Oh, look. It magically moved on to another update after 20 minutes. Cool. That might mean this will end someday. No telling which day, but someday.

And now the silly thing has made noises at me. Some sort of notification tone. But there are no dialogs, and no messages in the notification panel on the right. Nothing. No clue what it tried to tell me at all. Good job on that UI, Microsoft. Train your users to ignore every message possible.

This is so bad, I am really glad I don’t use this machine for anything. I am literally over three hours into trying to boot and update it, and I am not done yet. There is no reason for this experience to be that bad. None.

And yet it is.

Also, please note that this is pretty much an empty computer. I have basically nothing installed on it. (Team Viewer, for mom. Chrome. Avast. I can’t remember installing anything else on it. I live in a browser these days, so if I had to use it for something I could. But given this experience, why would I want to?) There is no reason for it to be this slow. None. Except all the bad design decisions made by Microsoft over the last three decades that we are all still dealing with now.

I am going to publish this post now. The updating continues on the table behind me. I wonder when it will end.



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Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.