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A few things I learned from my Windows 10 disaster recovery

After a crash, Windows 10 managed to restart but decided its partition should be “fixed”. So I rebooted to let it “fix” it, which caused it to become unbootable. My few recovery attempts failed, and since I had a partition setup that would preserve my important data (ie, everything except what the stupid programs decide to store into %appdata%), I quickly reinstalled. And learned a few interesting things in the process.

About installing over a previous Windows

First, when you install Windows on a partition which already contained Windows, it warns you it will move the previous Windows installation to a Windows.old folder. I was afraid it would only move the former “Windows” folder there, but it turned out it moved everything on the partition there (NB: I only had standard folders, like Users, Program Files, etc, so I’m not sure it would also move custom root folders although my guess is it probably would). Pretty handy to grab your former program settings (those in %appdata%, sadly not those in the registry), documents (I got to keep my desktop contents, yay), etc.
Edit: well actually, something strange happened just the day after I wrote this part: most of the contents of that Windows.old folder vanished overnight… :s So now I’m happy I used a Linux LiveUSB (NB: Tails is nice for that, as it’s pretty small) to duplicate the contents of the C: partition elsewhere myself.

About Cortana and other bloatware

Second, there exists a version without Cortana, Windows Store, and Windows Media Player. It’s version N (without Windows Media Player) and Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), which is without Cortana, Windows Store, but also the Edge browser, Photo Viewer and the UWP version of Calculator. Wikipedia has a nice page detailing the different editions and notes that Windows 10 Enterprise N LTSB is the most stripped down edition of Windows 10 available.

The N flavor will create some issues for video playback in your browsers. For instance, Youtube will work, but Twitch won’t (there are other ways to watch Twitch streams though, for instance Streamlink). If that turns out to be a blocker, however, you can download a patch by Microsoft (the “Media Feature Pack”), which will restore those functionalities. So there’s no risk in trying out N, it’s not irreversible.

The LTSB comes without Edge, so I was wondering if I’d need Firefox on a stick to get started 😉 But it turns out it contains… good old Internet Explorer 11. The lack of Photo Viewer means your pictures will open in Paint (or Internet Explorer as usual for the GIFs). I still have to find a replacement, because opening pictures in Paint works great but I find it a bit risky (I’m always afraid to accidentally draw a few pixels and save)

About PuTTY and my backup software

Third, I already used it before but I had forgotten about it, PuTTY settings can be easily exported to a reg file with this command:

regedit /e "%userprofile%\Desktop\putty.reg" HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SimonTatham

(source)
Of course, this only works on a working Windows. In my case I gladly had those settings +/- duplicated exactly on another computer, so yay ^^

Fourth (and last for this post ^^), backup software are unequally easy to migrate.
For SpiderOak, I simply copied the old AppData/Local/SpiderOak folder and then reinstalled SpiderOak, and it behaved just as if nothing changed.
For LiveDrive, I used a backup I had of the registry settings (and found nothing of value in %AppData%), and it recognized the computer but had lost the most important backup settings (namely, which folders to back up, for fucking fuck sake)

Well that will be all. Hopefully I won’t have a use for this in the future, but for some reason I’m pretty sure I will :/

Posted in Windows 10.


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