[SOLVED – finally!] Windows 10 installation has failed

The beginning of the end (of Windows 8.1 – and my sanity)

If you have a PC running on Windows 8.1, you currently have less than a month to do something about that, because Microsoft support for it ends on 10Jan2023. If you do nothing, your computer will be at greater risk of infection from viruses and malware after that date. It won’t stop working, but connecting the machine to the Internet would be unwise.

This is quite a long post (sorry about that). Short on time? You can skip to the bit that explains how it might still be possible to migrate from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 for free.

When I wrote about this last January, I had considered migrating to a unix-based OS, an idea I’ve toyed with for many years. I concluded that’s infeasible for several reasons; I have no alternative but to continue with whatever platform micro$haft decides in its less than infinite wisdom to foist upon me. And so, for the last few weeks, I have been attempting to upgrade migrate to Windows 10, as ‘8’ was originally nagging me to do from the word go (leaving me wondering what happened to ‘9’). I figured that ’10’ has now had sufficient soak testing that there are likely to be fewer issues with it, and suspected that my ageing box may not have sufficient grunt for ’11’ (a suspicion that has, incidentally, now been borne out).

According to the advice garnered (even now) from the web, it should still be possible to get a free ‘upgrade’ to Windows 10, even at this late date. However; one should never unquestioningly believe everything one reads on the Internet. And that goes for the official micro$haft website, too, which says, and I quote:

Q: Is the Windows 10 free upgrade offer still available?
A: The Windows 10 free upgrade through the Get Windows 10 (GWX) app ended on July 29, 2016.

Upgrade to Windows 10: FAQ‘ (accessed 08Dec2022)

Note that their ‘official answer’ to the question is doublespeak; it implies that it hasn’t been possible to get a free upgrade to ’10’ for eight years (!), though that answer refers ambiguously to ‘GWX’ – something I’ve never heard of (and have absolutely no intention of wasting my time finding out about).

A tale of two PCs

So, I downloaded the ‘Media Creation Tool’ from micro$haft’s website and ran it (on my backup PC, just in case it did something disastrous). It chuntered away for a couple of hours, and then presented me with the following utterly uninformative notification, complete with an infuriating ‘OK’ button (as the situation was decidedly not ‘OK’).

Windows 10 Setup: "Windows 10 installation has failed" error message (with no other information concerning the reason for the failure).

I did what one should do first in such cases: I rebooted the machine and tried again.

IT Crowd – Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?

A couple of hours later, I was again looking at:

Windows 10 Setup: "Windows 10 installation has failed" error message (with no other information concerning the reason for the failure).

The most irritating part about this was not that Windows 10 Setup so clearly wasn’t doing what it should have done, but that the code monkeys who wrote the software deliberately chose not to provide any information whatsoever about why it had failed. It reminded me of the old ‘Out of Memory’ error messages that were prevalent in the early days of PCs. Most of those were clearly a catch-all cop-out; the software designers were either too deadline-bound or simply too lazy to build in useful diagnostic reporting; instead, they resorted to plausible deniability, deflecting the blame onto the hardware.

Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Can’t be done: it’s a hardware problem.

I consulted the fount of all knowledge (and partial knowledge, and out-of-date-knowledge, and misinformation); ie the ‘all-knowing’ Internet. There’s a plethora of suggestions of ‘things to try’ (and micro$haft has its very own plethora, too). Over the next few weeks, I tried many of them (when I could muster up the courage to dive into it again); and, each time, yes, you guessed it, the result was:

Windows 10 Setup: "Windows 10 installation has failed" error message (with no other information concerning the reason for the failure).

After a while, I noticed that, no matter what I tried, the failure was happening at exactly the same point: ‘73% complete’.

A dialog box from Windows 10 Setup, showing 73% completion (just before crashing out with 'Windows 10 installation has failed')

As I have two PCs, I tried it on my main one (having taken a deep breath, first). And that, too, always failed – at 73%.

PC #1: Installation from disk

And so, I finally admitted defeat and bought a Windows 10 installation disk. (To share the love, I bought it from ebuyer.com, not from micro$haft; though that cost me a little more, I figured that ebuyer.com, who have served me well for many years, would benefit from a discount – and I’d rather they got some reward, rather than have it all go to the evil empire.)

You see, I’d deluded myself into thinking that a kosher installation disk would simply do what it said on the tin. Boy, was I wrong about that. No prizes for guessing what happened next:

A dialog box from Windows 10 Setup, showing 73% completion (just before crashing out with 'Windows 10 installation has failed')
Windows 10 Setup: "Windows 10 installation has failed" error message (with no other information concerning the reason for the failure).

The air was blue around me for quite a while after that.

Folks who value their sanity (even had they got this far) may well have given up in disgust at this point, and I wouldn’t blame them. As for me: I was Ahab hunting the whale.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan: Khan quotes Ahab
“From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

I went hunting for an answer. And, fortunately, I found it (though it took quite a while).

When upgrading to Windows 10, one of the first screens is titled 'Install Windows 10“. Click on the link below the paragraph explaining updates, 'Change how Windows Setup downloads updates', then select 'Not at the moment' and hit 'Next'.

When you are upgrading to Windows 10, one of the first screens that you see is titled “Install Windows 10“. This has a paragraph explaining updates. Look below this paragraph for the link (in blue letters): “Change how Windows Setup downloads updates“. Click on this link.

This brings up a screen titled “Get update, drivers and optional features.” Select the “Not right now” [sic] option.

Having selected the ‘not now’ option and pressing ‘Next’, the installation sailed through without a hitch (though it took about three hours). Such a simple fix. Much thanks and kudos to eprigon17 and Howard White1 for the heads-up! And several million minus points to micro$haft for not having publicised this solution, one that eprigon17 offered months ago. Oh, wait, why would they want to publicise it? Staying schtum meant extra income from new licences for them, and a shitload of new PC hardware bought from their buddies by those who decided, “Screw this, I’m going to Windows 11 – wait, I need a new PC for that; oh, well, I have no choice.”

PC #2: ‘Free’ ‘upgrade’!

Having at last succeeded in sorting out my main PC in a way that, to my mind at least, effectively shows up micro$haft’s avariciousness and/or incompetence, I then wondered whether I might be able to migrate my secondary PC from ‘8.1’ to ’10’ in the same way.

Spoiler (and caveat)

Despite micro$haft’s insistence that they no longer offered the free upgrade, the migration on this other machine was effected without using a Windows 10 installation disk. (I didn’t want to risk compromising its licence key.) You can download the ‘media creation tool’ from here; however, note that its current incarnation could well be different from the one I used, which I downloaded in Feb2022 (sadly, I no longer have a copy of that). The page currently indicates that you need a Windows 10 licence, but what I describe below could still be worth trying even if you haven’t; all it would cost you is a little time – and it might just give your old PC a new lease of life.

The solution

As it turns out, the ‘media creation tool’ works differently from the Windows 10 Setup application on the disk for which I’d paid thrown away good money. Going this route, I wasn’t presented with the option to change how it updated itself (the solution for PC #1). But rather than just give up, I tried a little lateral thinking….

At one point I was offered three options:

  • ‘Keep personal files and apps’
  • ‘Keep personal files only’
  • ‘Nothing’ (which should, of course, have been ‘Keep nothing’)

Previously, I’d been trying the first option. I hadn’t tried the second. Then I stopped and thought, “Hmm, there’s actually nothing at all on this machine that I wouldn’t miss.” And so, I selected the third option: ‘(keep) Nothing‘. Unlike all the other attempts, selecting ‘nothing’ zipped through to the all-too-familiar ‘73%’ mark in no time flat, hung there for a few minutes before going to 74% (OMG!)…

Thor (2011) – Oh, my, god!

… 81%, 95% – and then the machine restarted, and another ‘install’ process began, on a blue screen.

[blue twirly-twirly suggesting activity†]

Don’t turn off your PC. This will take a while.

Your PC will restart several times.

† … even though sometimes it’s lying, like a cheap watch

That new progress indicator incremented slowly over the next hour or so, to 11%, 18%, 24%… 75%, 83%, 98%, 100%! Qapla’… almost. There was a ‘setting up’ session after this, which also took some time. I won’t go into that because the memory of battling with that stupid date input widget is one I’d much rather forget.

The endgame (and the return of the browser wars)

As I had feared, ’10’ is quite different in many ways from ‘8.1’, and as a result I’m wasting one heck of a lot of time relearning how to do even the simplest of things. For instance, the control panel is (for some bizarre reason) pretty well hidden by default; I’ve had to resort to searching the web for ‘How do I find the control panel in Windows 10’ (How-To Geek has several solutions, one of which explains how to pin it to the start menu or task bar – but having done that I then have to remember where I put it when I next need it; rinse and repeat for every other task I need to do). Also, some installed software is misbehaving, such as VideoLan (uninstalling and reinstalling it cured that); and for some bizarre reason Windows now – sometimes – can’t find my second monitor (at some point I’ll uninstall/ reinstall the video drivers in the hope that that will fix that).

Perhaps the most persistent annoyance is that the ‘Edge’ browser has insinuated itself into my PCs, and, so far at least, I’ve been unable to turf it out (though it is now pretty well muzzled). I find that particularly odd because Microsoft was found guilty, years ago, of unlawful anti-competitive practice because they tried to make Internet Exploder mandatory. They backtracked on that; although, last time I checked (a long time ago), they were still mounting legal appeals, trying to squirm out of paying the large fine their behaviour had incurred. Yet here they are once again claiming that their browser, renamed ‘Edge’, can’t be removed as it’s ‘an integral part of the OS’ – so my guess is that they succeeded in getting that law changed to allow them to do whateverthehelltheywanted after all. (Their lawyers must be rich beyond the dreams of avarice by now.)

It’ll be some time before all this nonsense settles down. (If indeed it ever does.)

After all this, barring the unforeseen, the good news is that I’ve – finally – succeeded in extending the useful life of my two PCs for another three years. Windows 10 goes into ‘retirement’ on 14Oct2025, so I have that to look forward to – assuming, of course, that civilization hasn’t collapsed by then; but then, if I have the same trouble going from ’10’ to ’11’ (or maybe ’12’ or even ’14’†?) as I had here, I think I may well be just about ready to kick back and welcome that.

Blade Runner (final cut) – Zhora’s Retirement
(appropriately featuring crashing through windows)

† I have no doubt that micro$loth will omit ’13’ to avoid upsetting those with triskaidekaphobia.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, Computers and Internet, Phlyarology, Tech tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to [SOLVED – finally!] Windows 10 installation has failed

  1. Oh dear you have had a lot of fun. I was on 8.1 and kept getting the upgrade to message win 10. I always said later. Then I don’t know one day it upgraded itself. This quite some years ago. I got used to it. And the snipping tool is good.

    Thanks for the heads up win 11 and the last date for win 10. My PC hardware doesn’t have the space for win 11 I need to think about getting it sorted

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m surprised the they didn’t ask you if the pc was plugged in. M$ customer service is awful. I had to reload everything twice due to the so-called techs’ bad advice after one of their annoying updates in which the computer was unable to recognise my two printers(a year after the upgrade). Clearly some of these techs need to take a lesson from the Vulcans and learn how to be logical! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      Thanks for that, Bob.

      Pity the typo masks the glow of your work there. Oi! What do you mean, “glass half empty”? My glass is always at exactly the right level (ie, in need of a refill).


  3. Forestwood says:

    What a drama. I am relieved I have a resident IT guru. Although I should check about the 10 thing. Edge is so annoying and I stubbornly defer to Firefox or Chrome if I have to ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      Good to hear that you have help on hand. I feel so sorry for those who don’t (I imagine they probably just chuck out their old kit and go buy a new box).

      If you’re still on 8 (or 7?) I would urge you to get that sorted (preferably before your box gets hit by malware). Such a pity that micro$haft’s strategy is to push out new variants every few years; if only they could figure out a way to simply continue patching stuff that works rather than periodically reinventing the wheel – my guess is that simple greed drives them to do that, as with so many other areas (such as the automotive industry). I hate to think of the person-hours wasted globally (and hair torn out) dealing with the ‘upgrades’ [sic], not to mention the environmental harm caused by chucking out perfectly good hardware made obsolete by the continual need for more grunt to power the go-faster stripes.


      • Forestwood says:

        You are right, it is wasteful upgrading software all the time, however at least you can add to the system to enhance ram and memory etc. Apple locks you in and you have a device that you cannot upgrade that is still functional but has insufficient storage to accept the latest ios, rendering it useless.


  4. Bill Ziegler says:

    Gad, worra mess. I remember using PC Tools to hack the DOS operating system 3.11 5 1/4 inch floppy boot disk to replace “bad file or operating system” with “What the HELL was that!” Gave it to a coworker in exchange for his doing my taxes. Those were the days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • peNdantry says:

      My first experience of Windows was 3.1. Such a refreshing change, after struggling for so long with a CLI. Can’t deny the OS has improved since; but I do wish they would stop messing with the UI, entirely unnecessarily. I too used to mess about hacking various bits of code to change (trivial) stuff… totally pointless, but good fun. As you say, those were the days :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill Ziegler says:

        The way that I used regular expressions to clean large databases when working on some rather enormous databases when working as a database administrator at P&G. Had I already mentioned that part of my background? SAP Vendor Master Database? Long story on that one.
        P&G is also world famous for making their workers redundant before they turn 55. Usually by nervous breakdown. In my case, they fought tooth and nail to deny me *any* unemployment compensation, claiming that I “quit.” My caseworker finally ruled that I was fired without cause, but not until the day before a hearing date was set. P&G’s grounds were that I was offered a $10,000 settlement, but that I refused their offer, thereby admitting that I was quitting on my own terms. Crowell Manor is 7 miles from Procter & Gamble World Headquarters, where I had an office facing east. In the North Tower. I worked on Oracle, writing code in PL/1. I also wrote the code for the Voice Recognition System used at the Commercial Products Division. On my last day, I was asked to train a temporary employee on how to code it. I refused and was accompanied by a coworker who accompanied me to the main doors, facing west. While walking down the stairs, I was hailed by a coworker who was responsible for the Asian sector of the Global Supplier Database, a Filipino who was in Cincinnati. We were to meet in the Main Cafeteria for lunch. She waved at me, then was puzzled at the way I was being manhandled. She was permitted to hand me a memento of our successful completion of the Global Supplier Database. I was the Database Administrator of the North-American Global Supplier Database that I designed while working as a temporary employee for Adecco Temporary Office Services. While a temp, I designed a system that brought 140 paper plants into a single database. The test plant was in Mehoopany, Pennsylvania. The test was successful and was then implemented for central database control at one of their plants in Blue Ash, Ohio.


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