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Microsoft Surface Pro 4: Windows 10 recovery

I have been using my recently acquired Surface Pro 4 regularly for work for a couple of weeks now. My usual desktop applications like Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office, web browsers, VPN connect, VNC, etc., have been quite responsive, and overall the Surface is an excellent tablet computer for office use.

While trying to run Windows update from my company IT based images, I did run into some issues over the couple of days.

The first one was something that happened when I installed some of the Windows 10 patches. After completing the installation, I noticed something right away. The Cortana search box was greyed out, and the Start Menu was broken. When I clicked on the Start Menu, an error window popped up and said something like “Your Start Menu is not working. We will try to fix it when you log in the next time.” Clicking “OK” would basically log me out, and when I logged back it, the Start Menu was still broken. Repeated logins, and even reboot did not fix it.

I then checked if I had any “restore points” before I installed the patches. There was one, and I restored my Surface to a state before I installed the patches. When I tried to reboot the machine after performing the restore, it failed right away and printed the error “Inaccessible Boot Device”. So restoring the PC to an earlier state made things worse!

Now it was time to explore solutions. After spending a couple of hours and reading several articles and blog posts at the Microsoft and other sites, I figured that I had to try and boot with Windows 10 boot image on a USB drive. With my Surface in a unbootable condition, I could create a boot USB disk only on some other Windows 10 computer. Luckily, I old Windows 10 laptop at home was still around, and I used it to create a Windows 10 USB boot disk.

I was able to boot the Surface with the USB disk. I explored the many options it provides for restoring the boot image. After some work, I figured that I had to be on my company network to download a required image. So I had to wait until the next morning to try this out at work.

With the image I downloaded, I was able to boot again, and this time I got the option to undo the restore I had done the previous night. I gave that a try and it worked!! I was able to boot Windows 10 on my Surface again. But the Start Menu and Cortana were still broken 🙁

After spending almost half a day to try and figure out how to fix the Start Menu, and trying some of the suggested fixes, I was still dealing with a Surface where everything except the Start Menu and Cortana was functional.

The next thing to see was if there were any further updates to Windows 10 that could potentially fix all this. Looking at the Software Center, I saw that the ‘1709’ release was available, and decided it was time to give it try. I downloaded the image and started the installation. It took about an hour overall, and once done I rebooted the Surface. This time everything including the Start Menu and Cortana were working!!

It looks like the patched I installed before the 1709 were somehow causing the Start Menu issues. With the 1709, everything is back in action, and I am back to using the Surface for all the various things I do with it for my work.

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