Mess when older version install disc used to recover Windows 10

Windows repair problem: The mess that can be created by using the wrong build versions and language versions to recover Windows 10

Recover Windows 10 - Win10 Anniversary Update Start menu
Recover Windows 10 – Win10 Anniversary Update Start menu. Click on the image to view its full size

Problem: A user got into a terrible mess after he used the install disc of an older build version to recover Windows 10

A user got into a terrible mess after he used the install disc of an older build version to recover Windows 10. When he started his laptop, a message told him that a corrupt file, winload.exe, would not let Windows load. To make matters worse, he had made backups but could not remember which tool he had used to create them, he only knew that he had not used Win10’s backup tools to create them, so could not restore the system from a backup or system image.

Logged in as Administrator, he tried replacing the corrupt file with one taken from another computer, but was denied permission. He had upgraded to Win10 from Win8.1. The laptop had Version 1511 of Win10 installed after the upgrade. The build number of Win10 he used for the upgrade was Version 10240, which he had on a CD. Unhelpfully, that version was subsequently renamed version Version 1507 by Microsoft. He had Version 1511 on the disabled laptop. Version 1507 installed, but not over the existing Version 1511. Unfortunately, Version 1507 was installed alongside the original 1511 version, creating a dual-boot system of the two installs.

He obtained a Win10 1511 install disc, which he used to upgrade the Version 1507 install, but it was set to use US-English instead of UK-English.

The original 1511 still would not boot, only the second new 1511 build (that was built over the 1507 build) booted, which was set to use US-English. Unfortunately, all his files, settings, contacts, etc., were in the disabled, unbootable version. From the new 1511 install, using Win10’s File Explorer, he could view the  files, but could not open or use them. Microsoft’s support told him that the only reliable way out of this problem was to clean install Win10.

Possible solutions to recover Windows 10

The easiest way to recover Windows 10 is always to create regular backups and/or system images, preferably to an external flash or hard-disk or SSD drive, and know which tool you used.

Always create a rescue disc or USB flash drive

You need to create a rescue disc or USB flash drive that can be used to boot the system and perform the restoration that recovers Windows.

Windows 8.1 and 10 create a repair USB flash drive, not a CD/DVD disc. All backup tools require the user to create a rescue disc or flash drive. The third-party backup tool of my choice if the free version of Macrium Reflect. Without creating its rescue disc, you can’t restore its backups or system images. Note well, that to boot from a disc or USB flash drive requires the BIOS or UEFI BIOS to have the boot device that is used being set as the first boot device. For more information read Changing the boot order of devices in a UEFI BIOS to enable booting from USB flash drives and CD/DVD drives on this website.

Secure Boot of UEFI BIOS prevents unrecognised discs booting the system

New PCs that run Win10 use a UEFI BIOS that can prevent a boot disc or USB flash drive from booting the system because of a feature called Secure Boot.

Cannot boot from DVD or USB flash drive – Windows 8.1 & 10 – UEFI BIOS Secure Boot problem –

Cannot boot from DVD or USB flash drive – Windows 8.1 & 10

The user’s big errors tha must never be used to recover Windows

Apart from not having a recent restorable backup, he made a few big errors to get into that position.

He attempted to repair a more recent Win10 installation (build 1511) with an older one (build 1507)

1. – He attempted to repair a more recent Win10 installation (build 1511) with an older one (build 1507), which created problems because system files are mostly not backwards-compatible with older versions. Windows provides special roll-back tools to go back to previous device drivers and major releases, such as going back to Windows 8.1 from Windows 10. To repair a version of Windows requires using the system files for the same version or a higher version, never a lower version.

Windows XP has three Service Packs, ending with SP3. If you want to repair Windows XP with a SP2 installation disc, you have to use it to create a ‘slipstreamed’ SP3 disc by following specific instructions and then use that updated disc to perform the repair install. Slipstreaming a new XP install disc is relatively simple, but things got quite a bit more complicated with Windows 7. Here is an article on how to create a slipstreamed USB flash drive containing the latest Win7 files:

How to Speed Up Windows 7 Installs With Slipstreaming and USB –…

In this case, the older version was unable to recognise – and therefore unable to repair – the newer version, so it clean-installed itself. He then used an install disc containing build 1511 to repair the earlier 1507 build and wound up with another 1511 build that worked.

The user must set the repair install to use the same language version

2. – During what he did to get to the second working install of build 1511, the language version was set as US-English instead of UK-English. Performing major repairs or upgrades with a tool configured for a different language, even if it’s only a country-specific version of English, can make Windows lose track of some of the folders, files, settings, apps, etc. Therefore, the user must set the repair install to use the same language version.

How to recover files and folders

Boot the working copy of Win10. Use its File Explorer to find out if you can access the partition containing the old, unbootable Win10. If so, try copying and pasting the files and folders you want from it to the new, working Windows partition. You can only transfer document and image files, not the folders containing the files of applications, which would have to be reinstalled to work because of the entries they make in the Windows Registry.

If doing that is not possible, try booting the laptop with a Windows or Linux boot/repair disc and, if successful, try copying the files from the old to the new partition.

Use a Linux boot disc for online banking and recovering a PC

If that is successful, boot the new copy of Win10, open Disk Management  – by entering diskmgmt.msc in the Search box – and delete the original, disabled copy of Win10. Use Disk Management to expand the newer, working Win10 partition into the empty disk space.

I prefer using EaseUS Partition Master Free – at version 11.1 in March 2017.

How to retrieve files from the windows.old folder

If you were to have used a higher build to rescue an earlier build of Win10 successfully, all of the files and folders of the earlier build will be stored in a folder called windows.old. Here is an article that explains how to retrieve the files from that folder:

How to Restore Your Files From the Windows.old Folder After Upgrading –

You can try using that method as your last available recovery option before clean installing Win10. Use the working Win10 installation to download and burn a disc from the following page of Microsoft’s website.

Use the disc or drive that you create to boot the system. Make sure that you read the information in the setup screens carefully, because you have to see and use the Repair my PC option when it appears. If the new Win10 disc or drive repairs the original, disabled Win10, boot to the repaired setup and use the diskmgmt.msc command to open Disk Management and use it to delete the newer functioning second copy of Win10. Use Disk Management (or EaseUS Partition Master Free) to expand the original Win10 partition into the vacated disk space.

You should now be able to recover your files and folders from the windows.old folder.

If you have to clean install Win10, run the Install option of the install disc or flash drive that you created. When you get to the screen that asks “What kind of installation do you want?”, select Custom and remove both the old and the new Win10 installs, leaving nothing on the hard drive. Now you just have to clean install Win10, giving it the entire drive. A clean install cannot create a windows.old folder, so you will have lost your files and folders, but hopefully one of the recovery methods provided in this article will have saved your skin.

About Eric 275 Articles
I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.