Sunday, August 12, 2018

Problems with Deep Freeze and Windows Update

The public access computers at the library where I work use software called Deep Freeze, which prevents any changes to the computer from being persisted between boots. Rebooting the computer reverts everything back to the way it was since the last reboot. The software is essential for a public-access environment, as it prevents users from doing any long-term damage to the system and also helps with privacy.

Deep Freeze does its job wonderfully, but I recently started noticing some issues with installing Windows Updates when we switched to Windows 10. The reason I think these problems are caused by Deep Freeze is our staff computers, which are nearly identical to our public ones, do not have Deep Freeze installed on them, and they have not experienced these problems.

Problem 1: "Undoing changes"

During the phase of the update process when the updates are installed after you reboot the computer, Windows reports that the updates could not be installed and that it's "undoing changes".

The solution that I discovered was to run the following commands BEFORE checking for updates. These commands must be run from an admin-level command prompt.

sfc /scannow
dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

If you ever had to troubleshoot a Window problem, odds are you have seen these two commands before, as they are floating all over the Internet in tech help forums. I like to think of them as general-purpose troubleshooting commands that are good to run if you are have any problem with the Windows operating system itself. There's also never any harm in running them.

The first command checks Windows' operating system files for corruption. In my case, it always reports that it found corrupted Windows files and that it fixed them. The second command, in my case, doesn't report that it found any problems, so it may not be necessary for this particular problem.

Since this problem has reoccurred so many times for me, I have now made it a part of my routine to run these commands before checking for updates.

Problem 2: Booting to the blue "Automatic Repair" screen

This problem only happens after installing Windows 10 feature updates (as opposed to "quality" updates, which are smaller and more frequent). When the computer is turned on, it sometimes (but not always) boots to a blue screen titled "Automatic Repair" (pictured below).

This screen will either (a) report that it repaired some problems and prompt you to reboot your computer, or (b) report that it couldn't repair the problems and prompt you to shutdown your computer. In the latter case, clicking "Advanced options", then "Continue" will boot the computer normally. The screen appears roughly half the time the computer is turned on.

The solution to this problem is first to uninstall Deep Freeze. Then, run the two commands above. Finally, reinstall Deep Freeze.

To prevent this issue from happening in the first place, uninstall Deep Freeze before installing the Windows update.