This is the sad tale of my few days spent as an unpaid beta tester for Microsoft’s Windows 10 Pro Insider Preview, Build 10130. This is the build for which, according to Neowin, “Microsoft has made it clear that this build - and future ones - will focus less on delivering major new features to the operating system, and more on adding polish and stability ahead of its release this summer”. If you are prone to depression, or of a sensitive nature, you may not wish to read the whole piece, so I shall summarise my conclusions for you. This build, which should be of the standard of a Release Candidate, given that the official release is set for the end of July, is not fit for purpose. Any purpose. To all intents and purposes, it works so badly that it is unusable. It is disgraceful software. To borrow a phrase from Monty Python, it is the software equivalent of a dead parrot.
That’s it. You can turn your attention elsewhere now. Expect a functional version of Windows 10 in a few months, maybe; don’t hold your breath though.
So, for the masochistic, here’s the story. You would expect an operating system due for public release in just over a month to be virtually wrapped up, all its basic functions firm and reliable, with a few rough edges to be smoothed off in the remaining few weeks, would you not? So I thought on Sunday 14 June, when I decided to have another look at Windows 10, set up on my multi-booting HP EliteBook 8540w (Core i7, 8 GB RAM, one SSD, one HD, standard MBR partitioning). This system has been happily triple-booting Windows 7, Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon, and earlier versions of Windows 10 for several months now. The most recent Windows 10 build I had installed was 10074. It looked promising, although I was at a loss to understand what all the fuss was about really.
At the time I wasn’t aware of Build 10130; I just thought I would start by updating my system to the next build on the Fast Ring. So I did that, and initially it all looked OK, although the taskbar no longer autohid. Right-clicking on the taskbar allowed me to change the search box to an icon, but autohide still wouldn’t work, and the Start Menu came up only a couple of times before deciding it had had enough. Clicking an icon on the taskbar produced nothing. I managed to get Settings up so I could run Updates, but after that everything went pear-shaped, and even Restart didn’t work. I had to use the physical Power button to reboot. It’s had more use in the last few days than it has for months. Logging in again got me no further towards a working system. So I decided that the update process must have failed, and I would have to do a clean installation. I went to the Microsoft website to check whether there was an ISO later than 10074 , and discovered that the site is now offering Build 10130, including a GB (UK) build, so I downloaded and burnt that to (fortunately) rewritable DVD. Then I did a clean installation, making sure to delete and recreate the installation partition during the procedure.
I won’t bore you with the history of that installation and the next. I got systems that wouldn’t do anything much; Start menus that wouldn’t; taskbars from which no task could be achieved, not even right-clicking to start Task Manager; instances of Task Manager (eventually) which would not manage, or end, any tasks or processes, and eventually themselves ended up “not responding”; systems which gradually died, refusing to allow any programs to run for much longer than it took to display “not responding” in the title bar. In no case was I able to restart the system using the Restart option; the Power button quickly lost its layer of dust.
To add injury to insult, the OS eventually trashed the MBR, so I couldn’t boot anything. Using the OS installation disk, I initiated an AutoRepair. Has that ever worked, for anyone? For me, System Restore and AutoRepair have never worked, ever. Well, OK, there was the once, but it was a few years ago. They always result in a long wait, after which Windows comes back and unapologetically says it couldn’t actually achieve anything, and perhaps I should try something else. Ring a friend, perhaps. Couldn’t do it? This is not rocket science, just a simple MBR reset, like GRUB does routinely.
After a bit of messing about, I recovered my MBR manually, so I could get back into Windows 7 and Linux. But two clean installations later I still couldn’t get a working W10 system. Sometimes I couldn’t get beyond the lock screen. Sometimes login wouldn’t go beyond typing in the PIN or password. Sometimes it wouldn’t even let me type the PIN or password. And after the initial installation and updating stage, never ever did Restart or Shutdown work. Never. Not once. Programs installed, ran for a while, then froze. OneDrive proved almost impossible to configure. Behaviour was slightly different between installations, but always bad. At one stage, the OS was automatically running CHKDSK at every boot for every NTFS partition it could find, and finding errors to correct too.
So I thought I would write up the sorry mess to present to you happy few, you band of brothers, but before that I would do one final clean installation and take notes. Today I did that. Here we go, one last time.
Windows 10 Installation - The Final Cut.
Installation proceeds normally; I log in to my Microsoft account and set a PIN during the process. The system sets up my standard desktop background and ID icon. I repeatedly Update from Settings until no more are presented. At least I don’t get the dreaded Error 0x80070103 any more, not sure why. Why can’t Microsoft just say straight out that this error is probably due to trying to install a driver that was already installed, instead of my needing to Google the error number? I set build updating to Fast. I eventually find where the option to display desktop icons has been hidden (deep in Settings | Display | Themes; why not make it as awkward as possible?)
At the moment I can start Explorer from the taskbar, so I do so and start the process of redirecting system folders like Documents from C:\Users\Martin to my D: drive, where the folders are set up as D:\Martin\Documents, etc. I always keep my data on a separate partition. That works OK, but I am going to need to change the security permissions on D: to ensure programs and I have full access. There the problems start: the properties dialogs for D: will not let me enter, i.e. type in, a new security principal. I have to reboot to get normal access to the security settings. During reboot, I get, as I often do, an explorer.exe error on exit (memory could not be read). At least Restart worked this time. More messing about with security settings and ownership turns out to be necessary before I can get access to Documents, Music, etc.
I note here that the OS has taken to using the first few letters of my email address as the User, i.e. my user folder is C:\Users\j_m_w instead of C:\Users\Martin. This is presumably because I put in my Microsoft ID during installation, but the system must still have known my first name, since it presents it at login. Also I can’t find myself as a security principal under Martin, only under j_m_w. Weird. (Well, stupid, actually).
Now I use Settings to ensure all the system and taskbar icons are shown in the notification area, so I can see what’s going on there. I start the Task Manager by right-clicking on the taskbar, because I know I’m going to need it. In the course of messing around, I get two Control Panel windows, one containing only the message “Page failed to load”. Never mind.
I install Core Temp so that I can keep an eye on the processor temperatures, which have been known to get a bit high in the past but have been fine during these tests - think my heat sink needs replacing, the heat pipe’s probably low on gas. Also install Networx, so I can check download rates when updating. Then install EaseUS Todo Backup Free 8.3, so I can back up the OS to external USB HD, and maybe save a bit of time if another reinstallation becomes necessary. Also enable .NET 3.5 and install Windows Live Mail. At first WLM works fine and downloads my Hotmail. Then I try to change the mail Store Folder to one on the D: drive; at the end of the procedure wlmail.exe locks up, and Task Manager refuses to kill it. Eventually Task Manager refuses to do anything at all, and becomes unresponsive. By now Networx has frozen - the graph display has stopped moving. Ctrl-Alt-Del, as is usual with this OS, does nothing. Restart does not work when selected from the Start Menu. Then the Start Menu won’t come up any more, although right-clicking on the Start icon brings up a menu from which Restart can be selected. But that doesn’t work either. Long press on the Power button. Leave the system to reboot.
Return to the PC to log in, but I left it too long. The lock screen lifts OK (sometimes it has literally locked in place), but when I type in my PIN, nothing happens. I select password entry instead, but no input box is presented, and still nothing happens. I select the power icon and Restart, but it doesn’t work. Nothing happens. Long press the Power button. Again. This time I wait and log in straight away.
Core Temp comes up fairly quickly, but Networx takes a while, for some reason. This OS is supposed to be fast?
I decide to install Firefox. Installation goes OK, but when Firefox gives me the option to make it the default browser, Windows refuses to do so, and says I have to go to the Settings | System page (I think) and do it myself. Gee thanks. I try to sign in to Firefox Sync, but the Firefox title bar is displaying “not responding” before I can complete the sign-in. I try to kill Firefox with Task Manager, but pressing End Task does exactly nothing except begin the process of locking up Task Manager. Task Manager “not responding”? WTF? Shouldn’t Task Manager be beyond that sort of thing?
Networx stops. The taskbar has become unresponsive, and the Start Menu will not come up. I just get the circular “timer” cursor when I hover it over the area. Core Temp is still going. Think positive. But nothing works now. Reboot - using the Power key. Again.
This time, I log in quickly and am immediately confronted with “We couldn’t find the location of your OneDrive folder.” Serves me right for having relocated it to the D:drive, I suppose. I select to Reconfigure, and enter my Microsoft ID (why? The system already has it) but the reconfiguration process stops at “Sync your OneDrive files to this PC” … “loading your list of folders”. Closing the dialog box and clicking on the OneDrive taskbar icon to restart the process gives no result. Left- or right-click on the icon - nothing. Try using Task Manager to stop OneDrive so I can restart it - doesn’t work.
Networx has stopped. Select Start Menu, Power, Restart - no highlight on Restart, no response. Right-click on Start icon, Shut down or restart, select restart. No response.
Hard reboot - again.
Log in, presented immediately with OneDrive setup dialog. It works this time, so I let it set up OneDrive on C: to avoid further trouble. Note that, amazingly, this version of OneDrive is dated 2013; that is to say, it is the version shipped for Windows 7. In an RC version of the operating system, critically dependent on an updated OneDrive for its success, shouldn’t Microsoft be doing a little better than this? Whatever happened to the useful file placeholder system in Windows 8.1? That would have been really good if a file or folder’s online/offline status had been more clearly indicated.
I go to Settings | System to change the default browser to Firefox, which works OK. Then I try to go to Settings | Updates, but Settings locks up just as I select Updates, so I can’t get in there.
I try to log in to Firefox Sync again, and get as far as typing one character of the login before Firefox goes to “not responding”. Networx has frozen again. I can’t do anything with the taskbar or reach the Start Menu. I try to use the Task Manager to kill Firefox, but nothing happens. Eventually a little box comes up with “Microsoft Windows - the application is not responding”! Microsoft Windows is not responding! You can say that again. I select “End Process” for kicks, but nothing happens.
I select the Start Menu, press Power. No result. I click away, then click the Start icon again. No Start Menu. I right-click the Start icon, and get the menu for shutdown or restart, but choosing Restart just puts the cursor into circular “waiting” mode, so guess what? Long press on the Power button. Again.
This time, I decide to reboot into Windows 7 to try to restore my sanity. Windows 7 promptly starts CHKDSK, which scans every NTFS partition, and corrects various errors that it finds, including in the master file table for D:. How did D: get corrupted? I am starting to get really cross now. I eventually get into the much more pleasant environment of Windows 7, with its restful Aero windows, and start to fix the permissions on D: so it can be reached properly from both W7 and W10.
Now I boot into Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon - a really pleasant environment, set up with Variety to be pretty to look at, where everything works, and works fast. I do a quick apt-get update/upgrade, just for the hell of it.
Now I reboot, and leave the machine to boot back into W10. Unfortunately I again leave it too long before coming back to the PC, and although I can enter the PIN, login doesn’t happen. Selecting Restart doesn’t work. Power switch reboot - again. This time the PIN works and it looks as if login is proceeding - but no, the little spinning circle of white dots just stops.
Power switch reboot. Again.
This time, I get in, but I can’t get any sense out of OneDrive, which seems not to be working at all. I run Firefox to try to sign in to Sync, but suddenly it is - guess what? - “not responding”.
The cursor is now a spinning circle. The taskbar is not usable. The Start Menu is not accessible. Core Temp has stopped (with a low temperature indicated). Networx has stopped.
I have stopped. Windows 10 Build 10130 is a disgrace. Shame on Microsoft for accepting the goodwill and input of hundreds, if not thousands, of people and rewarding them with this rubbish. Shame on Microsoft if the best example it can give of the use it has made of that input is to implement a new window button and move it about on the title bar.
In postscript, I am surprised that no-one else seems to have reported suffering in the same way. If I could have repeated the tests on another computer, I would have, but if it had run W10 satisfactorily, that would still leave the question of how the 8540w could run Windows 7, Linux Mint, and all previous builds of Windows 10, but not this build.