It’s that semi-annual time of the year we in AskWoody land call “squirrel away time” — time to make sure you have a copy of the ISO currently installed on your computer in case you need to reinstall it. There are a number of ways to get older versions of Windows by using a trick publicized on the Thurrott.com site. But the easiest way to grab a copy of, say, 20H2 is to go to the software download site, download a copy and store it on a spare hard drive, flash drive or external USB drive.

Even if you aren’t yet on 20H2, once you upgrade to that version you’ll have the proper media to perform a repair install.

Windows 10 repairs and maintenance

Often, I see workstations throwing off unusual error codes and refusing to update. These are the machines that make our lives miserable. Microsoft recommends doing a sfc /scannow or a DISM command — specifically DISM/Online/Cleanup-Image/RestoreHealth — but I often find that this doesn’t help. (Microsoft has internal options to refresh, reset and restore your PC, but these options are too draconian; they rip out too many of my applications.)

I prefer a process called an “in-place repair over the top.” To do this, you need to have an ISO of the exact version of Windows 10 that is installed on your computer. While enterprises with volume licensing agreements can go to the VLSC site for older versions of Windows 10, regular users don’t have that option.

For this repair plan to be successful, the operating system must be bootable and you’ll need to be logged into the administrator account to start the process. Save the ISO either on your hard drive or on an external USB drive. Double click on it so it’s mounted and seen as a virtual drive. Now browse to the setup.exe file location and double click on it. Click “yes” through the UAC prompt and follow the onscreen prompts. When you get to the screen where it asks if you want to keep personal files and apps ensure that you choose to do so. This video shows you the steps.

Once it’s complete, you’ll have your exact Windows 10 with its files and folders intact, fully fixed and able to again get Windows updates without issue.

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