Broke my Windows 10

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
I have a HP Slimline 260 computer with Windows 10, made 2017. Due to my own stupidity (trying to resize the Windows partition) I now have a computer which will not boot into Windows. It attempts Automatic Repair, but says "Your computer did not start correctly". I can get to 'Reset', but I end up with "There was a problem resetting your PC". Since there are no Administrator accounts, other options are limited; e.g. I cannot get to a command prompt.

Can anyone suggest a solution? When I started, the Windows was a bare-bones freshly 'Reset' system with no personal files, and presumably the RESTORE partition is uncorrupted, so I don't understand why 'Reset' cannot work. Probably I've damaged system files (the "unmovable files"?), but shouldn't Reset replace them?
 

bazz2004

Posts: 1,778   +295
I can identify with that. Every time I've messed with partitions I've worried about something going wrong. I've used Minitool Partition Wizard (freeware) and have so far avoided issues. Maybe it would be easier to reinstall Windows 10 rather than trying to correct errors? It'll probably be faster.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
Thanks for the reply. I'm downloading as I write!

I'm a bit worried about activation because I don't have a Product Key. Windows 10 was pre-installed on the system. Would it have had a 'digital license'? When I was given the machine we did a full reset, setting up an 'Outlook' email address and password. Does this mean I have a "Microsoft account" and would it be linked to the digital license even though it is not, apparently, an administrator account?
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,990   +6,310
If you were activated you have a digital license. That license is not limited to specific accounts. You buy a license and then you decide how you want your install divided into specific login accounts. I don't know for sure, but if I'm not mistaken. Your license will be linked to the account for which it was activated.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
I don't understand much of what I am doing. Obviously the Windows 10 was activated originally by HP. If I am doing a complete reinstall, as opposed to a 'Reset' within the original software, I'd expect the installation to want a Product Key unless it can recognise that the system has previously been activated. How would it know this? I don't want to get through the installation and then find I need to buy a key.

Steve.
 

Kshipper

Posts: 618   +140
TechSpot Elite
This will be easy....

Make your boot media by going here:


You will have to fuss with the BIOS to get the machine to boot from the USB key instead of the damaged Windows installation. I assume you don't need any files off the old drive? If you do that requires a different step. If you don't need files then once you have booted into the USB key you will eventually get to the screen that shows the drives in your machine. You should only have the one drive that you want to install Windows connected at this time. If you have multiple drives..power down and disconnect the extras (for now).

When you go to install Windows you will see many partitions from the existing install. Delete them all despite the warnings. If you are connected to the Internet at the time you go to install, the installer will look up your hardware and proceed to install the correct version of Windows. if that fails for any reason then you will have to choose Home or Pro x64. Choose Home (probably?). When you get to the part about entering the product key click on "I don't have a product key". The installation will continue. Follow the prompts.

Once you are in Windows it will look up your install automatically and apply the license in the background. You won't even know it happened. =)
 
Last edited:

Kshipper

Posts: 618   +140
TechSpot Elite
If this is your first time re-building then start with the chipset driver first. Ideally from the HP website support pages for your particular build. Do Video (VGA), Audio, LAN, WIFI, bluetooth etc.. in any order after the chipset is done. Check for updates from Microsoft by typing "Check for Updates" on the search bar (bottom left) do that until there are no more left to install.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
Thanks for the comprehensive reply, Kshipper.

I'll be making the installation USB on this (WindowsXP) machine using 'Rufus' software, as described in this thread How to create a Windows 10 boot USB using XP? I don't have any personal files to recover.

As for partitions: Do I keep the EFI system partition? This is the BIOS isn't it?
The other partitions (as listed by gparted) are:
Microsoft reserved partition (16MB)
Basic data partition (Windows ntfs)
Basic data partition (Windows RE tools ntfs 980MB)
Basic data partition (RECOVERY ntfs 11.13GB)

These last four I can delete?

Many thanks,

Steve.
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,990   +6,310
Windows will rebuild all partitions needed to run. I wouldn't leave anything if you are installing fresh. The Recovery Partition is a factory recovery partition. If you never plan on refreshing to factory settings, you can remove that partition as well.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
Turns out recent versions of Rufus are not compatible with XP (or Vista). I downloaded version 2.16, which semed to work. It took a while to find out how to enable USB as a boot option on the HP (disable secure-boot and enable legacy options), but I still cannot seem to boot from the USB. I've no way of confirming that the USB is actually bootable (all my other PCs are too old!). I'll maybe try to find another ISO burning program (maybe on Linux) and see if it works, but have run out of time today.

Steve.
 

Jblazsek

Posts: 19   +7
Your license is for the hardware but it you sign-in with you MS account the hardware is linked to you MS account. MS did this in one of the first updates because they were getting to many calls when people added things like memory or upgrading hard drives which shouldn't have activation issues.
 

Kshipper

Posts: 618   +140
TechSpot Elite
Turns out recent versions of Rufus are not compatible with XP (or Vista). I downloaded version 2.16, which semed to work. It took a while to find out how to enable USB as a boot option on the HP (disable secure-boot and enable legacy options), but I still cannot seem to boot from the USB. I've no way of confirming that the USB is actually bootable (all my other PCs are too old!). I'll maybe try to find another ISO burning program (maybe on Linux) and see if it works, but have run out of time today.

Steve.
If you borrow someones WIn10 machine to download from link I gave you this USB bootable media could created with no fuss. I would push to go that way. There has to someone who has one you can hop on for 10 mins.
 

bazz2004

Posts: 1,778   +295
On ebay there are some pre-prepared usb installation sticks for Windows 10. They don't of course include a licence key but if you got the right one for your version of Windows it would likely do the trick.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
Your license is for the hardware
Thanks, that explains a lot, and clears my worries about activation.
If you borrow someones WIn10 machine to download from link I gave you this USB bootable media could created with no fuss. I would push to go that way. There has to someone who has one you can hop on for 10 mins.
The only friend with a Windows 10 machine is the one who gave me this PC, and I'm reluctant to admit to her that I have broken it!
There seems no way I can get this machine to boot from USB, even though it can see the stick in the boot menu. The root directory has bootmgr.efi which presumably means it is compatible with UEFI firmware. I can't be sure I would do better with a USB stick from the 'Media Creation Tool'.
I'll do some more trying, but maybe easiest would be to buy a disc. They are not expensive without a Product Key.
 

bazz2004

Posts: 1,778   +295
Wayback desktops had a sticker on giving details of the exact Microsoft OS plus the activation code. Nowadays you need to know which version of Windows 10 you are licensed for but activation for it is usually automatic. If unsure whether it is 32 bit or 64 bit check that the disc will handle both.
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
I'm thinking possibly the reason I can't boot to USB is that the UEFI firmware does not have a driver to boot from ntfs, as described here UEFI_NTFS. I cannot create a FAT32 USB due to the install.wim 4.6GB file. Rufus should have the ability to deal with this, but perhaps the 2017 version I have to use can't.
 

bazz2004

Posts: 1,778   +295
Buy an appropriate disc and bang it in. You're overthinking things. Once the PC's up and running again make sure you know how to deal with the issue should it recur.
 

Kshipper

Posts: 618   +140
TechSpot Elite
I run a little computer shop in a city of 100k and if someone came into my shop and asked me to create this USB boot drive from them it would be so easy and so fast for me to do that, I doubt I would charge them for it. Isn't there a little computer shop near you?
 

moriarty

Posts: 30   +0
I found this Microsoft page Install Windows from a USB Flash Drive that explains how to make a FAT32 USB manually (splitting the install.wim file) and then discovered what is probably the primary problem with my attempts: Windows XP cannot create a partition on a USB drive or make it active. There's a little program called Bootice that should do it, but on my system it opens with an error and can't detect any drives. I'll probably just wait for the disc.
Thanks for all the help everyone.
Steve.
 

Jblazsek

Posts: 19   +7
Yes download the Windows 10 install file and do a clean install. You won't need a key and it should activate especially if you used your MS account to login to Windows 10.