How Do I Clean Up After Windows Update Breaks Other Applications?

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Microsoft updates are getting to be a pain in the neck, but yesterday they really got to me. Many programs I use for business, and personal use were no longer functioning. The main concern I have is the loss of Corel products, especially WordPerfect, I was wondering why Corel was hit so bad. I suspected Corel had something to do with this crash since my Corel products are very old, 2004, and thought maybe they wanted me to buy newer software.

I am simply frustrated and will accept any guidance you will suggest.  I really don’t know what to do, I have uninstalled most of the Corel products and WordPerfect appears to be working, but I have lost most of the products that were included on the 2 CDs in the package.

While it’s not as common as the headlines might lead you to believe, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of the scenario you outline: Windows 10 updates itself, and you find that other software on your machine has stopped working. Often it’s older software you’ve been using for years without a problem.

I can’t guarantee a fix, of course, but I’ll outline what I would do in this situation to maximize the chances of everything working again.

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Summary

  • Years of random updates can leave a machine in an odd state.
  • Back up everything first, using an image backup.
  • Re-install Windows from scratch and get it up-to-date.
  • Re-install the applications you use from their original media, and update them as appropriate.
  • Recover your data from the image backup you started with.

Time and software

Software shouldn’t degrade over time, but it does. The combination of operating system, application, and driver updates, installing and uninstalling programs, adding and removing hardware and more, all happening at random times and in random order, can seriously impact a machine’s stability.

Update in ProgressThe term for it is “software rot”.

It’s better than it used to be, but particularly for older machines (that have had both software and hardware  upgraded a few times, not to mention all the different things that change over time) it can still happen.

Software rot can result in one update — say a Windows update — causing unintended consequences elsewhere.

The approach I rely on is somewhat time consuming. But by carefully starting from scratch and isolating all the updates, we can stack the deck in favor of ending up with a system that works once again. As a side effect, the result is often somewhat leaner and faster, as we avoid installing things we no longer use.

Back up

This is a critically important step. What follows will erase everything on your computer’s hard drive. Backing up first, before we begin, ensures that everything on your computer now can be recovered should you need it later. Specifically, we’ll recover the various data files you have, like documents and pictures, from this backup in the final step.

This backup should be what we call an “image backup”, which creates an image of absolutely everything on your hard disk. This way, you don’t need to know, remember, or care exactly what you need to back up. You’ll simply have a backup of everything, whether you need it or not.

Macrium Reflect or EaseUS Todo are two image backup tools I use and recommend. They both have free editions, and either will do.

Reinstall Windows

Step two is to reinstall Windows from scratch.

You do this by finding the installation media for your current version of Windows. You may be able to download disc images if you don’t have them, which is very common for machines that have been upgraded to Windows 10 from a prior version.

Boot from the installation media and follow the installation process. If asked, you do not want to save any pre-existing Windows installation or files — this is an installation from scratch.

Once the installation is complete, get Windows as up-to-date as possible. Generally this involves visiting Windows Update in Control Panel or the system settings app, and checking for and taking all available updates until there are no more to be had.

Reinstall applications

Now reinstall the applications you plan to use in the future.

For this step, you’ll need to either have the original installation media or be able to download the setup programs as needed.

The process that follows is the same as with Windows: use whatever update mechanism the applications have to get them as up-to-date as possible.

I’m not necessarily saying you need to upgrade to the latest versions, but you should get whatever version you have as up-to-date as the manufacturer provides for. In your case, that might mean you don’t necessarily need the latest version of Corel (2019), but you should get Corel 2004 as up-to-date as Corel allows.

Recover data and carry on

Using the backup tool you used to create the backup image, you can now recover your data. This needn’t be done all at once; you can simply grab what you need from the backup image as you need it. (Hopefully, you’ll also use this as opportunity to set up regular backups.)

If you have the files elsewhere — say in an online service such as OneDrive or Dropbox — it’s possible you don’t need to use the backups, and can simply copy the files from the service. The process of setting up some of these services will restore all your data for you without any additional work.

When things don’t work

The weak point in this scenario is the third step: reinstalling your applications.

It’s quite possible that some applications — like a 15-year-old copy of Corel — is simply no longer supported in Windows 10. There’s little to be done about that other than bite the bullet and upgrade to the most recent version, or look for alternatives.

But by carefully sequencing all the installs and updates, we’ve at least stacked the deck in favor of it working, and being able to get more years out of the software we have.

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14 comments on “How Do I Clean Up After Windows Update Breaks Other Applications?”

  1. If step three fails, and you can’t get Word Perfect Office to run on Windows 10, you might consider switching to Libre Office. It’s completely free and does most of what WP Office does. And you’ll always have the latest version which runs on the latest version of Windows. A 15-year-old program is probably no longer supported and is more vulnerable to attacks than a supported program.
    What’s a Good Free Alternative to Microsoft Office? (Also WP Office)

    In fact, if only Word Perfect Office is the only program which is broken, you might want to skip Steps 1 and 2 and go straight to Libre Office. You can try it for a while and see if it works well enough for you and save all that work.

    Libre Office might even work better for you as it’s 15 years newer.

    • Excellent suggestion. I used to use Corel products (Wordperfect far superior to Word) and transferred to LibreOffice. Even for a neophyte such as myself LibreOffice is easy to install, update and use

  2. Curiously enough, I was just thinking about this while ruminating upon last week’s topic of registry cleaners. They come in for a lot of stick, and yet in my experience the changes made to the registry by Windows Update are many times more likely to cause problems!
    Only two weeks ago a set of Windows Updates created problems with several of my programs. I use Rollback, and put the system back to a point about two-thirds of the way through the updates and all was well again. I am now wondering whether to try installing the remaining updates in stages.
    In this case, where one suite of programs has problems, wouldn’t a good first step be to uninstall the suite completely (I would use an uninstaller like Revo to clear remnants from the registry afterwards) and then try re-installing it? Re-installing Windows is a big step which I would only take if desperate!

  3. You wrote, “It’s quite possible that some applications — like a 15-year-old copy of Corel — is simply no longer supported in Windows 10.”

    What about virtualization? Would creating a RAM-based virtual computer — say, one running Windows 7, or even XP — enable someone (I was very strongly tempted to say, “this schlub,” but I might actually BE that “schlub” one day!) to successfully install and run that 15-year-old software? 😮

    • For those with the skills to do it, and with hardware that has the capacity, yes — running older versions of Windows in a VM can be a viable alternative. (I, for example, run Windows 7 in a VM so as to be able to duplicate problems and answer questions about it.)

  4. I to have had problems with Corel after an update. mine was specific to Corel PhotoPaint 11. It just simply will not load. I get a “runtime error” message. in Corel Draw 11 i lost all my customized settings.

    The latest Office update caused my computer to lock up. Once I got it back running Outlook would not open. It took 3 reboots to get it to fix itself. I am using Win10 Home, which is the beta test platform for all Microsoft updates. I read that turning on “Metered” in Settings/Network will prevent the full download of an update. I will see what happens.

  5. If you have an image of your C drive where all programs are installed… Why not reinstall that image and all your programs and the OS will be back in your computer, minus the last Windows Update? After Microsoft fix the update [we hope they do, right?] allow windows to install the offending one.
    I have my WiFi as a metered connection. Windows tell me when there is a new update, but it needs my permission to install it. Before I do, I make one more image of my C drive… just in case! Sometimes just uninstalling the last update does not fix a program that quit working.

  6. Restoring data is not always that easy. If a program asks for a folder or suggests a default location to save it in, it’s less of a problem, as long as you remember. Unfortunately, some programs are more cavalier and save data or related settings in the program folder or /Appdata or anywhere else they feel like it. Even worse, data may be scattered around any number of subfolders. Another problem is that for a program that stopped working on an earlier update, you found a workaround but after a later update the workaround no longer works. This was a problem with the Vista version of Windows Mail when Microsoft produced a new version for Windows 8 in the same program folder. Every update needed the fix to be reapplied though the current fix for 10 seems to be permanent (for now). Yes, upgrading can be an answer but the familair seems better. After many years, I still have to call up help in Word to achieve things that used to be simple but now turn out to be ridiculously complex. Indeed the current trend prompts the question “Why use one keystoke when three will do?”

    • What you say about data being scattered all aroung the system drive in the Programs folders and AppData etc. is the reason Leo stresses the need for a system image backup which saves absolutely everything from the system drive. It may not be easy to find that data, but at least, you’ll have it when you discover you need it and you can search the web for an article which tells you the location of those files.

      • At risk of being off topic:
        While I have always seen an image file being something you would use to restore a system, I appreciate the benefit of an system image file as being a safe way of ensuring that you have everything should you need to go “dumpster diving” to find an obscure settings file.

        Aside from mail files – which (IMHO) should NEVER be allowed to remain in their default location, what other files would one need to go looking for in Program folders, AppData, ProgramData etc?

        I can not envisage a complete restoration of a folder such as AppData or ProgramData unless it was part of a complete system restore. I’d be too afraid of messing up the installation of a newly reinstalled program. Anything that needs to be carried over from one installation to another (e.g. a license file or encryption certificate) should be clearly identified and the user should decide where they will keep the file.

        I try to separate my files & any information about accounts and user settings that would be reapplied to a new installation of a program. Although Microsoft do not make this easy, I try to redirect all the relevant paths to either a folder structure or disk drive that is completely separate from the standard directory structure and the OS & program files.

        I recently reviewed the list of “files still needing to be backed up” (by Backblaze) on my computer. The vast majority were files in places like AppData sub-folders that are marked as changed every time the relevant application is used. While a few users might feel strongly about being able to recover log files, I suspect that these files are on no interest or consequence to 99% of users and do not need to be backed-up.

        On the subject of mail files: there is only one place to keep these files, whether they are for Outlook, Thunderbird or any other mail client. That location is drive:\Mail. The software devs who hide these files deep in the AppData \ program \profile structure should be shot. Every software provider will say that backing up user data is your responsibility & then they go and hide these critical data files in the most obscure locations that most normal users have no knowledge of.

        • Actually they’re not “hiding” the data at all. Regardless of email program the location is almost always very easy to find (through the email program, or sometimes simply by knowing they’re in there somewhere).

          This is not a design decision taken lightly by the developers. The feature that this enables just isn’t something used by most individuals. By placing all the program data within AppData, there are scenarios — typically corporate — where you can log in to any computer connected to your corporate network and have your data available to you. As I said, at home we don’t care, but in some companies it’s a Very Big Deal.

          And, yes, I do believe Microsoft prioritizes corporate features over individual users, because that’s where they make the most money.

  7. If there is anyone out there that enjoyed flight sim 2004 and it suddenly quit working, it may be because of a windows up date. I had that problem and fixed it by removing update KB 3086255 dated 9/ 2015. When you do updates again be sure and check that update because it will load itself again and again.

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