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Managing Brick Risk

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32 comments on “Managing Brick Risk”

  1. Hi Leo, as always thanks for your wonderful advice. Now, did skip into another universe where we have a choice on “taking updates” in WX, and no, not via wifi. What is this you speak of. If you get an update that bricks you, then reimage, then how do you block that update or choose to stop any or all updates. Thank You in advance, Chris.

    • I’ll assume you’re referring to Windows 10. And yes, indeed, delaying Windows Updates isn’t easy, but there are hacks out there. And no, the problem is that I don’t know of a way to block a SINGLE update – all I know to do is to turn off Windows Updates completely, which avoids ALL updates. That’s why I’m so loathe to do this.

      • I have a slightly different, but related problem. I generally leave my computer running when I leave it for the day. It will be fine for two or three days without problem, but then it will lock up and become somewhat of a brick. Neither the keyboard nor the mouse respond and not even the three fingered salute evokes any response. Not even the on/off button works. The only way to get a response is to unplug the machine, wait a bit and play with the on/off button. At some point, it will restart with no apparent loss of data or other damage.

  2. I have 3 AMD machines and they all took the updates without a glitch. As for backups. There are many things which can brick a machine including malware, head crashes and more. A recent system image backup is the closest thing to a silver bullet against those.

  3. I do the nightly backups. I tried to take the updates on my Intel i7 machine but they do not work. I click to install and the status bar makes it most of the way to the end and then hangs. I left it running all night once and it never finished. Each time I try, I end up having to reboot and Windows thankfully returns to the restore point it created.

  4. I use Win 7 & do not have updates installed automatically but choose to be notified of them & do them myself. I use Webroot anti virus & it is one of the few that has not issued the patch yet, however when I checked this month’s Microsoft updates the only one that appeared was the Malicious tool one which I did download, so apparently Microsoft is not giving me the updates until my Webroot issues it’s update/patch. Needless to say, because of this I will not renew Webroot since it is one of only a couple anti virus programs that is lagging in fixing this current problem.

  5. The Windows 10 update on January 6 bricked my desktop. I had to restore it from a backup. I don’t know for sure what caused the event, but the system was not recognizing a USB flash drive when I plugged it in, so I did a restart to see of the computer would get back on track… but it wouldn’t reboot. My systems is running pretty much 24/7. And this is the SECOND time they bricked my desktop in two years and I had to do a reset of my laptop the week before! I get the feeling that those with real skills in both Redmond and Cupertino have retired… It seems I’ve had more issued with Apple product updates as well…

  6. As the owner of a PC with AMD Athlon processors I have become the victim of this mess. I have avoided too much mess by not restarting the machine – simply shutting it down which seems to not install the downloaded update. I did try restarting a couple of times and ended up with the ‘brick’ but fortunately I was able to get the machine restarted using a repair disc which rolled back the update. Unfortunately this also left the update in the directory ready to reinstall if I had to restart (which is occasionaly required by other application modifications) and so on round the loop. I have to say though, in the light of the article in this week’s newsletter, that the only way to restart the brick with the repair disc on board was to simply kill the power. I assume that as this was the only way, and as the machine had not in fact properly rebooted, the normal risks would not be present!

    I had heard that Microsoft had stopped sending the update to AMD machines but I already had it. Fortunately (I think) following advice on the web I have been able to delete the Software Downloads and that seems to have now cleared the decks and I assume I am waiting for a future Microsoft download when they and AMD haved sorted things out. Windows Update is currently showing that my machine is ‘up to date’.

    • The main danger of pulling the plug or doing an abrupt shutdown is that you can lose data from open processes, If the machine is bricked, there’s no open processes to lose data from and any data which can be lost already is lost.

  7. In my humble opinion, it looks like Microsoft entered a “pressure state” which was not exactly justified by the theoretical damage that the problem discovery
    could have caused … and then they probably released the corrective updates far too fast, without having checked them thoroughly .
    This is a precise recipe by which more damage can be caused than the one they try to avoid …

    They should have had to release ALL these updates as “Optional”, so that to avoid installing them automatically,
    which is the way most machines work by default.

    Second, after the problem was discovered, there was an announcement that only Intel chips are affected, and NOT the AMD processors …
    now I read that AMD users could be affected even more dramatically …

    All in all, the fact that Microsoft should almost every day release some security-related update just proves that the whole thing is NOT working
    exactly as it should …………
    I think that, after all, all security breaches do require a kind of “cooperation from the user”, so I think that much more should be invested into
    training/teaching users what to do and what not to do in their daily activity, rather than turning any home user into a “techie” that is supposed to control
    what his OS is doing in the background ………….. this is far, far too much and is NOT justified in any way, by any obscure security problem !

  8. I’m a Linux user since 1993 but I work on Windows machines & am a loyal follower of Ask Leo. I’ve seen a few ‘bricks’ lately & I’m glad I’ve hammered home BACKUP! I do agree with you Leo, backup & keep patching.

  9. My Dell/Window 10 laptop turned into a brick this week. Can not power it on. This was preceded by not being able to turn on the WIFI.

    I am currently on an HP/Vista that I haven’t used for a year or two. I have a Window 10 backup on Carbonate current to the WIFI Failure.

    Any suggestions for bringing life back to my Dell laptop?

  10. I’m running Win 10 on a Dell xps 8300, Intel i7-2600 cpu, with Defender running in the background. I was bricked and had to restore to an earlier date. So, I guess I don’t have the protection that update was designed to provide. I’m hoping the next update won’t brick me again.

  11. I remember when our choice in processors was a 386 chip running at a handful of speeds. Today I look at the charts to compare chips when purchasing a computer and I get lost in the long list of possibilities. Now add in the numerous combinations of devices that are attached to the computer, and it’s amazing that Microsoft can get this to work on most computers without a problem.

    • One reason Microsoft gets it to work is that computers and peripheral devices are designed to work on Windows not the other way around.

  12. My symptoms were: stalling for multiple minutes and task mgr says 100% disk usage but no disk light or sound. Spent a week searching for answers then my backup image saved my bacon. I guess the week delay allowed for improvement in the updates.
    back up, back up, back up.

  13. I have a very simple question:

    How can we know/check whether a machine HAD or HAD NOT already applied the problematic updates ?

    I dare consider that such a problematic update should have appeared under a “singular”/”outstanding” name,
    fully described and documented … and with complete warnings about what the side-effects might be
    … well, except if the intention from the beginning was indeed to cause problems to innocent people …

    Thus everybody would have been given the pros and cons to decide by himself whether he “prefers” to live
    with the risks of the original problem versus those of the correction …

    Thanks a lot again & Best Regards,
    Iudith Mentzel

    • Right-click on the Windows icon and click “Settings”. Then click “Update and Security” if it’s up-to-date or not it will say it on that page. To find the version number of the latest up dare, click on “View installed update history”. There, it will show the updates and the dates they were updated. You can then go to the Microsoft update history page for your version of windows and compare your update with the latest available updates. To get there I’d suggest searching for “microsoft latest update windows 10” as the specific page is different for different versions of Windows 10.

      As for warnings, when Microsoft releases an update, they have no idea what the potential issue would be. Their expectation is that it should work. Similar to car companies releasing a car which eventually needs to be recalled. The problems manifest themselves when the update is installed on millions of machines and a small percentage interact badly with the update.

  14. I had a problem after the Creators update where my laptop keyboard and trackpad stopped working. Not a huge problem since my logitec kb/mouse still worked. Restored to a backup re-upgraded, same problem. Went to Acer, I have an Acer E3-111. After reading posts on the support page I tried drivers that I’d never thought of.

    My problem was solved with a serial bus updated driver. Performed the Win10 update again and the machine works great. Made another image backup for a new start over point!

  15. This may sound as if it’s coming totally out of left field here but in my past life I was involved in the wireless communications world. Frequently when a carrier would issue a software update and attempt to push it out to the devices in the field I, and the people in my offices would notice a steep increase in the number of people calling in or coming in to the offices to complain of their phones suddenly ceasing to function properly or ceasing to function at all. What we eventually discovered was if end users would decline the update being pushed out to the field and would instead go through their phones settings/menu system to check for an update and then download the updates themselves the incidence of “bricking” would virtually disappear. I have no idea why that would have been the case but I am absolutely certain that it’s true. It wasn’t something we simply imagined; searching for and requesting updated software was far, far less likely to interfere in the performance of their equipment. Perhaps more people could try disabling the automatic Windows updates, and simply get their updates manually in order to reduce failure rates???

  16. Thanks Leo for your calm cool approach to these problems. Can you please explore a little more in depth the difference between “backup” and “full image” backup. My recent “brick” experience with three Intel machines runs counter to the AMD scenario. The only solution for these three machines was to re-install Windows 10. Backup of the data files was not an issue, all were intact, however, all third-party software that was installed before the update was removed. The original files of downloaded apps were still available but had to be re-installed. I’d suggest everyone make a list of the software along with product keys right away.
    My understanding is that cloud-based storage like Carbonite will not store / re-store program files (exe). Is that true?
    Secondly, what about the restore or “recovery” function included in the various MS Windows applications? They proved worthless in the latest bricking episodes.
    I didn’t intend to become a “computer technician”. I don’t hang around tech forums looking at other people’s problems all day long. Computers today should be smart enough to be bulletproof by now don’t you think? Is there some software or group of software you can recommend that will perform the backup and or image backup that are simple to understand and use. The last time I did an “image” backup of a 1tb drive it took 2 days…

  17. Hi Leo
    I have two older machines running Windows 7, and they have both had the Spectre and Meltdown updates applied.
    I have read that such machines might be impacted without turning into bricks, and this seems to be the case with mine; they both show about a 40% reduction in download speed.
    My question is this: is there likely to be a modification to those updates, which will lessen the impact on older machines, or am I faced with choosing between replacing the machines or living with the slowdown?

    • I think it’s too soon to tell. I’m sure that if faster, yet safe, patches become available then I’d expect them to be applied.

      What’s odd here though is that your CPU speed should have little, if any impact on DOWNLOAD speed. That seems unrelated.

  18. Microsoft is finally allowing all users to delay updates.

    The good news is things are about to change. Microsoft’s aforementioned U-turn allowing all versions of Windows 10 to delay both minor updates and major upgrades, will finally give users the control they deserve and enable them to proactively block buggy software. That said, the change doesn’t come in until May, and April is proving to be a particularly bad month for Windows 10.


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