Update: Windows 10 upgrade bug makes some PCs unusable

Some consumers trying to upgrade their computers to Windows 10 have run into a bug that is rendering their machines inoperative.

Instead of being able to use Microsoft’s new operating system, they get an error that says their computer has a “missing operating system.” Some also said their drives reported having nothing on them after the attempted upgrade.

Among those who experienced the bug was Randall Keith, the managing editor for Digital for Bay Area News Group, which publishes SiliconBeat. He ran into it while trying to upgrade his 3-year-old Asus ZenBook laptop, which was running Windows 7. Keith attempted the upgrade after getting a notification from Microsoft prompting him to do so and after using the company’s installer to see if his computer was compatible with the new software.

Instead of a smooth upgrade, he got what might be called the “black screen of death” with the ominous warning message his computer was now missing its operating system. Keith ended up taking his computer to the Microsoft Store in Palo Alto to try to diagnose and solve the problem. The only solutions offered to him were to send the computer off to try to recover the programs and data off the drive or to do a clean installation of Windows 10.

Since the computer wasn’t his primary one, Keith chose the latter, but then ran into a second problem — Microsoft no longer recognized that he had a license to use Windows, which he discovered while working with OneDrive when a prompt telling him to go to settings to activate Windows appeared on the screen.

Keith isn’t the only one to have the problem. On one Microsoft forum page devoted to the bug, some 25 people reported experiencing the same issue. On Windows 10 Forums, an independent discussion site, a separate thread had attracted more than three dozen posts from users experiencing similar problems.

“Upgrade was going very, very well, and after the installer got to around 89 percent, the computer rebooted,” a consumer identified as “jhuck5” wrote on the Microsoft forum page. “During the reboot, the BIOS screen appears with a black screen and ‘Missing Operating System.'”

A Microsoft representative declined to estimate how many users were affected by the problem or what types of computers it might be affecting. The representative suggested that those who encounter the bug should contact Microsoft’s customer support representatives.

“While the vast majority of our customers will be able to seamlessly upgrade, some app or device incompatibilities may exist and will decrease over time,” the company representative said.

Several of those who experienced the bug reported using Asus computers. Many also reported having laptops that use flash, or solid-state (SSD) drives.

Microsoft released Windows 10 last week. The software has been praised for addressing the shortcomings of Windows 8, but has been criticized for raising privacy and security concerns.

UPDATE: Windows 10 is finally activated on Keith’s Asus laptop after two Answer Desk chat sessions, one of which included a promised a call from a supervisor that never came, and two visits to the Microsoft Store, where an Answer Desk technician resolved the activation key issue by grabbing a Windows 10 box from the shelf, ripping off the wrapper and typing the enclosed activation key in. Quick reboot, updates downloaded and installed without a problem and in less than 15 minutes Keith was on his way.

An engineer at Microsoft also responded to Keith’s posts in the Windows support forum thread asking him in a private message for additional details on his computer and the steps he took that resulted in the “Missing Operating System” and black screen of death.

The lessons learned:

1. If you’re an Asus owner, before you try to install Windows 10 go to the Asus Windows 10 page and make sure Asus has blessed the Windows 10 upgrade for your computer model. (Keith’s was a UX31E, just over three years old.) If your computer is a different brand, check the manufacturer’s site to see if they’ve done what Asus has. Be particularly careful if your computer is older than a year or so.

2. It’s obvious, but be sure to back up your data and run Windows update to install any security patches and other pending updates before you start your upgrade process. Make sure you’ve backed things up on an external drive. This is the time to consider a cloud backup service if you aren’t already using one. This wasn’t Keith’s primary computer, and he lost no critical files, but he’ll be backing up a lot more often now.

3. If you live or work near a Microsoft Store take advantage of the Answer Desk. Keith was fortunate because a store was close by, with technicians who worked directly with him to resolve the problem. (Once you find the store using Microsoft’s store-finder, book your appointment online. Keith found wide open availability, unlike his experience with Apple’s Genius Bar.)

Photo: People shop at the Microsoft Store at Westfield Valley Fair mall on the day of the Windows 10 launch in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Ann Kelly

    my toshiba laptop was working fine until i upgraded to windows 10. about a week later my screen scrambled and went black. it wont even hook up to the tv as a monitor. thanks microcrap.

    • James Cannon

      That sounds more like an issue with your graphics card rather than Windows OS.

  • Ann Kelly

    i have to replace my MB because of it.

  • CO

    HP 2000 laptop Windows 8. 64 home bit AMD endless BSOD System Kernel error to page error. Tried everything clean installs Harddrive replacement and Ram. But have notice all problems. AMD Ends Driver Support For Radeon HD 8000, 7000, 6000 and 5000 Series drivers.

    • James Cannon

      And this is why I will never ever buy a computer with a radeon graphics card. Same thing happened to my brother with his last computer.

  • Plouf

    Just had the issue during an update, yeah!!! Right after I broke my phone, so unlucky today. It’s an Asus U36SD with a regular hardrive that had W10 running quite fine for the pas couple of months.

  • Plugger

    Keith’s problem sounds mild compared to what people are reporting.
    My attempt to upgrade from W7 converted my computer into a brick. I had to buy a new motherboard, and pay a local independent computer store to get my image backup to work with the new mobo. I am not the only such victim. See http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-hardware/upgrade-10-class-action-lawsuit/cd4bfca3-e297-479a-a7fd-94bdf765dcc9

  • Clive Lewis

    I have a (3) year old Asus laptop with Windows 7. MS offered “free” Windows 10 AND checked my computer to assure compatibility. Then i accepted the upgrade and my computer is ruined.
    1- Wifi is gone. Every time I connect to Wifi it disconnects in seconds.

    2- Attempting to type / key anything is horrible – as the cursor flies around the screen opening anything it touches. i then must close whatever has been opened before being able to continue.

    As i written the last two sentences I’ve been interrupted with this eight times.

    The computer is useless as a business machine. MS has been no help. I’ve had to order a replacement machine. When is someone going to start a class action lawsuit.

    • mech986

      Clive, you’ve no way to return back to Win7? Shouldn’t you have a Win 7 license sticker on your machine or a copy of the license on some photo, or ASUS help you? You probably have a friend with a Win 7 disc somewhere so you may be able to use that and clean install back to Win 7, or horrors, Win 8.

      • James Cannon

        You only have 30 days to drop back down to Windows 7 or 8 after agreeing to the upgrade. I’ve had this issue a couple of times, but I thought it was just me not being careful with my mouse.

  • Zack Grutza

    My pC was working fine then all of a sudden i got this update so i didnt htink much of it at first because i didnt know it was windows 10 updating.. so i updated my PC and then it auto turned off next day i went to turn it on and some how my PC was stuck at the “geting windows ready” do not turn off. but it was like that for about 24 hours becuase i kept my PC on all that day and at night went i went to bed.. and it kept on doign it since till i had to reset my pC to a prevous time BEFORE the update so i could acutally get on

  • Stuart Cobb

    Asus G75VW upgraded to windows 10, laptop lost basic functions, smart gestures, back lit keys. It’s been too long, no fix…..call to microsoft and asus both palm problem off to each other. Still standing by for a driver fix.

  • Polish Guy

    First time I have to admit: Microsoft sucks big time.
    Our WIN10 PCs with SSD have now variety of problems.
    Xbox is worth nothing.
    Zune is worth nothing.
    Whatever they (MS) start, they cant finish up right.

  • James Cannon

    My computer is a custom build. I had that issue. And then I had an issue where my mobo stopped recognizing my wifi card, and then I couldn’t log into my computer at all. This required me to do a clean install of Windows 10 to get around the security. Well, at 89% my computer did the same thing. So, I reinstalled windows 7 (I still have the disc) and re upgraded to windows 10. Unfortunately, Microsoft automatically rewrote over my windows 7 disc so now it only loads windows 10. At least, I got everything working easy enough. But I lost a lot of stuff.

  • This isn’t my problem. Every was fine, but my Labtop used to not use Battery power while plugged in but since updating Windows 10 it seems it doesn’t and now after getting a warning I was running low It won’t turn on at all.

    I have an ASUS

  • Jeannie Corte

    I did not ask for or accept the upgrade, they forced it on me. I did not accept their terms, I declined them, so Windows automatically started restoring my machine and it was at that time they fried my machine. I cannot even get power to it now. So in my case I did not accept there no class action lawsuit clause. I want a class action lawsuit and I want a real mean lawyer to handle it!