The Ultimate Windows Troubleshooting Trick


Screenshot by Ed Bott

For the past few months, I’ve been running the latest Insider Preview builds of Windows 11 on my primary PC. In preparation for the 22H2 feature update, which was released in October, I moved to the Release Preview channel. Since these builds have already been tested by larger groups in the Dev and Beta channels, this is a low risk strategy. But it’s not without occasional hiccups.

Recently I ran into one of those annoying low-level bugs that are unavoidable when you’re living on the cutting edge of technology. Windows Update told me that a cumulative update was available for my PC. But every time I tried to install it, the update failed with a cryptic error code: 0x800f0990.

I tried every troubleshooting trick I know and I was unable to install this update.

Did I care? Not really.

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Because I knew I could fall back on the ultimate Windows troubleshooting trick, a tried-and-true technique that eliminates those pesky error codes like a big digital flyswatter.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, feel free to use the same big gun I did: Windows repair install, actually an in-place upgrade using the same version already installed. It works for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

This solution is considerably less drastic than a Windows reset, which wipes out your current installation and requires you to reinstall apps and restore settings. A repair install “upgrades” your Windows PC to the same major version already installed. In the process, it restores the settings to their normal state, undoing any small changes that are causing your current problem.

The Ultimate Windows Troubleshooting Trick

An ISO file is a single compressed file that contains the digital equivalent of a Windows installation DVD. You will find downloadable ISO files for the version of Windows you are currently using at the following locations:

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Double-click the ISO file to mount it in Windows as a virtual drive. In File Explorer, it is indistinguishable from a DVD drive, with its own drive letter.

Double-click Setup and wait for the Windows installer to shut down and get the latest updates. Well, not exactly the last. As part of the security protocol, the installer downloads the penultimate cumulative update. This precaution saves you from getting tripped up if the most recent cumulative update is the cause of your current crashes.

Choose the option to keep all your personal files, apps, and settings, then click Next.

Windows 11 Repair Install Popup

Screenshot by Ed Bott

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After installation is complete, reboot and then check Windows Update for the most recent cumulative update.

After completing these steps (took about 20 minutes), the update I was provided with installed without any issues. As a bonus, another issue that had been bugging me for a few weeks has also been resolved. Previously, every time I restarted my PC, the infrared camera that handled Windows Hello facial recognition was unavailable, which meant I had to enter my PIN to log in for the first time. After completing the reinstallation in place, this facial recognition worked again.

Although it seems like a drastic step, performing an in-place repair installation is a surprisingly unobtrusive solution that fixes even particularly annoying problems. If you’re confused, give it a try.

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