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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

My weekend failing to upgrade to Windows 10

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Initially I wasn’t going to bother upgrading to Windows 10. I currently dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu and use the latter almost exclusively. Mostly I use Windows 7 for SMART Notebook, and to play the occasional Steam game that will run on my 8-year-old laptop. Of course, I use Windows nearly every day on other computers. I’ve noticed that I feel somewhat uncomfortable on Windows 8 computers—the interface changed enough from Windows 7 that I don’t know all the idioms, and I haven’t spent enough time using Windows 8 to learn them. It almost feels like trying to use a Mac!

With a long weekend upon us, I decided I might as well try to upgrade. I would get to learn Windows 10, and I wanted in on some of the purported performance boosts it could give to older systems—Windows 7, despite having few enough programs installed and running, was agonizing at times. So I blithely backed up my data, burned a Trusty Tahr Live CD (to restore GRUB after the upgrade overwrote the MBR), and booted Windows.

Incompatible, inshamatible!

First I had to invoke several Old Ones and make numerous arcane sacrifices to even get the Get Windows 10 app to appear. Somewhere along the way, the update that enables the update notifications didn’t install properly. (Thanks, Windows Update. You are a gem.)

Unfortunately, the Get Windows app told me that my system is incompatible. Specifically, my ATI Radeon Mobility X1400 graphics card is not compatible. I’m not surprised. Why bother to maintain hardware from 8 years ago? Surely everyone would have upgraded their computer by now! Hah hah.

Maybe I should have taken this as a sign, stopped there, and went on with my weekend. But I am stubborn, and I think I know better, so I fired up a browser and googled, “Force Windows 10 update.”

Something Happened

I used the media creation tool you can download to create Windows 10 ISOs—it also lets you upgrade the system you’re on. The tool gave me no compatibility warnings; it didn’t care. It just wanted to download the upgrade files.

And then … something happened.

An error message from the upgrade process. All it says is “Something happened” with a subtitle of “Something happened.”

Least. Helpful. Error. Ever.

This is making the rounds on the Internet, but it was not comforting to know I was in the same boat as others. Fortunately, a few websites had the solution: in the Windows Control Panel, go to Region and Languages, then the Administrative tab. Change the language setting for non-unicode programs to English (United States). (I guess Canadian English isn’t good enough for the Windows 10 upgrade.)

Now do you get what I mean about arcane sacrifices? How did someone even figure that out the first time they found this error? How could such unhelpful error text make it into the final release?

Oh wait, it’s Microsoft.

Upgrading with Fail

Now something else happened: the upgrade files downloaded successfully!

I agreed to the EULA without reading it (because, I mean, what other option did I have?), and my computer began the upgrade. I left it to do its thing and went out to have tea with a friend. When I came back, my computer had rebooted … into Ubuntu.

Oops. I forgot to change the default OS in GRUB, so the first time the computer restarted during the upgrade process, GRUB booted Ubuntu after the 10 second delay. Well, that was a productive use of the afternoon.

I changed the default to Windows, then I rebooted. The upgrade process picked up where it had left off, happily unaware of the open-source operating system that had been loaded but moments before.

A few reboots later, and the installation was on to the final phase, “configuring settings.” Everything looked like it was going fine. The computer rebooted again, and … “Restoring your previous version of Windows.”


After a few minutes, my computer rebooted a final time. A window appeared against the black void: we could not upgrade to Windows 10. The exact error was:

0x8007002C - 0x4000D The installation failed in the SECOND_BOOT phase with an error during the MIGRATE_DATA operation.

I admit that this is slightly more helpful than “something happened.” It at least gives me something specific to Google. And Google I did! I found a few mentions of the problem, and in particular this troubleshooting page from Microsoft.

I followed the steps recommended for my error, and I tried the upgrade again.

When that didn’t work, I tried a few other things, and tried the upgrade again. With each fresh attempt, I grew increasingly less sanguine.

Final thoughts on failure

I don’t know if this is related to the graphics card/drivers issue, or if it’s something else entirely—I don’t have any more information beyond the error message.

Maybe I’ll try again in a month or two and see if any updates manage to fix the problem for me. There’s a reason I tried this on the long weekend, so I’m not going to try it again until I have a similar stretch of days available in case things go wrong.

I will mention that, to Microsoft’s credit, at no point in the process did it feel like I was going to lose my data or brick my system. It restored my Windows 7 system flawlessly every single time the upgrade failed, and at no point did it get around to breaking my bootloader. I could boot into Ubuntu fine afterwards. So as far as the experience goes, I failed to upgrade to Windows 10, but it has cost me nothing (except some time).

I’m sad I don’t get to experience the relative goodness that is apparently Windows 10, according to others. But I’ll get over it pretty quickly.

There, over it!