(it’s the camera)

At some point in late June/early July, I ran a Windows update on New Computer, and the camera stopped working.

As in, the device is now fully convinced it doesn’t have a built-in camera. I tried the “delete the drivers to make the computer reinstall them” fix, and it didn’t reinstall anything, because why would it need those if it doesn’t have a camera? (Can’t download them manually from the website, either, it assures me Windows will handle this automatically.) I follow various troubleshooting steps, and when I get to the point where it says “choose Camera from the list of hardware to troubleshoot,” there is no Camera in the list at all, because what camera?

Not an urgent problem — Old Computer is still totally capable of picking up Zoom duties — but still a pain. (Now I’m using Old Computer once or twice a week, instead of once or twice a month.)

Fast-forward to July 22, and New Computer’s new trick is to reboot in the middle of the night — which, yeah, Windows 10 was already doing. I’ve hunted down and turned off every permission I could find and it wouldn’t stop. (It does its best to re-launch all the programs it unwillingly shut down, and mostly succeeds…)

But now, instead of booting like normal, it spontaneously loads into Dell Support mode and runs a full diagnostic.

There’s no screensaver in this mode, so once it finishes, it just sits. With the words “No hardware issues detected” on a full-brightness blank white screen. For howevermany hours go by before I wake up and get back to using the machine.

So naturally I figure this might be related to the camera problem. Maybe it’s getting worse? Seems prudent to go ahead and pull the trigger on a System Restore, undoing the last few weeks of updates, to before when the problem started.

Only reason I didn’t do that already was the fear that it would break the system worse, going from “tolerable pain” to “total disaster.”

Reader, it broke worse.

Now all I can get into is a troubleshooting utility that says “your options are (1) totally reinstall Windows while trying to keep your files and data, (2) totally reinstall Windows without trying to keep your files and data.”

So the good news is, this does rebuild a working, booting OS. It even keeps all my files intact! And it either remembers or does better with a few settings — notably, System Restore isn’t set to “feel free to fill up 100% of the disk space with your data” the way it was the first time.

All my programs are gone, but it generates a helpful list of “programs removed” (as an HTML file on the desktop). The amount of reinstalls I’ve had to go through at this point, I already maintain a full list of Things I’ve Installed + Backup Settings + Registration Codes + Saved Copies Of Installer Files + Also All The Fonts, but it’s cool to see Windows actually taking a little of the prep effort on itself now.

A few hours of reinstalling, re-signing-in, and re-syncing later, New Computer is 90% back to the state it was in a month earlier.

That was a week ago, and the rebuild has yet to spring any Horrible Surprises on me (knock wood), so we might actually be in the clear. At least, until some exciting new system failure comes along in another 8 months.

…guess what still isn’t working, though. Go on. Take a totally wild guess.

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