Recent Windows 10 Updates Kill Built-in Restore Facility

Here’s an interesting note from the Windows Support team (most recent update: 5/24/2019). It’s entitled “You cannot restore the system to a restore point after you install a Windows 10 update.” And indeed, it confirms that recent Windows 10 updates kill built-in restore facility — in some cases, anyway. Consider the scenario it describes:

  1. Install Windows 10 on a clean computer.
  2. Turn on system protection, and then create a system restore point that is named “R1.”
  3. Install one or more Windows 10 updates.
  4. After the updates have finished installing, you restore the system to the “R1” restore point.

This is an entirely typical and predictable use of Windows 10’s built-in Restore Point facility,. Alas, it blows up after some recent Windows 10 updates. In fact, the symptom of this issue is the Stop error (0XC000021A). When this happens as you  attempt to restart the computer to apply the restore point, the system won’t boot. Retries don’t help, either.

Instead of reloading the OS from the restore point after bootup, you get a boot failure instead. It won’t go away upon subsequent retries, either.
[Click image for full-sized view; Image source: Phoneweek.]

What’s Up with Recent Windows 10 Updates Kill Built-in Restore Facility?

MS explains the issue as follows:

During the system restore process, Windows temporarily stages the restoration of files that are in use. It then saves the information in the registry. When the computer restarts, it completes the staged operation.

In this situation, Windows restores the catalog files and stages the driver .sys files to be restored when the computer restarts. However, when the computer restarts, Windows loads the existing drivers before it restores the later versions of the drivers. Because the driver versions do not match the versions of the restored catalog files, the restart process stops.

Thus, it’s your basic Catch-22. You can’t restore the OS because the drivers aren’t the right ones, and you can’t complete the boot operation for the same reason. Sigh.

Working Around Restore Point Error 0XC000021A

To solve this problem, Microsoft instructs users to restart their PCs multiple times (usually takes 3 tries) until it boots into WinRE (the Windows Recovery Environment). Once inside WinRE, the fix is pretty straightforward. Here’s the recommended sequence of actions:

  1. Troubleshoot → Advanced Options → More recovery options → Start settings: Select Restart now
  2. Inside startup settings: Select Disable driver signature enforcement (MS observes “You may have to use the F7 key to select this setting”)
  3. Allow the startup process to continue. Once Windows restarts, the system restore process should complete successfully.

Avoidance Beats Cure!

I’d suggest that readers simply stop using the built-in Restore Point facility. Any recovery mechanism worth its salt has to be unshakeable and unbreakable. That’s why I’ve switched to Macrium Reflect (MR) instead of using built-in Restore Points and the old-fashioned built-in Backup and Restore (Windows 7) facility. Both are subject to occasional gotchas, hiccups and issues — like the one reported herein. I’ve been using the Free version of MR for going on 4 years now, and I’ve never had a single restore operation fail on me once, over hundreds of uses. Personally, I’m of the opinion that Windows 10 users should switch over to a more reliable and well-behaved backup-restore mechanism.

MR (including the Free version) backs up and restores Windows 10 images quickly and effortlessly. It also includes a nearly fool-proof Rescue Disk from which users can boot their systems to restore MR image backups when OS boot issues present themselves.

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