Today I was presented with a laptop that was stuck in the dreaded Windows 10 Recovery loop. Any attempts to enter Recovery Mode to repair the laptop failed, and when I attempted to boot it into Safe Mode, I was presented with the error ‘Critical Process Died’.
No files or documents could be accessed on the laptop due to this error, so not only did the laptop need repairing, the data needed recovering too.
Remove Hard Drive and check for visible signs of damage
I was able to take the Hard Drive and RAM out and have a look to see if any seemed in bad condition. Everything seemed OK, and there were no grinding or scratching noises coming from the Hard Drive when I plugged it in, so I was happy with the state of the Hard Drive.
Remove All Other Components from Laptop and Check for Damage
The keyboard, touchpad, wireless card, DVD Drive, speakers, fans, battery, and processor where all removed and giving a microscopic inspection to check for damage. No signs of damage where noted, apart from the processor, which had hardly any thermal paste left on it, and the processor fan was heavily clogged with dust and dirt.
A liberal spreading of thermal paste was applied to the processor, and then reattached, carefully cleaning any excess paste away. I then used a small vacuum, as well as some tweezers, to remove all dirt and dust to clear the vents.
Put the Laptop Back Together and Test
Next I had to rebuild the laptop, gently reattaching all of the hardware and screwing the case back together.
Upon switching the laptop on again I was no longer presented with the ‘Critical Process Died’ error when entering Safe Mode, but the Operating System still failed to boot correctly.
Extract all Data from the Hard Drive
I removed the Hard Drive again, and placed it in a Hard Drive caddy, connecting it to another laptop. I was able to recover all files and documents from the clients’ user account (16GB in total, taking 20 minutes to recover).
Download Windows 10 Using Creation Tool
Using another laptop I created a bootable USB device with Windows 10 Home. I then inserted the USB stick into the laptop and changed the Boot Sequence in BIOS to boot from the USB. I was then used Advanced Setup to delete any existing partitions, and do a clean install of Windows 10. After 20 minutes Windows 10 loaded and activated successfully.
Copy Over Recovered Files and Optimise Laptop
Finally, I used a USB to return the recovered files back onto the laptop, and optimised the laptop by installing Google Chrome, Avast Antivirus, Adobe Acrobat DC. And changing the Virtual Memory to operate within its recommended level, and then finally ran Disk Cleanup. The customer stated they would reinstall Office 365, otherwise I would have installed that for them too.
After a restart the laptop booted successfully and worked brilliantly.