I was recently helping someone with a problem with their laptop: an HP Envy, several years old but still running Windows well enough. You would install updates, receive feature releases, and get Office 365 click-to-run updates. But I had a fundamental problem: Google’s Chrome browser would not install.
We needed Chrome to access some projects that demanded the Google platform. Easy right? Not so much on this laptop. Let me walk you through the research and tactics you needed to install Chrome, a process that offers lessons for other users when seemingly good installations don’t work.
I downloaded both the stub installer and the enterprise installer and the installers would open a window, then close and not install. (The event viewer indicated that the installation was failing, but gave no clue as to why.)
When checking what files were installed on the machine, I found something called “Quick Browser” that resides in the registry instead of the Chrome browser. I tried to uninstall it. No dice. Then i tried Revo Uninstaller in a vain attempt to uninstall Fast Browser and the remnants of Chrome. It was then that I found evidence of an older program whose goal was to disable Microsoft Defender. I was hoping to avoid doing a total reinstall, so I kept trying to clean up this clearly corrupted OS. Since the Revo uninstaller could not find a previous Chrome installation, even though the registry keys indicated that the operating system once thought Chrome was there – I scanned the registry. Turns out, Chrome’s registry keys were left behind.
None of the recommended common troubleshooting techniques for chrome to install it worked. One recommendation was to uninstall the antivirus software. But since Defender was installed, there was no third-party antivirus to remove. (I saw that the Background Intelligent Transfer Service was set to manual, so I set the service to automatic and tried again.
I checked if the HP Envy network driver was up to date. It was. Reminder: Just visit a vendor or Microsoft site to update the drivers. Using third-party driver installation tools often carries risks.
Next, I used the registry editor to find all the Chrome locations in the registry. Then I tried to erase Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Google other Computer HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE WOW6432Node Google in Registry Editor. This is where things got interesting: I couldn’t delete the registry keys. I got an error message saying that I did not have permissions to edit these registry keys. I kept trying other suggestions and used the Microsoft Troubleshooting Tool to see if it finds the Google Chrome installation and removes it. (Could not uninstall). UAC or User Account Control was already enabled, so I had nothing to do.
Moving on, I checked the system startup for something that was installed on startup that might be causing this problem. Here, things got interesting: msconfig showed that the system was configured to perform a selective startup, and nothing I tried would allow it to switch to normal startup.
Could have used such tools to try and take control of the registry keys, but I had already decided that I could no longer trust this hard drive. Even if I found a way to reset the permissions or redo the operating system, I no longer considered it a safe operating system, so I took the opportunity not only to repair the laptop, but also to update it.
The Envy came with a traditional IDE hard drive; I opted for update the system with an SSD drive. Once done, I put a flash drive with an image of the Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft download site. The HP laptop immediately found the flash drive and began installing the operating system. Due to the Windows 10 digital license tied to the laptop’s motherboard, the system automatically reactivated Windows 10 without you having to provide a product key.
Then I reinstalled documents, pictures, and various items from the original drive (after scanning it for security concerns). I put the old drive in an external USB box. Then I took possession of the old user folder so that I could copy the data back to the SSD. (I’m a fan of adding a “take possession“Option in the right mouse button properties menu as it allows me to easily copy files to a new drive).
Finally, I started looking for other files to ease the transition. If you couldn’t find anything without your browser bookmarks, depending on your browser’s preferences, you’ll need to find them and copy them back to the new drive. In the case of Firefox, you can find a backup bookmarks folder in the original user profile and restore it.
I prefer to use a password manager instead of saving passwords in your browser, but if you do the latter, you can export and import them (After adjusting the browser to expose this ability.) Once you get your rebuilt machine back, remember to take a full image backup of your system.
Because I didn’t have a reliable backup to restore, I had to rebuild this laptop from scratch. And while the Envy was better than before due to the SSD upgrade, switching to a new computer has always been detrimental to me. It takes time to recover a system “just like that.” There are often little programs, apps, or bits of data that I forget I need. I recommend that you keep an old hard drive in a USB box in case you accidentally forget a file.
The bottom line is this: when your Windows computer won’t let you “fix” it, it’s time to rebuild it from scratch. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead and always have on hand (or know where you can quickly get) an external hard drive enclosure, a replacement SSD, and a flash drive (with at least 8GB of space) to build an ISO. Windows 10 boot.
So how would you have approached this misbehaving computer? What other tools or tricks would you have used? Join the discussion at Askwoody.com