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Issue #787: August 21-27, 2022

Q: Hello! I remain a dedicated reader of all your columns.  Since downloading a Microsoft update over a year ago I have had problems with my system starting and running slow. Disk check on C: drive shows no problem. Running “sfc /scannow” shows 34% completion before failure. Running “DISM /Cleanup Image /Scanhealth” fails after 54%, with the error “The specified buffer contains ill-formed data. The DISM log file can be found…” etc., but it leaves no clue for my poorly qualified mind on how to correct it. Now, after pushing the power button, 2 min. later I get the desktop.  Then after 4 min. the tools at bottom right of screen.  Then the browser and email at 10 minutes. After that, everything appears normally apps, downloads, whatever. 

All subsequent efforts have been unsuccessful. Is there an easier path other than formatting C: and re-installing Windows? I have read many articles/papers/notes, some indicating the best solution is to replace the drive.

Now with the latest Win 10 Update KB5015807 which fails to load & refers back to scannow (that also failed earlier) for corrective action.

Any possible help would again be greatly appreciated.

 – Corwin D.
Mary Esther, Florida

A:  Welcome back to I.G.T.M. Corwin!  This is something like the sixth question from you that has appeared in the column, so thank you very much for being someone who has helped keep things flowing around here.  As I’m always saying, without reader questions, there won’t be answers.  The column would get pretty boring pretty fast that way.

But my word!  This one is over the top, isn’t it?  With all of the things you’ve tried, I must tell you that your Geek skills seem pretty formidable.  At least I thought so until you started talking about your “poorly qualified mind.”  I don’t believe that, and I hope you don’t either.

For the purposes of edifying all my readers, I’m going to pause here for an explanation of the commands you mentioned.  First of all, SFC.  This is short for System File Checker, and it is designed to verify the integrity of all of the many files that comprise a Windows installation.  Among other things, it can detect files that have been overwritten or otherwise corrupted by malware.

Then there’s DISM.  This is Microsoft Windows’ Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool.  It is generally intended for IT administrators, or system managers, but works just as well for end users, if they know what they are doing.  As the name implies, this is a utility that can make changes or updates to Windows features, drivers, settings, etc. As you might expect with such a tool, it has many command options that focus its task on various aspects of the operating system.  Unfortunately, Corwin, neither “/Cleanup Image” nor “/Scanhealth” are among them.  You obviously ran commands of some sort, as you shared that you got incomplete results.  So, I can only guess that this is the result of a cut/paste error when you wrote your question.  It does make it a little hard for me to respond though, when I don’t know the commands you’re trying to run.

I wonder if it’s possible that the tools you’re using are actually not stopping at those percentages, but rather working on some aspect of your system that takes longer, and the output stops updating?  If your hard drive light is flashing, don’t interrupt.  If you believe the system is truly hung, then try disabling all anti-malware software while you run those commands.  The activity they perform might look suspicious enough to the scanners that they try to stop it from occurring.

As for the slow boot, there are lots of things that can cause that, and I would have to know a lot more about your system to offer any helpful advice.  I will say this much: Over time, a system can acquire massive amounts of software that launches when Windows boots, and this can slow things way down.  Before considering a hard drive replacement, you should take a look at exactly what you’re asking of your computer during the boot process.  Some housecleaning may be in order.

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