Stuck on Windows 10 1909? Some workarounds on moving forward

The next feature release of Windows 10, 21H1, is due out in the next couple months. But what happens if you’re still on an older version and want to get unstuck? Here’s what to do.

Computerworld  >  Windows 10 1909 / November 2019 Update
IDG / Microsoft

If you’re still running Windows 10 1909, you’re probably receiving a notification that your OS is about to reach the end of its life. Many are confused by the message because the Windows 10 platform is not losing support; instead, the feature release for Windows 10 Professional will be more than likely closing in May.

Windows message out of date Microsoft

Windows 10 out of date?

First, check the Windows 10 feature release version you have. Click on Start, Settings, System, scroll down to the bottom, and choose About. If you scroll down to the Windows specifications section, you can see what version of Windows 10 you use. If it shows version 1909, you need to investigate why your machine has not yet received Windows 10 2004 or 20H1.

If you go to Start, Settings, Update and Security, Windows Update — and it indicates your system is still not ready for Windows 10 2004 — you may need to investigate why 2004 (or 20H2) isn't being installed.

We already know one reason 1909 can’t get 20H2: the infamous Conexant audio driver problem. Windows 10 computers affected by this known issue come with Conexant ISST Audio or Conexant HDAudio drivers (shown under “Sound, video and game controllers” in Device Manager). The blocking drivers have numbered filenames from uci64a96.dll through uci64a231.dll and a file version of 7.231.3.0 or lower.

For some systems, Conexant has offered up the updated driver and the system can install 20H2; for others, the new drivers haven’t been released. For these systems, you need to type “device manager” in the search box. Scroll down to the Sound, video and Game controller section and click on the Conexant audio. Now right-mouse click and uninstall the audio driver. Go to the Windows 10 software download location and click on Update now. Once 20H2 is installed, it will find the Conexant audio driver again and complete the update.

Win 10 2004 block Microsoft

Windows 10 2004 blocked.

But what if you don’t have a Conexant audio driver — how can you determine the problem? With Windows 10 2004, you can use Setupdiag. Download the tool and run it by double-clicking the SetupDiag file. By reviewing the resulting log files, you may be able to decipher the blocking condition. (If you downloaded the setupdiag file to run, the log files will be in the download folder.)

Use Notepad to open the log file: SetupDiagResults.log.

The process involves looking at the following folders:

 \$Windows.~bt\sources\panther

\$Windows.~bt\Sources\Rollback

\Windows\Panther

\Windows\Panther\NewOS

If there are any blocking conditions, they may show up in a log in one of the folders.

Some of the issues already we know about include the following problems:

Lack of space: Make sure you have enough free hard drive space on the main C: drive. One error code is :0xC190020E, MOSETUP_E_INSTALLDISKSPACE_BLOCK which translates to the system not having enough free space to install the feature release. (I always recommend having at least 20GB free on your C: drive when trying to install a feature release.) If you have a computer with such a small hard drive that the release won’t install, there are several workarounds.

First you can download the Windows 10 feature release to a folder on an external flash drive and run setup.exe from that location. Alternatively, if you have a device that with an extremely small hard drive, download the ISO and extract it to an external hard drive. From this location, click on setup.exe and launch the feature upgrade.

I have a computer that has a small 32GB hard drive and I cannot use a USB flash drive to load the feature release; it will not mount again after the reboot. But, interestingly enough, an external hard drive will mount and successfully allow the computer to upgrade.

If you followed my previous guidance about using the group policy or registry key setting to keep your computer at a certain feature release (such as 1909), now is the time to adjust your targetreleaseversion value to 20H2. (This setting is a way to keep your system on a specific feature release.)

Once you’ve upgraded to 20H2, I strongly recommend that you revisit this setting and change it to be 20H2. It will keep your computer on that version until you are ready to go to the next feature release due out in April or May. While the 21H1 release isn’t likely to be a major or disruptive release, I still advocate holding back until your antivirus is guaranteed to work with the next feature release.

Click on Start, then type in “regedit.exe” and launch the registry editor.

  • Drill down to the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate
  • Right-click on Windows Update and select New, then select Dword (32-bit) Value.
  • Enter the string of TargetReleaseVersion.
  • Set its value to 1.
  • Right-click on Windows Update and select New > String Value.
  • Name it TargetReleaseVersionInfo.
  • Set its value to the desired target version. For example, you’ll want to enter 20H2 to trigger detection for, as well as keep your machine on, Windows 10 version 20H2.

Alternatively, you can use the downloadable registry keys I’ve uploaded to the Askwoody.com site. Simply downloading and clicking to install the registry key should allow you to easily set the version you want — including Home versions of Windows 10, not just Windows 10 Pro.

Windows 10 next version Microsoft

Windows update.

If you set the registry key at 1909, when you are ready to move to the next feature release, you can then easily set the value to 20H2. Then click on “Check for updates” in the Windows update interface. You will immediately be offered that feature release. I recommend using this process to install feature releases on the schedule you want, not when Microsoft wants you to install them.

Bottom line: feature releases are less disruptive than they used to be, especially when you pick when they will be installed.

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