Windows 10 Won’t Let Me Run Any Applications As Administrator

Here’s a fun one. A friend of my wife works at a school and one day her computer was acting up so she took it to the IT department. Their diagnosis was “can’t run applications and requires a fresh install of Windows”.

Jump to the bottom to get past my rambling and view how I fixed this.

Being the IT guy I am, I told her to bring it to me and I’ll fix it for her.

Well lo and behold when I finally got my hands on it – I couldn’t run task manager, I couldn’t run cmd as Administrator and there were failed Windows updates. She was also out of hard drive space but I’ve determined that unrelated. Everything I tried to run as Administrator threw up the error that the application “C:/xxxx/xxxx/xx.exe” could not be found.

I tried the usual things such as attempting Windows updates again, running troubleshooters (wouldn’t work), sfc /scannow kept failing, resetting Windows kept doing nothing, there were no restore points, the whole system was a mess.

So I went into Safe Mode – where I was then able to run everything that I needed and decided to enable the inbuilt Administrator account and restarted in order to try and get things under control (this later turned out to be useless).

Upon logging in as Administrator I was greeted with the usual “Welcome” and OOBE (Out of Box Experience) which was asking me about permissions for data collection. But this kept failing with an error (no error number, just a generic OOBE error message).

Being a laptop with Windows 10 Home you can’t just skip this screen. I could do some funky magic to open the occasional tool (Windows key plus some shortcuts). That was a write-off. At this stage I’d made this a personal challenge to fix – I said I could and damn sure, I would!

I started thinking a bit more about why the user account could open cmd but not run cmd as Administrator. There had to be something in the way it was trying to elevate the permissions.

SO LET’S DISABLE UAC!

A restart into Safe Mode with the normal user account and switching the following registry key from 1 to 0 disabled UAC:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\EnableLUA

Once done I restarted back into Windows like normal and wow – I could run everything again! The next step was to get this failed Windows feature update (1809 up to 1909) to install.

Windows Update kept failing – it would download, install, restart and then go back to 1809 like nothing had happened.

Well, there’s another way I know of to install Feature Updates – cue the Windows Update Assistant tool. I quickly went off and downloaded it and started the whole Download and Install process.

AND IT WORKED! Then we all lived happily ever after.

I guess the key to writing this is that nothing I found on Google came up with a working solution or definition of the issue. I’m guessing this is the result of the failed Windows Update leaving the computer in a corrupted state.

The issue initially being: Can’t run anything as administrator – programs not found.

The solution being: Disable UAC via Safe Mode using regedit and installing the feature update via the Update Assistant Tool.

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