Windows 10: Fixes for October 2019 (start menu) issues

[German]After installing the cumulative updates released on October 8, 2019, some Windows 10 users, especially with version 1903, are facing again issues with a broken start menu, a broken desktop search, and a broken action center. Below I will give a brief analysis and describe some approaches how to repair this.


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Description of the issue

As of October 8, 2019, Microsoft has released a bunch of cumulative security updates for Windows 10. One of the goals was to fix the printer issues, which occurred with some systems since the updates at the end of September 2019 and October 3, 2019.

However, shortly after installing these cumulative Windows 10 updates, some users discovered that the Start menu, Desktop Search, and Notification Center no longer works. These bugs had already kept the affected users in suspense at end of August and in early September 2019 (see Windows 10 V1903: Search and Cortana bug in Update KB4512941 confirmed (09/05/2019)). However, the September 2019 patchday updates actually fixed these bugs.

I have covered the issues within my blog post Windows 10 October 2019 Patchday (Start menu) issues. In the German version of this post blog-reader Janami25 has left a comment why suddenly people are affected again. He wrote:

Windows 10 1903:

My original guess with the first problem update KB4524147 has been confirmed here [in this blog post]. Once you have installed this first “problem” update, you will notice that you have issues with the start menu. And these issues will be back, after newer patches are installed.

In my opinion, you MUST restore a system backup BEFORE installing KB4524147 for the first time, and then install the very latest patch, only then the issue with the start menu was solved. At least at my saystem.

The blog reader refers to this English MS Answers forum thread, where this was also discussed. Within my blog post Windows 10 October 2019 Patchday (Start menu) issues I had given hints how to fix this issue. One was to replace the file ActivationStore.dat by an old version – but I had not the time to discuss details. In the meantime, GErman blog readers have thankfully gave me some analysises of the root cause and described some working approaches, which I now summarize here.

Fix #1: Restore ActivationStore.dat

The file ActivationStore.dat is used by various Windows apps (also the Windows shell with the start menu, notification center and search was probably created with the Modern UI app methods) to store certain information. This Microsoft article deals, for example, with the repair of the Store app, where ActivationStore.dat plays a role. The file is a component of the Windows runtime system. For interested readers: James Forshaw has mentioned this in this set of slides.


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Now German users have noticed that the file ActivationStore.dat is not only missing for Cortana. In my German the blog post Windows 10 Oktober 2019-Patchday (Startmenü-) Probleme reader Bolko left some details within this comment. The file ActivationStore.dat is missing or damaged in four folders of build-in shell apps:

  • Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost
  • Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost
  • Microsoft.Windows.Cortana
  • Microsoft.AAD.BrokerPlugin

This also explains why the start menu, the (Cortana) search and the Windows shell have massive problems. Bolko has left the following instructions:

  • The 4 still working files have to be copied from an earlier still working Windows 10 version, version 18362.329 for instance, to an USB stick.
  • The USB stick must be formatted with the NTFS file system and the copying must be done in an administrative PowerShell console.

The latter restrictions have the purpose to get access when copying and to keep the access permissions (especially TrustedInstaller and ACL) when copying. Below are the path specifications for a working Windows 10 1903 Build 18362.329:

C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost_10.0.18362.329_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy

C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_10.0.18362.329_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\

C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_1.13.0.18362_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\

C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.AAD.BrokerPlugin_1000.18362.329.0_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\

If you use another working Windows 10 build to copy the working files, you may have to change the above pathnames.

The second step is to copy the files from the USB stick with administrative permissions to the following folders. If necessary, the path names must be adapted to the broken Windows 10 Build 18362.418.

copy .\Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost_10.0.18362.329_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ActivationStore.dat C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost_10.0.18362.418_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy -force
copy .\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_10.0.18362.329_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ActivationStore.dat C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost_10.0.18362.418_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ -force

copy .\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_1.13.0.18362_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ActivationStore.dat C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_1.13.0.18362_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ -force

copy .\Microsoft.AAD.BrokerPlugin_1000.18362.329.0_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ActivationStore.dat C:\programdata\Microsoft\Windows\AppRepository\Packages\Microsoft.AAD.BrokerPlugin_1000.18362.418.0_neutral_neutral_cw5n1h2txyewy\ -force

The copy commands, executed in an administrative PowerShell (or command prompt), restores the missing files into the runtime system of the corresponding Build-In Windows apps. This should (if necessary after a restart) restore the Windows shell with working start menu, etc.

Fix #2: Repair Windows 10 via Inplace-Upgrade

The above repair approach will not be practicable for some users because it is too complicated. I had outlined the following additional repair approaches in the blog post Windows 10 October 2019 Patchday (Start menu) issues:

  • Try a Windows 10 repair via in-place upgrade. To do this, run setup.exe from a Windows 10 installation media from the running but defective Windows 10 system.
  • Then simply let reinstall Windows 10 Version 1903 over the system (this is called an in-place upgrade).

With this approach, programs and data remain intact – and with a little luck, the missing ActivationStore.dat files are written back and everything runs again. In the Microsoft Answers forum thread, user mirovb reported that it fixed 2 machines. Also German blog reader Janami25 confirmed in this comment that it helped.

Fix #3: Restore August 2019 Backup and Update

If the above approaches do not help or are not feasible, one can still try the following approach:

  • Reset the broken Windows 10 system to a backup from a working system. It should be a Windows 10 backup from August 2019. For Windows 10 V1903 this would be build 18362.329 at the latest, which was distributed with update KB4512941 to 30.8.2019.
  • Then you have to install the cumulative update from October 8, 2019 that fits to the Windows 10 version. I described the updates in the blog post Patchday Windows 10-Updates (October 8, 2019).

The suggestions proposed in forums to repair Windows 10 using sfc /scannow and dism seem not to help, because the files ActivationStore.dat of the build-in apps are not restored or will be recovered from component store in a damaged version.

What else you can do

If you don’t have backups of a still working Windows 10 system anymore, you still have the following approaches.

  • Attempt to reset Windows 10 via the Settings app (Windows 10 will then be reset by the OEM partition to the factory settings).
  • You download a Windows 10 installation medium via Media Creation Tool from Microsoft, write the ISO file to DVD or a USB stick. Then boot the machine from the installation media and reinstall Windows 10.

Afterwards you have to install the updates from October 8, 2019. The disadvantage of these approaches is that all data and programs are lost – you have a virgin Windows 10.

Just a last remark. I’ve escalated these issues to Microsoft’s engineers via this Microsoft Answers forum post. PaulSey from Microsoft confirmed that they are aware of the issues and promised a fix until end of October 2019.

If Edge isn’t working, maybe the article Windows 10 V1903: Update KB4517389 breaks Edge Browser [Fix] helps.

Similar articles:
Microsoft Office Patchday (1. Oktober 2019)
Microsoft Security Update Summary (October 8, 2019)
Patchday: Updates for Windows 7/8.1/Server (Oct. 8, 2019)
Patchday Windows 10-Updates (October 8, 2019)
Patchday Microsoft Office Updates (October 8, 2019)

Windows: Printer issues after Sept. 2019 Update confirmed
Windows Updates fixes printer bug (Oct. 3, 2019)
Windows/IE: Issues and confusion with updates (10/03/2019)
Windows 10 V1903: Search and Cortana bug in Update KB4512941 confirmed
Windows 10 October 2019 Patchday (Start menu) issues
Windows 10 V1903: Update KB4517389 breaks Edge Browser [Fix]


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14 Responses to Windows 10: Fixes for October 2019 (start menu) issues

  1. Thad Bonczar says:

    Good and helpful work tracking down this problem! Thank you for the work arounds. How do we block this update from re-installing the next time we run updates?

  2. Fred_vdH says:

    Some people suggested that upgrading the BIOS (if possible) might be a trigger to improve how msoft updates/upgrades are handled correctly by Windows10.
    Sorry, I dan’t have proof of this (yet)

  3. The Unknown says:

    I’m running 1809 Pro. I had the Start button won’t work problem, the Outlook won’t start problem, the Search won’t work problem AND all the icons on my task bar disappeared. All these issues at the same time.

    I ended up uninstalling KB4512578 to fix my machine. I ran the Microsoft utility to hide this update until further notice. It’s been three days and so far so good.

    • EP says:

      what about the newer 1809 updates such as KB4519338 or the newly released KB4520062 patch? have you tried those, The Unknown?

      I don’t have those start menu problems on my systems running 1809 education & LTSC 2019 (v1809) with either KB4519338 or KB4520062

      • guenni says:

        @EP: From what I’ve seen, the updates mentioned does’t address the start menu issues. I’m awaiting a fix end of October 2019.

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  5. Matt says:

    Fix #1 – it works!
    But I had to change ownership because Powershell copy with -force option didn’t work (SystemUnauthorized error).
    After changing ownership, copying files, restore ownership to TrustedInstaller and computer restart search menu is working!

  6. Pingback: Windows 10 version 1903: This new update brings Start menu fixes | ZDNet

  7. samson says:

    a way to make windows 10 extinct, is their official update…update and disable your windows system…

  8. ad0815 says:

    Had the broken start menu after the 1903 update persisting even after KB4522355.

    After doing some research on a VM, I found the culprit (at least for us).
    Deleting %appdata%\..\Local\Microsoft\Windows\CloudStore fixed the issue for multiple laptops/users here.
    You need to be logged out with the user to be able to delete the folder. So either do it with another local admin account or remote via the \\pc-name\c$\users\user-name\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\CloudStore share.

  9. Charlie says:

    Thank you for this solution.

    For some reason, I had this problem occur today (20th December) on v1909 of Win 10 (18363.535).

    I noticed that my Microsoft.Windows.ShellExperienceHost, Microsoft.Windows.StartMenuExperienceHost and Microsoft.AAD.BrokerPlugin had all been updated today (they had a timestamp of 20 Dec) and the ActivationStore.dat in all 3 of these folders was dated October 2019. I restored a version from another working computer (timestamped November 2019), and all is well again.

    I had great difficulty copying these files, though. It involved me manually killing ShellExperienceHost using Powershell. I also had to amend the ownership of the AppRepository folder (and all child objects) to my account before I could copy over the new ActivationStore.dat (and then change back to TrustedInstaller again afterwards). I am far from a Windows expert, so each step had to be looked up how to do it. Took a few hours this afternoon!

    But thanks again for pointing me in the right direction.

    Maybe we’ll find out what Microsoft have done later.

  10. Another old guy says:

    While I appreciate your efforts to diagnose and suggest one or more solutions, this really speaks to the irresponsibility of Micro$lop and their shoddy development (and shady business) practices… i.e., roll out f*ckd up ‘fixes’ or updates and let the community deal with the fallout. Additional ‘fixes’ are released when you buy the next version – bullshit!!!. Those like myself who’ve been around since DOS 1.0 should be all too painfully aware of this nonsense, and as far as I can tell, it’s never ending.

    If I could, and it were totally my choice, I’d ditch the products of [the spoiled little rich kid Willie] Gate’s company, and use a Linux based OS from now on. No it’s not perfect, and Yes you do have to become a bit smarter to use it. But Linux is also free, and if I have to resort to fixing someone else’s screw-ups, why should I also have to pay them to be incompetent and still have to fiddle with and fix what they screwed up? Wake up everyone. The really talented guys should be putting their energy into improving an OS like Linux rather than shoring up a broken down piece of garbage like Windblows…

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