What to do if desktop is unavailable after Windows 10 update

Aleksandar Ognjanovic
by Aleksandar Ognjanovic
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desktop is unavailable error

Since Microsoft started distributing Windows as a service, we had more than one opportunity to see how their update system is flawed. There’s a variety of issues orbiting around Windows Update, many critical.

One of those issues is the “Desktop is unavailable” error or, to be exact “C:WINDOWSsystem32configsystemprofileDesktop is unavailable” error.

This atrocity seemingly prevents users from seeing the desktop and taskbar, which makes Windows Explorer inaccessible. We provided you with some solutions below. You can follow them right away or wait for Microsoft to sort this out.

How to fix “Desktop is unavailable” after Windows 10 update

  1. Try with the Clean boot
  2. Copy default Desktop to system configuration
  3. Scan for malware
  4. Sign in with a new local administrative account
  5. Uninstall a third-party antivirus
  6. Run SFC/DISM
  7. Update Windows 10 manually
  8. Roll back to the previous Windows 10 version

Solution 1 – Try with the Clean Boot

The first step we can suggest is booting without the third-party applications working in the background. Installing a major update will make significant changes to the system and it’s analogous to a fresh installation. Therefore, some third-party applications might start misbehaving which, consequently, might disrupt the performance.

Here’s how to boot your PC with the Clean boot:

  1. Press Windows key + R.
  2. In the command line, type msconfig and press Enter.
  3. Under the Services tab, check the “Hide all Microsoft services” box.
  4. Click “Disable all” to disable all active third-party services.clean boot windows 10
  5. Reboot your PC.

Solution 2 – Copy default Desktop to system configuration

This was hardly an isolated issue as numerous users complained about the error. Waiting for Microsoft to sort the problem can take some time so some knowledgeable users offered some workarounds.

The one which seems to work well is re-establishing the desktop parameters in the Systemprofile configuration.

Here’s how to do it in a few simple steps:

  1. Open the File Explorer and enable Hidden items in the View ribbon.
  2. Navigate to C:UsersDefault.
  3. Copy the Desktop folder located in the Default folder.
  4. Now, navigate to C:Windowssystem32configsystemprofile and paste the copied folder there.
  5. Restart your PC.

Your system partition might not be ”C”, so have that in mind.

Solution 3 – Scan for malware

This is a long-shot solution as the probable reason for the error lies in the fault update sequence. However, we can’t negate a possible negative impact a malware infection can have on the system.

That’s why we suggest using Windows Defender to scan for malicious software. After that, you can safely move to additional steps if the “Desktop is unavailable” error persists.

Here’s how to scan the system for malicious software utilizing built-in Windows Defender:

  1. Open Windows Defender from the taskbar’s notification area.
  2. Select Virus & threat protection and open Scan options.
  3. Click on the Windows Defender Offline Scan button.offline scan windows defender
  4. The PC will restart so save everything before you move on.
  5. Click Scan.

Solution 4 – Sign with a new local administrative account

If you’re initially signed with the Microsoft Account instead of the local one, switching to the latter option might help resolve the “Desktop is unavailable” error. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll at least get the access to Windows Explorer which seems to crash when the system is administered by a Microsoft Account.

Follow these steps to sign in with a local account on Windows 10:

  1. Press Windows key + I to open Settings and choose Accounts.
  2. Under Your info, click on the Sign in with a local account instead.local account windows 10 settings
  3. Enter current password assigned to your Microsoft Account.
  4. Save everything you were doing as this action will take log you off so you can log in with the local account.

Solution 5 – Uninstall a third-party antivirus

In addition to disabling all third-party application explained in the first recommended solution, we strongly encourage you to disable a third-party antivirus. At least temporarily, until the system errors stop. This isn’t common, but these applications tend to break already vulnerable, half-baked, and unreliable major updates.

Once you’ve removed the antivirus, restart your PC and check for improvements.

Solution 6 – Run SFC/DISM

If the system resources get corrupted (everything points towards that here), we suggest running two built-in tools designed to fix system errors. They work best when paired as if SFC (System File Checker) misses something, DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) should cover its back.

Follow these instructions to run SFC and DISM, respectively:

  1. Open Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc), click File, and run a new task.
  2. Type cmd and press Enter to start the Command Prompt with administrative permissions.
  3. In the command-line, type sfc/scannow and press Enter.
  4. After its done, type the following command and press Enter after each:
    • DISM /online /Cleanup-Image / ScanHealth
    • DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealthDISM
  5. Reboot your PC when everything ends.

Solution 7 – Update Windows 10 manually

Some users report that updates weren’t even administered properly and the problems appeared. Others experienced a boot loop, while others were able to boot but the aforementioned error appeared or Windows Explorer wouldn’t start. For them, the update failed and they were automatically rolled back to the previous version.

If you fall into the second category, we suggest trying to update the system manually. For that, you’ll be needing a bootable USB flash drive and Media Creation Tool. Since the affected PC is barely usable, an alternative PC would come in handy for creating a bootable media.

After you’ve successfully created a bootable media, here’s how to update the system with the external drive:

  1. Insert bootable drive and access it over the File Explorer.
  2. Double-click Setup.update windows 10 with bootable drive
  3. Choose to Update your system and follow through with that. Have in mind that this might take some time.

Solution 8 – Roll back to the previous Windows 10 version

Finally, if none of the steps addressed this, rolling back to a previous version is the only thing we can advise. Resetting the system (clean, without preserving file) or reinstalling it can help, too. But, you’ll lose all your data in the process and will need to reconfigure everything from scratch, which is an overwhelming job.

Here’s how to roll back to previous Windows 10 version:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Choose Update & Security.settings update & security windows 10
  3. Choose Recovery from the left pane.
  4. Click Get started under the “Go back to the previous version of Windows 10” section.get back to the previous version of windows 10

That’s it. Don’t forget to tell us whether these solutions helped you or not in the comments section below. Your feedback is more than valuable.