Here’s a post-script to that review I posted the other day of the $49 Vulcan Journey Windows 10 tablet—namely, what happened when I decided to return it. I had since come into another Windows tablet I found a considerable improvement, which I will be reviewing here in a few days. Since I had that new one, I no longer needed the old one, and I wanted to return it. So I went to factory-reset it…and ran into a problem.
The way you factory-reset a Windows 10 computer is to pull up the Settings menu, go into “Update & security,” choose “Recovery,” and then “Reset this PC.” It will give you the option of resetting while keeping all your personal files, or clearing away everything. What’s supposed to happen after that is that Windows is then supposed to reboot and reinstall itself anew, leaving the computer or tablet as pristine as when you first took it out of the box.
Unfortunately, with the Journey, that didn’t happen. Instead, I got a pop-up saying that it couldn’t find the installation media, and I should “please insert” it. In other words, the tablet didn’t have a recovery partition—the hidden portion of a hard drive you often find with laptops, where they partitioned off part of the drive to include all the files necessary to reinstall the original version of Windows on it. It’s not exactly surprising—the thing only had 16 GB of internal storage, and most of that was taken up by the operating system as installed. There simply wasn’t room to add a recovery partition, too.
This left me with a dilemma: If I were on a desktop computer, that would mean I should go find the Windows 10 installation disc and put it in my BD-ROM drive. However, what do you do on a tablet?
The answer, as it turned out, was theoretically to format a blank USB drive into Windows 10 reinstallation media and try to boot the tablet from that. Which I did…but it turned out the tablet apparently didn’t support booting from USB. (Or if it did, it was beyond my technical ability to enable.) This isn’t a problem my new Windows tablet had, by the way—I checked and it performed exactly as specified. (Or at least, it got further along than the Journey did; I didn’t feel like completely resetting it so I canceled before I got to that point.) I’ll touch on that again when I review the new tablet.
In the end, I just threw up my hands, uninstalled all the software I’d installed, created a new local account and set it as administrator, used that to remove my old account details from the computer, and wrote zeroes and random numbers to all unused drive space with the “”cipher /W:C”. Then I took it back to Fry’s and they didn’t have any trouble accepting it back.
This is probably going to be an issue with any rock-bottom dirt-cheap Windows 10 tablet you run across that only comes with the bare minimum of storage—and it’s another reason why Windows is really a poor choice for a mobile operating system, at least down at the low end of dirt-cheap tablets. Android, Fire, and iOS all have considerably easier methods of factory-resetting that don’t rely on having several gigabytes of internal storage taken up by installation media you should only need if you don’t need the tablet anymore.
So, when seeking a cheap Windows device, always remember to caveat emptor.