This operation requires an interactive window station

TL;DR: Leave your device plugged to your PC and "Refresh your PC"

This is a Nexus 5

As an Android developer I've been trying to install the USB driver for my Nexus 5 (pictured above — Credit) for ADB/debugging purposes. Worked perfectly under Windows 7, works perfectly at home... Fails miserably at my parents' for some reason.

After going through the 5 stages of grief and finally accepting that I would never be able to develop the ultimate Flappy bird clone while on vacation, I stumbled upon several forums that pointed me to the right direction. But first, let's point out the problem.

The problem

  • You plug in your USB device
  • It appears unknown in the Device Manager Unknown device
  • You right-click and try to Update the Driver Software Update Driver Software
  • You pick the driver... and then BAM! This operation requires an interactive windows station


Ok, so you've got the right driver, the right version, you're an Administrator... it's just Windows being a little bitch.

The solution

Well, kinda. A real solution would be for Microsoft to publish a fix, or to move some files around or something, but after trying many "solutions" that didn't work (changing the permissions to the drivers and Driverstore folders, enabling the administrator account and installing the driver from there, Rebooting the computer and authorizing unsigned drivers, ...) I found a solution that worked for me.

Disclaimer / Caveat You won't lose your personal files (love letters written in notepad, pictures of kitten), but you will have to re-install all your software. All of it. Browser, media player, IDE, cracked Adobe suite... Everything. Now, saving everything in the cloud doesn't seem like such a bad idea, right?

Thanks Obama

This is unconvenient but it's a step above the previous best solution that was to reformat your hard drive and install Windows again.

Step 0: Keep your device plugged in the USB port (or plug it right now)

And then I'll just Google and copy-paste "Refresh Windows 10":

Step 1: Open the Start menu, and then select Settings > Update & security > Recovery.

Step 2: Under Reset this PC, select Get started.

Step 3: Select Keep my files.

Your computer is going to restart and repair your Windows installation. Mine got stuck a long time on 8%, and then went through anyway, so be patient.

When it restarts, you'll still have your users, your desktop background, everything but your applications. Go back to the device manager, right click on the Unknown device, update it... And this time it works like a charm.

Takes an hour or so, but now you can start a new life, like nothing happened and eat your spaghetti like everything's right in the world.