There's a new security / privacy standard coming down the pipe where laptops or devices that connect to public wifi hotspots, will spoof the internal MAC address of the device for privacy reasons. Normally, the mac address is hard wired to the network card as it comes off the factory line, but through software, you can easily change it to something different.
With Windows 10, there is a new feature that you can enable on SOME laptops that have wireless cards, labeled: Random Hardware Addresses.
When I ran across the option to enable "Random Hardware Addresses", I was pleasantly pleased with the idea of spoofing my MAC address when out and about. It's one less thing for the government or local hackers to track me by or at least make it more difficult...
If you want to know how to enable it through Windows 10, there's plenty on that topic. Most specifically, I'll direct you to a PDF on the matter: https://www.ietf.org/proceedings/93/slides/slides-93-intarea-5.pdf
What there isn't ANY info on, is how to fix it if it goes haywire. Like causing an endless reboot. I figured it out though after 2+ hours, which is why I'm blogging on it.
I ran across the option looking at some other things in the wireless settings, and knew immediately what it was designed to do based of the description. I spend a lot of time away from the house and thought this would be an excellent solution for me. I enabled the option, ran some windows updates and restarted the computer, only to be met with an endless reboot. I could get as far as the login page, even enter my password, then it would hang and reboot. Initially, I thought it was because of the windows updates, so I did a restore and rolled back the updates. No change. Then the thought occurred to me that I had enabled the random hardware addresses option in the network settings... That was the only other "change" that had happened that might cause an endless reboot, so I went to Google to figure out how to revert it back. Nothing. Only one single post online with, as usual, no answer to the solution. Random Hardware Addresses for WiFi in Windows 10 Pro Doesn't Work and Kills the OS boot and networking when implemented. I had to dig deeper and a full reload was out of the question. The one thing I found interesting about the post, is that the guy has a Killer network card. So do I. I have a feeling it has something to do with those cards or maybe drivers... Do I shoot off an email to Killer Networking??... Eh... better things to do like tell you how to fix it.
So, The fix, while simple, isn't for the faint of heart, but manageable by anyone who can follow directions. If anything, I'll show you how to disable random hardware addresses in the registry instead of the GUI which does you no good in safe mode.
The first step is to boot to safe mode. If you let the computer reboot a few times, eventually it will boot itself to the "Troubleshooter" page.
Once you get to the Choose an option page, click:
Troubleshoot -> Advanced Options -> Startup Settings -> Restart
This will reboot you to a new page with 10 or so different numbered options kind of like the old XP - Win7 days of hitting F8.
Choose either option #4 or #5 (Just hit the number 4 or 5 on the keyboard) If you're indecisive, choose 4 unless you need to check your email, in which case, choose 5 and hope for the best.
Here's how you can get to safemode in Windows 10 from the horses mouth (Microsoft): Start your PC in safe mode in Windows 10
The next step is to fix the registry to disable that pesky little option that caused all sorts of havoc on your day...
First step is to open the command prompt. The absolute easiest way to do this, is right-click on the little windows icon down in the lower left.
Choose: Command Prompt (Admin)
Next step is to open up the registry. Inside the command prompt, (uninteresting big black very intimidating box that just popped up):
then press Enter on the keyboard.
A new window should open up called Registry Editor
I'll give you two ways to find the key to fix. The easy way and the manual way.
1) You'll notice the list of folders under Computer on the left. Single click on HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
2) Once that folder is highlighted, go up to the top and click Edit -> Find
3) In the find box, type:
and press OK
Wait for the search to complete and it should highlight the registry key we need to modify (RandomMacState). To the right of it, you should notice REG_BINARY which we don't care about... then 01 00 00 00 which is what we DO care about. We need to change the 01 to a 00.
4) Double click on RandomMacState
When the new box opens, you will Double click on that very first 01 which should highlight both numbers. If so, simply press the zero key twice on the keyboard 00.
Click OK on the "Edit Binary View" box, close registry editor and Reboot The Computer. At this point, it should be fixed! (hopefully)
In registry editor, navigate to the following key location:
Here's where it gets fuzzy... the key I needed for my fix, was in:
I have no idea if that will be the same for your or not... I only had 3 folders inside Interfaces, so the easiest would probably be to just click each one and look for RandomMacState. For me, there was only one folder out of the 3 that even had that key.
Next, change the RandomMacState from 01 00 00 00 -> 00 00 00 00 Ok the box and restart the computer.
If this doesn't fix it, I have no idea what will... Good luck and feel free to leave a comment. (Don't feel bad if I don't approve it right away... I'm slow to check and approve comments)