Category Archives: Thoughts & concerns

XP Bliss Wallpaper Brings Back Memories

It may be the longest-lived version of Windows, ever. Windows XP was generally available on October 25, 2001. And it didn’t hit EOL until April 8, 2014. That’s 4,548 days or 12 years, 5 months, and 14 days (not including the end date, add one more day if you’re feeling generous). Now, I’ve learned that the familiar grassy hillside from the XP default wallpaper that graced my desktop for much of that interval is available in 4K format for download. The old XP Bliss wallpaper brings back memories galore for me, as it may do for you.

An auto-scaled version of that download appears as the lead-in graphic for this admittedly nostalgic blog post. You can download the original from the Microsoft Design team. And here’s a shout-out to the Neowin team whose June 9 story brought this onto my radar.

If XP Bliss Wallpaper Brings Back Memories, Grab It!

You too, can grab and use this image yourself if you like. It works for wallpaper, or goes readily into your desktop background rotation. I remember that grassy sward both fondly and well from those days from decades past. If you’re of like mind you may, like me, be inclined to grab yourself a copy, too. The original weighs in a around 7MB in size, with native resolution of 4089×2726 pixels (hence its 4K label).

It’s big enough, in fact, that WordPress had to downscale it so I could run it as my “featured image” here. That took it down from the aforementioned resolution to a less-hefty 2560 by 1707 pixels instead. And there it sits, at the head of this post.



Windows 11 User Count Tops 1B Worldwide

This news comes from the Microsoft Windows Blogs dated May 26. It’s entitled “Delivering Delightful Performance for More Than One Billion Users Worldwide.” That’s the day after Build 2023 concluded, and the first time that MS has publicly disclosed user count data for Windows 11 in about a year. It’s also the first time they’ve proclaimed that the Windows 11 user count tops 1B worldwide.

These are the four instances in the afore-linked item where the “billion” word occurs:
1. In the title of the blog post, as quoted in the preceding ‘graph
2. In a sentence that reads (in part) as “... with over one billion users and a rich PC ecosystem…
3. Diagnostic data includes “…over 70.4 billion scenario performance data points per year.”
4. Final paragraph, penultimate sentence reads (in part) “…thanks to our Windows Insider community for helping us continue to improve Windows for the over one billion users worldwide.

What Windows 11 User Count Tops 1B Worldwide Means

According to Statista, as of June 2023, the company expects a ratio of 68.6% for Windows 10 vis-a-vis 18.12% for Windows 11. Thus, if there are 1 B Windows 11 users, there must also be  around 3.78 B Windows 10 users. To me this means one of two things:

(a) The ratio of visitors that Statista tracks doesn’t accurately model the Windows population of active users
(b) Microsoft’s claimed 1 B figure does not translate to active users 1-to-1 (makes sense, given that one active user can run multiple instances of the OS, especially VMs)

In January 2023, for example, Jason Wise reported at EarthWeb that MS claimed 1.4 B active devices running Windows 10 and 11 monthly in January 2022. They use this data, plus additional insights, to assert that “Windows, new versions and otherwise, run on more or less 1.6 billion devices around the world” as of January 2023.

Even assuming a monthly growth rate of 3% that puts the global Windows population at 1.85 B in May, 2023. How can there be at or over 1 B Windows 10 users and a similar number of 11 users with a total that’s arithmetically lower? Something here doesn’t make sense…

It should be interesting to see the pundit corps chew this over. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted…

Note Added 1 Hour Later…

It’s got to be devices, counting both physical and virtual machines as individual devices. I use 10 PCs here at my house, and I have at least another dozen VMs across various Windows versions at my disposals. That’s over 20 “devices” but only one user. That leaves room for a tangible “muliplier” between users and devices, IMO.



Concluding Windows 10 22H2 Non-Security Preview

There’s an interesting tidbit in the Support Note for KB5026435, released May 23, 2023. Indeed, it is the concluding Windows 10 22H2 non-security preview release, ever. It goes so far as to say “no more” such releases are forthcoming. In a way, this marks the beginning of the end for Windows 10, whose EOL date is 10/14/2025 (about 17.5 months from today). As you can see from the lead-in graphic, I just installed it onto my sole remaining Windows 10 production desktop.

Sussing Out the Concluding Windows 10
22H2 Non-Security Preview

MS elaborates further on the future release scheduling for Windows 10 in the afore-linked Support Note. It says:

Only cumulative monthly security updates (known as the “B” or Update Tuesday release) will continue for these versions. Windows 10, version 22H2 will continue to receive security and optional releases.

Here’s what I think this means:

  1. 22H2 is the final release for Windows 10 (unless something big changes).
  2. No more second (4th) Tuesday preview releases for Windows 10 22H2.
  3. There may be some second (4th) Tuesday security and optional releases from time to time.

The inescapable conclusion is that Windows 10 is now purely in “maintenance mode.” That means we’re unlikely to see more (or at least, precious few) Windows 11 features “back-ported” into 10.

Take it as a signal, business users. MS is clearly warning you that it’s time to start planning the transition to Windows 11 (or beyond). It should be interesting to see how this plays out between now and mid-October 2025. Stay tuned, and I’ll opine further on what’s up, what’s hot, and what’s not.


Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term

Whoa there! I couldn’t help but notice that my production PC slowed briefly to a crawl this morning. A not-so-welcome first, in fact. A quick jump to Task Manager showed me the Macrium Reflect Backup tool was the culprit, with CPU utlization stuck north of 75%. It took about 5 minutes to subside to normal levels. This tells me quite a lot, but let’s start with the blunt observation that Macrium Reflect swamps CPU short-term.

Note: I cheated on the lead-in graphic. It’s from a much older PC where it’s frightfully easy to swamp that CPU. Notice all four cores are pegged at 100% utilization in the ever-handy CPU Usage gadget. I have 8 threads on 4 cores on the i7-Skylake production unit, and they were all likewise pegged at 100%, albeit for a short time. Thus, I saw what I show here, doubled, as that PC bogged down.

What Does Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term Mean?

Good question. Beyond the inescapable fact that this program — which was running my daily 9AM backup when this happened — brought my production PC to its knees, there’s more. Let me spell a few things out:

1. This is an i7-Skylake (6th gen) Intel CPU [3.4GHz], 32 GB RAM [DDR4-2133], 512 GB NVMe SSD [Samsung 950 Pro]. I built it in 2017-2018.
2. It’s not Windows 11 capable, so it’s running Windows 10 22H2 Build 19045.2788: that’s the latest preview CU scheduled for general distribution on April Patch Tuesday.
3. It’s never hit the wall performance-wise before to my notice. I beat the beejesus out of this machine daily (there are 13 apps and 148 background processes running, with 4% CPU utilization, as I write this screed). Indeed, this PC (mostly) does what I need it to do.

But it’s old and somewhat out-dated.  And I have a Ryzen 7 5800X in an Asrock B550 mobo ready to take over the production PC role. That leads me to a vital question:

Why Not Switch Over, Already?

I have lots of obvious answers including inertia, laziness, ongoing usability and the usual fiddle-faddle. But here’s the real reason, in succinct visual form:

Macrium Reflect Swamps CPU Short-Term.This PC

Count ’em: 10 mounted physical drives (4 SSDs, 6 HDDs).
[Click image for full-sized view.]

This totals up to about a nominal 16TB  of storage, of which 40% or so is occupied. Thus, we’re talking around ~6.5 TB of stuff, of which I need to keep at least 5TB’s worth. There’s going to be some thinking, planning, time and effort involved in moving my show to another PC. I’ll have to back everything up to another drive (an 8TB unit should do) and then figure how to map it into a new set of storage devices on the target PC. That should be interesting. I guess I’d better get started. This morning, I got my “early warning!”


Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds

OK, then, they’ve been gone for some time now. But Dev Channel Build 25300 restores Taskbar Clock seconds to its display capabilities. The lead-in graphic shows that Settings checkbox, next to Winver for the build.

Note: we’ve not had access to seconds readouts in the Windows 11 taskbar clock since Day 1 of the release. It popped in — and then out again — in a recent Insider Preview. And right now, it’s only available in the Dev Channel release fork. Just sayin…

Find this by clicking through Settings → Personalization → Taskbar. Then, open the Taskbar behaviors pane. That’s where you’ll find the checkbox labeled: “Show seconds in system tray clock…” Notice that it comes with this caveat: “(uses more power).” MS has long put this theory forward (it recommended against turning on the second hand in Vista-era clock gadgets for the same reason) but doesn’t really present actual data to report how much more power is used — or battery life lost — as a consequence of turning this on. Sigh.

If Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds, Then…

I can only interpret the MS caveat as a warn-off of sorts. I guess we should be grateful they’ve deigned to restore this capability to those bold (or stupid) enough to use it. Count me among that number, and decide for yourself its potential significance. Here’s what it looks it, after you turn seconds back on:

Build 25300 Restores Taskbar Clock Seconds.clock-showing

Even at the cost of a bit of power, glad to get those seconds back!

Small though this change may be, I am glad to have the choice as to whether or not I get seconds with my time readout on Windows 11. It’s been that way in Windows as far back as I recall. And now, it’s back again.

Sometimes, those little things do make a difference. I count this as a minor victory for the small people, here in Windows-World.


MS AI Survey Shows Strong Appetite for Automation

Hmmm. A story today at MSPowerUser pointed me to a recently published (but infuriatingly, undated) survey from Microsoft. It’s entitled Four Ways Leaders Can Empower People for How Work Gets Done. Notice, AI appears nowhere in this string. Even so, this MS AI survey shows strong appetite for automation.

That is, the survey documents increasing demand from rank-and-file workers for technology based empowerment. What does this mean? Workers want low-code tools to DIY basic software so they don’t have to wait on the IT/development backlog. They also want “artificial intelligence tools that let them focus on what’s important” to quote from the survey’s tag line. Wow!

How MS AI Survey Shows Strong Appetite for Automation

I’m just going to gloss over some of the survey results in this piece. Those seeking more depth or details will definitely want to read the original MS Briefing. Here are some key elements:

  • To make workforces more efficient and flexible, workers need tools that deliver maximum results from minimal effort.
  • MS surveyed 2,700 employees (in-house) and 1,800 business decision makers (out-of-house) in the US, Japan, and the UK.
  • Questions posed included: (quoted verbatim)
    • Do people feel empowered by the tools they currently have?
    • Are teams equipped to collaborate effectively in a world of flexible work?
    • Can new technology like AI and low-code and no-code tools help solve their challenges and open up new opportunities?
  • 9 of 10  respondents want simpler ways to automate daily tasks, to focus on more important work.
  • 4 key principles to guide business leaders to empower workers: (paraphrased for brevity)
    1. Empower people with more say in choosing new technology
    2. Use collaborative apps to connect workers so  they can share info in workflows
    3. Equip everybody with low-code tools to accelerate innovation
    4. Implement AI to automate busywork: this improves worker satisfaction and engagement

There Is No East or West in AI Empowerment

The most interesting findings show that the majority of workers (and mostly a supermajority, at that) agree that AI and automation can help them do more, better and faster. I have to believe this “AI dividend” is what’s driving MS to invest tens of billions into AI tools and technologies. They’re already convinced — in large part because of their own experiences and observations in-house — that the payoff will more than justify their investment.

Personally, I can’t wait to start seeing more of that payoff for myself in my own daily life and work. For more insights and info, though, please read this survey brief for yourself.



Windows 10 EOS Hits January 31

First, an explanation of what may be a purely idiosyncratic acronym. In the preceding headline “EOS” stands for “End of Sales.” Indeed, the EOL (“End of Life”) date for Windows 10 remains unchanged at October 14, 2025. But EOS impacts those who want to build new systems, and for Windows 10 EOS hits January 31 of this year.

MS hasn’t commented on whether or not this means OEMs won’t be able to ship their PCs with Windows 10 installed after this date, either. But as you can see in the lead-in graphic, MS itself will no longer offer Windows 10 downloads for sale after this month ends. Note: despite the mention of Windows 10 Pro at top, the price shown — $139 — is for Windows 10 Home (Download). For my purposes here, the “More about Windows 10” text block is what matters most.

After Windows 10 EOS Hits January 31, Then?

First things first: I don’t see any similar warning on the official MS Download Windows 10 page. Apparently, users who already have valid Windows 10 license keys (unused or otherwise) can keep grabbing Windows 10 ISOs for installation and repair after January 31. That’s a relief!

So who’s really affected? Those who build their own PCs, or buy barebones models and elect to do their own OS installs (along with whatever else they do completing such builds). For such folks, buying a new, virgin Windows 10 license key (and download) from MS will no longer be an option. Undoubtedly, the aftermarket will remain awash in valid copies of same for some time after this cutoff date. That’s because plenty of such stuff is (or will be) in inventory when MS EOS hits.

What About the OEMs?

Again there’s no official word on this from MS. Ditto, AFAICT from the OEMs. But I can’t see MS stopping fleet or bulk sales to big buyers after January 31, even though they’re apparently halting small-scale retail sales of Windows 10 at that point. Too much potential business and revenue could be impacted, so no…

This raises an interesting question: Why do this now? My best guess is that MS is signalling end users — pretty strongly, in fact — that it’s time to target Windows 11 (and only Windows 11) on new builds. Given that Panos Panay talked about a Windows 12 successor at CES this year in Las Vegas, January 3-8, this timing is surely no coincidence.

Two predictions:
1. MS resellers will stock up on Windows 10 media and key combinations, to cover upcoming demand as they project it.
2. OEMs will continue to build Windows 10 PCs on order from customers, even after January 31.

As always, it should be interesting to see how this turns out. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you informed!



Where Windows 11 Business Use Stands

Here’s an interesting question to ponder: what is business doing with Windows 11? Data on general Windows 11 use (e.g. StatCounter, Statista, and so forth) shows that for every copy of Windows 11, around 4 copies of Windows 10 are in use. Determining where Windows 11 business use stands is a whole ‘nother story. That’s because there’s very little solid intelligence about the proportion of business to home/hobbyist/”other” users available. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated…

Where Windows 11 Business Use Stands Is Mysterious

For years now, MS has been careful about what kinds of numbers it discloses about Windows, particularly where business versus other uses are concerned. We know that roughly 1.8B copies of Windows are in use worldwide. If the breakdowns from still-available desktop marketshare analytics are relevant — I’ll use StatCounter (the source for the opening graphic here, as of November 2022) for reference — that means roughly the following:

1. With 69.75% of the total count, that grants 1.25B copies to Windows 10.
2. With 16.13% of the total count, that confers 290M copies to Windows 11.

Those observations may or may not be relevant, because the foregoing count may only include Windows 10 and 11, not the earlier versions (7, 8 and 8.1, as well as XP and “Other”) that StatCounter tracks. If that’s true — then the copy counts for Windows 10 and 11 increase to 1.46B and 330M, respectively.

The Key Known Unknown

With all due respect to Dick Cheney, what’s missing from these numbers is  sense of how each count breaks down across the “business versus all other users, by type” category. My best guess is that the ratio is no greater that 1:1 (that is, for each business user there is one or more other users). It could be less than that, though.

So far, business users haven’t found hugely compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 11. Indeed, it’s only the last year or so that I’ve seen most businesses I patronize or work with (including a great many law firms and medical practices and clinics) make the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

With Windows 10 facing EOL in just under 3 years (2 years 10 months and some change, as of my most recent reckoning last week), there’s not much driving businesses to migrate sooner rather than later. It will be fascinating to see how things unfold. A lot will depend on when “Windows Next” (version 12, perhaps?) starts to appear on the horizon.

To me, it’s looking increasingly likely that many businesses may leapfrog from Version 10 to “Windows Next”, skipping Windows 11 in the process. I see this as in part a function of combining hardware refresh with OS migration, and in part as a function of inertia (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). Time will tell!

A Bump May Be Coming

If I’m right about the reasons for delaying migration and hardware refresh, there could be a pot of gold for PC sales from mid-2024 through mid 2026. This would seem to dictate businesses will plan hardware refreshes around EOL for Windows 10, with a blurring of the timeline around the exact date of October 14, 2025. This could get interesting…


What MS Surface Lifetimes Tell Us

I just read a fascinating story about the original Surface Hub models at Neowin. It led me to an even more interesting website named EndOfLife.Date (here’s its info for the whole Surface product family). As I think about them, what MS Surface lifetimes tell us is also quite engaging. That’s because it speaks both eloquently and directly to this question: “What’s the useful lifetime for a modern PC?”

Details from What MS Surface Lifetimes Tell Us

Take a look at the lead-in graphic for this story. It comes from the afore-cited website. It shows two Surface Hub models (built around large and expensive 55″ and 84″ monitors) that arrive at EOL today, November 30. The graphic ascribes a lifetime of “7 years” to each device, but the calculator gives it 7 years, 5 months, 4 weeks, and 1 day to be more precise. I’d call that 7.5 years in round numbers, myself.

The entire dataset for Surface devices at is quite interesting, though. It shows that this 7.5 year device lifetime is longer than that for most Surface products, especially newer ones. These tend to fall in a range from 4 years (for the newest devices) to 6 years (for older ones).

How Long Does a PC Remain Useful?

I submit that this range of lifetimes tells us what Microsoft thinks, as far as keeping PCs in service is concerned. What data I can find from other sources (try this Google Search to see the inputs to my assertions) puts the low end of common practice at 3 to 5 years, and the high end at 8-10 years.

Microsoft’s data is not just an estimate or an average, though, as with those other data points. They actually stop updating drivers and firmware as EOL strikes. That means businesses that buy Surface devices know from the outset how long they can safely use such equipment, and when it must be retired and refreshed.

Is 3-5 Years Long Enough for Business PC Life?

Not just Microsoft, but many major PC makers — including Lenovo, HP, Dell, and others — are apparently convinced this is on target. Their business models typically reach EOL in the range of 4-5 years.

Speaking from experience, I know you can stretch those boundaries on desktop PCs, where component upgrades or add-ons can bring new features and capabilities to older models (e.g.Thunderbolt 4, USB 4, and so forth) thanks to adapter cards. Notebooks and laptops, which are less adaptible and extensible, usually fall right inside a 4-5 year lifetime. But I agree that 6 years is about the outside edge for useful PC life where time and costs of maintenance, upkeep, and security start looming larger as older technology ages out.

Among other things, this tells me I’ll need to retire my 2014 vintage (8 years!) Surface Pro 3 soon. It also says my 6-year-old 2016 production desktop is ready for demotion to test PC only status. I’ve got a 2021 desktop ready to move in for production status. My four mainstay test/experimentation PCs are 2018 vintage, and are rapidly aging out of usability, too. What does your PC fleet tell you?


Windows 10 versus Windows 11 Uptake

I just read a fascinating story from the man himself — Paul Thurrott, that is — over at his website. Entitled “Windows 11 Usage Share Is Struggling…” it raises some interesting questions. Chief among these is “When deciding Windows 10 versus Windows 11, what do business users get?”

Thurrott’s analyses lead him to this conclusion: “Not enough to justify migration.” If necessary, add “…if hardware refresh is required” to that statement. FWIW, I agree. However, I’m not as inclined to finger-point at MS for market manipulation as he is. Let me explain…

Windows 10  versus Windows 11 Is a No-Op

Looking back at typical business migrations as far back as I can remember (the Windows 3.x era, circa 1991), I see a consistent pattern. It explains why business uptake of Windows 11 remains somewhat scant.

Here ’tis: It usually takes 2-3 years for businesses to get serious about migrating Windows versions. And then, that’s only if  the version of Windows is judged “successful” (not Windows Me, Vista, or 8/8.1, for example). Right now, it’s been just over a year since Windows 11 released: October 4 was the anniversary date. Thus, it’s simply too soon for most migrations just yet.

Thurrott and readers make at least two valid points

(a) for a good portion of the installed PC base, Windows 11 won’t run (40-50% by most estimates, in fact)
(b) most businesses manage their own refresh cycle timing, and aren’t inclined to let MS dictate when that should happen.

All this said, I don’t think even MS can derail all of the prior migration history it already knows about, points (a) and (b) notwithstanding. My gut feel is that something else is up beyond seeking ways to force business users forward faster.

Windows 10 EOL Remains Unchanged

October 14, 2025 is now about three years distant. This acts as a full-stop for most business. They don’t ordinarily want to pay for extended support  unless stuck between rock and hard place. (Example: US DoD for Windows XP and 7, on the way to Windows 7 and 10, respectively.)

Various sources put the PC refresh interval in business globally between 4 and 10 years, with the most common recurring value at 5 years. Depending on where organizations are in that cycle, I guess at least 80 of businesses would refresh anyway before Windows 10 hits EOL.  CPUs and TPMs in use in early 2018 define the boundary between what’s in and what’s outside of Windows 11 requirements. That puts the maximum interval for refresh at about 7 years and 9 months (7.75 years). IMO, that’s longer than normal for most concerns.

New PCs purchased since 2019/2020 will meet Windows 11 requirements as a matter of course. Thus it’s really PC’s purchased before January 2018 (or older models purchased through 2020, no doubt to obtain steep discounts) that really come into play.

My best guess is that, as with prior major versions of Windows (3.1, 95, 2000, XP, 7, and 10 — see the pattern?), 11 migrations will get serious in late 2023 and throughout 2024. That’s just in time to stay ahead of EOL for Windows 10. It’s also in tune with most prior migration cycles. Need I say more? I think not…