Category Archives: Uncategorized

Gaining New Windows Backup Experience

As I prepare for an update to my Windows 10 and 11 Backup story for ComputerWorld, I’m working with a trio of free¬† image backup and restore tools. I’m unfamiliar with them so it’s as much about climbing the learning curve as anything else. As I’m gaining new Windows backup experience, I’m starting to appreciate Macrium Reflect (MR) even more than I already had. Let me explain…

Lessons from Gaining New Windows Backup Experience

Finding out where information resides and how to extract it is always an interesting proposition. For EaseUS ToDo, for example, the only way I’ve been able to get detailed completion times for backup jobs is to dig into the logs and File Explorer. My last image backup for C: took 9:40 to complete and created a ~75 GB image file.

It could be that I just don’t know where else to look for that data. But I can now tell you that MR reports it routinely at the conclusion of each backup job. I can also tell you that backing up the same PC, same target drive finishes in under 3 minutes using MR (more than 3 times as fast). That said, I do see that upgrading to the paid-for EaseUS ToDo version offers faster performance. But the ongoing stream of ToDo ads and upgrade nags is constant and, IMO, annoying.

More Experimentation, More Observation…

I’m setting up two more test PCs with AOMEI Backupper and MiniTool Shadowmaker. I’ll be doing likewise in the days ahead. My ComputerWorld story is due in just under a week, so I’m starting to get serious. Wish me luck!

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Gadget Fixes Notification Issue

I have to laugh. Sunday morning, I was at my desk before 8 AM having made it back from my daily walk kinda early. I forgot that I’d turned on the external speakers (I usually use headphones). No sooner did I get to my desktop than my speakers started chiming as a flood of notifications bonged in — pretty loudly, too. And because those notifications appear on top of the notification area of the taskbar, I couldn’t get to the volume control to turn the volume down. This caused some mild panic, because I didn’t want to wake up other family members still asleep Ultimately, I used the Sound item in Control Panel to reduce the volume. But a gadget fixes notification issue one and for all, after I get past that initial flurry.

Gadget Fixes Notification Issue.controlpanel-sound-speakerlevels

The Levels pane in the Sound item for the default output lets me turn things down…”

How a Gadget Fixes Notification Issue

Gadgets appear elsewhere on the desktop, so they aren’t rendered inaccessible when a flood of notifications appears. I can go to the Volume Control gadget shown as the lead-in graphic above any time, and click on the sound level I want to raise or lower volume levels.

The name of the gadget depicted is “Volume Control.” It appears on Page 3 in the 8GadgetPack collection (lower right; details at bottom).

Volume Control 1.2 makes it easy to raise or lower volume without accessing the notification tray Volume Control.

This may not seem like a big thing, but when you’re trying to let sleeping … err … family members …err lie, it’s kind of a lifesaver. ‘Nuff said!

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Dev Channel Drops Protected OS Files

Since time immemorial, there’s always been a toggle in Windows versions to let users choose whether or not to “Hide protected operating system files…” But with a recent build (23481) MS Windows 11 Dev Channel drops protected OS files toggle. This control is gone, gone. gone.

I don’t like that change, nor do lots of other Insiders working with this latest Dev Channel version. Seeing (and occasionally working with) protected OS files is something I find extremely informative and useful. Thus, I’m joining into the general hubbub to entreat MS NOT to drop this toggle from its File Explorer Options.

Say NO to Dev Channel Drops Protected OS Files

Anyone testing Dev Channel Build 23481 should visit Feedback Hub. Tell them: Turn this his toggle back on. Making the inner workings of Windows more opaque does nobody any favors. That said, there are some “tricks” in PowerShell to show such items forcibly for those with admin privileges. See this StackExchange thread for details. If I end up having to learn this stuff, it will make great article fodder.

But in my experience, trouble is better avoided than detected and shot. This could get interesting. Stay tuned, and I’ll keep you posted. My take is it’s fine to have a toggle to protect ordinary users from stuff they probably don’t care about. But it’s not fine to withdraw the ability for power users and admins to choose to see the scaffolding that supports Windows and makes the OS work. ‘Nuff said…

Thanks for the Heads-Up!

Thanks to Rafly Pratama at MSPowerUser.com, whose June 15 story “These File Explorer old settings will be killed in Windows 11 & users are furious” alerted me to this impending debacle. Often such reporting focuses on less important stuff. Again, IMO, this one matters. Please raise some heck along with me on this topic. Thx!

Note added June 16

Over at WinAero, Sergey Tkachenko has already added entries to restore all of the File Explorer options that got knocked out in this update. Even if MS doesn’t relent from some or all such changes, there will be ways to keep them alive. Direct registry edits can do it, or you can use WinAero Tweaker version 1.55 (or higher) instead.

Note added June 23

As you can read in this Windows Latest story, MS is rethinking its position on hidden and protected OS files. Glad to hear, and hope they do reverse course on some of those original changes. Stay tuned!

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Windows 10 Dual Progress Bars Mystery

Back in November 2017, I posted the item shown in the lead-in graphic to Windows TenForums.com. I get two progress bars when running DISM ... /StartComponentCleanup on my Windows 10 PCs. The thread is interesting to read, and offers a good explanation in item#4 for what’s happening: a spurious line feed somewhere in the DISM routines that handle this task. Just this morning, I noticed that this Windows 10 dual progress bars mystery persists to this day. But I’ve figured out more…

More Data for Windows 10 Dual Progress Bars Mystery

This doesn’t happen every time I run DISM ... /StartComponentCleanup on my Windows 10 PCs. It happens only if I’ve just applied a Cumulative Update to that machine, and I haven’t rebooted the machine a second time after the post-update reboot. And, in fact, I just replicated this very same issue on one of my Windows 11 22H2 PCs as well in those same circumstances.

I’m still wondering about why this happens. I take it as ongoing proof that problems do make themselves visible in Windows (10 and 11) occasionally. Ditto for the observation that some glitches are more important than others.

This particular glitch, while interesting, is benign. It’s just a hiccup in the DISM output. Everything works as it’s supposed to, except for the dual progress bars (or appearance thereof if my TenForums informant is correct about the “spurious linefeed” theory). But here is the error in Windows 11 as well. Note: the build number shown, 22621, identifies this OS as Windows 11 22H2 even though the “Major” OS version reads “10.”

Windows 10 Dual Progress Bars Mystery.Win11I love a good mystery. I hope someday to see this fixed, though…

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Canary Flash Drive Blows Up

I have to laugh. When MS offered a free USB drive to Dev Channel Insiders automatically upgraded to Canary, I jumped at the chance. Last weekend, the drive showed up in the mailbox. Today, I tried following the instructions depicted in the form letter to which that drive came affixed. But alas, the Canary flash drive blows up at the end of that process. I can’t recover its contents, either.

The whole image (which doesn’t fit my WordPress template layout) looks like this (click to blow up to full size, please):

Canary Flash Drive Blows Up (cover letter and drive as received from MS).
Canary Flash Drive Blows Up (cover letter and drive as received from MS).

This is the error message that sent me haring down an interested but ultimately unfruitful rabbit hole:

Oops. The error code indicates a device failure of some kind.

To be more specific, I find an error explanation from MS that says “the partition that is reserved for system is damaged.” In attempting to recover from the error, I can’t repair the drive, either…

When Canary Flash Drive Blows Up, It Resists Repair

I attempted to re-format the drive (which shows up with a 32 GB boot partition and the rest of its 58.5 GB unformatted) in Explorer. It takes two tries, but format eventually tells me there’s no device accessible. Can’t format what you can’t access, eh?

On the second try, I get a more informative error message.

I tried to get into it with MTPW (MiniTool Partition Wizard). No joy there, either. Couldn’t even get to a format command. Sometimes, the device shows up, and sometimes it doesn’t.

DISKPART provides the most information and the best error info, as you can see in this PowerShell output.

You’ll want to click on this to read what it says: The device is not ready.

No matter what repairs or low-level formatting tools I tried on this UFD, I got exactly nowhere. Sigh.

Is It the Device, or the Method?

Just for grins I inserted another USB2 UFD (like the one MS sent, but from a different maker). I ran through the Media Creation Tool and built a bootable Windows 11 image. It completed successfully, and passes all disk checks (e.g. chkdsk, Lenovo’s device check utility, and so on). I am therefore inclined to blame the device, rather than the process (which I cheerfully confess I ran on Windows 10, not 11). Would things have turned out differently had I run the MCT via Windows 11? Alas, I’ll never know…

Good thing I have LOTS of UFDs. I really just wanted MS to send me something. Too bad I killed it!

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Windows 10 PowerToys Registry Preview Issue

I’m not sure if what I’m seeing is general to Windows 10, or specific to my two remaining Windows 10 installs. But I’m seeing a Windows 10 PowerToys Registry Preview issue here at Chez Tittel. Don’t take it wrong — the tool works just fine. But you can’t use its built-in “Open file” button, nor the “Ctrl-O” key combo to open a registry (.reg) file. Instead, only a right-click on a .reg file in Explorer (or equivalent, such as VoidTools Everything) will do the trick.

What’s with the Windows 10 PowerToys Registry Preview Issue?

I wish I knew. Everything works as it oughter on Windows 11. As far as I can tell, the issue applies only to Windows 10. Given that there’s a relatively easy workaround, I’m guessing there’s some kind of simple gotcha preventing the Explorer hook-up in Windows 10 for Registry Preview “File Open” from working.

I’ve already tweeted @ClintRutkas, fearless team leader for PowerToys about this. Hopefully, that will help spur corrective action. But it reminds me that it’s always interesting to take new software facilities for a spin. Despite internal testing’s best efforts, stuff like this often pops up when more general releases occur.

Don’t Stop Your Own PowerToys Investigations

Please note that the issue — and Registry Preview itself, in fact — pops up only in the latest version. And, as you can see below that version number still starts with a leading zero. By convention, that means this is still a pre-release version out on extended beta test. These things happen with such software, for sure. But it’s fun to find one yourself now and then — just be sure to report in with your findings. Cheers!

Windows 10 PowerToys Registry Preview Issue.version-info

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The Never-ending Windows Update Story Carries On

Back on March 6, I posted an item about Windows Application Update Rhythms. This offered a snapshot for a week’s update activities across my various PCs. Since then, of course, the updates have continued as the never-ending Windows Update story carries on. I’ve made some interesting observations since then, too.

The lead-in graphic above shows one such data point. I’ve begun to notice that sometimes Winget will update Chrome, and sometimes it won’t. It seems to be related to whether or not the app is open at the moment (yes if closed; no if open).

Never-ending Windows Update Story Keeps Going…

The same thing appears to be true for PowerShell as well, as you can see in this next screencap. Amusingly, the app itself is PowerShell so indeed it’s obviously running too. But there are ways to force a PS upgrade within the app, so this default behavior can be over-ridden. The second post in this SuperUser thread explains how to do just that. It grabs and uses the PS install MSI from GitHub to make that happen.

Never-ending Windows Update Story.update-PS

Winget updates neither Chrome nor PowerShell here.

What’s Behind the Apparent No-Upgrade Behavior?

In various discussions online as to what’s at work here, I learned (or re-learned) a few things. When installer formats change (MSIX to MSI, MSI to EXE, and so forth) Winget won’t perform the update. Indeed, I’ve seen explicit messages to this effect in Winget output from time to time. This Answers.Microsoft.com thread explains how to grab, then use, the download URL for the Chrome installer to bypass the failed (and silent, error-message-wise) Winget update. Likewise interesting!

The more I work with Winget, the more I learn about its various hiccups and gotchas. But the tool continues to impress because there’s nearly always a clever workaround to get things done. It’s definitely made the various installments of the never-ending Windows Update story around Chez Tittel shorter and more entertaining. What more could a Windows-head like me want?

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HDD versus SSD Widening Price Gap

I’m amazed at the relentless pace of technology growth and change. I can remember paying US$1,000 for a 300MB hard disk (Mac, SCSI) in the mid-1980s. I just saw some ads for NAS drives this morning, and compared them to NVMe SSDs. There’s a serious HDD versus SSD Widening Price Gap going on right now. It’s worth understanding (and watching) — at least, IMO.

Exploring the HDD versus SSD Widening Price Gap

First, let me lay out some price ranges for you. You can buy NAS drives these days in a range from 8TB to 20TB in size. The smaller ones cost under US$200 these days. (The one depicted is on sale at Newegg right now for a measley US$115 or so.) As NAS drive size increases, so does price. A monster 20GB drive will cost you upwards of US$340. (It’s on sale at Newegg, normally US$20 more.) Do the math, and per terabyte pricing falls between US$14.38 (8 TB) and US$18 (20 TB).

Now let’s look at NVMe SSDs. 8 TB is the biggest you can go with NVMe right now (though there are bigger PCIe card drives, I’ll skip them for the nonce). Most 8 TB drives at Amazon fall in a price range from US$1,000 to $1,120. Again, more math produces a per terabyte price range of US$125¬† to US$140.

The lead-in graphic shows a Seagate Exos 710 8TB NAS drive (below) and a Sabrent Rocket 4 8TB SSD NVMe drive (above). Prices were plucked from Newegg and Amazon this morning. The ratios is what gets me riled up here: on average it goes from 8.69:1 to 7.77: 1.

Price-Performance Pops!

What this all really means is that HDDs still reign supreme for backup and archival purposes where the fact of storage outweighs read/write times. But as somebody who creates daily backups on important PCs who also occasionally has to restore them, I’ll observe that there’s at least a 4:1 speed difference between the two types of media when restoring a backup (sometimes more).

For those with limited patience or time, and especially for those with limited time windows in which to return to full capability, SSDs are increasingly important for necessary backups and storage access.

One more thing: given the ability to put sizable amounts of blazing fast SSD storage as the near storage tier in a multi-tiered storage architecture means that savvy storage buyers can mix and match these two types of storage ever more effectively. That’s how they mostly do things in data centers for cloud and SaaS providers nowadays anyway (except they don’t balk at spending huge amounts on top-tier SSDs like those described in this mind-blowing TechRadar story).

At this bleeding edge of the storage market, it’s clearly a case of “you can’t afford to do this at home” (unless you’re a centi-millionaire or better). But it’s interesting to contemplate how all kinds of drives keep getting bigger, and how storage architects keep figuring out how to deliver ever-huger amounts of data ever more quickly. Again: amazing!

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The Big Ethernet Dock Sleep

Corny title, I know, but eerily accurate. In the wake of some recent update, my Lenovo Thunderbolt 4 dock keeps losing its wired Ethernet connection. This is particularly vexing when the RJ-45 is plugged directly into the Lenovo P27u-20 integrated dock. Why? Because the Cat-6 cable I’m using is hard to plug and unplug. Sigh. In perverse homage to Raymond Chandler: I call this the “Big Ethernet Dock Sleep.”

Ending the Big Ethernet Dock Sleep

Upon investigating the issue, it seems to be an endemic dock problem. It appears to be related to dropped connections following sleep. In fact, from what I can see, it affects not just PC docks (I saw posts from Dell, HP and Lenovo users) but also Mac docks (I saw some Apple Support posts as well).

What’s the issue? Take a look at the lead-in graphic. Basically it shows that, by default, the GbE port on the dock can be turned off “to save power.” That’s pretty much a given when a PC goes to sleep.

The fix is dead simple, though. Simply uncheck the first checkbox and everything goes blank. I can’t say for sure that this absolutely, postively fixes the issue. But I can say for sure that the affected PC has gone to sleep, then been awakened, and the Ethernet connection stayed up the whole time.

I’ll post back if it recurs. But from what I see online, this fix has worked for others likewise affected. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will also do the trick for me. If not, I’ll post back here again.

Fingers crossed…

Note added next morning 7:30 AM

 

The X12 Hybrid slept peacefully, all night long. And when I just RDP’ed into it now, it awoke with a working Ethernet connection. Problem still not conclusively solved, but close!

 

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HDDs Still Have Their Uses

Hmmmm. Just saw a fascinating story at Neowin.net. It provides links to some low-cost deals for hard disk drives (HDDs) that range in size from 3 to 14 TB, with prices from US$60 (3TB) to US$210 (14 TB). I’m not endorsing the brand (WD) or the deals (listed from Amazon and — in some instances — Newegg). But I am amazed at just how cheap conventional hard disks can be today. And because HDDs still have their uses — particularly for archiving and spare backups — buying may make sense.

Economics Also Verify That HDDs Still Have Their Uses

I’m struck by the contrast between HDD and NVMe prices, especially for 4 and 8 TB devices. Looking at Amazon, I see that 4TB NVMe drives go for US$460 and up, with most top-end devices just below or over US$600. When you can find them (not easy), 8TB devices cost from just under US$1,200 to around US$1,500 or so.

The comparison to HDD is pretty stark. The Neowin story cites prices of US$70 for 4, and US$130 for 8 TB. Do the math to figure out the ratios. The 4TB NVMes cost between 6.57 and 8.57 times as much as their HDD counterparts. 8TB models run between 9.23 and 11.53 times as much.

Of course, denser solid-state devices are much more expensive to make. Though higher-capacity HDDs have more platters, achieving denser storage doesn’t magnify costs anywhere near as much. In fact, the HDD cost increment for going from 8TB to 10TB is US$30, and from 8TB to 14TB US$80. That clearly shows the incremental cost of storage is much, much cheaper for HDDs than SSDs.

But given the mind-blowing costs for higher capacity NVMe devices, they’re not going to replace HDDs completely any time soon. They simply cost too much to justify wholesale switchovers. Nobody’s going to use HDDs for serious, real-time workloads any more. They have no place as system drives, either. But for other applications where high capacity trumps I/O performance, they still have a vital role to play. And that explains why I still have over 40TB of spinning storage myself, much of it idle as “backups for my backups.”

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