Category Archives: Tips, Tricks and Tweaks

Want to know how to make the most out of your Windows 7 system?
Here we share the things we have learned for what to do (and what not to do) to make Windows 7 perform at its best.

Fixing Non-responsive Taskbar Icons

Last December, I wrote an article here that described an easy fix for an unresponsive Start Menu. The trick on my affected PCs was to go into Task Manager, right-click Windows Explorer, and select “Restart.” Over the past week the same thing is affecting Task Bar icons for open and pinned applications. It came in the wake of the occasionally wonky preview version of the upcoming March CU. That is, I’m inclined to name KB4601382 as an “update of interest” in this case. Fortunately, the same fix works.

Fixing Non-responsive Taskbar Icons

How can you tell when this problem manifests? Easy! You click on an icon in the taskbar and nothing happens. I show a portion of my taskbar icons in the lead-in graphic, by way of illustration.

I actually show the taskbar at the foot of both of my monitors. Sometimes, when one quits working, the other keeps going. Then I click that one instead. If neither works, the fix goes in. I’ve never had it fail.

As with my earlier report of Start Menu issues, I’m inclined to see some interaction between Stardock Software’s Start10 and the Explorer-based start menu and associated UI elements. Those include the taskbar icons and the notification area as well. Something wonky is happening, but is also easily fixed. I’ve reported this to Stardock and MS and am hopeful that, as before, a fix trickles into one or the other of those environments.

Seems Like a Limited Issue

I don’t see other reports of this phenomenon in the Start10 forums at Stardock. There’s plenty of discussion on the general phenomenon (Google search: “taskbar icons nonresponsive”). But all are unanimous in what to do: Restart Windows Explorer. Not much other cussin’ and discussin’ involved. Nice to know I’ve got the right fix, even if I don’t know the cause unequivocally and unambiguously. Sigh.

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Mild Microsoft Update Health Tools Mystery

An interesting item is bubbling up in user forums  lately. Lots of Windows 10 PCs — including some of mine — have seen a new-ish, intriguingly named application show up. This story’s lead-in graphic shows it in second place. In fact, I’d say we’re facing a mild Microsoft Update Health Tools mystery. Typical questions include “What is it for?” and “When is it used?”

Cracking a Mild Microsoft Update Health Tools Mystery

A Microsoft Docs “Questions” item links the utility with update KB4023057 .  A corresponding support page mentions all Windows 10 versions, including 20H2. (It’s dated October 2020.) I’ve seen posts at answers.microsoft.com as far back as August 2020. It, too, references that same KB article.

That article says the update delivers “reliability improvements to Windows Update Service components.” It also says it:

includes files and resources that address issues that affect update processes in Windows 10 that may prevent important Windows updates from being installed. These improvements help make sure that updates are installed seamlessly on your device, and they help improve the reliability and security of devices that are running Windows 10.

Some Interesting Notes about KB4023057

There are 5 bulleted items (and a sub-note) the Support Note. All make fascinating reading. I reproduce them verbatim. (For brevity, I prune “This update may” or “This update will” ):

  • …  request your device to stay awake longer to enable installation of updates.

    Note The installation will respect any user-configured sleep configurations and also your “active hours” when you use your device the most.

  • … try to reset network settings if problems are detected, and it will clean up registry keys that may be preventing updates from being installed successfully.
  • … repair disabled or corrupted Windows operating system components that determine the applicability of updates to your version of Windows 10.
  • … compress files in your user profile directory to help free up enough disk space to install important updates.
  • … reset the Windows Update database to repair the problems that could prevent updates from installing successfully. Therefore, you may see that your Windows Update history was cleared.

Invitation to Conspiracy Thinking?

Go back, and read the forum traffic. Or, search Google for “Microsoft Update Health Utility.” Sadly, it reveals suspicion among community members. Indeed, some fear it helps MS forcibly update older Windows installs. In fact, MS does this already. Others don’t trust MS update orchestration. They’d rather control updates themselves. Still others worry about unwanted side effects or unusable PCs after forced updates.

Gosh! While these things are possible, I see nothing untoward at work here . Instead, I see MS staging repair tools in advance for update issues on Windows 10 PCs should they manifest. Aside from lacking user controls, I see them no differently than built-in update troubleshooters. In fact, I’m a devoted user of Shawn Brink’s Reset Windows Update tutorial and its accompanying batch file. It’s gotten me past 95% of all WU problems I’ve seen. That’s why I’ll gladly keep using it.

No Cause for Alarm

As far as I can tell, there’s not much to see here. Admittedly, Update Health Tools is a small surprise. But its Support Note offers good explanations. Thus, I’m OK with this tool. Nor should you worry, either. Rather, it looks like good software engineering.

Better yet, the Update Health Tools can handle update issues on their own, sans user input or guidance. That sounds like a blessing, even if in disguise. And FWIW, it’s missing  from Insider Preview releases. That tells me it aims squarely at production PCs outside IT umbrellas. That means mostly home and small business users. Thus, it should benefit those who need it most.

I’m coming out in favor of the Update Health Tools. I hope we’ll learn more about them from Microsoft soon. In the meantime, if you don’t like the tool, you can choose to uninstall it. I’m leaving it alone myself. If I’m right about it, it may come in handy someday.

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Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill

As somebody who’s been in the Insider Program for Windows 10 since October, 2014, I’ve been through hundreds of Insider Preview installations and upgrades. That means I have a pretty well-defined drill through which I take my test PCs once an upgrade is in place. In today’s item, I’ll take you through my Post Dev Channel Upgrade drill as an illustration. That’s because I just finished upgrading to Build 21318.1000, released Friday February 19.

High-level View: Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill

Viewed at a high level, those post Dev Channel upgrade steps might be described as follows:

    1. Check the environment, restore tweaks, make repairs
    2. Clean up post-upgrade leftovers, esp. Windows.old
    3. Perform other routine cleanups
    4. Check for and install software updates (non-Windows)
    5. Use Macrium Reflect to make a pristine image backup

In general, the idea is to make sure things are working, clean up anything left behind, catch apps and applications up with Windows, and make a snapshot to restore as this release baseline, if needed.

Step 1: Check & Restore or Repair Anything Out of Whack

YMMV tremendously during this activity. After many upgrades, I’ve jumped into File Explorer Options (Control Panel) to make file extensions visible again, show hidden files, and so forth. MS is doing a better job with this lately, and I don’t usually have to do this with Insider Preview upgrades (though it does still happen for standard feature upgrades).

For a long, long time I had to go into Advanced File Sharing to loosen “Guest or Public” and “All Network” network profiles on the Lenovo X220 Tablet to get RDP to work. Because I use RDP from my production desktop to access and work on my arsenal of test PCs, this is pretty important — to me, anyway. The last few Dev Channel releases have NOT had this problem, I’m happy to say.

I run Helmut Buhler’s excellent 8 Gadget Pack on my Windows 10 PCs. That’s because its CPU Usage and Network Meter gadgets provide helpful dashboards. The former is good for CPU and memory usage and system temps; the latter is great at showing network activity and base addressing info. Very handy. But each time an upgrade is installed, Windows 10 boots it off the desktop. Buhler has written a handy “Repair” utility that I run after each upgrade to put everything back the way it was.

Step 2: Clean up post-upgrade leftovers

You can use the built-in Disk Cleanup utility, run as admin, to take care of most of this. I personally prefer Albacore/TheBookIsClosed’s Managed Disk Cleanup (available free from GitHub). Why? Because he tweaked the UI so you can see all active controls in a single display window, and select all the stuff you want gone in a single pass. Here’s what that looks like to make it visually obvious why I prefer this tool:

Post Dev Channel Upgrade Drill.mdiskclean.exe

Notice you can see ALL options eligible for selective clean-up in a single display area in Managed Disk Cleanup. I like it!

Step 3: Perform other routine cleanups

I still use Josh Cell’s Uncleaner utility to clean up temp files and other leftovers after an upgrade. If I’m feeling ambitious I’ll run the DriverStore Explorer (RAPR.exe) to identify and remove duplicate device drivers, too. Once upon a time I would run Piriform’s CCleaner as well, but I’m less than happy with that software now that the maker has started including bundleware in the installer. I haven’t found another tool I like as much as the old version.

Step 4: Update Third-Party Software

You can use a tool like KC Softwares SuMO or Patch My PC Updater to suss out most of the items in need of update on Windows PCs. SuMO is a little better at its job but costs about US$35 for the PRO version (does automatic updates for most programs, but sometimes vexing to use). PMP Updater is free, fast, and entirely automatic but doesn’t update everything. Sigh. I use PMP Update on my test machines, and SuMO PRO on my production PC myself. I’m doing this on the theory that it’s best to have everything updated before making a pristine image backup, as I do in the next step.

Step 5: Make a Pristine Backup

With everything upgraded and updated, and all the dross cleaned up, it’s the perfect time to make a fresh image backup. I like Macrium Reflect, mostly because it’s faster and more reliable than the built-in Windows 7 Backup and Restore utility (which MS itself has recommended against since 2016). And indeed, it’s faster at backing up and restoring than most other utilities I’ve used, and also includes a bootable rescue flash drive utility you can use for bare metal and “dead boot/system” drive repair/restore scenarios.

Please note: Macrium Reflect is MUCH faster than using the rollback utility to return to a lower-level OS image from a higher-level one. That’s why I feel safe getting rid of the Windows.old folder as part of my cleanup efforts. I know I’m not going to use those files anyway…

OK then, that’s my drill. I’m sticking to it. Hopefully, you’ll find something in there to like for yourself. Cheers!

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DISM Trumps SFC To Fix Hung Execution

Here’s an interesting observation straight from TenForums. Occasionally, the System File Checker (SFC) will hang when run. That is, it will grind forward to some percentage of completion, and then sit there indefinitely, making no further progress. If that happens to you on a Windows 10 PC, it’s OK to terminate the process (enter Ctrl-C at the command line or in PowerShell). In such cases, DISM trumps SFC to fix hung execution. Let me explain…

How DISM Trumps SFC to Fix Hung Execution

To unpack my assertion, please understand that when SFC finds an error it cannot fix, it more or less stops where it is. The Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool, aka DISM, can replace the files in Winodws 10’s cross-linked code repository WinSxS. By doing so, it will often fix the errors that SFC cannot surmount successfully.

The syntax for the specific DISM incantation is most often:

DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth

Other variations for offline images, or that use something other than local files already known to Windows 10 are documented at MS Docs. There you’ll find a helpful article entitled “Repair a Windows Image” that take you through various elaborations that may sometimes prove necessary. Using the Source: attribute can get particularly interesting, especially if you’re working from a WIM or ESD file that is home to two or more Windows images.

If SFC Hangs, DISM /RestoreHealth Often Sets Things Right

As it did for the person who posted about SFC difficulties at TenForums, this approach will often (but not always) make things right. You can’t know until you try. But the thing to remember is that if SFC hangs or fails, your next step should be to try this specific DISM command.

In my personal experience, this has fixed half or more of such issues when they’ve come up. If the odds come up as they should, this approach will also work for you. Try it, and see!

[Note Added Feb 16 afternoon]:
Go Ahead: Skip SFC, Run DISM First

Members of the Insider Team responding to this post informed me that “On Win10 it’s recommended to run DISM first.” This is explained in an MS Support Note entitled “Use the System File Checker tool to repair missing or corrupted system files.” And sure enough, in reading over that article it informs readers “If you are running Windows 10 … first run the inbox Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool prior to running the System File Checker.” I’m not sure what “inbox” means in this context, but the order is clear and unmistakable: DISM first, SFC second.

I’ve been following typical advice from TenForums and conventional wisdom for so long, I neglected to read up on SFC in putting this story together. Live and learn: now I know to reverse the order and run DISM first. Hope this helps others, too!

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Voidtools Everything Finds Files Fast

I know plenty of purists who won’t use third-party Windows tools if a Microsoft-supplied tool or facility will do the job. I am not such a person, and I’m happy to use third-party tools that either do things that Microsoft doesn’t do, or do as well as they do. Because Voidtools Everything finds files fast, it’s part of my standard Windows 10 desktop runtime. Oh, and it’s free, imposes little overhead, and — in my experience — runs faster and works better than Microsoft search. I usually get what I’m after before I’ve finished typing my input string.

Because Voidtools Everything Finds Files Fast, Use It!

The Everything FAQ provides a peachy overview of the tool, and explains its speed, behavior and workings. That said, Everything is primarily a name search tool for files and folders. It provides only limited visibility into file contents (that’s a search tool of a different stripe). The developers say that Everything takes about 1 second to index a fresh Windows install (about 120K files) and a minute to index 1M files. It really is fast, based on personal experience. It can also access files on FAT volumes, network storage, and flash devices (but minor configuration wiggles in Tools → Options → Folders are required, shown below).

FAT-derived volumes (like those on SD cards and UFDs) don’t show up by default in Everything. But they are easy to add.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Working Search for Everything It’s Worth

OK, bad pun, I know. But you can use boolean operators and wildcards in Everything much like you do at the Windows command line. Everything also supports advanced search for more complex search strings that also include the program’s content search functions (warning: these are slow because Everything does not index content in advance). For me the Advanced Search window provides the complex functions I need. Check it out:

Advanced search offers a variety of pattern definition and matching functions. Works like a champ, too!

If, like me, you have lots of storage and millions of files at your fingertips (right now, Everything says it’s indexed 1.4+M objects for me), Everything is handy and useful. If you try it out, you’ll probably end up keeping it around and using it regularly. I use it dozens of times a day, every day myself.

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X380 Yoga 21301 Installation Issues

I’ve been struggling since last Thursday to get the latest Fast Ring version — namely, 21301.1000 — installed.  That’s right, I’ve got “interesting” X380 Yoga 21301 installation issues running hot and cold right now. So far I’ve seen at least 4 different error codes, all of which hit at about the 48% mark after the first reboot. I call this the “post-GUI” phase of Windows 10 installation, because it occurs after the WinPE environment takes over the install process following that first reboot.

Diagnosing X380 Yoga 21301 Installation Issues

I’ve just confirmed that these issues persist in the latest CU 21301.1010,  as well as in 21301.1000. I’ve been using the MS tool setupdiag.exe to get to the bottom of things. But because it finds the NT driver as the culprit for the IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_
EQUAL and the bugcheck 0X0A error, that puts the onus on MS to fix something beyond my control. You can see this in the setupdiag output in the lead-in graphic for this story.

I can tackle and fix lots of Windows 10 drivers. But as I understand it when the NT driver (shows up as lowercase nt in the screencap) is mentioned, it’s general indicator. According to dbgtech.net, “the error might be caused by a device driver, a system service, a virus scanner, or a backup tool that is incompatible with the new version.”

Coming Up Dry Is No Fun at All

I’m running Defender on this PC so I’m pretty sure it’s not involved. I’ve stripped my services down to the bare minimum. Macrium Reflect is my backup too (and still working on the X220 Tablet that has managed both of these recent updates/upgrades). The same device drivers work on 19042.746 on my other nearly-identical X380 Yoga PC (only difference: Toshiba SSD vs. Samsung).

I’m still looking for enlightenment, but not finding any. Last time something like this happened, I just had to wait for a new Fast Ring/Dev Channel release, and it installed just fine. Here’s hoping!

[Note Added Feb 12] 21313 Brings Success!

I’d been contacted by a member of the Windows Insiders team as a result of sharing a link to this post on the Windows Insider MVP Yammer community. I was informed that a future Dev Channel release would fix my problem. As I learned earlier this afternoon, 21313 installed without difficulties. Seems that this PC got bit by a known bugcheck error.  It’s the first item on the Fixes list in the 21313 release notes. This has been a known issue for some time, and is apparently now fixed. Woo hoo!

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UFD Failure Presents Strange Symptoms

I had one of my 16 GB Mushkin Atom USB Flash Drives (UFDs) fail on me this weekend. Alas, it happened in the middle of a boot-into-restore operation on my Lenovo X220 Tablet.  Because I didn’t think I’d built Rescue Media, I stuck the UFD into the machine while that process was underway. After the restore ended,  because that very same UFD failure presents strange symptoms I blamed Reflect. Wrong!

When UFD Failure Presents Strange Symptoms, Then What?

As is my usual practice when a device presents odd behaviors or symptoms, I go into diagnostics mode. When I dug into the drive using MiniTool Partition Magic (MTPW), I could see 5 NTFS partitions on that device. Each was a miniscule 3.8 MB in size. But no set of contortions would return that device to operation. Diskpart didn’t do it at the command line, nor was MTPW able to return it to working order. When I inserted it into Disk Management, I got the ultimate judgement on its condition shown in this story’s lead-in graphic: “Bad Disk.” That seemed to sum things up pretty nicely.

This is the second UFD I’ve had fail on me in the past 5 years or so. I just counted 28 of them here in my office, in sizes ranging from 8 GB to 128 GB. I use them all the time. The smaller ones are usually bootable with OS images, rescue media, or repair tools. The larger ones act primarily as portable storage for project work when I go on the road. And apparently, they do fail from time to time.

Macrium Reflect Forum Sets Things Straight

I hope I can be forgiven for initially wanting to blame Reflect for trashing the UFD. It did go south on me in the middle of a Macrium operation, after all. Then, I learned more about how Rescue Media works, courtesy of MR forum regulars “Froggie” and “jphughan.” Now, I am inclined to agree with their analysis that the UFD’s failure was coincidental.

Let me explain: it seems that when invoked using the “boot to restore” operation, jphughan told me “the WIM file inside the Rescue Media cached build folder — but that is a folder on (by default) your C partition.”  Given that member jphughan has 8.5K posts on the forums and has reached “Macrium Evangelist” level, I’m inclined to believe he knows what he’s talking about.

And in fact, I saw my system go into Recovery from the usual boot drive (a Plextor SSD) on that PC. Turns out that there’s a sub-older inside C:\Boot that’s named Macrium. It in turn has folders for the drivers it needs, various Windows 10 Assessment and Deployment Kit elements (aka WA10Files) folder, where the all-important boot.wim file for the WinRE version that Macrium uses to boot its Rescue Media resides.

Given that the UFD doesn’t function properly, but the system not only booted and ran its restore, this is the only way to explain how that process occurred. Thus, I concur with my informants from the Macrium Forums that (a) restore ran from the C: drive and (b) the UFD was either dead or died somewhere during the reboot process that proceeded just fine without its help or involvement.

Just goes to show that coincidence is a powerful force, but one that can be reasoned past when needs must.

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TreeSize Offers Valuable System Volume Information Insight

The JAM Software program TreeSize is a great visualization tool for examining (and pruning) Windows disks. For those disinclined to buy a full-blown copy, the TreeSize Free version (shown in this story’s screencaps) will suffice. These days, in fact, I recommend TreeSize over the older Open Source WinDirStat project. Both provide colorful, easy-to-read tree map diagrams for disk space consumption. But WinDirStat hasn’t been updated since 2016, and JAM is keeping up with TreeSize in all of its current manifestations. Certainly, there’s no disputing that TreeSize offers valuable System Volume Information Insight.

And, in fact, WinDirStat doesn’t shed much light on the contents of the System Volume Information (SVI) folder found in every NTFS volume. TreeSize, OTOH, tells you quite a bit about where the space in that folder is going and can help guide at least one easy clean-up maneuver.

In the paragraphs that follow, I’m going to follow up on my January 13  “restore point failure” story. In this story, I’ll show both before and after screenshots (in reverse order).  The lead-in graphic for this story shows what a pared-down 2.2 GB SVI folder looks like. It’s the “after” shot, taken after I turned off restore points on my production PC and instructed the System Protection control panel widget to delete all existing restore points. Why keep them if you don’t plan to use them ever again? Gone!

The next screenshot shows the “before” state for that folder. Note its size is 13.8 GB and the primary items shown are all restore points ranging from 3.1 to 2.5 GB in size. Deleting them reduced the size of this folder by 11.6 GB — a pretty substantial disk space reclamation.

TreeSize Offers Valuable System Volume Information Insight.before-restore-point-delete

Pretty much all you can see in this before SVI shot is a handful of BIG restore point files.
[Click image for full-sized view]

How TreeSize Offers Valuable System Volume Information Insight

Simply put, TreeSize makes file and folder information available for the contents of the SVI folder. Digging into the “after” display, one can mouseover any item therein. This provokes an information display a couple of seconds later. This appears as a pop-up windows that provides information including Name, Full Path, Size, Allocated, % of Parent allocated, Files (count), Last modification timestamp, Last accessed timestamp, and more. This information is quite informative and can be helpful.

In looking at the “after” shot at the head of this story, you can see that SVI includes folders for a variety of MS apps, Office.OneNote, Windows Photos, Skype, Office.Sway, and a whole bunch more. I’ve never seen this level of detail for SVI before. You can even zoom in on individual items to see what’s inside them, if you like.

IMO, TreeSize Free is a great tool for all kinds of uses. In this case, I’m glad that it confirms significant space savings thanks to turning off restore points and deleting existing saved restore points. Good stuff!

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19043 aka 20H1 Early Tryout How-to

Here’s an interesting experiment for those with a spare test machine handy.  Note that this machine must run Insider Preview Beta or Release Preview Channel Build 19042.782 with KB4598291 installed. I found a handy collection of DISM commands from poster “moinmoin” at DeskModder.de. If run in an administrative Command Prompt or PowerShell session, the PC will advance to 21H1, as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story. It serves, therefore, as a 19043 aka 20H1 early tryout how-to for adventurous insiders.

Working Through 19043 aka 20H1 Early Tryout How-to

Essentially, the following sequence of commands does piecemeal what a full-blown enablement package does behind the scenes. In fact, DISM runs a series of .mum files, which are XML files that provide instructions to the Windows Update Installer for performing specific updates. Honestly, I’m not sure how “moinmoin” figured this sequence out. I’m guesssing he worked from analysis of other, earlier enablement packages. But that sequence worked on my Lenovo X380 Yoga test machine, which had been running 19042.782 for a few days.

Please, look below for the sequence of commands. Warning: Those using German versions of Windows should get them from the original post. I’ll provide instructions on how to modify the command text for other languages afterward. It’s safe to assemble, then cut’n’paste these commands one at a time in PowerShell. That’s how I “upgraded” my Lenovo test PC, in fact.

Putting DISM Commands together

In fact, all these commands start with same master prefix string. Simply append the other sub-strings and fire them off at the command line to do your thing.

That master prefix string is:

Dism /Online /Add-package:C:\Windows\servicing\Packages\

The 8 suffix strings are (do not grab the numbers and the period that follows them — they’re to help you find stuff, not for command-line use):

1.microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~10.0.19041.782.mum
2.microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~en-US~10.0.19041.782.mum
3.microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-wrapper-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~10.0.19041.782.mum
4.microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-wrapper-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~en-US~10.0.19041.782.mum
5.microsoft-windows-updatetargeting-clientos-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~10.0.19041.782.mum
6.microsoft-windows-updatetargeting-clientos-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~en-US~10.0.19041.782.mum
7.microsoft-windows-updatetargeting-clientos-21h1-ekb-wrapper-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~10.0.19041.782.mum
8.microsoft-windows-updatetargeting-clientos-21h1-ekb-wrapper-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~en-US~10.0.19041.782.mum

Even for German (and other languages) the first command above stays the same. The German version of the second command above reads

Dism /Online /Add-package:C:\Windows\servicing\Packages\microsoft-windows-product-data-21h1-ekb-package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~de-DE~10.0.19041.782.mum

Note that the bolded language code for German German de-DE is embedded near the end of the string. To invoke the proper files for other languages substitute your language code where it appears. For example, a French speaker in France would use fr-FR, and a French speaker in Belgium fr-BE, and so forth. This applies to elements 2-8 for all languages, and is performed using string substitution on the German language version of the commands.

Necessary Precautions Beforehand

It’s probably wise to make a backup of your test PC’s OS image before you try this sequence of commands out. Also, make sure you have a working, bootable USB flash drive from which you can restore that backup. That way, should the worst happen, and your PC get bricked by the updates, you can boot to the UFD and restore the backup without too much muss, fuss, or lost time. Just because it worked on my Lenovo X380 Yoga doesn’t mean it will also work on your test PC. Better to have the backup and restore tools and not need them, than to not have them and suffer from their absence. Enjoy!

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Using Windows 10 Generic Keys

Sometimes, a Windows 10 PC requires a clean install. It might be because of disk failure or corruption, malware infestation, or any of a host of other good reasons. As long as Microsoft’s Activation servers (or your own KMS) recognize that PC, you needn’t worry about finding or obtaining a valid OS key. Instead, if prompted to supply a key during the install process, you can furnish a published generic key for your chosen Windows version. Using Windows 10 generic keys is perfectly OK, as long as MS already knows you have a valid license.

When Using Windows 10 Generic Keys, Use These!

You can find generic Windows 10 keys in many places with a simple search. I like the list at TenForums, because it’s simple and comprehensive. It also comes in the context of a peachy list of tutorials that explain how and when to use keys correctly. The lead-in graphic for this story is a snippet from its generic key table. That tutorial is named List of Generic Product Keys to Install Windows 10 Editions. Worth bookmarking, it tells you (or points you at) nearly everything you need to know about working with generic keys.

Note: KMS stands for Key Management Server, a Windows Server role that plays out in many enterprise or campus environments. That’s because those kinds of outfits usually work from volume licenses for Windows, and manage their own Windows keys for themselves. None of the Home editions have generic KMS keys because Home is not covered under volume Windows 10 license agreements.

What if a Generic Key Has No Valid Matching License?

You can use a generic key to install Windows even if there’s no matching license in the Microsoft Validation servers. But that installation will not activate unless you provide a valid key within 30 days of the installation date. After that, the product works only with limited features and personalization. It also warns you you’re in violation of license terms, which leaves you liable for unlicensed use of software. Those can result in potential fines and penalties if you’re found guilty of license fraud or misuse. Trust me: you don’t want to go there!

 

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