Category Archives: Windows 10

KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error

A couple of months back, Windows 10 starting crashing when I would plug a USB-C NVMe device into one of my Belkin Thunderbolt docks. I soon learned this was a known gotcha, and simply switched to plugging the device into my USB-C/Thunderbolt port instead (which kept working). As per the Windows 10 20H2 Known and Resolved Issues page, KB4586853 fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD stop error.

Checking KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error

As an eternal skeptic, I tried my Sabrent-enclosed Samsung 760 NVMe drive through the Thunderbolt dock on the Lenovo X380 Yoga, the X1 Extreme, and the X390 Yoga laptops I have at my disposal. It worked fine on all of them. I haven’t tried it on the Dell Optiplex 7080 Micro (it’s upstairs) yet, but I expect it will be fine as well. Makes one wonder what started this off in the first place.

The Conexant Audio Driver Issue

As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the long-standing error with Conexant audio drivers remains unresolved. I guess I should be glad that it doesn’t affect my newer Lenovo laptops. As you can see from the following Device Manager screen cap, all of them list a Conexant SmartAudio HD device as the first entry under Sound, video and game controllers. Given the gotchas out there, I’m happy when they don’t bite me!

KB4586853 Fixes Thunderbolt NVMe SSD Stop Error.conexant

Although my newer (2018 and later) Lenovo laptops all include Conexant audio chips, none seems affected by the unresolved issue for such devices. Dodged a bullet?

In general when things get weird with devices or their drivers on Windows 10, I usually check the issues list before I go into heavy-duty troubleshooting mode. As with the Thunderbolt NVMe device issue just resolved, such issues do bite some of my PCs some of the time. Thus, this saves me from trying to solve problems that other, better-equipped engineering teams are already working on. Now, if I could just learn to be patient while those fixes are in progress…

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Dev Channel Previews Offer Sun Valley Sneak Peek

Both forks of the Dev Channel builds offer a look into Windows 10’s UI future. I’ve just checked, and those who upgrade the Alarms & Clock app through the Store to version 10.2012.18.0 will see the new look. According to Mayank Parmar at WindowsLatest, the new rounded interface, look and feel represents the direction toward which 21H2 UI design is trending. He says this is “part of a major overhaul codenamed ‘Sun Valley’” possibly to go public in the second half of next year. Hence my assertion that Dev Channel previews offer Sun Valley sneak peek. Check it out!

Dev Channel Previews Offer Sun Valley Sneak Peek.timers

Note the rounded look for the progress bars and the completely changed UI look and feel.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

Dev Channel Previews Offer Sun Valley Sneak Peek Explained

There’s some reading between the lines required to suss out what’s going on. MS has been moving the UI toward what Parmar correctly identifies as a “modern” and “rounded” look of late, especially in its icon designs and the Start Menu layout and visuals. Now it looks like Settings is coming in for similar treatment. He and other Windows watchers suggest — and I concur, based on eyeballing things for myself — that this is something real, if still only narrowly visible.

Overall, I think it’s a good look for Windows 10. And it certainly shows the influence of clean, simple designs and visuals that is bleeding over from the smartphone world onto the desktop. But with users ever more inclined to switch between mobile and desktop views of their apps and data, this has to be a good thing.

I’m curious to see how quickly Microsoft will start rolling this into other Settings facilities. Beyond that, I’m wondering if this will continue to show up in 202XX and 212XX Dev Channel builds. If it  targets 21H2 and 212XX is its associated release/build family, it makes sense to me that these changes may focus there. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, because so far MS isn’t saying much about what separates the two release families.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Wonky Word Launches Standard Windows 10 Repair Drill

It just happens from time to time. Windows 10 goes off the beam. Applications act weird, or OS interface elements disappear or stop working. Over the years I’ve learned this is Windows’ way of telling me that something is damaged, broken, or missing behind the scenes. This morning I had issues trying to edit a revised Word file that Val Potter at ComputerWorld had sent back to me for a typical second pass. In this case, wonky Word launches standard Windows 10 repair drill. Luckily for me, things went back to normal after step 1. That seldom happens!

Whaddya Mean? Wonky Word launches standard Windows 10 Repair Drill

I have a standard sequence of things that I do when MS Office elements get weird or go off on me. Here ’tis (check your wonky app between each step so you know when to quit):

    1. Run sfc /scannow in an administrative PowerShell session
    2. Run dism /online /cleanup-image /scanhealth;
      If it reports any problems, replace that last item with /restorehealth as your next command
    3. Run Programs and Features from Control Panel, select Microsoft Office from the list of programs, and select Repair from the available options. Try the Quick Repair first. If that doesn’t work run the Online Repair instead. (See screen cap below. The online option can take 10-15 minutes to complete, depending on Internet download speeds.)
    4. Use the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant to attempt Office repairs (link below)
    5. Get the MS Office Uninstall Support Tool to completely remove all traces of MS Office from your PC (link also below).

If things still aren’t working after Online Repair, you’ll want to download the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant. Try its MS Office repair facilities next. If that still doesn’t work, download the MS Office Uninstall Support Tool. Use it to completely uninstall Office from your PC. After that, of course, you’ll need to reinstall it all over again.

When All Else Fails, Uninstall/Reinstall Generally Works

As a last ditch attempt to get Office working, I’ve never had a complete uninstall/reinstall fail on a Windows PC. The only exception is when the OS itself was damaged or corrupted. If it worked for me then, it should work for you now, too. My fervent hope is that you don’t have to take things that far down the list!

Please note: steps 1 and 2 are generally the first two steps for any kind of repair attempts when Windows gets wonky. SFC stands for “System File Checker.” If it finds any damaged or missing system files it replaces them, as it did for me on my temporarily deranged PC. And again, that was enough to set things back to rights. When I checked Word and found it working again, I knew my drill sequence had ended.

If Word hadn’t been working again, I’d have gone onto the next step. Step 2 calls the Deployment Image Servicing and Management utility and checks the contents of the Windows component store (aka WinSxS) with scanhealth. If repairs are needed, restorehealth replaces questionable component store elements with known good working copies.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Patch My PC Updater Is Worth Checking Out

Thanks to Tim Fisher at LifeWire, I’ve found a reasonable facsimile for the late lamented Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI). It’s called Patch My PC Updater and it does pretty much everything you’d want such a tool to do: scans your PC, inventories installed applications, identifies those that are out of date, and goes off on its own to update them for you. Like Secunia PSI, it’s also free. The lead-in graphic for this story shows all 9 out-of-date programs on a test PC. It also illustrates nicely why Patch My PC Updater is worth checking out.

Grab It to See If Patch My PC Updater Is Worth Checking Out

You’ll find a download link at https://patchmypc.com/home-updater. Commercial versions that plug into SCCM and InTune are also available for IT-level use. The program works from a USB drive — that is, the executable is portable and need not be installed on target PCs.

Before learning about Patch My PC Updater, I had been using a version of KC Software’s SuMO for application updates. But although that program is good at scanning PCs it is less than stellar at handling the update part. Its automation is negligible too. That’s because it requires users to follow update links and handle updates manually for at least some of the out-of-date programs it finds.

All in all, Patch My PC Updater is fast, accurate and covers nearly everything I’ve got installed. Hence, my recommendation that you check it out. If you don’t like it, you can return to Tim Fisher’s LifeWire story and check out 8 more other similar packages he recommends (it also mentions SuMO but puts it in last place).

Updating Applications Goes Better with Expert Help

Whichever tool you choose to keep up with Windows applications, it’s useful to run one at least monthly. That way, you can be sure that you’re getting new features and functions as they get added. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also be keeping up with security patches and fixes, if other sources of intelligence aren’t already tracking your software more closely for you.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Dev Channel Doubles Releases 20277 and 21277

For the first time ever, MS dropped not one but two releases into the Dev Channel yesterday. By default WU offers Dev Channel Insiders Build 20277, which continues ongoing release from the Iron build familly (FE_RELEASE). Those who take the time to check optional updates will also find access to 21277 (RS_RELEASE) as well. Certainly, when Dev Channel doubles Releases 20277 and 21277, life is bound to get more interesting!

Here’s a repeat of the lead-in graphic. Alas, the page header output clips the most important info from the bottom there. Methinks that’s owing to header image handling in my site’s WordPress theme. I can’t figure out how to hack that quickly. Thus, here it is again with the important stuff showing at the very bottom:

Dev Channel Doubles Releases 20277 and 21277; image shows 21277 optional update offer.
Dev Channel Doubles Releases 20277 and 21277; image shows 21277 optional update offer.

When Dev Channel Doubles Releases 20277 and 21277, Which One?

This looks like a sneaky way to reintroduce two different levels of advance testing, with 20277 targeting closer-in features, and 21277 further out. Fortunately, I’ve got two test machines so my response in this case is “One of each.”

Unfortunately, my test PCs are configured to install automatically. By the time I was aware of the option, those PCs were already at the initial restart phase, having downloaded 20277, and gotten through the GUI install phase. That said, when I targeted 21277 on the Lenovo X220T and rebooted again, it happily started downloading that release despite having gotten halfway through the other install.

Working Through Doubled Installation

At present, both machines are working through their respective OS installs. So far, things are proceeding as normal. The X380 Yoga just finished with the post-GUI install for 20277. After a first login, it’s now working through the initial OOBE (“We getting a few things ready . . .”). The whole process took less than 5 minutes following the first reboot, and it’s now on the Windows 10 desktop.

Because the X220 Tablet is on Wi-Fi, it’s just about finished downloading the 21277 version, but still has the entire installation to work through. I don’t expect anything interesting or unusual to happen. I’m willing to let the process chunk through to completion and see how it turns out. If anything out of the ordinary pops up, I’ll write a follow-up note in this blog post. Furthermore, it should be interesting to see how the two releases compare and if there are any readily visible UI or observable behavior changes between them.

Stay tuned: I’ll keep you posted

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Unresponsive Start Menu Gets Easy Fix

First, an admission: I’m a long time user of Stardock Software’s Start10 program. In fact, when I first started using this tool, it was called Start8, in keeping with the version of Windows then in vogue. I think my problem may be related to an unwanted interaction between Start10 and the default Windows 10 Start Menu. Nevertheless, I’m happy to report that an unresponsive Start Menu gets easy fix. Let me elaborate…

Unresponsive Start Menu Gets Easy Fix Explained

I don’t have this problem on unaltered Windows 10 installations where Start10 is absent. That’s what make me think it results from some kind of unwanted or unplanned interaction. I’ve checked the Start10 forums and can’t find any other reports of the same kind, but that’s neither here nor there.

On machines running Start10, when this happens I simply launch Task Manager. Then I right click the Windows Explorer entry beneath the Processes tab. When the resulting pop-up menu appears, one of its options reads “Restart.” When selected, this restarts the primary Explorer process. Among other things, it handles the task bar and the default Start Menu.

Following that restart operation, my access to the default Start Menu is restored. If I’m using Start10, why do I still need the default start menu? Simple: there are some programs and searches (such as using the string “reli” to launch the Reliability Monitor) that work in the default Start Menu but not in Start 10. Thus, I do have the occasional reason to dive into that default instead of sticking solely to Start10’s capabilities.

My old friend and former partner at Win10.Guru, Kari the Finn always said “If there’s a built-in tool or utility in the OS, there’s no reason to use a third-party tool.” Let’s just say that I’ve recently been reminded that he had good reasons to make that assertion. Even so, I remain a fan of third-party tools in general, and a fan of Start10 in particular. I’ve just had to learn to work around this particular issue. Cheers!

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Recent Laplink PCmover Experience

OK, then. Yesterday evening, after finishing work for the day, I used Laplink PC Mover professional to migrate the Windows 10 installation from the old Jetway mini-ITX PC to the new Dell Optiplex 7080 Micro I’ve been writing about so much lately. I’m pleased to say that, on this latest attempt, the program did what its makers claim it does with reasonably dispatch and facility. I had made an earlier attempt to use it about 10 days ago that failed. I now suspect it had something to do with a pending and incomplete update on the mini-ITX PC. Thus, I must rate my recent Laplink PCmover experience as “mostly positive.”

Preparing for Recent LapLink PCmover Experience

Before I got started on the transfer, I made sure both source and target PCs were completely updated. I also used Macrium Reflect to create an image backup of each PC, and made sure I had the Macrium Rescue Media at my disposal, in case I needed to roll back either or both machines. I also cleaned up the filesystems on both machines using Disk Cleanup, UnCleaner, and manual file deletions from the user account subfolders Documents and Downloads.  With all that behind me, I was ready to go.

Working Through Recent LapLink PCmover Experience

As is often the case, the prep work took longer than the transfer. With the source PC upstairs and the target PC in my office, connected via my wired in-home GbE, the whole transfer involved 2.3 GB of data across 48K-plus folders and just under 8K files. along with a merge from source to target registry of 82K-plus values just over 9 MB in size.

To my surprise, the whole process took just over 11 minutes, according to the program’s Summary.pdf report file. I’ve used Laplink’s PCmover before and I don’t ever remember things going that fast. Best guess: this machine has a relatively small number of applications installed and no huge file holdings under the various user account folders. Thus, it stands to reason that it wouldn’t take too long to migrate from one machine to the other. I was able to confirm that licensed applications from the source PC did work on the target after the process concluded, though I did have to provide (or re-activate) licenses before I could use those programs.

Benefits of LapLink PCmover Experience

I paid full retail for the software last December (I purchased it just over a year ago on December 6, 2019 and the price hasn’t budged since then). It cost me $42.45 ($39.99 MSRP plus $2.50 sales tax).

The obvious benefits of using PCmover are speed, ease of migration, and convenience. I’ve used this tool before, and I imagine I’ll use it again. I could have turned to the Microsoft User State Migration Tool (aka USMT) but here’s what its DOCs file says about that tool’s limitations:

USMT is intended for administrators who are performing large-scale automated deployments. If you are only migrating the user states of a few computers, you can use PCmover Express. PCmover Express is a tool created by Microsoft’s partner, Laplink.

I used the Pro rather than the Express version of PCmover. Express is free, but only for non-commercial use. Because I’m writing about it for publication I naturally chose the for-a-fee version. The Express version does most of what the Professional version did for me, but does not transfer applications, permit image based migration, or copy hard disk contents from source to target PC.

Where LapLink PCmover Experience Fell Short

I did have a little bit of cleanup to do after the migration process concluded. PCmover does not, as I discovered, move all browser settings and preferences from source to target PC. Thus, I had to go in and install some extensions, and change default home page settings in Chrome, Edge and Firefox. It did move favorites/bookmarks, though, as far as I could tell.

All in all, it was a positive experience and resulted in a running PC that worked properly with 99+% of user, account, preference, settings, and files from the old machine ready, available and working on the target PC. As far as I’m concerned the US$40-odd PCmover cost me was worth it, and produced the desired outcome. ‘Nuff said.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Implicit Perils When Multiple Accounts Get Interlinked

I went through an interesting adventure this weekend. I found myself trying but unable to reset the password for my Apple ID account — or so I thought, anyway. It wasn’t until I spent a couple of hours trying to fix things on my own that I gave up and turned to Apple Support instead. To my relief, the support rep recognized my problem more or less instantly. He showed me that I had logged into different accounts for iCloud and the Apple Store. Then he explained there are implicit perils when multiple accounts get interlinked in that way.

What Are the Implicit Perils When Multiple Accounts Get Interlinked?

Long, long story short when I was trying to change my password for one account I ended up changing it for another. The iCloud account took precedence over the Apple ID account for whatever reason. I didn’t see any visual cues to tell me that’s what I was doing. Thus, it took a call to tech support to clear up my misunderstanding.

Now, though, things have been set straight. I’ve got known usable passwords for both Apple accounts and have disentangled use of the two IDs on my iPhone which caused that immensely frustrating and bizarre set of symptoms and circumstances.

One More Thing, Though…

Right now, I can use my credentials on Firefox to access appleid.apple.com. But those same credentials don’t work on Chrome. I’m mystified and mortified, but I have no earthly idea why this is happening. Aha! Internet research tells me it’s likely a cookies or history issue (apparently old cached credentials trump newly entered ones at the keyboard). Just another wonderful aspect of living large as a digital person, I guess.

I swear! Sometimes I spend more time digging through login and credentialing issues to access accounts than I actually spend using those accounts directly. Sigh.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

PowerToys Preview v0.28.0 Gets Videoconference Mute

OK then.  Liam Tung reported at ZDnet last Wednesday that Clint Rutkas and his team were at “one week and holding” on PowerToys. And in fact, they’d been stuck there for three weeks and a little bit more. Then on Friday, Experimental release v0.28.0 made its debut. As the lead-in graphic shows, the Video Conference Mute feature is present and accounted for. Indeed, that proves that PowerToys Preview v0.28.0 gets videoconference mute features.

If PowerToys Preview v0.28.0 Gets Videoconference Mute, Then What?

This simply means the feature has some remaining kinks to be worked out. That said, it’s ready for more adventurous types willing to run an experimental release to give it a try. I just loaded it up on my Lenovo X380 Yoga test machine. The various keyboard shortcuts to mute camera (Win+Shift+O), microphone (Win+Shift+A) or both (Win+N) all work for me.

Given the number of videoconferences I attend weekly (3 or more) it’s pretty darn handy. I’m also going to recommend it to my almost-17-year-old son, who’s attending school online this semester. For him, each schoolday is a long succession of Zoom meetings, for 7 or 8 periods a day. I *know* he’s going to appreciate this capability even more than I do!

If you can tolerate running an experimental pre-release to gain access to this feature, grab it today. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait until it makes it into the regular distribution. If history is any guide, this will take anywhere from a week to a month. Stay tuned.

 

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin

Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When something appears to be good to be true, watch out! I keep poking around on my new Dell 7080 Micro and learned something interesting, but also mildly distressing, about the configuration I ordered. The essentials show up as the DRAM frequency in the lead-in graphic for this story. The rated speed for that module is 2933 MHz, the reported rate is 1463.2 (doubled = ~2926 MHz). Something is amiss, eh? A quick trip to the manual’s memory section means makes this Dell 7080 Micro RAM puzzler solved.

RTFM = Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved

When I did the math, I saw the reported memory clock rate was half the SODIMM module’s rated speed. Immediately I suspected something might be up with dual-channel vs. single-channel memory performance. Ack! I was right: the very first entry in the memory section of the 7080 Micro manual reads as follows:

Dell 7080 Micro RAM Puzzler Solved.manual-noteI’m now aware that doubling up on memory is the right way to go on this machine. Sigh.

Turns out that the clock rate information is what it should be, though. DDR memory like this fetches two chunks of data with each cycle cycle. Hence the term “double data rate,” or DDR.

Doubling Up Is Good, So That’s What I’m Doing

I just ordered a pair of 16 GB G.Skill RipJaws modules for the machine. They’re rated for DDR4 3200, which means they’ll loaf along at the 7080 Micro’s default clock rate of 2933 with ease. I’m guessing further that the winsat mem command will show an improvement from its current level of 15954 MB/sec (the P-5550 reports 32945 by comparison, and I’m expecting something more along those lines). We’ll see.

But wait! I still have Dell’s Review Unit of the 7080 Micro, so I just booted it up to run the winsat mem command there. It has two 16 GB memory modules. And sure enough, the results are significantly higher than those for the single module unit: 26323 MB/sec hits more than halfway between the single-module value of 15954 and the P-5550 value of 32945. That’s an improvement of just over 31 percent. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll see on my unit once it’s upgraded, too. (Same CPU, same motherboard, so why not?)

I’ll know for sure sometime later today, because Amazon says my order will arrive no later than 10 PM tonight. While I was at it, I also purchased a Samsung EVO 860 1 TB SATA SSD to park in the 7080 Micro’s currently vacant SATA slot. The RAM set me back about $115, and the drive $100, both of which I consider excellent prices.

Given that the 7080 Micro was already pretty fast, I’m guessing this will make it just a tad faster. I’ll report the results of my checks after upgrading the RAM and installing the new SSD later today. Stay tuned!

Note Added 2 Days Later

Amazon didn’t deliver the goods until today. Took me all of 5 minutes to unbutton the 7080 Micro case. Only tool needed was a Phillips Head screwdriver. The SATA drive mounted into its sleeve with no tools, but I had to undo the thumbscrew on the outside of the case and remove the fan assembly (3-spring-tensioned PH screws) to replace the old memory module with 2 new ones.

Now for the good news: new test results are astounding. When I just ran the winsat mem command on the 7080 Micro I purchased, the results came back at 34430. That number seems to fall in a range from 34430 to 34450 on multiple iterations.

Guess what? This 7080 Micro’s RAM speed is slightly FASTER (just over 4%) than the Precision Workstation 5550. Woo hoo! Turned out to be a good investment. In fact, the new memory numbers are just over twice as fast for dual-channel RAM as they were for single channel. By doubling up, I got a great performance boost.

The moral of the story is: if you buy a Dell Micro 7080 make sure to populate both SO-DIMM slots, so you can get the best performance out of however much RAM you give it to work with. It makes a BIG difference.

Facebooklinkedin
Facebooklinkedin