Category Archives: Cool Tools

Backdoor Store That Updates Snipping Tool

Ha! There are times when I delight in being wrong. This is one of them. Thanks to Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero, I accessed a backdoor Store that updates Snipping Tool. Warning: it comes from a Russian source — namely But it accesses MS URLs, so I’m inclined to think it’s safe (and FWIW, VirusTotal agrees). You can see the new version including a “Record” button, as the lead-in graphic for this story.

Using Backdoor Store That Updates Snipping Tool

Let me explain how I was wrong, before I explain how to visit the backdoor Store if you’re so inclined. In my Monday post, I said (bold emphasis added):

Visiting the Microsoft Store and running updates didn’t help either. Nor could I find a download source for the updated app. Of course, I didn’t expect that, either — the whole point of a phased roll-out is to limit access to new stuff to a carefully-chosen subset of the target population.

Tkachenko proved me wrong by finding a mirror of the MS Store that did indeed include a download for the missing 11.2211.35.0 version of the Snipping Tool. It may (or may not) be available to visitors at Enter the following string in the URL entry field (at center):

On one of my Dev Channel test machines, I saw the desired listing (reproduced below). On the other, I did not. So obviously, YMMV. Here’s what it looked like on the successful attempt:

The desired package name is Microsoft.ScreenSketch_2022.2211.35.0_neutral_~_8wekyb3d8bbwe.msixbundl, where the version number 2211.35.0 is key.
[Click image for full sized view]

Just for grins, I installed this version on my “other Dev Channel PC” (even though I didn’t see it at the backdoor Store directly). And of course, it worked as expected there, too.

Caveat Emptor, Baby

Of course, you use such alternate (backdoor) sources at your own risk. And it’s entirely possible that the next CUĀ  or upgrade will overwrite this version for those not included in the phased rollout. So you may want to stash the msixbundle file somewhere on another drive, and be prepared for evasive maneuvers. Or, you may decide to take the safest course, and wait for MS to bring the mountain to you.

As I said in my Monday post, my problem is one of patience (at least, in part). I didn’t want to wait for my turn: I wanted the new version NOW. I’ve got it and I’m playing with it. Do as you see fit, please!


Sussing Out New Snipping Tool

Here’s a familiar plaint. Windows 11 Dev Channel includes a new version of the Snipping Tool with screen record capability. As far as I could tell, my two Dev Channel test PCs are not yet included. Then I figured out what’s involved in Sussing out new Snipping Tool, and proved that my version is behind the new one. Let me explain…

App Version Info Helps, Sussing Out New Snipping Tool

What you see in the screencap at the head of this story is the version number for the Snipping Tool running on my test PCs. According to this December 8 MS Announcement, the updated version number that handles screen recording is 11.2211.35.0. As you can plainly see above, my PCs are running 11.2209.2.0, which is a couple of digits lower in the second position.

Visiting the Microsoft Store and running updates didn’t help either. Nor could I find a download source for the updated app. Of course, I didn’t expect that, either — the whole point of a phased roll-out is to limit access to new stuff to a carefully-chosen subset of the target population.

Playing is Easy; Patience is Harder

As somebody who’s been later to receive items during most phased feature roll-outs, I can’t say I’m surprised by this turn of events. If I had the new version, I’d be using it right now (playing). Waiting for my turn requires patience, which I find considerably harder to exercise.

But indeed, as I know from repeat prior experience, that’s the way things go sometimes here in Windows-World. I’ll keep checking my test PCs after updates, and wondering how much longer I have to wait. Then, suddenly, they’ll get the update (or it will go into more general release) and I won’t have to wait any more.


Turning Off Corel PSP Ads

I’d had enough, enough, enough. After seeing an advertisement from Corel for extensions to its PaintShop Pro (PSP) product yesterday, I searched online for “Turn off ads in Corel PaintShop Pro 2023.” Thankfully turning off Corel PSP ads is not only easy, there’s even an official vendor-sponsored knowledge base (KB) how-to article. Hooray!

The intro graphic shows the program’s default settings for what shows up as “Message Preferences” in the program’s Help menu. Notice that users get opted into “Keep me informed with the latest product related messages.” Notice further that update frequency for such notification is — I kid you not — daily (“Once a day”).

Unticking Boxes For Turning Off Corel PSP Ads

By no coincidence whatsoever, changing those two settings turns ads off completely. What a relief. Here’s what the same dialog box looks like when properly altered:

Turning Off Corel PSP

Ads turned off. Wish all such apps (and browsers) were this easy to manage!

Just to recap those changes, they require unchecking the “Keep me informed…” box. They also require changing the “Receive updates/offers…” setting to “Do not show…” Presto! No more advertisements or notifications from PaintShop Pro. What a relief!

The Politics of Dancing…

In its own small way, this little tweak shows the importance of understanding how the programs you install on your Windows PCs work. If you don’t like something about them, you will often be able to change their behavior to make irritants or unwanted communications mute or disappear. This small example from PSP serves as a pretty good and nearly self-explanatory example.

I upgrade my copy of the software every 12-18 months, so I don’t need to be reminded to buy into the latest version. I’m not doing more serious photo or image editing so I don’t really care about the many tools and add-ons for PSP that Corel and third parties offer.

I just wanted the ads to go away. So that’s what I made them do. I imagine (but will find out when installing the 2024 update next year) that this default will reappear thereafter. But now, I know how to subdue that beast should it rear its unwanted head once again. Cheers!


Thunderbolt Monitor Makes Life Easy

OK, then. Lenovo sent me a terrific Thunderbolt 4 4K ThinkVision P27-u20 monitor. It actually showed up the day before Thanksgiving. It’s been sitting on my office floor since then, waiting patiently for me to get around to it. I’m working with the company to get a better sense of how Thunderbolt 4 works in an office environment. And indeed, now I can say from experience that a Thunderbolt monitor makes life easy for properly-equipped PCs and laptops.

Extremely narrow side and top bezels make for a compelling and nicely stackable monitor. [Click image for full-size view.]

Why Thunderbolt Monitor Makes Life Easy

Simple: plug it it, turn it on, set the device for dual displays and extend the desktop on a laptop. You can see how this looks in the Thunderbolt Control Center on the X12 Hybrid Tablet in the top graphic.

On the P360 Ultra, it fired up on its own when plugged into the front Thunderbolt 4 port. Colors are crisp, and the monitor appears to work as fast using TB4 as it does under either HDMI or DisplayPort. Better yet, the Thunderbolt-accessible ports on the monitor include TB4 in/out, 2xHDMI 2.0, DP 1.2, GbE (RJ-45), an audio mini-jack, and 2xUSB3.1 (1 USB-Type B, and USB-C is TB4 capable). It’s also got integrated speakers (3W each, so not really major, but adequate). It runs a 60Hz refresh rate with a response time of 4 -6 ms so it’s not really a gaming monitor by any stretch. That said, it’s nice for productivity and static creation work.

Resolution is nominal 4K (3840 x 2160), and it supports DCI-PC3 and Adobe RGB. It’s also DisplayHDR 400 certified (that means 10-bit color). See the product page for complete tech specs.

Built-in TB4 Hub Makes For a Killer Price

Yes, that’s right: the monitor includes an entirely capable, built-in Thunderbolt 4 hub as part of its equipage. Very cool, for a device with an MSRP of under US$550. Indeed, even the cheapest TB4 hubs, similarly equipped, cost over US$300 nowadays. It also includes a DP cable, a TB 4 cable, and a USB TypeB2A cable to hook an external USB 3.1 device up to its Type B port. Note: I just happened to hook the monitor up through a Lenovo TB4 Dock because I have one, but it will act as a dock by itself. That’s why two devices (dock and monitor) show up in the Thunderbolt Control Center up top.

To me, this functionality makes the price of the monitor easy to justify given that it comes ready to support Thunderbolt 4 based audio, video, networking and peripherals right out of the box. If you need another monitor and you can also benefit from TB4 connectivity and access, this could be too good to pass up.

Upon first exposure and short-term use, I’m wowed. I’ll follow up with more details after I’ve had a chance to spend some time with this puppy.

Notes Added December 7

A few more noteworthy things have occurred to me as I ponder this new peripheral and its inner workings. The USB C port delivers up to 100 W of power, so it should be able to handle most laptops without a separate AC connection for juice. The on-screen menus do take some fooling with to figure out. It is kind of heavy (28 lbs/12.7 Kg) but easy to assemble, move around and adjust. Here’s an interesting technical review from PC Magazine for your consideration, too.



Macrium Announces Reflect Free EOL

Dang! I always hate it when this happens, but I do understand why it does. Macrium, maker of the excellent Reflect backup, restore and imaging software has just announced end-of-life for its free Version 8 of that package. As Macrium announces Reflect Free EOL, I realize I’ll have to start planning a different strategy for my test PCs and VMs going forward.

Details: Macrium Announces Reflect Free EOL

The announcement comes with plenty of warning. The company plans to provide security patches for the Free version until January 1, 2024 (more than a year from today). Users who want to keep using the package after the EOL data may do so, but will go unsupported thereafter. This also means that Windows version 11 22H2 is the most recent version of Windows that Reflect 8 Free will support.

What Else Is There?

Rest assured, I’ll be finding out. I came to Macrium Reflect Free (MRF, for short) thanks to the folks at and, my favorite online Windows communities. I’ll be watching to see what those people recommend. I also plan to dig into the elements presented in this recent (updated November 24) TechRadar story: Best free backup software of 2022. I’ll even be returning to MiniTool ShadowMaker and scanning over the MajorGeeks “Back Up” category.

But sigh: I wish this wasn’t necessary. MRF is a great, great tool. I’ll be sorry to see it go.


Minimum Battery Charge Required Blocks BIOS Upgrade

I have to laugh. I’m putting my office back together following not just the big holiday yesterday, but windows washed on Tuesday. I’m talking real, physical windows on the house, not the eponymous OS that is the focus of this blog. I had to disconnect the Lenovo Thunderbolt 4 dock, the wired GbE LAN. That meant my X12 was untethered and uncharged for several days. When I tried to log in to that machine today, I learned that the minimum battery charge required blocks BIOS upgrade. Sigh.

WTF: Minimum Battery Charge Required Blocks BIOS Upgrade

The funny thing is, I had some interesting foreshadowing on this topic just last night. I had to upgrade my now-aging iPad Air 2 to the latest iPad OS. At first, the Install button didn’t light up. Apple helpfully provided a error message by way of explanation, saying that a “minimum charge level of 20%” was required for the OS update install to go forward.

Thus, after leaving the X12 untethered for four-plus days, I found myself wondering. “Gee,” I thought to myself “What do you bet that the X12 BIOS update can’t go forward without a minimum charge level, either?” Sure enough: I checked online and indeed, the battery must be at 25% charge or higher, even if the PC is on AC power, for the BIOS upgrade to proceed.

Easily fixed! It only takes time (about 20 minutes in my case) to get past that 25% threshhold. As I write these words, the BIOS flash is underway at the UEFI command line. It’s just over 80% complete, in fact. Good thing the iPad forewarned me about this possible impediment, eh? Otherwise, I might have jumped into major troubleshooting mode, built a bootable BIOS installer, and done a manual BIOS upgrade instead.

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Another…

It’s rare when I feel like the universe is looking out for me. Most of the time when trouble strikes, I have to roll up my sleeves and fix things the hard way. This time, time — and the related upping of battery charge levels — fixed things moreĀ  or less on its own. As you can see in the lead-in graphic, the same Lenovo Vantage utility that told me I needed a BIOS upgrade now shows me installation success for same.

I’m glad that’s over. I learned about Lenovo’s “self-healing BIOS” along the way to this resolution. I’m just glad serious troubleshooting and repair was unneeded in this happy case.


No Remote WinSAT No Batteries

In following up on yesterday’s memory training item, I started messing about with WinSAT. For those not already clued in, WinSAT stands for Windows System Assessment Tool. As it turns out, such assessment depends on steady, reliable power and “close to the metal” access to the PC it’s assessing. That’s why, I believe that MS says “You cannot run formal assessments remotely or on a computer that is running on batteries.” (Using WinSAT). Hence the assertion: no remote WinSAT no batteries.

If No Remote WinSAT No Batteries, Then What?

A formal assessment on WinSAT runs a whole battery of checks. You can still do feature-by-feature checks remotely (just not the whole thing). Here are the results of WinSAT mem over a remote connection to one of my 2018 vintage Lenvo X380 Yoga ThinkPads:

No Remote WinSAT No Batteries.rem-mem

A single feature check — mem, or memory — does work remotely.

But if I run the whole suite (WinSAT formal) in the same PowerShell session, I get an error message instead:

No Remote WinSAT No Batteries.rem-formal

Going formal with WinSAT “cannot be run remotely…”. No go!

Such things lead to head-scratching from yours truly. I can kind of get it because it’s undoubtable that the remote connection is going to affect results reported because of the time involved in remote communications. But why allow checks one-at-a-time, but not all-at-once? MS is mum on this subject, so I’m not getting any insight there. It could be that singleton checks add relatively little overhead, but that cumulative effect of an entire suite of same adds noticeable delay. Who knows?


VM SSD Speed Falls Off

What did I expect, I wonder? I’ve been digging more deeply into VMs on the amazing Lenovo P16 Mobile Workstation. (It’s got an i9-12950HX, 2TB PCIe x4 SSD, 128GB RAM, Quadro RTX A5500, and Windows 11 22H2.) Most of the time, the VM runs almost indistinguishably from the physical OS. But various IO metrics tell a different story: most tellingly, VM SSD speed falls off measurably. That applies both to the Virtual C: drive inside the VM, and when accessing external USB4 storage devices from the VM.

How Much VM SSD Speed Falls Off

By most metrics, it’s 2X or more. To be more specific, CrystalDisk-Mark results for the C: drive are about half across the board versus the internal Kioxia SSD. For the all-important random read/write 4K single thread, it’s worse than that (2.5X to 3X). Worse still, large file copies to external USB drives fall off a cliff: typical rates of 250-280 MBps fall to 60-70 MBps. This is shown from File Explorer inside the VM in the lead-in graphic above. Here’s a comparison from the physical machine:

VM SSD Speed Falls Off.phys-copy

Notice: USB speed is at least 4X faster on a physical PC vs. a VM.

Let’s Get Physical…

This actually provides an interesting justification for running certain workloads on physical rather than virtual PCs — namely, that IO and completion times can be dramatically affected. But given the convenience, flexibility and open-ended nature of VMs, this is not likely to matter that much except for highly specialized workloads where time is worth more than money.

Fascinating stuff, though — and great fun to play with. Check out the Get a Windows 11 development environment page at MS.


Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated

Dang! After messing about with PowerShell unsuccessfully, I turned to long-time fave 3rd-party tool Revo Uninstaller Free. Seems that Windows 10 doesn’t allow the Phone Link app to be uninstalled anymore. Sadly, the Uninstall option is greyed out in Settings. Likewise, I couldn’t get PowerShell Get-AppxPackage | Remove-AppxPackage to work, either. But if you turn to Revo Uninstaller, it delivers the goods: Windows 10 Phone Link eliminated.

Why I Want Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated

Two reasons:

1. Phone Link only works with Android phones and I have iOS. Don’t use it, ever.
2. Update failed, then app “stopped working, around recent Store revisions.

If I can’t use an app AND it causes errors, I don’t need it. Thus, I want it gone!

Look at the lead-in graphic. I’ve put a red box around the listing item for the Phone Link app on my Windows 10 production desktop. Right-click on that item, and the first menu option is “Uninstall.” Pick that. Revo asks you to confirm that choice, as follows:

Windows 10 Phone Link Eliminated.confirm

Alas, PS does NOT show the command details it uses to pull this off. Sigh.

Revo Unsintaller works some PowerShell magic around the following text I copied:

Deployment operation progress: Microsoft.YourPhone_1.22092.211.0_x64__8wekyb3d8bbwe

After removing the app, I used the Revo Uninstaller Scan functions to remove all leftovers from the Registry. It no longer shows up on my Windows 10 PCs — all both of them. I will be on the lookout for reappearances after CUs and feature upgrades, based on what I read online about how Phone Link keeps showing back up.

When it comes to “Windows pest removal” sometimes, repeated treatments may be required. LOL!


Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task Manager

Finally! I’ve been reading about — and seeing — cool changes to the Task Manager in Windows 11 for weeks and weeks. But only with Build 22623.891 for all of its users, Windows 11 Beta Channel gets improved Task Manager. What does this mean? Take a look at the lead-in screencap (and others below) and I’ll tell you more…

Woo-hoo! Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task Manager

Let’s start with the lead-in graphic. Among the several improvements Task Manager now makes easily accessible in the 22623 fork of the Beta Channel, I can finally produce the Dark Theme. That’s what you see in that graphic, which makes for a more dramatic (but also visually sensible) set of CPU utilization graphs. Previously, this kind of thing was only accessible through ViveTool tweaks (which I avoid as a matter of practice).

What else is in there? You can search for processes by name in various Task manager panes (processes and details). The next screencap shows the results of a search for the ubiquitous svchost process in the Processes pane (notice it’s smart enough to map part of the .exe name to the related process names: cool!).

Windows 11 Beta Channel Gets Improved Task

Notice that “Service Host” appears in nearly all of the elements shown as search results. Very helpful!

According to this story at WinAero from Sergey Tkakchenko, you can search on process name, ID or publisher with good results. That certainly worked for me.

One more thing: turning on “Efficiency mode” in Task Manager is now a right-click option from the Details pane. This lets users lower runtime priority to boost power efficiency, while upping stability risks. My example (e.g. the Chrome web browser) is an example of something you probably would NOT wish to run in this mode. For real.

Efficiency mode is easy to set, but should be approached with some caution.

I’m not sure I truly understand when or why to use Efficiency Mode (presumably on a tablet or laptop on battery power) but I’ll do some investigating and experimenting and see what’s up with that. Stay tuned! Should be fun…

In the meantime, I’m delighted to finally be able to see and exercise these Task Manager facilities for myself. If you have access to a Beta Channel Insider Preview, it’s worth updating to Build 22623.891 to see for yourself.